Before spending significantly on digital marketing, build the best customer user experience possible.

This may mean having to create, or deploy, new technology to make your customers’ dealings more convenient, and their lives more of a pleasure. I’m absolutely convinced the investment is well worth the effort, and to do otherwise is folly. I’d like to frame this post by telling you a story about my career as a digital marketer, which hopefully will create a compelling backdrop for the case I’ve just made.

I’m dating myself by telling you that my early marketing days were without the internet, email or mobile phones! As marketers, we put an awful lot of effort in crafting compelling marketing messages, in the form of ads, brochures and so on. We seldom gave the actual customer experience a passing thought as, happily, nasty social media channels for venting, unhappy customers didn’t yet exist.

With the advent of the web, marketing experienced an explosive transformation – the case for advertising online rather than via traditional channels just became more and more compelling. We were essentially doing the same thing as we’d always done – crafting compelling messages – but we’d simply swopped out one medium for another. Typically the only digital customer touchpoint was a company or brand’s website, which itself was little more than an online brochure.

This is the horrible part of the story. Something called Web 2.0 happened, which is when the internet evolved enough for users to start ‘talking back’ to online marketers. Think blogs, social networking sites, wiki’s, review sites and so on. This was a game changer for marketers, because now customers, with zero marketing budget of their own, could create online messages that directly refuted our marketing claims, backing up their claims with their lived experiences. This initiated massive marketing attention on social media campaigns, and also created the impulse for marketers and those responsible for the customer experience to start talking to one another.

Today we’re in a new era. Technological advances, combined with the evolution of online consumer behaviour, have made the online customer experience an integral, often defining, part of the overall customer experience. Also, social media ensures that prospective customers know exactly how good, or bad, the customer experience is likely to be.

Be Conveniently Helpful and Useful

All this brings me back to the central case of this post, which is: Before spending significantly on digital marketing, build the best customer digital experience possible. So, how does one go about crafting an ideal online customer experience? There’s a lot to say, but my essential advice is summed up in this phrase: conveniently helpful and useful.


Helpfulness online comprises information, education and guidance. Information is about ensuring that all factual detail relating to any aspect of your product or service and their use, is available. For example, listing all third party product support partners in a country, including up-to-date contact details. A surprising number of large companies don’t do this simple thing well enough.

Education is about helping users develop a depth of knowledge of your field that transcends your product or services. Subject matter ebooks are an example here. Besides helping customers, this is also particularly powerful in engaging prospective customers. Guidance is about ‘just-in-time’ information and education relating to the use of your product or service. Step-by-step ‘how-to’ videos are an example.


Usefulness is about utility: Can we harness online technology to allow a customer to perform ‘customer jobs’ online rather than offline? Examples are using a banking app to transfer money, instead of visiting a bank, or the ability to track progress on a job online, rather than having to ask for an update. Getting Usefulness right can be a game-changer, but most often there’s strong internal resistance to change that needs to be overcome.


Convenience is about intuitiveness and context. The degree to which you’re experienced online as helpful and useful is significantly impacted by whether you’re digitally convenient. Intuitiveness is about making navigating your site or app child’s play. It’s about easily locating the information, guidance or tools a user needs right now.

Context is about understanding that users need more than just your content and tools; they need your content and tools available in the various contexts they find themselves in. For example, a customer may need your location details conveniently accessible on her mobile device, not her desktop, because her context is her vehicle, not her office.

To sum up, I remain a marketer and know the incredible power of marketing. But I’ve become convinced it’s unwise to spend heavily on marketing without first spending to make the online user experience all it can be. With that off my chest, all the best in your make-iting and marketing!