As marketers focus on developing engagement programs and brand experiences that are consumer-centered, there are many parallels with designing software products. I recently visited the IBM Design Studio in Austin Texas for a tour and a discussion with Melody Dunn, Chief Design Officer for IBM Commerce. Dunn has previously held several marketing leadership positions prior to her new role so much of our conversation was centered around lessons marketers can take from the Design Studio.
Here are five tips that may help you be a more effective designer of your marketing plan.
Start from the customer’s point of view – Dunn has worked with marketing departments across the globe. She has observed a common need in many of them. “Marketers really need to focus on their customer’s experience. A lot of times marketers tend to be very inward focus and think about their products and services, what they have to say and how quickly they can get it out. Each customer is going to be different. Some prefer certain types of channels, others don’t. You can’t treat everyone the same. I think that’s going to be come even a bigger challenge for marketers in the future because there’s such interdependence with technology from the customer’s perspective, how they choose to engage with you. It’s very easy for them to disengage if you don’t do the right things. They expect you to know them on a personalized basis. We’re still not taking a lot of that into account.”
Enroll multiple disciplines in planning – Collaboration has been a key to Dunn’s success as a marketer and design leader. “Marketing has a whole process. Marketers have to collaborate with others. It’s that collaboration that makes marketing really, really powerful.” To design new products, IBM brings together three disciplines. “We’ll have offering managers, sort of the GMs of the product. We’ll have the actual designers, the people who will be doing the creative interaction patterns or visualizations of that. Then we’ll have the actual engineers and developers. So we call it ‘Three in a Box’” said Dunn.
Create physical collaboration spaces – IBM has been changing its remote working practices recently. Dunn explains it this way. “It seems like in team sports the players should all be on the field at the same time. There’s nothing like looking someone in the eye and reading body language, and making sure you got alignment, consistence and understanding. You can do that remotely but I think it’s harder. When you’re all together it just goes faster.”
Embrace agile methodologies – As a software marketer, Dunn applied lessons from her design and development counterparts. “We learned to have a daily scrum and to work agile to do jobs you don’t normally do. It was really eye-opening and it was liberating too because we broke out of the old IBM marketing mold and learned to work in a very different fashion.”
Develop a risk-taking culture -“One of the things that design thinking enables you is to do is fail quickly and fast, and not to be fearful of it. The more experimentation you can do the better,” advises Dunn. “We did hundreds of mockups around Journey Designer before we got to something we were comfortable with. It was that fast iteration, getting the teams together, and not try to design for perfection but design for the majority of use case and getting that out there and getting customers’ interactions. As soon as you can do that the better you are. It’s the same with marketing, the sooner you can try and not be afraid to fail, that’s the way you’re really going to learn. It’s learning from those failures more so than your successes that I think makes the difference.”