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How Usability and Marketing Intertwine

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October 27, 2022

Common sense tells us that usability is part of marketing. After all, if you build a site no one can use, your sales and conversions will likely plummet.

In many organizations, however, usability and marketing exist in separate camps, with the usability side advocating for things like user testing and segmentation, and the marketing side homed in on branding and the sales pipeline. The approach we take at Astriata, though, is that usability and marketing overlap and intertwine. One drives the other. And as we’ve explored this month in our series on marketing psychology principles like the fear of missing out (FoMO) and the paradox of choice, marketing and sales rely heavily on a key part of usability: user engagement.

Still, clients share stories with us all the time of difficulties convincing upper management to support usability efforts. “They want a marketing-first approach focused purely on increasing memberships,” a marketing director of a national association told our team. Although we agree that conversions and memberships matter tremendously, we also know they don’t happen without strong UX components.

If you, your colleagues, or your leadership team are on the fence about usability, how can you convince them that usability is key to marketing, and vice versa? Here, we share what we consider two essential ways they rely on and feed each other.

1. UX leads to smarter, more personalized marketing.

As you know, marketing comes in all varieties. But if you work for a member-based association or a nonprofit, healthcare, or humanitarian organization, chances are, you want to avoid forms of marketing that belie your reputation as a trusted thought leader in your field. You want to come across as educated and intelligent. How can usability help you do that?

Usability testing enables you to segment and get to know your target audiences, instead of lumping them as one and the same or making assumptions about their likes and dislikes. It involves gathering and using qualitative and quantitative data to make decisions about the very things marketers care about: branding, messaging, lead generation and nurturing, and sales. In addition, by combining your marketing and usability efforts, you can improve the quality of your leads—and spend less time nurturing relationships with people who are not a good fit in the first place. All of this equates to smarter, more personalized marketing.

Why does personalization matter? Marketing research over the past decade indicates that we’re living in an era of personalization, in which clients, customers, members, and patients want and expect personalized messaging and marketing. Among the most compelling evidence is this compilation of “50 Stats Showing the Power of Personalization” published in Forbes, which includes numbers not only for consumer marketing and e-commerce but also for those of us in the business-to-business (B2B) sector. And, yes, personalization efforts come with a strong return on investment (ROI).

As author and customer experience expert Blake Morgan shares in that same Forbes article:

2. Your brand is tied up in your UX.

In today’s era of personalization and authenticity, it’s your customers, clients, members, and patients who make up the bulk of your brand. This is why we see steady streams of client profiles and testimonials on websites and social media platforms. With these forms of marketing, which are a form of social proof, organizations share stories and images of individuals from various target groups, hoping potential clients or customers will recognize some element of themselves and sign on.

Branding, of course, involves more than the font, colors, and taglines of your website. Branding encompasses the overall impression audiences get from visiting and interacting with your website and other digital assets, and with your in-person locations. “Your site or app is the front door to building trust and credibility in your organization, … and only an excellent user experience can generate the kind of visceral trust that builds satisfaction and a strong reputation,” explains Stacy Holmstedt, the director of website strategy and operations at Arizona State University Enterprise Marketing Hub, in an article for UserZoom.

“We no longer live in a world where users will accept that an organization is operating on a shoestring, and adjust their expectations accordingly,” Holmstedt goes on to explain. “If your site doesn’t project quality and attention to detail, or it frustrates users in any way, it will paint an unflattering picture of your mission, leadership, and values.” In other words, it will hurt your branding and reflect poorly on your overall organization.

Holmstedt and other marketing and UX specialists, including our team at Astriata, advise making UX a key part of your marketing and branding strategies. “The best brands are driven by their core customers,” says Lauren Ventura, a senior copywriter for a top HubSpot consultant, in the UserZoom article. “To me, the user experience is about holistically listening to your customers, … [and in today’s increasingly competitive marketplace], the brands that stand out are the ones that know and understand their customers’ needs, wants, and desires—and work hard to give them that.”

Are you looking for more to help you build a case for usability in your marketing efforts? Read “Four Steps to Calculating the Return on Your UX Investment.”

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