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Human-Centered Design Should Be a CMO's Best Friend

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The list of daily duties for a CMO can seem never-ending. It's as if the CMO position needs to be made up of hundreds or maybe even thousands of people just to accomplish their assigned tasks, such as sales management, product development, distribution channel management, marketing communications (including advertising and promotions), pricing, market research, and customer service.

How can one man or woman to solve all those problems on his or her power alone? The answer: Most CMOs can't.

Why Human-Centered Design Helps CMOs

The average tenure of a CMO is just 45 months, according to a recent study released by executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart.

Fortunately, for CMOs in need of help, there's an elegant and simplistic process called "human-centered design," which takes all the guesswork out of developing winning results.


Human-centered design is the innovative approach to creating solutions by working in this order:

  • Leading with people's wants, needs, and behavior
  • Developing a deep understanding of tasks, workflow, culture, environments, and technology
  • Ensuring users are involved throughout the design process

In other words, human-centered design puts people first, process second, and technology third.

Whether the CMO is creating a product-specific campaign, building a new website, or completely rebranding the company, the human-centered design approach can be transformative.

The Power of Human-Centered Design

The human-centered design approach isn't Herculean. It's about thinking holistically, understanding your audience and market, becoming your audience and market, and crafting something based on that intimate perspective.

For example, many marketing teams are tasked with re-designing the company website. But is a website really all that's needed by your target audience, both internal and external? Does it truly convey your brand? Does it explain your product(s) simply? Does it integrate with your supportive systems (e.g., CRM, payment gateways, etc.)? And most importantly, does every piece of your outbound (and inbound) communication meet the real-life needs of your customers—and have you asked them?

Updating or completely redesigning each of these components individually is a huge project but necessary. Human-centered design states that people can't enjoy a successful Web experience without the cohesion of an elegant and mindful layout, easy-to-use integrated system, and overall branding work.

Marketing teams appreciate having everything accomplished upfront, too, as it takes a lot of the guesswork out of future planning. Learning what your audience truly needs—taking the time to gather all the information necessary to build a solution based on the human-centered design approach—is the most important part of the process

Become your own customer. Look at your organization chart, mission statement, and each silo in your business technology system, and then meet and talk with people at all levels of your company.

Learn how they use your company's business technology. Find out how your website users are interacting with the site and what impression it is leaving on them. Use this information to inform the project going forward. You may find you need more than a pretty new interface!

Here are three reasons why I feel every CMO needs to include the human-centered design approach in their day-to-day dealings.

  1. Customer loyalty comes from a great user experience. CMOs see customer loyalty as their top priority in the digital area, according to an IBM global study of 1,734 CMOs around the world. A winning user experience comes from taking into account the details: Should the shopping cart light up on hover? Is it large enough to spot? Using human-centered design, you're able to develop a user experience that actively engages your consumers and keeps them coming back for more.
  2. Know the market as CMO. You're supposed to know your company's dedicated market, but that doesn't mean it's easy. In human-centered design, you work backwards. Instead of focusing on the product you're selling and marketing, you focus on the people you're marketing to.
  3. Remember that happy customers mean a happy company. An engaging user experience crafted from human-centered design principles leads to a happy user base. It follows then that the company itself sees an increase in work positivity, as employees feel good about delivering solutions to clients that are effective and successful. As a good CMO knows, a company is only as good as its employees. If they're not happy, you definitely won't be.

Human-centered design seems like a basic and simple solution to driving profitable success—and that's because it is.

I know from my experience as founder and CEO of Story+Structure, a company built on the concept, that this approach to business technology has not only been a critical key to our success but to the success of our clients as well.

Long live human-centered design, the best friend a CMO could ever have.


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Chokdee Rutirasiri is founder and CEO of Story+Structure, a Boston-based innovation-design firm. He has been designing human-centered user-experience solutions for the private and public sectors since 1995.

LinkedIn: Chokdee Rutirasiri

Twitter: @chokecity

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