The case for the UX marketer

6 min read David Renwick

There’s no shortage of definitions for UX, but most of the people writing said definitions would seem to agree that UX usually has something to do with how a person (a user) interacts with a product or service.

Given this broad definition, it’s no surprise that so many professions have sprung up in service of UX. Recent years have seen the rise of the UX designer, UX researcher, UX lead, UX writer and even the UX engineer. For users and organizations alike, the benefits are obvious. Users end up with products that are designed in service of their actual needs and problems, and organizations can attract more customers. It’s win-win, right? Not exactly.

The wildfire-like spread of UX has forgotten one large chunk of the user-organization connection – marketing. While product teams have raced to build more user-focused products and the users themselves are starting to see the benefits of this new development focus, the marketing teams responsible for actually promoting these products are still largely reliant on the tried and true methods of user acquisition, nurture flows and upselling.

To be clear, traditional marketing practices and approaches are still required. But the same shift to focus on the user experience that occurred in the product development space now needs to occur in marketing. It’s time for a new UX role: the UX marketer.

The pathway to UX marketing

The time for the UX marketer is certainly now, but how do we get started? To answer this question, we need to understand how previous UX roles came about and then look at some of the key UX skills marketers need to adopt in order to introduce UX practices into their work. If all goes according to plan, we’ll have created ourselves a template marketers can use to become UX marketers.

A quick detour: The origins of user experience

UX practices have been around for centuries, even if dedicated UX roles have only started to crop up within organizations in the past 10 years or so. Inside Design published an excellent article on the origins of UX titled ‘A brief history of user experience’, which details the history of UX from the Renaissance through to efforts at Toyota, Disney, Apple and more.

This in turn leads us to the rise of the UX designer, UX researcher, UX writer and every other role with UX in the title. While it’s difficult to pin down exactly when the first role with UX attached to it sprung up, it’s quite clear that the second wave of internet companies have accelerated the growth of these roles. The likes of Uber, Airbnb, Lyft and others have led to significant demand for those with the ability to understand and implement UX practices. In 2019, the Onward Search Digital, Creative and Marketing Professionals Salary Guide showed that UX designer was the second most in-demand role that year (just after digital product designer). UI designer and user researcher followed closely.

Enter, the UX marketer

So what is a UX marketer anyway? A quick Google search will turn up nothing – we’re essentially in uncharted territory. 

The growth of the UX writer provides useful perspective through which we can look at UX marketing as a practice. If you’re unaware, UX writers basically deal with all of the text that users encounter when using a product – essentially everything that’s in-app. As UX Planet notes in this article, for years many saw writing as a unicorn skill in the design world. It’s only recently that a shift took place, and organizations started to see the value of having a dedicated expert (the UX writer) who could work alongside designers and focus solely on copy within the product.

This can also apply to marketing. Right now, UX design and research skills are seen as useful “nice to haves” for those working in marketing. They are not skills an organization looks for when hiring marketing professionals, but marketers equipped with them can add more value. 

Given the need for those with UX skillsets, a customer focus across the organization and the (obvious) constant focus on revenue, the time for the UX marketer is now. So, with that in mind, how do we get from where we are now to a world in which UX marketers are a part of marketing teams and working closely with the UX design and research functions of an organization?

How to become a UX marketer

While we’re still a long way from having organizations hire dedicated UX marketers, the time is now for marketers to realize the value of upskilling in UX skills and understanding how these skills mesh with the traditional ways in which they work. Below, we’re going to explore some of the key UX focus areas and show how they’re applicable in marketing. You’ll likely find that you’re already doing a lot of this work – just under a different label. 

User research

How can you be expected to design an experience or build a product that’s customer-focused, without concrete data about how those same people think? That’s really the core of user research; using different research methods to gather information about users.

One method, card sorting, can show you how people understand and categorize information. In marketing, you could use this data to arrange the components on a landing page in a way that makes sense to your prospective customers (and has a higher chance of converting). Another method is the user interview, where you sit down with a user and ask them a series of questions. You can gather data such as their background, goals, motivations and pain points.

Prototyping

Key to the world of UX design is the prototyping skill. Primarily, it’s a great way to get feedback on a low fidelity design before committing more resources to it. In marketing, the applications of a strong prototyping capability are near-endless. You can test the individual components of campaigns before ever asking for more design or development resources, whether with your team or representative users.

User empathy

While you don’t have to be the end-user of a product to market it, being able to put yourself in the shoes of the people who are is an extremely useful skill to have. This is a fundamental requirement of anyone working in UX – and so it’s going to be essential for UX marketers too. 

Collaboration

It sounds like we’re just rattling off a buzzword, but collaboration is quite possibly one of the most important UX skills. As a newly-minted UX marketer, you’re also going to need a lot of help to ensure that you’re going about the UX aspects of your job in the right way, too. Regardless of profession, collaboration is also one of the fastest ways to upskill.

Stakeholder management

You may be convinced of the value that a user focus will provide your marketing efforts, but the people controlling the budgets may need a little more convincing. That’s why stakeholder management is such an important part of UX. Being able to not only convince stakeholders to greenlight your efforts but really getting them onside takes time and energy. One of the best approaches is to actually bring them into the process – when you host a user interview, ask them to come along as a notetaker.

Wrap up

The time is now for the UX marketer. And, as we’ve explored, many of the practices that UX designers and UX researchers already put to use on a daily basis are easily integrated into the marketing workflow. What’s more, they have the potential to seriously improve marketing as a practice.

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