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March 17, 2022
What is it like to work at User Interviews? Erin, SVP of Marketing & Growth, explains the values that drive our fully remote marketing team.
There are a lot of schools of thought here.
One is that the marketer’s job is to make the product appear bigger and better than it is—to simply capture attention and let sales, compelling offers, an optimized checkout flow take care of the rest. To be sure, it is absolutely a marketer’s role to paint their product and company in a flattering light. But smoke-and-mirrors tactics that create too much space between the vision being sold and reality do not work in an era when there are a dozen alternatives to every product, and when it is easy enough for customers to see and experience products for themselves.
One way this plays out at User Interviews is that we listen to our customers. I know, I know, everyone says this—but we really do. We listen to what they say and how they say it, and reflect the way they talk about us back in our copy. We emphasize fast access to quality participants on our current hero banner because we know this is an honest and relevant reflection of the value we’re offering the people we’re trying to reach.
The vast majority of my marketing experience is digital, and many UX principles hold when it comes to digital marketing. If you make it hard, confusing, or unpleasant to interact with your marketing, people will find some other marketing to interact with. This is problematic when it can many touchpoints to make a sale. The touchpoints need to be good, consistently.
That’s why I’m not shy about my distaste for gated content. Who ever thought: “You know I’d like to read this web-based content, but first I’d like to give you my email so you can send me sales outreach I don’t want and I’d like to wait for you to email me that content as a PDF before I can access it?” No one. This flow is for marketers, not users.
You CAN find ways to reach marketing and user goals at the same time. That’s the fun of it. We provide a lot of ways for people to share their email with us here at User Interviews, but until you want to create an account or willfully talk to sales, we won’t make you do it.
Of course, there are nuances to this in practice. While we never withhold the core value, we do sometimes ask for your email in exchange for access to additional, alternative ways to interact with our biggest content pieces.
You cannot do good UX without good research.
That doesn’t mean every minute decision requires 12 user interviews across a variety of customer segments. It means that when you’re getting started, a fundamental baseline understanding of who your users are, what your product can do for them, where they hang out, and how they think and talk will take you a whole lot further than swapping blue buttons for red ones.
And it means you need to keep getting smarter, because there is much to learn across channels and contexts. Your customers change, the market changes, and any competitor worth their salt is doing their own research to learn how to meet those changing needs.
When we launched our updated brand look, you better believe we talked to customers first. The idea of the solo genius just spinning up a vibe without talking to customers is antithetical to how we do things as a company, and as a marketing team.
That said, you have to be clear about what you can learn from your customers, and what they simply can’t decide for you. Holly and team did a great job of balancing an opinionated vision with a look that we were confident would resonate with our customers, too.
Your customers are not all the same. Even if, in the early days, they share the same set of pain points, jobs to be done, buying preferences, information seeking patterns, and thinking styles (unlikely, by the way) at a minimum, your customers will be at a different place in their journey with your brand.
This is why having some notion of lifecycle marketing from day 1 is so critical. As your product and customer base mature, your need for segmentation will grow. The trick is to identify the most meaningful segments and to personalize your touchpoints across them. You cannot be all things to all people—but you can better connect to customers by doing your best to not treat them all the same.
I want to tell you the chart above looks more complicated than it is… but it’s actually kind of complicated. We didn’t start here, though. We started with a single email sent to people who hadn’t been active in 2 months or more, asking them why they hadn't been active and offering an incentive to try us out again. We learned a lot from the responses and we won back some customers, too. You don’t have to segment all the things in all the ways at the get-go; you just have to start somewhere that matters and build from there.
I’m not in marketing to win a bunch of marketing awards. I’m doing a good job as a marketer if my work is driving results—ultimately revenue, but positive qualitative feedback from customers means a lot, too.
Whether it’s a piece of social copy promoting your latest content offering, a refer-a-friend CTA to fuel viral growth of your product, or developing your positioning for a new product line, keep the effort focused on why in the world your very busy customers would possibly care about what you’re putting out there. If you can’t come up with a reason, neither can they.
I mentioned earlier that I lead marketing and growth at User Interviews; at our company, these are two separate but related departments. I think of growth as sitting at the intersection of product and marketing, creating and accelerating growth loops within the product itself to make both our product and marketing more efficient.
When the growth team set out to improve the viral loop of researchers inviting their colleagues to their teams, one of our more impactful efforts was a simple copy change. Previously, we had emphasized getting free participants when someone you knew signed up. But that wasn’t really why someone would want to invite their coworker. Sure, it’s nice to save the company a few bucks—but what’s nicer is having someone to help you do your recruiting, collaborators to join your research sessions, share their calendars, help select the ideal participants for a study, and so on.
This insight and copy change resulted in a statistically significant lift in researchers signing up through team invitations.
Typically, we see marketing teams divided into the numbers people and the creative people. And as a team scales, of course you need specialists who lean in one direction or another. But even the quantiest marketer should still have a baseline understanding of what keeps your ICP awake at night, and your content folks need to understand how all that “on brand” material they’re creating are driving results for your business.
Understanding impact should not be outsourced to the quant people and understanding your customer’s emotional life should not be outsourced to the creative people. Teams that have a baseline of both are better set up for success in this era of increased transparency, authenticity, and big data.
A key initiative in our 2022 planning was to really take a hard look at our funnel, the key stages that drive our go to market strategy, and iterate some of those steps and definitions to drive greater impact alignment between marketing and sales, but also within marketing. I’ll write a longer post on this at some point, but one way this played out is we created a new definition of MQL that brings content and growth marketing together to drive a shared top of funnel goal.
MKT1 has a great article describing growth marketing as the engine and content marketing as the fuel. We are very content driven (you need fuel whether it is content or something else), and content traffic spikes drive deeper funnel value as well. So content has a content sessions goal and growth marketing has an MQL goal, working closely with content to forecast content’s impact on MQL, and to help drive it through growth marketing tactics (such as LinkedIn lead ads that rely on content, to name one example). Content marketing—the “creatives”—needs to be thinking about results. Growth marketing—the “quants”—need to be thinking about why people would be motivated to click on an ad to drive the results that make the charts go up and to the right.
Constraints are real, and necessity is the mother of invention. Things do not have to be how they are, and marketing can be a force for change—for changing the conversation, the market, perceptions.
If you start from a perspective of “things can be different than they are now” and that marketing is more than copying what others have done, you can actually remove barriers that maybe seemed immovable but were really just there, waiting for someone to move them. You can’t change everything at once, you shouldn’t try. But things can change.
In work and in life, you’ve got to play the short game and long game at the same time. While content marketing can take years to really hit its stride, you can be smart about how you build out your multi year strategy to yield (some) results right away. In a startup, you have to. Short term victories buy you time. And time is often what you need to make a real impact, to see real progress.
While we would never want to overstate our role in furthering the prominence and perceived value of UX research in many companies, we certainly have been singing from the rooftops that making decisions informed by user insights is the right way forward. On the one hand, you have to meet people where they are. On the other hand, don’t wait for the market to catch up with the future you believe in. You can do two things at once.
Four and a half years ago, I joined UI as the 8th hire and first marketer. I was a team of 1 (with freelance help) for about a year. Since then, we’ve scaled to a team of 7 and have 3 (soon to be 4) open roles right now. While I hope the marketing team here reflects my values, we’re also a dynamic group that evolves with the world, our product, and every new person who joins the team. If this sounds like something you’d like to be a part of, we’d love to add your voice, talent, and perspective to the team! Explore our openings here.
VP, Growth & Marketing
Left brained, right brained. Customer and user advocate. Writer and editor. Lifelong learner. Strong opinions, weakly held.