Making Your Business User-First blog post image-01

Making Your Business User-First

*Originally published in’s Idea Book.

This post is part of our Future of Marketing series. Future of Marketing is our leading-edge marketing program where top thought leaders help you change the conversation to shape, secure, and sustain your brand position. 


There are two fundamental reasons people at a company may resist a user-first revolution: 1) obstacles rooted in business reality and 2) human nature.

If a corporation is like a machine, then digital media needs to be inherent in that primary function. When it’s not, efforts to incorporate it into the production line are often rejected. The second reason is embedded in human nature. Since most people are motivated by the compensation, digital needs to align with the company’s compensation scheme, and not be viewed as a voluntary part of the workday.

Overcoming Barriers from the Top Down.

For digital initiatives to succeed, they need to have unequivocal support from executive leadership. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Paint a vision people can believe.Evangelize the transformation you envision but make sure you include a healthy dose of pragmatism. Acknowledge hurdles and lay the steps to overcome them.
  • Allocate the budget. Be prepared to designate appropriate resources, including money and time.
  • Hire key people in the right roles.Hire user-centric managers, individuals with backgrounds in user-experience design and those with the technical expertise to bring ideas to life.
  • Provide training to existing employees.Provide educational opportunities to help individuals adjust to the change and inspire optimism.
  • Update bonuses and other incentives.Align incentives with your new endeavor. Explain exactly what existing employees need to do to help achieve the company’s goal and reward them for reaching these targets.
  • Break or complement the machine. The organization itself must adjust to accommodate digital, which may mean that legacy functions such as marketing, customer service, and sales need to realign. Consider the creation of a new group that can be integrated into the existing machine over time.

Overcoming Barriers from the Bottom Up.

Shifting to a user-first mentality needs support from executive leadership, but even those not at the top play an essential role.

What to consider when designing a user-first success story:

  • Business goals.Structure your endeavor to support the business goals of the organization as a whole, not just your domain.
  • Design a project that will likely engage friends in your organization who will support your endeavor.
  • User context. Design a project that will answer questions like “Who will use the product my project makes? What user needs does it meet? Will it help users meet these needs more efficiently?”
  • Your endeavor must be executable and scalable. The goal is to produce a user-first success story, not necessarily a technological breakthrough.
  • Return on investment.Construct your program to move specific and measurable indicators of performance, such as an uptick in online sales, a decrease in operating costs over a defined period of time, or even an increase in visitors from a target market.
  • Prepare to explain how your tactics and strategies can be applied across the organization. Leadership should be able to see economies of scale growing from a single execution.

A user-first management model is becoming the defining difference between companies that excel in the increasingly digitally driven economy and the companies that fade away. At it’s most simple, it’s a philosophy based upon using technology to make people happier.

Aaron Shapiro _Hand Drawn HeadshotAaron Shapiro is the CEO of Huge. He is the author of “Users Not Customers: Who Really Determines the Success of Your Business“. He writes and speaks about the impact of digital technology on businesses and the economy. You can follow Aaron on Twitter @amshap and LinkedIn.

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