This article describes how the combination of design thinking and marketing automation can produce powerful results for business.

When design thinking is applied on marketing automation, it opens the door to discovering multiple innovative solutions. Focusing on how humans feel about products is one of the keys to crafting market solutions overlooked by competitors. Marketing automation can then be used to communicate solutions with customers.

What Design Thinking Means

In many cases, design thinking has a unique definition depending on who is being asked to define it. In contrast with the idea of critical thinking, which breaks down ideas and analyzes them, design thinking builds up ideas into ideal solutions. Several authors have contributed to the concept of design thinking, such as Herbert Simon, Robert McKim, Richard Buchanan or Hasso Plattner at HPI. One of the most central agreed upon components is Simon's idea that links design with an improved future.

Design thinking is used to accelerate the production of prototypes. While this practice is often characterized with simple visual presentations and Post-it notes, it can be expressed in numerous ways using "mind maps" that visually illustrate train of thought. The goal of an entrepreneur using design thinking is to transform a market mystery into some sort of algorithm that provides a practical solution that has cost advantages over competitors. Through cost advantage, savings can be directed into more design thinking sessions that lead to further efficiency.


Design Thinking Reference Process by  Hasso Plattner et al.

Advantages of Design Thinking

One of the main ways design thinking can improve a product is by applying empathy to design challenges. Empathy embodies the emotions that humans feel toward a product. Studying empathy helps create a clear path toward innovative solutions that balances needs with feasibility. It also injects a spirit of experimentation into product design. In many ways this process merges business and art in the sense it maintains logic while embracing intuition. The result can be a prototype that is both attractive and useful, designed to empower consumers while appealing to their emotions.

Value is created from the design thinking process through a human-centered approach to crafting innovation. The framework promotes cognitive flexibility that allows easy adaptations to product design. Due to its fun and playful nature, design thinking empowers creators who are passionate, inspired and committed to disrupting a market with new products. Although this strategic approach introduces increased risk into a business, this factor is offset by the high-energy enthusiasm that drives the business toward resolving new market challenges.

Why Design Thinking Works

The key to the effectiveness of design thinking is that it considers what's best for the end user. It encourages designers to use creativity to resolve end user problems instead of basing marketing on a one-size-fits-all approach. At one time design thinking was restricted to certain specialists, but is now being embraced by a wide variety of businesses on an everyday basis. One of the most basic forms of design thinking is team brainstorming, which can be conducted in many creative ways. It is more of a natural approach to inquiry than the more formal, structured scientific method.

Applying Design Thinking to Marketing Automation

An often overlooked way to integrate design thinking with marketing automation is to use a marketing list to invite consumer suggestions to improve a product. Since a marketing automation system organizes customer profiles in a way that can be easily accessed, a marketing list can be used as a resource for analyzing how customers feel about products. This information can be used to compile ideas that speed up the development of a product either to make improvements or create market disruption.

Using marketing automation as a brainstorming tool with market participants opens the door to quick solutions. It allows a company to shift its focus on priorities so that it's spending more time on ideas that work than ideas than don't work. Through marketing automation, a company can gain access to a wealth of analytics that can be used to refine a product so that it better meets market demand.

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Image: "Speed", courtesy of wohnblogAt, Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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