UX lessons you can apply to your marketing campaigns

6 min read David Renwick

Marketers can learn a lot from their colleagues in user research. By applying UX research principles and practices to your marketing efforts, you can strengthen your campaign planning, better interpret your data and more accurately predict performance.

It’s really all about taking a user- and research- first approach to your marketing. In this article, we’ll explore some UX research lessons that you can apply to your next marketing campaign.

Understand the value of qualitative and quantitative data

In research, every method is either qualitative or quantitative (or both). Qualitative research is focused on the ‘why’ – it’s exploratory and doesn’t really deal with numbers. Instead, it’s all about the reasons, behaviors and motivations that people have. Typically, researchers gather this data through interviews, open responses to survey questions and conversations with stakeholders.

On the other side of the fence is quantitative data. This type of data is all about numbers and measurements. Researchers gather quantitative data and derive insights in the form of statistical analysis – like trends, demographic information and the differences between groups.

It’s unusual for most marketers to think about data in this way, but it’s useful to distinguish between the two different types. Consider the data that’s most valuable for the work that you’re currently doing. In turn, you’ll be able to investigate different research methods (like card sorting) and use these methods to gain a more comprehensive understanding of what you’re trying to understand.

Create a comprehensive plan

Ever heard of a UX research plan? It’s a process many researchers go through before starting a project in order to give their research the best chance of success. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like – a plan that outlines all of the different components of a research project.

Here’s some of what goes into a UX research plan:

  • A list of stakeholders (people who need to be consulted as part of the research)
  • Research questions that require answers
  • The budget for the project
  • Timeframes
  • Where participants will come from
  • Which methods to use

For marketers, taking the time to create a detailed campaign plan can be a fruitful exercise. For example, mapping out timeframes, budgets and stakeholders can give you a better idea of the scope of a campaign before you actually start to commit resources to it.

Making use of existing data

Duplicate research is an all-too-common issue. More junior researchers will often begin new research projects without first checking to see what data already exists in the organization. Before laying blame, it’s an easy oversight to make, especially when locating existing data (and then interpreting it) can be a time-consuming activity.

Starting with existing data is always the best approach. Even if you have to do some more analysis work or consult with those who gathered the data in the first place, you’ll have much more context and information before carrying out your own, new research.

This is an important lesson for marketers. Before you start your next marketing campaign, comb through the results of past campaigns to see how they’ve resonated with your audience. If possible, chat to the people who ran those campaigns too. It may sound obvious, but it’s an important point to make.

Learn how to manage stakeholders

Managing stakeholders can be a tricky exercise, no matter the field. For those in user research, it can be an especially difficult part of the research process.

Typically, researchers will be fighting a battle on two fronts: they’ll be working to prove both the value of conducting research and the value of the specific research project they’re working on. The return on investment of research has always been famously difficult to prove, largely because there’s no direct link to the bottom line of the business. As a result, stakeholder management has become a key skill for user researchers – and there are many strategies for doing so effectively.

One of the best ways to get stakeholders onside with your marketing project is to involve them when you’re actually doing the work. Sit them down next to you when you send out a newsletter to show them the results as they come in, or share insights from campaigns as you uncover them.

Always run a test (pilot study)

Before we ever launch a study here at Optimal Workshop (like a tree test), we always run a pilot or test study first. Typically, this just means we launch the study internally to a few staff members and have them complete the test as if they were our intended audience. This helps us in a few different ways. For one, we can make sure there are no typos or small errors in the study. But more importantly, we can make sure the logic of the study is sound. The last thing we want to do is go through the effort of launching a study and have it fail because we asked the wrong questions.

For marketers, this lesson is quite a simple one. Before you launch your next round of social posts, newsletter, remarketing campaign or email flow, test in internally, and rigorously.

Document everything

Good documentation is good research. Having a clear record of all research activities, including the testing types used, logs of user interviews and write-ups of any analysis work is one of the foundations of good research practice. In practice, it makes total sense. Clear documentation means that it’s easy to pull up past research data when needed in the future, and there’s also the benefit of continuity. If a researcher ever leaves the organization, there’ll be a clear record of their work for future researchers to access.

The same lesson applies for marketers. Taking the time to document all of your marketing activities will pay dividends in the long run, and not just for you. By practicing good record-keeping, it’ll be easy for others in your organization to access the fruits of your labor when required.

Talk to users

If there was just one lesson we could take from the UX research world and impart to marketers, it’s this one; talk to your users. It’s a simple point, but making regular interaction with your customers/audience/target market a part of how you do your job will give you a level of insight that you can’t get anywhere else.

There are many ways to speak to your users, depending on what you’re interested in learning:

  • User interviews give you the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with a real person and ask them questions.
  • Website intercepts allow you to ask for feedback or ask questions in a relatively non-intrusive way.
  • Usability tests allow you see how someone interacts with something your working on and get feedback.
  • Contextual inquiries are a combination of interviews and observations where you ask users about their experience (usually with a product) and then observe and question them while they work in their environment.

Wrap up

As we said at the beginning of this article, marketers can learn a lot from their colleagues in user research. By adopting a customer- or user-centric mindset, you can inject real value into your marketing.If you want to learn more about UX research methods, the best place to start is our ‘Intro to UX research’ guide right here on the blog.

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