6 Steps of Design Thinking for Marketers

Design thinking is not a new strategy or approach but it has started to make headlines in the marketing industry due to the shift from product-centric marketing to customer-centric. The design thinking process is about understanding a complex problem or situation from different perspectives, so you are prepared to implement the most effective solution.

This 6-step process provides loose guidelines for marketers by directing them to fully understand the problem before looking for solutions. Although many seasoned marketers could argue that their intuition has yet to be wrong when it comes to employing a certain strategy, design thinking provides an all-encompassing way to be sure that you aren’t wasting time or resources. The past decade surely proves how quickly trends come and go and how important it is for sales and marketing to stay informed and aware of how their target market behaves and what problems they need solved.

You may have a well-oiled machine, or maybe you’ve hit a roadblock with your marketing strategy – either way there’s always room for improvement and reevaluation. If sales aren’t where you want them to be, maybe there’s a misunderstanding about what you think you’re selling and what consumers need to buy.

Here are the 6 steps you should follow to help solve those complex problems:

Step One: Empathize

This first step requires you to take on the perspective of your customer. This entails research, research, research. Review, or start building, your buyer persona, and be sure to ask every necessary question along the way that would provide insight into your consumer’s thought process. What do they really want or need? How do they feel throughout this process? Tapping into their emotions will help you understand their needs.

If you put aside your assumptions and really focus on listening to your target audience, you’ll start zoning in on the root of the problem and developing your marketing strategy will become clearer.

Step Two: Identify the Problem

Now that you’ve taken the time to better understand your target audience, the next step in design thinking is to clearly define the problem. It’s recommended to write the problem down as a human-centered statement, not a goal for your business, so exclude any sales goals and focus the statement on how you are going to help your target audience.

For example, instead of “generate 10 new leads this month” think more “help small businesses with their marketing efforts so they can support the other aspects of their business”.

Step Three: Brainstorm

Collaborate with your team to find a solution to the problem you’ve identified. Encourage those out-of-the-box ideas. Write down all the solutions that are suggested, the most important part of this step is to be open-minded. You can use different techniques to brainstorm, like these, or these that specific to remote teams.

During this step, it’s easy to fall back on solutions that have worked previously, and while you should entertain any and all solutions, be sure not to rely on past solutions.

Step Four: Prototype

This is your first draft, something tangible that your team can start building on and polishing. Ask for feedback along the way. Prototypes can look like a proof of concept, a sketch, or something interactive. The goal is to start building on your chosen solution and the first draft will likely need improvements, so don’t get caught up in making the first iteration perfect. Keep going until the team is satisfied and on the same page.

Step Five: Test  

Now that your prototype has developed into your solution, it’s time to test it out. Is your solution going to solve the problem that you identified in step two? If so, how can you prove this? It must be a measurable difference. If not, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start the process over again. If you do have to repeat the process, keep in mind that you still learned about your target audience and have ruled out one method of providing a solution. It may have failed in the real world, but it has helped your team grow as problem solvers. 

Before repeating the process completing, be careful not to dismiss the entire solution and make small changes first. Sometimes a minor tweak can make all the difference. 

Step Six: Implement

For many marketers, steps five and six go hand-in-hand. By testing your final product, you are implementing the new strategy, just maybe on a smaller scale. Once you find something that sticks with your test market, it’s time to expand and watch your efforts pay off. 

Final Thoughts on Design Thinking

The design thinking process is never truly over as long as you want to keep improving. It’s important to put in the work in so you can see the maximum reward. Once a pitch is deemed effective, it’s maybe difficult for you to want to experiment with it, but this attitude is very limiting. According to HubSpot, 6 out of every 10 salespeople don’t change their strategy when they find something that works. If more than half the salesforce isn’t working to improve, this is a great opportunity for you to start using the design thinking process throughout your strategies and start capturing more of the market today.