We're used to thinking about UX (or User Experience) design as a visual way to plan and optimize for users, and most commonly we see UX as a key initial step in product design and website design and development. The Big Idea is that without proper UX design and testing, we can't really build or market products users will love. UX designs are often wireframes or flow charts that help us envision the path a user will most often take in using our product or site and what the roadblocks might be that could prevent purchase and, ultimately, customer loyalty and brand advocacy. The Customer is most often the primary user, but there are other users in the sales, marketing and support of our products.
How can good UX make it easier for us to market, sell and support our customers?
Good UX is a hot topic because there are so many new products launching every day and because the competition is fierce in nearly every product niche. While products themselves must fill a real need consumers will pay for, and they must be reliable and competitively priced, the real battleground is over user experience. How easy is it to learn and use this product? How intuitive? If there are questions or a desire to gain expert level knowledge, how easy and accessible are those resources?
As Rick Wise, CEO of Lippincott, says, "By looking beyond the product to take a broader view of customer issues and activities around the product, companies can find new ways to address unmet needs, create talk-worthiness, and fuel differentiation."
I won't dwell on product design, because this is the use case everybody thinks about first for UX design.
This usually takes the form of a wireframe using a tool like Balsamiq that encapsulates how buyers would find you and use your website to find answers to their questions and solutions for their needs. It's a combination of observed behavior (through testing), experience with similar buyers and marketing strategy to make the website, its layout, navigation and content instantly resonate with visitors and nurture them into buyers. A good UX design should also accomplish the business goals of your website by optimizing the lead conversion process as well as providing helpful, relevant content. This process also includes optimizing the website for smartphones, tablets and desktop devices.
Again, UX as a key component in website design is a pretty well known thing these days. If your website designer doesn't have this process baked into the overall design proposal, you might want to keep shopping. Let's look at some more novel use cases.
If you are working on inbound marketing for your site, you know after creating that lovable, optimized website, your primary goal is to convert qualified visitors into leads and leads into customers. But have you really thought about what that process looks like? How will buyers react to your attempts at conversion and follow-up communications?
Marketers need to go beyond website design in creating a conversion path that won't scare away visitors and will keep them engaged with content that interests them and helps to solve their problems.
The exact steps in creating that optimized buyer journey can be complex. To help marketers plan and execute, why not employ UX design to map out the process in detail, share it with other users and stakeholders, and refine it to match how your customers actually decide to purchase from you? Here's an example.
As you can see from the above marketing UX design, the final steps are hand off to Sales and Customer Service. If you have a free trial involved in the sales process, then there can be significant overlap in the steps required to engage and nurture customers. What you want to avoid are missed opportunities, for example when a qualified buyer comes knocking at the door but Sales doesn't hear about it or react quickly enough to seal the deal. You also want to avoid conflicting communications, for example when Marketing receives feedback from a lead but doesn't share it with Sales, resulting in a disconnect. This can lead to confusion and a poor impression of your company.
So why not map out the sales process, including not only the Buyer Journey, but also the explicit steps taken by both Sales and Marketing that result in a seamless buyer experience that avoids conflicts and missed opportunities?
Finally, the interplay between Sales, Marketing and Customer Service are crucial to winning and retaining customers. You want to make sure leads and customers receive the information they need to give your product a try (if you have a free trial) and understand the benefits of using it. This involves being there when they need you via customer support emails, pages and resources and reaching out to them when there appears to be a lull in activity. You're trying to avoid churn by inactivity and loss of focus. A steady but not overwhelming balance of communications between customer service reps and customers (by phone or chat) and online resources including user groups and your experts often makes the difference between winning a loyal customer and losing one.
In order to get everybody on the same page, why not create a visual that depicts the User Journey through the customer support process?
By sharing these process designs among the primary stakeholders, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and actual customers (a test group, for example), you can optimize the entire buyer journey and greatly enhance inbound marketing results. Probably the most valuable part of the UX design process is gaining buy-in and a deep understanding of how you can attract, convert and delight customers during each stage and make the entire process both repeatable and efficient.
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