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Romek Jansen, 14 Dec '15

Once Upon a Time There Was a Story About a User

Who is the User in the Agile Marketing User Story? A quick analysis shows two different lines of thought you can follow.

63% of marketing leaders indicate agility as a high priority to reach critical business objectives. To speed up execution and to remain flexible, marketing departments are increasingly using Agile methods. A long-standing Agile marketing issue which often stirs debate and causes confusion is “who is the user?”. Is it the customer or the internal stakeholder? A search into Agile Marketing User Stories shows us two lines of thought.

A useful instrument in Agile is the User Story, an informal description that captures what a user does or needs from the new function or product, and is often written in the following form.

As a <type of user> I want to <some desire> so I can <some benefit>.

It is an easy to remember syntax but it can have any other shape as long as it’s simple and explained from a business perspective. The User story is not considered to be a mandatory agile tool, but merely a helpful and important vehicle for the team to always be conscious about what needs to be achieved, and for whom.

Two lines of thought

Doing a quick Google search you will find two different lines of thought with regards to Agile Marketing User Stories:

1. The User is the Customer.

In examples A (B2B example) and B (B2C example) the User is “the consumer” of the marketing message..

 As an Evaluation lead, I want to be able to see within 5 seconds what differentiates your product from the competition so that I can determine if you’re a fit for my preliminary list of candidates.

 As a stay at home mom, I would like to see an illustration of different exercises that I can do while cooking so I can squeeze in fitness while preparing meals.

2. The User is the Internal Stakeholder

In the next example the User is the internal stakeholder and “the buyer” of the marketing message.

As a Hubspot sales person I need a way to prioritize my active trials so I can connect with prospects most likely to buy.

Which one to pick?

By making the customer the user in an agile marketing story you will sometimes end up with acceptable user stories like the Evaluation-Lead example or the Stay-At-Home-Mom example. Especially when marketing activities relate to inbound marketing and content marketing, and the customer is obviously pro-actively looking for content, then you will probably get away with this line of user story approach to inform the Sprint team.

But an important question arises; why would a marketing manager spend any budget on this user story? The customer requirement does not outline why and where internal stakeholders should be spending their budget. This kind of user story clearly does not represent the requirement of the marketer and the benefit for the marketer as the official “buyer” of the marketing material.

Mistakenly making the “customer the user” in an agile marketing story can also lead to artificial and even funny User stories…

“As a <sports fan> I want <to see Airline ABC on a shirt> So I can <feel better about Airline ABC>.”

“As a <reader of whitepapers> I want <to leave my contact details> So I can <be contacted about offers>.”

In the Hubspot example, where the “user is the internal stakeholder” the roles are more clear and the desires and benefits truly relate to the sales person.

There are arguments for both approaches, but in the end, we believe the “user is the internal stakeholder” is the one to use in marketing to create the most meaningful user stories.