Human centered design is a well-known concept today. So how can we apply it to creating better, more relevant content for our customers?

Mostly applied in the context of product design, it has some great applications for fintech marketers when devising and executing their content strategy.

So let’s talk first about what Design Thinking is. The Interaction Design Foundation defines it as follows: “a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It’s extremely useful in tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by understanding the human needs involved, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, by creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and by adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing. “

“Complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by understanding the human needs” seems like a pretty accurate description of the challenge facing content strategists.

Often we are trying to figure out what is on the minds of our audience as it relates to the products or services we want to market to them. Sometimes that can be pretty undefined, especially if we are attempting to break new ground with an unfamiliar offering. This happens pretty regularly in fintech, insurtech and proptech where we are innovating with complex financial tools and services all the time.

A familiar process
So let’s take a look at the process. There are five stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. Sounds relatively straight-forward, right? It’s actually not a million miles from how marketers already think about designing their strategy. But importantly, as part of the exercise, try to think like a designer rather than a marketer. This can be helpful in putting aside some of your marketing pre-conditioning and move away from the way things have always been done.

Let’s dive in and take a look at how the process can apply when designing a content strategy for your fintech or financial services company.

1. Empathize with your audience
Understanding your audience is, of course, the first step in any good content or marketing strategy. So you can still create personas and/or customer needs maps. But, with Design Thinking, the idea is to go a little deeper and develop an empathic personal understanding of the problems your customers are facing. Engage and observe them to learn more about what’s really challenging them, their experiences and motivations. Even immerse yourself in their physical or virtual environments.

For content marketers this will help you to set aside some of your own assumptions on everything from the themes and topics that are important to your customers to the media and channels your audience prefers to use.

2. Define the problem
This is the step where you synthesize everything learned in stage one with a view to uncovering the core problems. These should come in the form of a problem statement which is human centric. Formats include “(Persona) needs a way to (user’s need) because (insight).” or “Our (who) has the problem that (what) when (where). Our solution should deliver (why).”

For content marketers think of the problem statements as the core themes , challenges or opportunities your content should speak to.

3. Ideate
This is the brainstorming phase where you take the problem statements and generate ideas on how to best respond to them in the context of your business. Try to come up with as many ideas as possible and involve as many from across the business as you can to get the broadest input possible.

For content marketers brainstorm topics and content themes that speak to the problem statements and use these as the basis for your content pillars..

4. Prototype
In Design Thinking this is the point where designers will create scaled down versions of a product that reflect the problem statements and associated ideas. This is an experimental phase with the goal of finding the best solution for each of the identified problems.

For content marketers we can prototype in two ways. The first is to come up with alternative content pillars that speak to each problem statement. The second is to prototype different medias and channels for delivery – blogs, infographics, videos, webinars, events, PR etc.

Hopefully our initial investigation will have uncovered some preferences for how the audience likes to consume information. This, however, is a good opportunity to get creative and try some new ideas.

5. Test
As always test and use the information to tweak or even redefine problem statements and then prototypes. Design thinking is an iterative process so at this stage we can adjust, pivot and re-imagine the outputs.

For content marketers we already have great tools and data for measuring content performance. By setting up the metrics to measure “content prototypes” in the context of the problem statements we can create more actionable data points.

It’s non-linear
Finally, as you might have noticed in the diagram – the Design Thinking process involves a number of feedback loops so the process remains evolutionary and continuous. Over time new problems and problem statements may be identified and formulated, therefore kicking off the whole process again.

This overview of the principles of Design Thinking is meant to inspire you to start thinking like a designer that solves the problems of your audience or customers with great content. Take some time to explore the concepts further and the tools and approaches you can apply to help you design better marketing and content strategies.

Feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to talk to you about your content strategy.