CXL Institute Growth Marketing Minidegree Review Part 2

This is part 2/12 in my series reviewing the Growth Marketing Minidegree.

Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

Marketing has to be outward focussed. Market your products or services where your users are, in your users tone and the channels that your users use.

We all have heard that.

However, often it goes inwards focussed. More often than not companies and teams get entangled in their idea of marketing, how they want to project their product and it impacts the channels they use, the tone, the words used and the research method adopted, all focussing inwards.

In this series, I will talk about my learnings from the CXL Institute Growth Marketing Minidegree taught by Paul Boag on achieving happier customers and increased sales with user-centric marketing and by Sophia Eng on identifying and amplifying growth channels.

So, let’s dive in..

Why do we need user centric approach and how to start

Paul starts by talking about the way digital has transformed the consumer relationship with businesses and the impact that has on the sales and marketing funnel.

He states that though there have been new technologies and platform at play in marketing but the core ideology of approaching marketing has yet to be completely evolved. He reasons this with the fact that users now have umpteen numbers of choices, they are less patient and will reject a choice on the slightest challenge faced.

We need to understand what the user is trying to achieve, what their goals are which are constantly evolving as per their journey. To help in this process, Paul introduces empathy mapping which is a level deeper than user persona.

Empathy mapping by Paul

Is user research expensive to conduct?

It is a common assumption that user research is expensive but in reality there is so much research one can do by not even spending a dime. Some of the departments that you can get in touch for user research are:

  1. Sales Team
  2. Customer Service Team
  3. Analytics Team
  4. Social Media Team

We also need to focus on customer motivation and not just behaviour. In order to better understand this we need to analyse:

  1. The search terms: The one’s that have got them to the website and what they are entering into the website to give an insight into their pain points, questions, and goals.
  2. The most popular pages and dwell time: Not all information published will be important to the users. They might focus more on some pages and a combination between dwell time and pages will result in understanding what is popular with the users.
  3. Social media insights: Observe the content that gets the majority of engagement. Also, try to understand what kind of content your users like in general. Who do they follow, what do they share.
  4. Customer digital journey: This can be tracked through heatmap tools like Hotjar etc.. to better understand that once they visit the website what are the actions they take.

Using Surveys to better your understanding

Surveys have a bad habit of being unnecessary long and off point. Paul argues that for a successful survey one needs to follow these three points

  1. Needs to be concise, closed question oriented.
  2. Pick the right moment to ask people.
  3. Explain why you’re taking a survey and if possible, incentivise the user.

The Power of Top Task Analysis

To understand where our focus should be considering where our users are focussed — Top Task Analysis. It is critical because we have very little time to capture the user before they move along the chain. Paul then properly explains the way we run a top task analysis that involves brainstorming, combining questions, simplifying the questions and running the survey.

Meeting your customers

Meeting your customers in their real life setting will set you up for success. This will give you a great insider look into the challenges they face while using your product, service and will help you really understand them.

This is crucial for your product and thought process. You should aim to spend sometime once a month with the users actually doing something tangible rather than just discussing multiple topics without a theme.

Understanding Customer Journey Mapping

Age old personas are static in nature and do not evolve as per the customer journey within the funnel. Customer journey map is a visualisation of that journey evolving with the customer’s journey within multiple stages. Even a customer journey map won’t be 100% accurate but it considers two most important elements:

  1. First, the stages in the journey: Depends on the type of business
  2. Second, the information about the user that you want to gather at each step along the way: Tasks they want to complete, feelings they have, pain points, or touch points they encounter (can be online or offline).

Paul explains what is required to have a successful customer journey map — a successful workshop. This includes:

  1. Collaboration: This helps in removing any bad assumptions and also provides a sense of ownership to everyone involved in the process to use the map.
  2. Participants: Ideally, involve customers, customer facing teams, user research teams, senior management, IT teams with customer data.
  3. Simple approach: With a lot of people in the room, we should aim to keep the map simple and not over complicate it. Limit the number of stages to five or six and use the group to define the scope.
  4. Scope choices: With a simple approach comes a choice to layer the map. You can either map it across different stages (superficial way) or map it for individual stages and divide it further into five or six steps/stages.
  5. Filling the grid: Fill every cell in the grid stage where you can brainstorm ideas. For eg: What questions (row) people have during discovery (steps/stage)?
  6. Vote and Prioritise: With so many cells and brainstorm ideas you will end up with a lot of questions. You can then vote and prioritise on these questions and determine which ones you need to map.

So in the end you will have a massive big grid with your steps running horizontally and your information that you’re collecting running vertically with Post-it notes in each one of those cells. After this, you would need to transform this into some kind of a persona with the help of a designer.

A sample CJM poster

How does user research help in marketing

User research approaches the campaign design not from top to execution but from need to plan to execution mode. It helps focus our campaigns on real needs and address real questions.

In order to start the campaigns from a user centric approach, Paul explains about the concept of story cards that try to create story boards of what users are trying to do in a, “I am, I want to, so I can.” way. Furthermore, the user needs to be involved at every stage of a campaign, planning, designing, executing, and analysing.

Why should the user be involved in campaign design and how to do it?

Involving users in campaign design helps to refine the tone that resonates the best with the users. Since, that is the most crucial aspect in reaching and influencing the users.

It is not the user who will design but rather co-design the process with the company and other stakeholders. The designer and copywriters still will have to make it appealing for the larger user base. How to achieve it:

  1. Extracting keywords: These keywords will represent the tone of voice the company should be adopting. You can chose to conduct many exercises for this like the famous person exercise where they associate your company with a famous person, a waiting room exercise where the users define a waiting room at company to be like.
  2. Key selling points: Asking direct questions might not result in extracting the correct information. One can use exercises like writing a love letter to your company or a breakup letter or the book cover exercise where the users have to decide what goes on the cover of the book, what goes on the spine, what goes on the back, and what goes on the inside flap.

Recruiting people for the tasks might be a great challenge. You would want people who haven’t signed up for your product or service but fall within your TG while deciding the tone of voice. While researching about the key selling points you would want to have your existing audience.

The course then dwells into testing and prototyping. Paul discusses the multiple methods of testing designs and mockups, some are:

  1. First Click test: Focusses on discovering the first click of the user and the delta from your thought
  2. Five second test: Focussed on the messaging of the website. What can the users grasp in five seconds on the website.
  3. You can use multiple tools like UsabilityHub, Ethnio, Balsamiq HQ, TestingTime, UserInterviews etc.
  4. Card sorting enables us to begin to understand the user’s mental model.
  5. Prototyping comes with a lot of pre-conceived notions where companies think it is fairly difficult and expensive. However, Paul beautifully explains that the alternative of this is much more time intensive and expensive. At this stage, we want to understand that do people get what you are offering, can they find stuff and can they perform actions that they want to — just basic usability.

Paul completes the circle by explaining the usability testing and post-launch testing. In today’s connected world I think the concept of unfacilitated remote testing is great for organisations to gather user data and touch points. It is much easier to conduct unfacilitated remote testing with users in multiple geographies and also to record their actions and thoughts while completing the tasks.

Paul completes his course by teaching the benefits of properly analysing the results while keeping the consumers at the center. One can use tools like Hotjar or google optimize, google analytics or conducting A/B testing.

Understanding Growth Channels by Sophia Eng

She starts of by explaining the major growth channels, which are:

  1. SEM: Search Engine Marketing or Pay-per Click marketing
  2. SEO: Search Engine Optimisation
  3. Social and Display: Covering FB, Instagram and display networks
  4. Email Marketing
  5. Content Marketing

Sophia stresses the importance of understanding the importance of knowing where the target audience is for your product or service. She warns companies of being too thin when it comes to using multiple channels.

Study your audience. Choose a channel. Test it out. Measure the results.

Good channels have great ROI and great ability to scale. Find the channel. Find the growth.

Myths about Social Media Marketing

  • ROI difficult to track — reality is GA can help and track campaigns and traffic too
  • SMM is just branding — reality is that new leads can be generated through SMM

Social is completely changing landscape and one needs to be very informative about the movement of the audience on social. You need to test the time for posting, test the type of content, test the CTA in your profile link, test the length of the URL, and test the offer. Learn from these tests and build a definitive social media strategy.

Myths about SEO

  • SEO is automatic — It is not, you need to make a lot of efforts to make sure SEO kicks in for your business.
  • Have to rank #1 for a keyword- the reality is to find a balance between the most searched KW and focussing on long tail kw.
  • SEO is dead — very much alive and kicking. Google releases daily updates for SEO and that says it is here to stay.

Defining KPIs and Goals for SEO

  • Improve rankings — the first page is where the action is and the first 5 results are the places where the real benefit is. This will lead to higher awareness.
  • Drive traffic — increase the organic traffic to the site. People are already searching for something related to your core service. Make sure you are there. This will lead to higher engagement.
  • Increase awareness in search engines — the more google gets familiar with your page the higher your page and domain authority increases which will in turn help you in maintaining a healthy ranking on google. This will lead to greater conversions.

Keyword Research & Content Gap Analysis

Creating a content strategy begins by understanding the keywords and figuring out the gaps in content. You can use multiple tools like Moz, Ahrefs, Ubersuggest to do this and also look at competitors who are succeeding in content marketing.

Another key to drive traffic to your page is to invest time in on-page and off-page SEO.

  1. Off-page SEO: Search engines use links to discover new web pages and to determine how a page ranks in SERP. Due to the stringent approach by Google you need to seek links from established sites which are relevant to your website content.
  2. On-page SEO refers to all the efforts taken on the actual pages to drive traffic. The main one’s are page title, meta description, URL, keyword optimisation, header tags, so your H1s, H2s, H3s, and the image alt-text.

Moving from the organic traffic building to paid

Paid marketing is one the most popular ways to bring traffic to your website. The ads and marketing strategy has to be optimised as per the user stage in the journey. Some of the key points:

  • PPC is not expensive if you optimise it correctly
  • PPC drives customers directly to the site
  • Goals — higher CTR and conversion, Lower CPC, CPL
  • Language and message is tied to the KW and language on the landing page

Type of PPC campaign

  • Awareness and Lead Gen campaigns

Sub areas of PPC campaign

  • Pre-awareness
  • Awareness and Trigger
  • Consideration
  • Engagement
  • Pre sales

Content marketing

Content marketing is the thing that ties all of the social, SEO, PPC, PR. It is about building a relationship with your audience by taking on an advisory role rather than selling your product. People purchase from content sources they trust and can refer to. Content marketing builds that trust and enables users to explore the brand.


The introduction to the growth engine channels brought to light the various platforms a company can resort to. However, as Sophia mentioned don’t spread yourself too thin and be where the customers are.

The topics covered by Paul opened my eyes into the world of user-centric marketing. There were many myths that were broken, concepts established and thought processes started. I thoroughly enjoyed approaching the marketing efforts from the point of view of a user as depicted by Paul starting right from planning to analysing stage.

In the next part, I’ll be talking about running growth experiments and conversion research, A/B testing and statistics involved in testing.

If this makes you interested in growth marketing and you wish to learn more, I can definitely recommend CXL Institutes’s Growth Marketing Minidegree, or any of their other courses.




Startup Growth | Business Development and Sales | Creative thinker

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Startup Growth | Business Development and Sales | Creative thinker

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