CXL Growth Marketing Minidegree Review 2 of 12: Towards User-Centric Marketing



This is a review of Week 2 of the CXL Growth Marketing Minidegree that I am taking on a CXL scholarship. One observation is that the course is EXTENSIVE! In the 2 weeks I have been studying, I have only done 8% of the course. I will need to allocate more hours if I am to finish in 12 weeks. This week I started the User Centric Marketing Course.This is a course with immediate application in my work. I lamented the decline of experiential marketing in a previous post. I believe a user-centric approach will go a long way in improving experiential marketing.

Course Instructor

One thing about CXL is that their courses are taught by some of the best industry practitioners. This particular course is taught by Paul Boag, a well respected industry consultant whose mantra is “a useable, accessible and people-first experience is the best path to business success.” Paul runs his blog and consultancy service at

Why Does A Customer Centric Approach Matter?

Unprecedented Choice Because of Digital Channels

A customer centric approach matters because of the unprecedented choice that customers have today. Previously, if you wanted to buy shoes for example, you would rely on whatever media you were exposed to as well as recommendations from your social circle. Your choices were largely restricted to the specific geography you happened to be in. Today, if you search for shoes on Google, you are flooded with global options., most of whom will ship to your location.

Increased Consumer Voice Through Amplified Word of Mouth

The Internet also means word of mouth is particularly effective but its a double edged sword. Customers will rave about positive brand experiences on social media and other online channels but they can also complain about poor service. Paul gives an example of a customer whose luggage was lost by British Airways. He complained about their poor service through a promoted tweet that went viral. Before they knew it, BA had a major PR crisis on their hands. Consumers did not have such a powerful voice before.

Ability to Adapt Campaigns in Response to (Near Live) Data

Existing market approaches need to adapt so as to fully utilize the opportunities that digital offers. Unlike a physical brochure or billboard for example, a digital advert can be changed on the fly. We can test how audiences react to different copy etc. Digital also allows us to collect data – we can tell which pages customers are looking at for how long, enabling us to continuously change our messages.

Infographic showing the shift in power from company to consumer.
Source: Paul Boag What Is the Best Digital Marketing Strategy? (

A Shift From Traditional Campaign Oriented Approaches

I think this is the most important reason to adopt a customer centric approach.

Example of poorly run digital marketing strategy.
Source: What Is the Best Digital Marketing Strategy? (

The traditional approach starts with a vision for a campaign, followed by planning and development before launch. The vision relies on creative inspiration with little user/consumer input. Once the campaign is launched, there is little time to refine it in line with audience reactions. Even if the data were at hand, its very costly to revise a billboard or TVC. Traditional approaches are very much one-way, broadcast oriented campaigns. Digital allows two-way campaign design and enables marketers to involve the audience is message design and modification.

Source: What Is the Best Digital Marketing Strategy? (

The iterative campaign design process that is enabled by digital includes constant innovation, testing, feedback analysis and campaign redesign.

How to Adopt A User Centric Approach

Why Personas Are Inadequate

We traditionally use personas when designing campaigns. We focus on demographics, tastes and the audiences’ influencers. In order to craft persuasive messages, we need to really understand our audience. If we do not understand the audience fully, we will find it difficult to find the right messages or the correct emotional triggers to leverage in our communication. Understanding the age, gender and type of car that our audience drives is not enough.

Empathy Mapping

So, what do we need to know about users? One of the tools to getting to know users is something called empathy mapping. In some ways, it’s very similar to personas, but it has got some unique properties.

An empathy map is a collaborative tool that teams can use to better understand their customers. It consists of an image of the customer surrounded by six sections. These sections are:

  • Think and feel. What matters to the user? What occupies her thinking? What worries and aspirations does she have?
  • Hear. What are friends, family and other influencers saying to her that impacts her thinking?
  • See. What things in her environment influence her? What competitors is she seeing? What is she seeing friends do?
  • Say and do. What is her attitude towards others? What does she do in public? How has her behaviour changed?
  • Pain. What fears, frustrations or obstacles is she facing?
  • Gain. What is she hoping to get? What does success look like?
Creating an empathy map is a great workshop tool. It helps attendees really consider user needs.
Source: Adapting empathy maps for UX design (

So, this is a typical empathy map, something that’s used all the time in user research and user experience design. Instead of focusing on who the person island their tastes, it’s asking things like what questions do they have, what tasks are they wanting to complete, what is influencing them, and what their goals and pain points are.

It even looks at how they’re feeling during this process. And you’ll actually find that these are much more useful for designing a marketing campaign than knowing about somebody’s personal tastes.

The only drawback with empathy mapping and indeed traditional personas is that they are only a snapshot in time. They don’t take into account that the users actually on a journey and the fact that somebody goes through a series of steps is absolutely crucial to understand. Why is understanding the customer journey important? Well, a person doesn’t suddenly decide to buy, it’s a journey that they go on, it takes a series of steps. So how they feel, what questions they have, what concerns they have, all of these things will change as they go on that journey. Even things like what touchpoints they have with your company will change depending on where they are in the journey at the very beginning, their only interaction with you might be via a Facebook ad, while later on it’s going to be your website and further later on still, it might be someone from your sales team. There are so many touchpoints these days. It used to be so much simpler but now we have all of these social media channels, we have a website, we have Facebook, we have Google Ads, search engine optimization, and we can’t hope to stay on top of all of these. We can’t spread ourselves so incredibly thin, so we have to understand what channels our users are using and when they’re using them.

Once we understand that, then we can start to tailor our message appropriately for where they are in the journey. By understanding their journey, we know what channels to support and what to say on each of these channels.


My next review article will expand user-centric marketing. However, I am finding the course challenging because of the amount of information. The upside is that this should give me a solid grounding in Growth Marketing.


  1. Digital Marketing Training Delivered by The Best. (
  2. Adapting empathy maps for UX design (
  3. What Is the Best Digital Marketing Strategy? (