How to Apply Design Principles To Your Marketing Initiatives

I want to review a quote from Mike Monteiro’s book, You’re my Favorite Client:

So let’s look deeper into the design process, with a giant caveat. Every designer claims their own process… But whether you’re working on an agile or a waterfall process (or smartly between the two), all processes break down to some version of:

  • Find out what the problem is
  • Come up with ideas to solve the problem
  • Pick the best idea
  • Build it
  • Watch people use what you built
  • Tweak it as necessary

The section struck me when I read it. I used to eschew “design.” I was a developer. On the development team. Design was for the design team. But in development I always ran into a problem: I felt like a code monkey. I never had a say in the “what” or “why” of the work. I was a pair of hands doing as I was told. It’s frustrating.

That’s when I realized my problem was my aversion to design. I thought I wasn’t a designer. But design is more than what I thought it was. You can design a process. You can design a system. That’s what I wanted to be doing. I was a designer, I just sucked at Photoshop.

My exit strategy was to try to apply my technical expertise to marketing problems. At least in marketing, there is a clear goal and it’s marked with dollar signs.

So, can we apply design thinking to design a marketing system?

#1. Find out what the problem is

First, we have to decide what marketing problem we want to solve. It’s more specific than more money.

  • Is the conversion rate low?
  • Do we need more traffic?
  • What was the lifetime value of our customer? Is it high enough?
  • Do we have right product/market fit?

We have to know what we’re solving before we try to figure out how to solve it.

#1.5 Decide on a measurement strategy.

I’d like to add my own step (Every designer claims their own process 😉).  Once we decided on a problem we must decide how we will measure results.  Specifying how you measure results forces you to clarify your thinking on the problem. Then you have more clarity on what a solution looks like.

#2. Come up with ideas to solve the problem.

This is the most fun part of marketing. I feel like the marketing departments get a license to have a bit more fun than others. Sometimes an out of left field idea can create real monetary gain. If you want something more standard,  there’s plenty of case studies and resources you can refer to. The challenge of marketing departments isn’t generation, but focus. That takes us to…

#3: Pick the best idea

By defining metrics early, we’ve built a rubric for a pile of ideas. How will this idea move that particular needle?

Once you’ve done that you can do a cost-benefit analysis.

  • What’s it gonna take to implement the strategy?
  • What are the long-term costs?
  • Can we do this once or we going to have to have someone work on this weekly or monthly?

These questions inform costs, Metrics inform benefit.

#4 Build it.

Pretty straightforward. write the content and/or code. Do whatever it takes to get the idea out there quickly in front of as many eyeballs as you can.

#5. Watch people use what you’ve built.

You don’t always get a chance to watch people use what you built. User testing is not always an option. Instead, we have to use the next best things: analytics, and screen recording pools like HotJar.

#6. Tweak it as necessary.

Yet another reason the analytics or important: You’ll learn fast.  For example, Open rates and click through rates vary wildly by industry.  But if you see a variance in one email in your campaign, it could signal that you’re doing something wrong or ride. Adjust as needed.

This is where A/B testing is useful. You can’t test your way to brand new ideas, but you can improve upon a solid 1.0.

A solid 1.0 is the goal here. You won’t know what version 1.1 or 2.0 should look like until your first iteration meets the real world.

Moving fast means faster feedback, which means faster learning. If your idea isn’t working out better to find out sooner rather than later. That way you don’t waste time painting pigs with lipstick.

What I Learned:

I hate that I avoided design for so long. Design is in many ways of what I wanted to do all along, I just didn’t realize it. In my mind, I connected “design” to heavily with “the visual stuff.” Just because you’re not a “designer” doesn’t mean you can’t apply these principles to create better work.

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