Why Marketers NEED to become design thinkers


I was driving home tonight listening to the Marketing Companion Podcast with Mark Schaefer and Tom Webster and all of a sudden it hit me square between the eyes.

If you want to be a successful marketer in 2016 and beyond then you NEED to get good at design thinking. 

Really? Has he truly lost it this time? 

No!

Let me tell you why.

Marketing is all about getting the message about what you do out to your target audience right? Well why is it that more than 50% of the startups that fail do so because they’re selling something that people don’t want?

We’re stuck in this trap, been doing it for generations, where we build shit, spend money on great advertising, and try to convince people that they need our product or service.

Interruption marketing at its’ finest.

It used to work, but that was the days before the web and particularly the growth of social media. Much more difficult these days. You might sell them something once, but if they didn’t really need it, or felt conned into the purchase afterwards, they ain’t coming back. And they’re going to tell a LOT of people.

So what’s the alternative?

Talk to people! Ask them what their needs and problems are. Figure out how to solve those and if your audience is big enough then you’re onto a winner.

The days of coming up with an idea, hunkering down and building the product, are over.

So as marketers you need to learn how to ask users what their needs or problems are. Sharpen up your observation skills. Get those Spidey-senses working. Then feed that data back into the company.

Without sales there is nothing for the production guys to make or for the accountants to count.

And without great marketing, without delivering a product or service that solves your customers needs or problems, the sales team have nothing to sell.

So Marketing people, you’re going to like this – add Design Thinking to your armoury and you will become THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON in the company.

2 thoughts on “Why Marketers NEED to become design thinkers

  1. Hold on a minute “Well why is it that more than 50% of the startups that fail do so because they’re selling something that people don’t want?” – where is that stat from, what types of start ups?

    Designing a product that people want is often a really, really bad idea, if you want to grow fast. Surely it’s about designing for an unrealised need. The best quote on this is Henry Ford — ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’, but James Watt has some great advice about this in Business for Punks.

    You say “We’re stuck in this trap, been doing it for generations, where we build shit, spend money on great advertising, and try to convince people that they need our product or service.”” – I can’t think of a product since the 50s that has been able to work on marketing alone, can you give some examples?

    1. Hey Mark! Thanks for your comment. The stat is fairly generic, but I’ve seen & heard it a few times now. Was quoted by Mark Schaefer on his blog, and also by Bill Aulet of MIT recently at a University Entrepreneurship event I attended.

      We’re both saying the same thing here – my point is that you need to solve people’s needs & problems. Understand what those are before you start to build a product or service. It means that if you take the Lean Startup model of Build-Measure-Learn, it becomes Ask-Prototype-Test-Build-Measure-Learn.

      Using the Ford analogy, if you’d asked what people wanted they’d have said faster horses. What they needed was to get from A-B faster, and Ford realised that so he built the car.

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