The Intersection of UX and Marketing: Why You Can Serve and Sell Better By Working Together

Buyer personas. Content. Calls to action. Site analytics. If your first inclination is to associate these terms with marketing, you’re certainly not alone. It wasn’t that long ago that I would have done the same. They’re critical components of any successful marketing strategy. But luckily for those who have ever been frustrated with a company’s poor understanding of its target market (I’m going out on a limb and saying that’s been all of us), these elements for connecting with the audience now have other valuable applications as well—the rapidly expanding field of user experience (UX) design. I recently made the transition between the two departments myself, supplementing my marketing skill set with the Startup Institute’s web design track, so I’m here to tell you first-hand why this overlap matters: the structural lines of a business—particularly in young tech companies—are blurring more rapidly than ever. Gone are the days of every-department-for-itself, where teams operate in silos, focusing on their areas of expertise and turning a blind eye to all those on the periphery. Proactive organizations are recognizing the value in a holistic approach to development, growth, and scaling; one that integrates perspectives from across departments in a more streamlined fashion, building on the well-established concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.[bctt tweet="The structural lines of business are blurring more rapidly than ever, says @AlisonKeppler"]

Where are we seeing evidence of these alliances? Sales and marketing has become a de facto pairing. Design teams and developers are recognizing the undeniable value in working in tandem. But, the relationship between marketing and UX could use a little finessing. There’s been plenty of conversation around competition or tension between the fields, but understanding how marketing and product professionals align is a nudge toward a more productive work dynamic. Following are four areas of overlap between the UX and marketing departments that may hold the key to bumping a business’s activities to the next level:

Marketers and UX designers each have a vested interest in understanding an organization’s target audience.

Both are ultimately focused on developing a highly granular concept of what’s making buyers and users tick, leveraging extensive market research to paint a clear picture. They’re coming at this goal from slightly different perspectives; HubSpot summed it by stating that marketers use that understanding to sell to the customer, while UX uses it to serve the customer. Those goals don’t need to be at odds —a company should always be aiming to serve the customer with what they’re selling—but at the end of the day, both teams will make greater strides toward those end points by working on them together.[bctt tweet="Marketers sell to the user + #UX serves them. Both make strides by working together—@AlisonKeppler."]

Both professionals are becoming increasingly data-driven.

Through a range of methods including hands-on user research, market studies, site testing and gated assets, UX and marketing alike need to grab all the user information they can get their hands on to better direct all subsequent initiatives. After all, as guest instructor Milton Pacheco of Cantina explained, if you aren’t involving the user in your process, you’re designing on an island. It's the user information and perspective that informs what's being created. With that in mind, there’s a lot to be said for sharing relevant processes and information to save time and offer confirmation on what the user is up to.[bctt tweet="It's the user information + perspective that informs marketing + #UX choices, says @AlisonKeppler"]

Content is king.

Marketers create content day in and day out. Ebooks, white papers, blogs, solution briefs—the list is endless, and it’s all with the goal of impacting the consumers. But marketers aren’t the only ones who rely on that content to get things done. As my very first web design course instructor, Andrew Borstein of WeSpire, taught us early on, content drives design. Without that material, design is directionless; with it, the design is what will prop the content up and ensure it gets in front of the right eyes. That can’t happen unless both sides of the equation are making it a priority to optimize that process.[bctt tweet="W/out #content, #design is directionless. Design brings eyes to the content, says @AlisonKeppler"]

They’re all answering to multiple stakeholders.

Both teams have a responsibility to the business that employs them, but from there need to incorporate a number of other perspectives. Sales will always play a major role in reporting feedback from the field, those in the boardroom may have their own two cents to throw in the mix. And then, of course, there’s the glue holding it all together: the buyers themselves. How can each team best process each viewpoint, and from there, get buy-in from all parties involved to move operations forward? It’s no easy task, but if marketing and UX can work in at least fundamental alignment, it’s one less external opinion to cater to, and one more ally helping everyone move toward their goals.

Alison Keppler is a student in Startup Institute's web design track. Looking for a designer with a marketing mindset? Reach out to Alison at

Photo credit: Michael Vallejo via Flickr cc