Building Great Products Requires UX and Marketing Alignment
When working on my MBA, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my marketing classes. Like many people, I’d always equated “Marketing” with “Advertising,” and generally - the kind of advertising that tries to sell people things they don’t want. Yet as I dove into the subject, I was surprised time and time again to see how much the field of UX owes to Marketing, and how many times we were re-inventing principles marketers have known for ages. Things like the Kano model and the three P’s of Marketing were perfectly comfortable and at home in my UX brain.
But while Marketing and UX seem very similar in the classroom, back in the real world, they serve very different purposes. In academia, both Marketing and UX seek to identify a need in a potential market (user group) and then find a product to meet that need at an affordable price. In the real world, marketing is often brought to the table late and tasked with finding a market that will buy an existing product. The company starts with the product, then relies on Marketing to sell it.
Though we might pretend otherwise, this is the unfortunate plight of many UX departments as well. While any good UX practitioner will insist on starting projects with customer needs analysis, segmentation, and research, these imperative steps are often cut when either product or engineering insists that the product is right and asks UX to work solely on interaction and visual design.
When user research gets cut out of the product development life cycle, Marketing is reduced to advertising and UX is reduced to visual design. Advertising and visual design are wildly important, but both are late stage activities in a larger product development lifecycle that needs to engage marketing and UX from the beginning.
In an ideal world, there would be no clear line between Marketing and UX, as both should be actively engaged in the same activities early in product development. After performing research, Marketing will analyze the gathered data to understand customer drivers for advertising and pricing purposes, while UX will analyze the same data for clues on the right functionality to provide in a product and how the customer will interact with it.
Marketing and UX aren’t the only practices involved at this point either. IT and engineering should be engaged to observe and understand the customer need and comment on the feasibility of architecting the desired solution. Product should observe and understand the desired priority and timeframe for each intended feature. Each piece of the organization needs the same data for the same ultimate purpose: to make a fantastic product that provides real utility for customers using their respective area of expertise. It’s just easier for those groups to overlook - or sometimes ignore - while developers go to bed dreaming about programming patterns or technical capabilities (and get up at 2 AM to build them), and UX folks lay awake at night scared to death that they’re missing a key user group.
Marketing and UX are natural allies, and by banding together we can provide a unified front in the pursuit of better strategy and research at the beginning product development cycles. UX practitioners should explore our natural similarities with Marketing and link arms with our counter parts. If we remember why we got into this in the first place - to make great things that provide real value - it’s easy to see how well aligned each piece of the organization can be.