Inbound UX: Practical Design Tips for a Better User Experience

Inbound and UX go hand in hand. Levelling up your inbound UX will improve engagement, boost conversions and deliver a better experience to your prospects and customers. 

Odds are that you’ve come across the term ‘UX’ before, especially in connection to creating software and digital products. In recent years, the term has started to creep into marketing’s vocabulary as well.

Increasingly, UX crops up in conversations about websites and online presence. You “need good UX on your website for good placement in search rankings” or “good UX means better conversion rates”. But I’m guessing the definition still feels a bit blurry.

So, let’s have a look at what exactly UX design is, what it means for marketers, and some UX quick-wins you can take away and implement on your digital marketing to help drive better conversion rates today.

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What is UX design?

To start off with the basics, UX stands for ‘user experience’. Traditionally, it’s the feeling a person gets when they interact with your product. And UX design is all about creating great user experiences.

Think about listening to music on Spotify. UX design here means that many hours have gone into researching how people use the app and what changes need to be made to make it even better. And for Spotify users, ‘better’ looks like knowing how to add songs to your playlist, being able to easily search for an album, or having the neat ability to create a personalised playlist based on your tastes.

If UX can be thought of as having a design philosophy, it’s inarguably a wish to reduce friction for users. UX is about making it easy for your customers to achieve their goals — in Spotify’s case, listening to music without hassle.

So what does this mean for us as marketers, and how can we learn from it?

Inbound UX example

Applying the above explanation to marketing is actually really straightforward. Instead of Spotify, think about any aspect of marketing, such as your website. In a similar way to before, a UX designer would then look at the tasks or goals your users have, research their experiences, and evaluate how to improve them in order to make the experience better.

Let’s run with the website example. Consider your typical B2B software as a service (SaaS) site. People are visiting it for a reason and have a goal in mind.

That goal could be:

  • understanding what your product is
  • identifying a solution for a problem they are having
  • that they want to get in touch with you
  • that they want to download a benchmarking report you’ve written

How could you better design your website to make it easier for your visitors to achieve these goals? Chances are, you wouldn’t need a complete overhaul. Simply look at one task/goal at a time and investigate how easy or hard it is with your current website.

  • Is your website doing a clear job of explaining, in clear and simple-to-understand terms, what the product does?
  • Your visitors know their problems — are you helping them to frame them and suggest a solution?
  • Can a visitor easily spot where to click to get in touch with you? Is that by calling a number or submitting a form? What’s it like to try to engage with you through that channel?
  • Is the visitor able to navigate and find the report? Is it easy to submit the form that allows them to download it? And what happens after?

This all fits nicely with the inbound methodology. Inbound marketing is all about creating experiences and adding value by providing relevant and helpful content and interactions. (More on this later on.)

Research is about taking the guesswork out of the picture

Before we dive into hands-on practical tips for inbound UX, it’s important to note that UX is a research-based discipline. That means that you should rely on observations and data — research — in order to make the right decisions for how to optimise your marketing experiences.

Tools of the trade for this include looking at data from analytics tools (HotJar, Crazyegg, Google Analytics flows), direct observations (usability testing) and having an iterative process where you implement changes and observe the results before making further adjustments. 

UX design isn’t just about easy navigation and optimised copy; it’s also about creating memorable, positive experiences for your customers. These experiences are what drive recurring visits and increase brand loyalty.“ Colman Walsh, Founder and CEO at UX Design Institute, ‘5 Ways UX Design Can Improve Your Digital Marketing

So where to start? The quickest way to test the waters is to look at best practices and go from there.

Applying UX best practices to your digital marketing

Now that we are on the same page as to what UX Design is and what it can do when applied to marketing, let’s get down to business. After all, I did promise some quick-wins to help boost those conversions.

So, below you’ll find three areas to look at and some changes you can make that will help you serve a better experience for your customers and those you market to.

1. Increase lead generation with improved forms

Forms are really a marketer’s most important tool for capturing leads. You shouldn’t be buying lists and we don’t go hunting for prospects like sales reps do. Contacts come to us when they have a need, and to do that, they use forms. They sign up for newsletters, give us their contact information to attend events or exchange details in order to download a guide.

Typically speaking, forms live on our websites. We want to know every little detail that could be useful to sales further down the road, and so we fall into the trap of asking for Industry, Job title, Phone number, Name, the Address to their Headquarters, Waist Size, Shoe Size... 

But all that takes time for the visitor to fill out. Rightly so, they might begin to question the value of finishing the form, if they even take the plunge in the first place. How can we be better?

By making forms easy to fill out and treating them as a professional representation of what it’s like to work with you, we build trust and provide that elusive ‘good UX’, removing hesitation.

Quick ways to improve the UX of your marketing forms:

  1. Only ask for information that’s necessary and appropriate for that situation. Slim down the email newsletter signup, you really only need an email address and a name. For direct contact or bottom-of-the-funnel offers, go ahead and ask for more.
  2. Think about what signals you send with the questions you’re asking. Asking for a phone number would indicate that you intend to call.
  3. Autofill or omit the question if the data is already known. HubSpot forms are a great example; they are connected to the CRM and can skip or autofill any questions to which you already know the answer.
  4. Having all input fields (questions) in a single column is the best way to make sure no field is skipped and that it’s easy for the user to fill out quickly.
  5. Make the action button clear. Don’t just call it ‘Submit’ but spell out what will happen: ‘Sign up’, ‘Send me the report’, ‘Register for the webinar’, ‘Download’ etc.

2. Clear language for stronger messaging and communication

“Our robust solution is an ecosystem that empowers tribes with varying core competencies to disseminate ideas and consult on business-critical decisions.”

Do you understand what this company’s software does? Me neither. Had it been described like this, it would instantly have been clearer:

“We’re a messaging app for business that connects people to the information they need.”

People have short attention spans. If they need to do mental gymnastics to understand what the jargon and abbreviations you’re using mean, they’ll tire and move on. By simplifying how you’re saying something, you can improve impressions and keep visitors engaged.

I can also guarantee you that people are more likely to search ‘messaging app’ than whatever that first garble of words was. So adding clarity will also improve your search performance and SEO.

Again, you don’t need to redo all the copy across your entire website to improve the overall feel. You can start small and focus on the text and information found by your conversion points (forms, calls-to-action and contact areas) before moving on to your central messaging.

Where you can start to improve your copy:

  1. Are all calls-to-action clearly labelled and understandable?
  2. Are descriptions of what happens when you submit a form accurate and easy to understand? 
  3. Look through the web copy and replace jargon where possible 
  4. Can a non-employee understand what your product or service does?

Read more about positioning and messaging here: Strategy Planning: How We Set You Up for Inbound Success

3. Contextual lead nurturing

I just preached about clarity, so let me first break down the headline. ‘Contextual’ means ‘in what context/environment’, and ‘lead nurturing’ is all about building a relationship with a potential customer.

You do this by engaging with them through different channels (email, social media, events etc.) and supporting them on their way from first identifying a problem to finding and choosing a solution. (This is known as the buyer’s journey.)

Effective tactics for lead nurturing are all about adding that touch of personalisation. You don’t assault your entire contact database with the same emails — they’ll be in completely different stages of the buyer’s journey, and a new newsletter subscriber or someone who’s already a customer won’t be interested in talking to sales about a price list for your services. 

So you nurture them differently depending on where they are in their readiness to buy and gently coax them to the next stage — all while keeping them happy.

Ways to enhance the UX of your lead nurturing:

  1. Segment your database. Filter your email send lists and who gets sent what. Contacts who have only shown interest in your newsletter are the wrong group to get sales offers.
  2. Look over any retargeting ads you use. Make sure you’re serving different messages depending on where the lead is in the buyer’s journey.
  3. Add personalisation to your emails. A good email marketing tool will allow you to add personalisation tokens. You can use these to address a recipient by name and add other information from your CRM without you having to send individual emails.
  4. Remember your customers. It’s more expensive to obtain a new customer than it is to keep the ones you have; make sure you nurture these relationships as well through timely communication.
  5. Set the rules for pop-ups and highlighted offers on your website. If you’re running your website on a CMS that allows you to set rules for what content is shown (smart content, web personalisation) make sure you personalise what offers you show based on their stage in the buyer’s journey, and make any pop-ups relevant (don’t ask a prospect to register to the newsletter if they already have, for example).

These are just a few examples of improved contextual lead nurturing. Once you’ve implemented it into your marketing mix, the next steps would be to look at the overarching journey — making sure messaging is consistent and all communications are well thought-through.

Deliver a website experience your visitors will love

My hope is that by now you have a clearer understanding of what inbound UX is and how it can help your marketing. In addition to the three focus areas outlined above, you could also apply these principles to your:

  • Email marketing strategy. What emails are you sending, how do they enrich the customer’s relationship with you?
  • Handoff between marketing and sales nurturing. Once the marketing-led nurturing is replaced by outreach from sales reps, how is that experience? 
  • When a Lead becomes a Customer. What are your prospects’ experiences of being pitched to and becoming customers? Increase customer loyalty with timely customer support and the introduction to your customer success team.

Lastly, if you’re not already familiar with it, I’d highly recommend getting acquainted with the inbound marketing methodology. As a globally recognised HubSpot Solutions Partner, we’ve helped organisations of all sizes get to grips with an inbound approach to their marketing. 

With our help, they’ve transformed their marketing into timely, relevant communications that speak to the potential customers their businesses need to grow. And at its core, that’s all inbound is — delivering your marketing in such a way that it provides your target prospects with what they need, when they need it. As you now know, that goes hand-in-hand with the user-centric approach of UX design, where you put the (potential) customer in focus. Enjoy!

Discover more practical marketing tips in our ebook, How to Set Up Your Inbound Marketing Strategy.

OFFER: Inbound Marketing Strategy Ebook

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