Last week, as part of the Business.com Growth Tour of America, I had the pleasure to participate in a design workshop with 30 user experience designers and product managers in downtown San Francisco. The workshop was hosted by Cooper, a design consulting company that serves both big and small companies in Silicon Valley. As a product manager and user experience designer, one of the questions that I'm constantly struggling with is how I can more effectively align teams to design and build better products for our audiences. This workshop provided me with lots of new ideas and practical tips that I can start putting to use in our own business. Here are a few quick takeaways that B2B marketers and user experience designers can benefit from. Use Videos to Tell User Stories With a little creativity, videos can be produced with very little labor and time. A picture is worth a thousand words and videos are more powerful than pictures. Building good products starts with building empathy with our target users. During the user research phase, user experience designers and product managers go out to the field or learn a lot about our users, but the bottleneck is how to communicate it back to the team and allow the bigger product team to be on the same page of who we are building the products for. Video can be very effective at this stage. In fact, a recent CMI study found that 60% of B2B marketers find videos to be an effective content marketing tactic and the use of video has risen from 52% in 2011 to 70% in 2012. People usually associate videos as labor intensive and expensive projects. They don't have to be such an investment in order to be successful. Cooper shared a few methods to produce high quality videos with a microphone and simple PowerPoint. Work like a Team, Share like Wildfire Building user empathy is no easy task. Deeply involve users in the everyday business routine and in the entire product development cycle without losing focus is no easy task. One of the tactics the Cooper consultants shared with us is "working out loud," which basically means that artifacts produced in the product design stage, such as personas, design prototypes, user stories, videos, snapshots, should be widely shared within the company. It gets people to be more familiar with the target audience and create an immersive user-centered environment. Team members with distinct business functions are moving towards the same goal: delight the customers. Participation Leads to Buy-In Decisions cannot be made in silos. No matter how glorious the product manager's vision, or how great a user experience designer's wireframe is, it won't go anywhere if they are unable to build rapport within the company and get buy-in on that vision. Business buy-in and design decision making involves more people than ever before. Crain's BtoB magazine found that the 81% of B2B marketers must contend with multiple decision-makers during the sales process. To get everyone involved, conduct workshops and ideation sessions that encourage contributions from different functional teams. Getting insight from different perspectives and departments is a good way to show that you are taking into consideration the opinions of all the business units in the development process. Hearing different perspectives and the rationale behind those opinions pulls the team toward a shared vision. Think About the Entire Online Ecosystem For online product offerings, thinking just about the landing page user experience isn't enough. Marketers would be smart to take the entire online experience into consideration, beginning with where the users come from (SEO, SEM, referral, direct and etc.). You'll want to ask yourself about the route someone took to get to your page as well as: What other touch points beyond your website -- such as email, social media, display ads, and offline interaction -- are available and is the prospect using? What kind of customer journey has the prospect been through and what stage are they at in that process? What needs are specific to their background, industry and position within a company? What needs are their more general needs that apply to others as well Keeping all these questions and collaboration strategies in mind help us as user experience designers, marketers and product managers build a clear mind map on how and where our new offerings and solutions can make the biggest impact.