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Marketing 101: What is a Design Brief? (with 2 examples)

August 4th, 2021
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

A design brief is a concise document that presents all the necessary information a graphic designer needs to produce a design element for marketing (e.g. a logo or web page layout).

Some marketing departments and advertising agencies have official design briefs templates that must be filled out for each project. Other times a design brief is a fairly informal, ad hoc process.

Here is an example for a very small project. We are about to launch a podcast. This is the “ad hoc” design brief I sent for the creation of podcast graphics.

 

Creative Sample #1: “Ad hoc” design brief” for podcast graphics

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Title

The Marketer as Philosopher (with Flint McGlaughlin and Daniel Burstein)

Author

Flint McGlaughlin and Daniel Burstein

Look and feel

Elements should include:

  • The Marketer as Philosopher (most prominent)
  • with Flint McGlaughlin & Daniel Burstein (second most prominent)
  • Have the look and feel of The Marketer as Philosopher book – https://map.flintmcglaughlin.com/

Specs

We need something that really stands out in a crowded iTunes (or other podcast distributor)

  1. We need the cover art for the overall podcast
  • 3000 x 3000 pixels (square)
  • 72 dpi
  • .jpg or .png
  • RGB colorspace

Source: https://99designs.com/blog/design-other/how-to-design-a-podcast-cover-the-ultimate-guide/

 

  1. We need a template we can update with the episode title for each individual podcast. Two sizes…
  • Thumbnail – 3000 x 3000px (square), 72 dpi, .jpg or .png, RGB colorspace
  • Widespread – 1920x1080px at least a 72dpi, .jpg or .png, RGB colorspace

Source: https://help.libsynsupport.com/hc/en-us/articles/360041221031-Working-with-Episode-Artwork

Description

(highlight shows the approximate amount of text they will see before clicking on the “more” link)

We’ll warn you up front – this is a little different than most marketing content. The key to transformative marketing is a transformed marketer. And so our focus is squarely on you.

Here is a sample of the content discussed:

Asking “how” leads to information; asking “why” leads to wisdom. Yet marketers are all too busy asking how: How do I improve conversion? How do I drive more visits? How do I meet my numbers? We are so busy asking “how,” we have no time to ask “why.” Indeed, we are so busy “trying,” we have no time to reflect.

Sometimes we need to slow down in order to go fast. Action is overrated; action should be grounded in contemplation. Admittedly, contemplation without action is anemic… Ancient philosophy was concerned with wisdom (sophos), and especially loving it (philos). The marketer should love (customer) wisdom. Indeed, the marketer should be the philosopher of the organization—for the vigorous action of sales needs to be grounded in the rigorous contemplation of marketing.

Based on the book, The Marketer as Philosopher, and on the MECLABS Fast Class series “Become a master at creating and optimizing high-converting web pages,” Flint McGlaughlin (Founder of MECLABS) and Daniel Burstein (Senior Director of Content and Marketing at MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments) discuss the fundamental power of marketing.

Feel free to email editor@meclabs.com to let us know how we can make these podcast discussions more helpful to you…or any other way we can help. And you can participate in the full, free Fast Class series at MECLABS.com/FastClass.

YouTube channel

Flint McGlaughlin

Opening stinger voiceover

Welcome to The Marketer as Philosopher podcast. Our goal is to help you re-envision your role and your work as a marketer or entrepreneur. Now here are you hosts – Flint McGlaughlin, joining us from the rugged mountains of Wolf Creek, Montana…and Daniel Burstein, joining us from the beautiful beaches of Jacksonville, Florida.

Closing stinger voiceover

Thank you for joining us on The Marketer as Philosopher podcast with Flint McGlaughlin and Daniel Burstein. If you like what you heard today, we encourage you to get actionable takeaways you can apply to your marketing right now in the free “Become a master at creating and optimizing high-converting web pages” Fast Class series. Just visit MECLABS.com/FastClass. That’s M-E-C-L-A-B-S dot com slash fast class.
_____________________________________________________________________________________

Include the value proposition

Really, I could have just sent the designer the look and feel along with the specs.

However, you don’t just want to just get design files when working with a designer. You want their best thinking. So it is crucial to include the value proposition as well. In this case, I felt that the podcast’s description was the best expression of the value proposition.

Help them understand what they are building

I once heard a very moving story on NPR. The reporter was interviewing a factory worker who glued a chip to a motherboard all day long, day after day, month after month.

The reporter showed the factory worker what she was building – an iPad – and the factory worker cried. Previously, she had no idea what the final output of her work actually was. When she saw the iPad, she was touched that she could be part of building something so amazing.

I can’t say our podcast will be on par with the “wow” factor the iPad generated when it was first released. But I include the opening and closing voiceovers because I wanted the designer to get a feel for what they are helping to build, what the designer is a part of to, again, get their best thinking not just a .jpeg file with fonts and images in the right place.

Creative Sample #2: One of the podcast graphics created from the “ad hoc” design brief

Creative-Sample-02-FMCG-MAP-Podcast

Next, let’s look at an example of a more official, templated design brief for a much bigger project…

 

Creative Sample #3: Templated design brief for educational website for retail staff

_____________________________________________________________________________________

MEA DIGITAL

8/4/04

Project: iTeachU Redesign – Design Brief

Overview
Iteachu provides an engaging and intuitive way for resellers of Kyocera products to learn, and demo Kyocera phones. Each visitor will experience a user-centric navigation, while becoming fully saturated with product literature in a cool and hip fashion. Once the user is ready, each will be encouraged to take a mastery test for the specific product.

Objectives

  • To provide a traditional online “educational” experience that equips, guides, and trains store managers for the specific skill and knowledge of “selling” Kyocera phones to customers
  • Integrate the Kyocera brand and utilize brand elements that bring value to the educational experience
  • Remarket to carrier store managers announcing new products or boost awareness of existing phones (i.e. Slider refresh program/incentive program, or active marketing plans)
  • Promote users to collect certificates for each phone (Comac to provide certificate fulfillment)

Target Audience

  • Primary Audience: Generation Y – In-store staff members currently in college, quick learners, tech savvy (on computers as early as nursery school), fast-paced, confident, independent and intelligent, with attitude. They trust their friends and the Intemet. In terms of how communication is perceived, they prefer to be truthful and straightforward.
  • ‘ProSumers. (Professional Consumers)- In-store managers who understand and buy leading technology products
  • Primary Demographics: M/F, Skew male 18-34, with some disposable income on technology products
  • Psychographics: Wireless communication and entertainment is important to us. We buy technology products to enhance the quality of our lives. We are also interested in brands that make us feel hip and popular. We resent structure and rigidity. We value work/family balance, diversity, flexibility, fun service work.
  • Mediagraphics: I listen to the radio. I watch a lot of MTV, and surf the Intemet. Media saturated.

Branding/Design Elements/Navigation: The main design features of the site include –

Branding

  • Successfully communicate Kyocera branding,”The Power of Simplicity”
  • Maintain approved color-palette throughout, including specific color palettes for each phone
  • Where appropriate, include approved illustrations/photography that bring value and brightness/fun to the experience
  • Illustrate brand on a white background
  • Support brand character, such as innovative, world-leaders, simple, and high-quality
  • Fonts: Variations of Foundry Sterling Book, Demi, and Bold will be used for graphics and verdana, arial, sans-serif for HTML

Design/Navigation

  • Crisp, clean, user-centric design; navigation that is expected on each page (more traditional)
  • Elements of the design will feel fun/hip and include some animation, but not distract from the integrity of the site, which is to educate, and sell-through products
  • Given that the training material serves two different purposes: 1) A quick reference/guide for users wanting to access and take the “test” and 2) Managers who need to download the full PowerPoint content, MEA to develop a model/organize documents and define pointers for each user to best know where to start and how to collect information that will be most relevant to them
  • Promote (motivation pointers) the collection of mastery test certificates and return visits

Functionality Requirements

  1. Site is easy to update/maintain by building HTML in a modular fashion, using templates server side includes, and cascading style sheets where possible.
  2. Flash 6+, HTML and some JavaScript
  3. High speed Internet connection (90-95% have hi-speed)
  4. Mac OSX compatible
  5. IE 5x and IE 6+ (Include general web usage stats)- general web stats show approximately 77% of Internet users using IE 6.x; 16% using IE 5.x.

Agency Approved:_______________________________________ Date:_____________________

Note how extensive the focus on the target audience is, along with specific brand, design, and functionality requirements.

This design brief is from the case study Revamped Online University Increases Reseller Rep Participation 50% : How to Educate Sales Reps. For the revamp, the marketing team put together this detailed design brief for the Web department based on market research which informed internal brainstorming sessions. The design brief was the vehicle to communicate the most essential discoveries from that research, along what the marketing team wanted to produce to best serve that audience.

The creative brief

Every marketing department, agency-client relationship and campaign is different. Sometimes a design brief is necessary because all that’s needed is some simple graphics for a larger project (like the first example above, the podcast graphics) or the project is large but is primarily design driven (like the second example above, the educational website redesign).

However, in other cases – like an ad campaign that requires a creative concept – it is more effective to foster collaboration. In that case, a creative brief is the way to go.

Essentially, a design brief is a more focused version of a creative brief, which is a concise document that presents all the necessary information a creative team (for example, a writer and art director) needs to produce a piece of marketing (like an advertisement or landing page) or an entire marketing campaign.

I find it’s more effective to have the writer and designer collaborate from the beginning as a team, instead of a marketing exec, account exec or writer dictating the idea to an art director of graphic designer. In an ideal world, you want the best of their thinking. That is what creatives bring to the table. As I’ve written, “I call this bottled lightning – taking a run-of-the-mill creative brief in a restrictive medium and adding a creative jolt.” (from Bottled Lightning: 3 creative approaches to email marketing (yes, email marketing)).

On the flip side, creative and design briefs can also be used by an agency or consultant to propose a campaign to a client at a brand. Again, the goal is clarity for all parties, a simple and concise transfer of the most important information.

These briefs can also be called a marketing brief, design blueprint, statement of work, or job starter.

Who writes a creative or design brief?

In an agency, the account executive should write the design brief. In a marketing department, the marketing director should.

Of course, they should collaborate with all of the other key players – content writers and copywriters, project manager, art director, CMO, marketing managers, content lead, CRO (conversion rate optimization) expert, etc.

How specific should a creative or design brief be?

It depends how involved the designer is in the project. Again, it would be better to get a creative brief (which includes the value prop) and have the designer collaborate with the writer from the beginning.

If that is not the case but the designer or design team has already worked extensively on the website, just the copy (words for the webpage) should be enough. You could also include callouts for specific design elements that are crucial to communicating the message.

If the designer has no previous relationship to the project, you want to be as specific as possible – clearly spelling out what type of design/graphic should go where. At that point, the designer becomes closer to a software operator than a true designer. But sometimes, that all you need (or all your budget will allow).

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

If you are interested in design briefs, you might also like…

Design Layout: How to structure your web page or email for maximum conversion

The End of Web Design: Don’t design for the web, design for the mind

Web Design: 4 mini marketing case studies about design changes big and small

If you are interested in entry-level marketing content, you might also like…

Marketing 101: What are widows and orphans (in design)?

Marketing 101: What are grids (design)?

The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing: 53 articles (and 1 video) to help with onboarding

Ask MarketingSherpa: Getting approval for your marketing ideas from your company’s business leadership or from clients

July 7th, 2021
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We frequently receive questions from our email subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one email communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of these conversations here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Daniel, I’m wondering if I can share a thought from a conversation with a digital marketing “expert” I had today….

Theory:

If almost all ads/campaigns/approaches are likely to have weak VPs (value propositions) and non-compelling CTAs (calls to action), would an alternate approach to marketing knowledge delivery be to identify the most-likely-to-produce mediocre-result approaches. Would that have more affect on marketing performance than to rely on the main perception that MECLABS tries to get across based on fundamentals?

My thought is that no matter how hard a real marketer tries to use fundamentals, ultimately the decision makers, who will never understand the basics, will oppose the approach in favor of a futile effort that’s proven over and over not to work?

Here is how you do it properly

Vs

Based on your lousy approach you seem to want to defend with all your heart, it would be best to waste less by tackling your goal this way.

Thoughts?

Dear Reader: I sense some frustration with getting a client on board? Or working with business decision makers to prioritize your marketing spend?

Ultimately, whoever writes the check makes the decision. And the best we can do is hope to influence it in as positive a direction as possible. I assume this is very similar to other industries, like government for example.

So yes, unless we are the final decision maker, the marketing we produce will never be flawless and perfect. But our job is to take something that is say, 20% good, and shift it to 50% good. That’s not 100%, but it is better than 0.

As Confucius said: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to just let it slide. The typical brainstorming technique of pretending there are no bad ideas actually isn’t helpful. (It’s called regression to the mean, says Harvard Business Review).

As a marketer, you must be the voice of the customer and an advocate for the audience. Without quality internal marketing, the world gets ideas like Zippo perfume. And no, I’m not making that idea up. You can read about it this New York Times article: Brands Expand Into New Niches With Care, but Not Without Risk.

Here are five tactics to help you win the yes for your next marketing strategy…

This requires a value proposition

It is internal marketing essentially. Don’t overlook the importance of this task. Like anything worth doing, it requires an investment of your time and attention. I was talking to a channel marketing manager at a Fortune 500 tech company, when something she said really stuck out to me. She was working on a major lead nurturing campaign, and about half her time spent on this project was spent on selling the project internally (from Internal Marketing: The 3 people you must sell to in your own office).

You need a prospect-level value proposition for each type of decision maker involved, as well as a process-level value proposition for the action itself.

We built this tool to help our readers – Free Template to Help You Win Approval for Proposed Projects, Campaigns and Ideas.

And this free template as well – How to Sell Your Marketing and Advertising Ideas to Your Boss and Clients (with free template)

Testing can help

Sometimes you need straight-up data to prove the mettle of your idea. A/B testing is one way to get that data.

You could say something along the lines of, “OK, let’s try it your way, try it my way, and let the customer decide.”

We actually had a great example of this happen internally in our own organization – Headline Writing: How a junior marketer beat the CEO’s headline by 92%

Educate about new technology

Sometimes the pushback you’re getting is because the decision maker just doesn’t understand the technology involved.

Educate execs on the latest technology and why their pushback to your ideas might not make sense. Let them see the flaws in their logic for themselves. For example, MECLABS (parent organization of MarketingSherpa) created a free mobile optimization course to help marketers understand what considerations they should take for conversion optimization and messaging specifically in a mobile environment.

Collaborate

Never look at it as a Me vs. You battle.

Give the decision makers you work with the benefit of the doubt – they probably want the same thing you do. Business results. And happy customers.

They just may not have spent as much time focused on the project or objective as you. They have other concerns.

Try to get some of their time for a value proposition workshop to build the fundamentals of your marketing together. Or at least get a meeting to present a competitive analysis.

Good intentioned, capable people may still come up with different conclusions. But after taking the journey together, you will better be able to understand their reasoning and they are more likely to understand why you are suggesting the approach you have chosen.

Help them feel the customer experience

“Wouldn’t GM executives learn more about the problems that customers face, [exec William Hoglund] was asked, if they had to drive used cars and deal with repair problems like everyone else,” James Risen wrote in the LA Times.

You may have a disconnect with a decision maker because they are too far removed from the customer experience.

In that case, before even presenting your ideas, share some form of the customer experience with them.

I was encouraged to see this line from Gabriel T. Rubin in The Wall Street Journal recently, “GOP Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan and Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota swap footwear on Capitol steps to ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.’”

A bit tongue-in-cheek of course. But if national leaders are willing to try it out, our business decision makers can as well.

If you can’t literally put them in your customer’s shoes, at least start your pitch meeting with a few slides that clearly illustrate how customers’ experience the brand’s product or services. Direct feedback from customers – say, from customer reviews or ratings – can really illuminate executives. Just make sure the reviews accurately represent a major set of customers and are not an outlier.

Reader, you are far from the only one with this struggle. I find we marketers are often better marketing externally than internally. Best of luck in getting approval for your ideas.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Thanks so much for this. Everything you say resonates and validates.

I find your mention of this very interesting: “But our job is to take something that is say, 20% good, and shift it to 50% good. That’s not 100%, but it is better than 0.”

It may support my original thought that the problem I’ve been trying to solve is not actually an accurate understanding of the true problem.

“Marketing underperformance” may actually be a symptom of a problem, and this may be where my frustration comes from.

I feel I’ve been trying to solve underperformance by insisting that a fundamental principle approach is the only way (Man with a Hammer Syndrome).

I think if I adjusted my perception in a way that’s more aligned with the decision maker’s rationale, then I think I’ll find my way back to enjoying solving marketing problems without expectation that the engine has to be perfect from the foundation. This is a fool’s errand when working within an imperfect business landscape.

It may be a good approach for a building that has a problem, even though the logical choice is not to tear the building down…but instead shore it up in the areas that make the most sense according to the unique variables for that particular issue – building, budget, timeline, outcome, etc.

I really appreciate being able to dialog this stuff with someone who gets it.

Thanks again,

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

Related Resources

Five Tips From a Personal Care Industry CEO for Setting (and Getting Approval for) Your Marketing Budget

What are the most valuable marketing skills? (with free resources to improve those skills)

1,681 (and counting) free business and marketing case studies – Another great way to make your case for a marketing idea is by sharing a case study with decision makers

Marketing 101: What is (particular about) digital marketing?

June 30th, 2021
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

Marketing 101: What is (particular about) digital marketing?

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

Digital marketing is the communication of value to a potential customer through their computer, tablet, smartphone or similar device to help that customer perceive the value of the product or service. The goal of digital marketing is to earn a “yes” (also known as a conversion) to the organization’s “ask” (also known as a call-to-action). That ask may be the ultimate conversion an organization seeks to achieve – often a sale – or an intermediate ask like signing up for an email list or joining a webinar. Copywriting and design are critical to this value communication.

Digital marketing, also known as online marketing, is often contrasted against traditional marketing, also known as offline marketing. While offline marketing has occurred since the dawn of humanity, it’s rise really occurred during the start of the era of mass production caused by industrialization and mass media. Marketers were needed to generate demand for this new, abundant supply.

Digital marketing’s rise has been driven by the mass adoption of the internet and the associated increase in the use of digital devices.

If you are searching for the definition of digital marketing, you likely want to understand this juxtaposition – in other words, what is particular about digital marketing as compared to traditional marketing. We’ll provide a few particular aspects, but first, some word usage examples.

Word usage examples

To put the term “digital marketing” in context, here are some examples of how we have used the term in our content:

And our very first mention of “digital marketing” on February 26, 2008 (there were earlier mentions of similar phrases like “internet marketing”) came in a job title:

“However, Mikael Blido, head of Digital Marketing, Sony Ericsson, knows that…” from How Sony Ericsson Markets (In)directly to Consumers: Secrets Behind Their Online Strategy

Now let’s look at what is particular about digital marketing as compared to traditional marketing.

A/B testing is cheaper, quicker and easier in digital marketing

Before the rise of digital marketing, traditional marketers could split test direct mail and other direct marketing. They would mail one marketing message to a randomly selected group of potential customers, another marketing message to another randomly selected group, and see which performs better.

They would have to print multiple versions, have multiple calls to action (for example, two phone numbers), wait weeks or longer for the results to come in, and manually tabulate the results.

Digital marketing allows inexpensive, quick, and easy testing on a variety of channels – digital advertising networks, social media advertising, email platforms, or on websites with the help of testing software.

Since testing can help marketers improve results by better understanding their customers, digital marketing can allow more marketers to understand more customers quicker.

When Gartner’s GetApp brand surveyed 238 leaders at startups and small businesses about marketing technology, respondents cited A/B testing as the most effective software tool in their toolkit – 62% found A/B testing tools very effective.

“A/B testing may take a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of things you can discover business insights that help you increase conversions and—ultimately—your bottom line. Or, it may allow you to fail fast and move on,” said Amanda Kennedy, Senior Content Writer, GetApp.

Here are a few free resources you might find helpful if you’re looking for best practices for starting and/or measuring A/B tests for marketing experimentation:

A/B Testing in Digital Marketing: Example of four-step hypothesis framework

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Creating an A/B test

Unlock the Power of Your A/B Testing Program

Email Marketing Optimization: How you can create a testing environment to improve your email results

Get Your Free Test Discovery Tool to Help Log all the Results and Discoveries from Your Company’s Marketing Tests

Prioritize your marketing experiments with the Test Planning Scenario Tool

Digital marketing is less expensive in general

Not only is A/B testing less expensive in digital marketing versus offline marketing, pretty much everything digital is less expensive (well, everything except digital marketing salaries).

Email marketing is generally less expensive than direct mail. Video pre-roll ads are generally less expensive than TV commercials. And while rates are increasing as competition increases, online display ads are generally less expensive than print advertisements in newspapers and magazines.

Here are a few free resources if you need help with digital media buying and budgeting:

Reprioritize Your Marketing Spend and Transform Your Results: Learn a radical new framework

Advertising Chart: How digital ad placement strategy affects customer response

Marketing Budget Charts: B2B customer experience investments (plus 4 budgeting tips)

Advice From Three Digital Marketing Experts on Building Your Budget

It is easier to track the ROI of digital marketing

Department store owner John Wanamaker famously said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

It is notoriously difficult to track the ROI (return on investment) of offline marketing. For example, you could put a coupon in a newspaper advertisement with a unique code and count how many times the coupon is redeemed (or even, the exact amount of sales the coupon and ad secured). But what about people who saw the ad and aren’t coupon clippers? Or even more complex, what about people who saw the ad, had a positive brand impression, and then your digital ad stuck out to them and they clicked and purchased? How can you know what role the newspaper ad played?

While there is certainly branding in digital marketing, most digital marketing has a clear and direct call-to-action, and marketers can track from a click on that call-to-action and see how customers performed throughout the funnel up to a purchase, helping them measure the ROI of the digital ad.

Still, ROI tracking is far from perfect in digital marketing as well. If your company has a long and complex sales funnel, you have to decide how to measure ROI. Should the ROI be credited to the initial ad they clicked on that got them to download a whitepaper and signup for your email list nine months ago? Or the email they clicked on today that lead them to finally purchase? Or a combination? (This general topic is known as marketing attribution, and first-touch, multi-touch, and last-touch attribution models specifically).

What about if a customer reads a review of a product on your review site, but doesn’t click the affiliate link? Perhaps they purchase your product in a physical store or simply go back to your ecommerce store later to purchase. Are you properly attributing revenue to the review site?

If you are interested in tracking the ROI of your digital marketing, here are some free resources that can help:

Marketing Attribution Chart: Data from more than 500,000 customer buying journeys

Marketing 101: What is lead attribution?

Improve Attribution: 8 Steps to Measure the Impact of Your Marketing Efforts

Ecommerce Research Chart: ROI on marketing spend

Social Media: 4 simple steps to calculate social media ROI

It is easier to reach the niche group of people who can be best served by your product

Marketers typically call this targeting. But who wants to be targeted? Targeting implies you are about to be attacked.

So let’s call it – reaching the people your brand can best serve. That might be a small niche. A giant group. Or an amalgamation of personas that together comprise a large group of people.

This is possible in offline marketing to some extent. If you only serve a particular city, you can buy an ad in the local newspaper. Or if you are looking for outdoor enthusiasts, you can advertise in Outdoor or Sierra magazine.

But digital marketing allows for a much deeper and more granular focus for your marketing messages. You can build your own email list of people who are interested in your product. You can host a sweepstakes and attract people who are interested in your giveaway prize (for example, a trip to an organic resort could attract people interested in buying organic milk). You can only serve up your advertising to people who take a certain action, such as search for a specific term or put a specific product in a shopping cart.

For example, Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) was able to generate 2,555 leads from a $6,500 ad spend on Facebook by using specific parameters that focused the ads around a lookalike audience (people who had similar characteristics to BCAN’s current community) along with specific demographic parameters of people who are considered ‘at risk’ for bladder cancer diagnosis, such as firefighters and Vietnam veterans (you can read more in Quick Case Study #4 in Anti-Selfish Marketing Case Studies: 4 specific examples of focusing on what the customer gets).

This ability to reach a niche group of people may get harder and more expensive though. As customer privacy concerns increase, governments along with major corporations that make operating systems and devices are putting limits on tracking customer behavior.

If you are interested in reaching a specific group of people with your digital marketing, here are some free resources:

Online Behavioral Advertising: How to benefit from targeted ads in a world concerned with privacy

The Benefits of Combining Content Marketing and Segmentation

Email Segmentation: Finish Line’s automation initiative lifts email revenue 50%

How to Tailor Ads to Demographic-based Preferences & 5 Tips for Motivating Mature Consumers

Advertising Research Chart: Customer perception of what makes a travel ad effective, by age group

Email Marketing: Groupon’s segmentation strategies across 115 million subscribers

Local SEO: How geotargeting keywords brought 333% more revenue

You have many opportunities to learn about the customer

While it plays a role of some of the other aspects of digital marketing I’ve already discussed, data deserves its own distinct section as well.

With A/B testing, you are building an experiment to learn how specific changes you make affect customer behavior.

But even if you don’t build A/B tests, it’s almost impossible not to get some data from your digital marketing. Even better if you proactively set up your campaigns to record the data that will be most insightful about the customer.

With offline marketing, you may be able to collect data if a person responds to the ad. For example, if they send you the postcard you included in a magazine or call the phone number on your newspaper ad.

With digital marketing, the data is far more extensive. You can granularly track many behaviors customers taken, even how they scroll on your website or where they hover their mouse.

While we’re on the subject, data is a very buzz-y word that seems big and scary to the non-analytical marketer. It can be complex, for sure. However, data simply gives us an opportunity to better learn about and serve real human beings on the other side of the mouse – the people we call current and potential customers.

If you are interested in digital marketing data, here are some free resources:

The Data Pattern Analysis: 3 ways to turn info into insight

Digital Analytics: How to use data to tell your marketing story

Get Your Free Simplified MECLABS Institute Data Pattern Analysis Tool to Discover Opportunities to Increase Conversion

Digital marketing is less trusted

We’re on a roll discussing all of the bonafides of digital marketing, so I hate to be a Debbie Downer. But if we’re going to discuss what is particular about digital marketing…let’s be honest. At least one thing that is particular is negative.

Digital marketing is generally less trusted than traditional marketing.

We asked 1,200 consumers: “In general which type of advertising channels do you trust more when you want to make a purchase decision?” Prints ads ranked first, with 82% of Americans saying they trusted advertisements in newspapers and magazines when making a purchase decision. But it goes beyond just that one channel. All of the top six most trusted media were traditional, and all of the seven least trusted media were digital.

You can see the data for yourself in Marketing Chart: Which advertising channels consumers trust most and least when making purchases.

If you need help instilling trust in your digital marketing, here are some free resources:

Anxiety: Use privacy as a competitive advantage

The Marketer and Buyer Anxiety: Three ways to counter anxiety in the purchase funnel

The Importance of Building Trust: What 2,400 consumers say about trust in the conversion process

The Trust Trial: Could you sell an iChicken?

Four Quick Case Studies of Anxiety-Reducing Marketing

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

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Marketing 101: What is a point-first headline?

May 28th, 2021
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

Marketing 101: What is a point-first headline?

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

 

A point-first headline is a headline that begins with the main point you are trying to make to the reader.

There are three types of sentences: point first, point middle, and point last.

 

Creative Sample #1: Illustration of point-sequenced grammar

Essentially, when you write a point-first headline, you are leading with the information that is most appealing and relevant to the reader. So placing the main point of value for the customer in the front of the sentence increases the probability it will be read and understood by potential customers. For this reason, the best-performing headlines are typically point first.

Writing a point-first headline is the equivalent of the inverted pyramid in journalism. Writing a story this way encourages the reporter to put the most newsworthy info first.

Another journalistic saying that is very applicable to a point-first headline is “Don’t bury the lede.” In other words, make sure the most newsworthy part of the story is front and center. For marketing, “most newsworthy” translates to “main point of value to the customer.”

 

A headline experiment

MECLABS Institute worked with a survey company to research which headlines would be most effective to recruit panelists to take surveys (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

The experiment tested a series of point-first and point-last headlines. Below you can see each headline along with its conversion rate. We’ve also underlined the main point in each headline.

Point-first headlines

  • Get Paid to Take FREE Surveys: 28.76% conversion rate
  • Here’s Your First Survey, and an Invitation to Join Our Research Community: 28.35%
  • Get Paid to Fill Out Online Surveys: 27.98%
  • Get Rewarded for Your Opinion: 27.92%
  • Surveys – Quick, Easy and FREE: 27.52%
  • Win Cash & Prizes for Online Surveys: 27.27%

Point-last headlines

  • Set Up Your FREE Account Today and Start Earning Money!: 27.35%
  • You’re Invited to Join the [Company Name] Community and to Earn Rewards For Your Opinions: 27.14%
  • Join the [Company Name] Community and Have Your Opinions Count: 26.92%
  • Take Online Surveys From Home and Win Cash & Prizes: 26.81%

As you can see, point-first headlines tended to outperform point-last headlines.

While no point-middle headlines were included in this experiment since they tend to underperform both point-first and point-last headlines, here are a few examples of what point-middle headlines for this landing page might look like.

Point-middle headlines

  • Sign up today and get paid to take free surveys
  • Take free surveys and get rewarded for your opinion
  • Share your opinions and win cash with online surveys

As these examples show, the main value to the customer is easier to overlook in a point-middle headline.

 

Page Templates That Work

The tendency for point-first headlines to outperform point-last and especially point-middle headlines (all else being equal) led MECLABS to recommend to marketers that you should test point-first headlines on your landing pages.

In the free resource Page Templates That Work: Improve conversions with these scientifically proven webpage templates, the templates advise marketers to use a “Point-first headline that clearly communicates the value of the page objective.”

 

Creative Sample #2: Excerpt from Page Templates That Work

Creative Sample #2: Excerpt from Page Templates That Work

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

 

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Marketing 101: What is a business elevator pitch?

May 13th, 2021
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

Marketing 101: What is a business elevator pitch?

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

An elevator pitch is a quick explanation of a value proposition for something you are trying to influence another person’s opinion on.

An elevator pitch (also called an elevator speech) can be for a company (to persuade investors), a product (to influence a purchase), a project (to get budget) or even a person (to get a job).

A key component of an elevator pitch is the quick, succinct summation of much more information – enough to change an opinion or elicit an action but not so much that you lose someone’s attention. An elevator pitch can be particularly important when you know you will only have a short amount of time with the person (say, at a networking event or running into the CEO in the hallway or in a literal elevator).

The term likely originates from the idea that one could run into a key decision maker in an elevator. If that happened, you need a prepared statement you can use during the few seconds you have with this decision maker during that elevator ride.

A forceful value proposition is key to an effective elevator pitch. According to MECLABS Institute’s methodology, there are four elements to a forceful value proposition – clarity, credibility, exclusivity, and appeal (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

“I must understand (clarity) so I can believe (credibility) that only you (exclusivity) have what I want (appeal),” said Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute.

Word usage examples

To put the term ‘elevator pitch’ in context, here are some examples of how we have used the term in our content.

Elevator pitch example

Steve Jobs delivered a famous elevator pitch to John Sculley in 1983 – “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”

Sculley was the president of Pepsi at the time. Jobs was starting to make something special happen with Apple. However, Jobs needed a CEO to run Apple so that he could focus on developing new products for the growing company. Sculley wasn’t convinced by Apple’s laid-back culture and politely rejected Jobs’ original offer until Jobs presented his famous elevator pitch.

“That abrupt but direct question says everything about how Apple tackles innovation and its products—and it led to Scully joining Apple,” said James Edge, Founder, Crush the USMLE.

“The pitch is brilliant because of its simplicity and unorthodox nature. Instead of following the traditional elevator pitch model, this one went straight to Sculley’s heart. The question hit him so hard that he eventually changed his mind and joined what would become one of the most impactful and profitable companies in the history of the world,” said Marc Lewis, General Manager and Executive Editor, Ecowatch.

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

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Ask MarketingSherpa: Homepage value proposition

February 10th, 2021
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Ask MarketingSherpa: Homepage value proposition

We frequently receive questions from our email newsletter subscribers asking marketing advice. Instead of hiding those answers in a one-to-one communication, we occasionally publish edited excerpts of some of these conversations here on the MarketingSherpa blog so they can help other readers as well. If you have any questions, let us know.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Hi Daniel. Hope you’re having a good week.

About 10 days ago I commented about a three-part study you posted on homepage redesigns on your Linkedin post.

I asked you for some extra resources, and you sent a few links that I reviewed.

If you don’t mind me asking a direct question, could you offer your two cents of feedback on this please?

Here’s the thing. My client is a SaaS Case Management platform, that wants a redesigned website. So we’ve started working, and at the outset, the deal is to make the homepage less techy and more business-oriented.

I’m working on the homepage value prop, and we discussed two options, both suggested by me:

Option 1: Manage Cases With Ease

Option 2: Manage More Cases With Less Stress.

The internal team is heavily leaning to Option 1 because it looks cleaner, and I’m pulling the other way because Option 2 identifies the wants and pains of the target audience better, and with more emotional impact.

I’d love to hear your two cents on the matter. When the homepage is competing with $50 million per year businesses, and the audience is the public sector and companies serving the public sector, how smart is the idea to use these more “emotions-oriented” taglines?

Igor Mateski
Founder/CEO
WebMaxFormance

Dear Reader: Hey Igor,

I can’t say which is the best value prop for the company. That takes a lot of work. If you haven’t already, I suggest conducting a value prop workshop with them. Here’s an example – B2B Value Proposition: How a tech startup used a value prop workshop to help prepare for a public offering (4 takeaways for your brand)

As to your question between the two options, your best bet is to test.

Personally, my off-the-cuff response (hope it doesn’t sound too harsh), they will both underperform because they have no credibility. I know you wouldn’t tell me “Manage Less Cases with More Stress” so why should I believe you if you told me “Manage More Cases with Less Stress?”

As for “emotions-oriented” – it can work. Remember, you’re not selling to companies or government agencies, you’re selling to people. If you’ve hit on the right emotion from them (and I don’t know them and can’t say if you have) it can be very effective, but again, it needs to be credible.

Hope that helps.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Hmm…interesting point, about credibility. I didn’t turn over that rock. Obviously.

We haven’t had any interviews/planning with the client. They just asked that we redesign the site, and the deadline is New Year’s. So we’re cutting corners in plenty of places in order to make the deadline.

That being said, what do you suggest as a quick and easy way to add credibility to the value prop?

By the way, thank you for your comment. It’s quite helpful!

Dear Reader: Glad I could help, Igor. Quick and easy? That’s tough. I’d suggest get them on the phone, discuss the claim they like, and then you really have to challenge them. “OK, I believe you. But why should anyone else believe this? They’ll have three other tabs open with websites for your competitors. Why would they believe this line?”

Here are some specific elements that can help build credibility on the page – Credibility: 9 elements that help make your marketing claims more believable.

Dear MarketingSherpa: Thank you for the resources. I really appreciate this.

If there’s anything I can do for you, let me know.

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

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Visualizing the Conversion Journey

November 12th, 2020
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Here is the great struggle in all human relationships.

Me with my wife. Your brand with your customer. Even me with you, dear reader.

I am not you.

I am not my wife. You are not your customer.

However, we tend to think other people are like us. This is known as false consensus effect. Overcoming this cognitive bias – and striving to break down this barrier – is key to successful human relationships.

And thus, it is key to successful marketing. The better you understand how to truly serve your customers, the more successful your marketing will be.

Here’s one way to break down the barriers between your marketing team and your customers.

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

 

A purchase is a journey

“Why do you insist on visualizing the conversion journey?” This question came from an attendee of a group coaching session with Flint McGlaughlin about conducting a data pattern analysis.

Visualizing the conversion journey is one way to break down that artificial barrier between you and the customer.

If marketers work on a landing page, direct mail piece or print ad in isolation, they overlook the real way potential customers make decisions in the real world.

Other than an impulse purchase, there is usually a step before. Or after. Or both. Or several steps. These other elements of the customer journey affect the overall success rate of whatever piece of marketing collateral your team is currently working on.

Here’s a simple example. MVMT used to send emails that linked to a general collection of its watches. When the team changed its strategy to use the emails to drive potential customers to specific landing pages that tied tightly to the campaign in the emails, they increased conversion 44% (see more in How the World’s Fastest-growing Watch Brand Used Email to Grow Revenue 98%).

To get you thinking of ways to visualize your customers’ conversion journey for your marketing team, here are a few tips.

 

Don’t view data in isolation

In the free Simplified MECLABS Institute Data Pattern Analysis Tool, there is a place to add in the metrics for a funnel analysis. Of course. (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa)

 

 

However, just seeing webpage paths and conversion numbers is not the best way to try to get into the customer’s shoes. The customer does not experience the conversion journey like this.

So there is also a place in the tool to add in the actual screenshots of the funnel.

 

 

When using the tool, having the actual customer experience close at hand is a good reminder that conversion optimization is more than a numbers game. There are real people on the other sides of those numbers.

What does the world look like to them? The more you use data as a means to an end – to get closer to the human experience – the more you can leverage empathy in your marketing and increase conversion.

 

Immerse yourself in the customer experience

Many decisions that impact the customer are made in a meeting in a boardroom. The walls in that meeting room might be filled with generic art or company mission statements.

As a temporary way to bring the customer journey into that meeting – and set the right environment for your team to make customer-first decisions – print out each step of the customer journey and hang it on the walls of the meeting room as an oversize poster.

That’s what we do in a MECLABS Quick Win Intensive. Here’s an example:

 

 

We’ll even use markers or Post-It notes to write the metrics right on each step of the conversion journey, or mark each step with potential conversion optimization changes.

This approach makes sure the changes aren’t made in isolation, and the entire customer journey is front and center. Should you change a certain headline or call to action? Well, when you see what customers are experiencing in the previous or next steps, you get a better sense if the entire journey is smooth and seamless.

Here’s an example of a more permanent way to visualize the conversion journey. In the MECLABS building, we had a Customer Experience Lab. There were a series of screens where you could pull up each step of the customer journey, in addition to magnetic boards if you wanted to include any print collateral and write on it. So as potential ideas are debated, the entire customer conversion journey is laid out clearly for everyone to see.

 

 

Of course, times have changed. Many people reading this article right now are not in offices or physical meeting rooms yet.

You can do a virtual version of the conversion journey over Zoom. Or print out the steps and hang them up in your home office. The core goal is the same whether you’re working in-person or remote – making sure you and your team can’t overlook the customer journey when making key decisions.

 

Map out the big picture

Visualizing the conversion journey isn’t just about seeing what the customer sees, you should also try to think what the customer thinks. For example, you could create a customer journey map clearly showing the questions potential customers have as they consider your product and map the marketing and sales material and interactions you are using to address these questions.

 

 

Or you can approach the customer journey from the opposite direction. Instead of focusing on the questions potential customers have about your product, identify the key conclusions they need to reach to keep traveling along the journey with your company that ultimately leads to a product purchase by creating a prospect conclusion funnel.

 

 

As you can see, there’s more than one way to visualize the customer conversion journey. The exact way you go about is less important than the intent behind it – better understanding your customer to better serve the customer and improve results.

You can follow Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute, on Twitter @DanielBurstein.

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Marketing 101: What is source/medium?

September 15th, 2020
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

 

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

If you’ve ever been in a meeting with people who work on the data analytics for your company’s website, you may hear them refer to the metrics of Source and Medium. Sometimes, they’ll say the words so quickly together it sounds like one compound word “Sourcemedium.” (Just like people who work in digital advertising can make pay-per-click sound like “paper click.”)

Source and Medium are actually two distinct pieces of information that together help you understand where the traffic going to your website comes from. They are referred to together because they share a report in Google Analytics. You can find them in the left-hand column of Google Analytics, under Acquisition, then All Traffic, then finally Source/Medium.

 

 

The source is the specific website that sent traffic to your website, and the medium is the category that website resides under. Here’s a look at a Source/Medium report for our websites for a random day.

 

The word before the slash is the source, and the word after the slash is the medium.

As you can see, the top source of traffic was direct, which is not assigned to any medium. Direct traffic can come from someone typing in your website’s address to their browser, clicking on a bookmark, or clicking on a link from a non-website source like a PDF or presentation. As the name implies, people went directly to your website. However, direct is also the default source Google Analytics uses to report any traffic that it cannot assign another source to.

As you see, some traffic comes from the medium organic, like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. This refers to organic search.

And some traffic is listed with the medium referral, this means that visitors clicked on a link from another website to get to your website. In the example above, some of those websites (sources) were Internshala, Target Marketing magazine, and the University of British Columbia.

How you can use this information

According to the MECLABS Conversion Heuristic — a methodology to help marketers understand and optimize the factors that affect the probability of conversion — the motivation of the potential customer is the factor that most affects conversion. (MECLABS Institute is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

Understanding the source and medium of traffic to your website can help you better understand your customers’ motivations so you can better serve them and ultimately increase conversion. It can also help you understand if you are not getting the right types of customers to your website and need to change your traffic-driving and traffic-attracting initiatives.

Here is an example from work the MECLABS team is doing with the nonprofit TenbyThree as part of the show The Marketer as Philosopher — Become a Force for the Good:

Read more…

Marketing 101: What are beneficial buttons?

July 8th, 2020
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

A beneficial button is a call-to-action (CTA) button that explains a benefit the customer will receive by clicking on it. In other words, the button has a process-level value proposition.

This may sound obvious when you read the above sentences. If you’re asking the customer to take an action, of course, the button should have a benefit. However, I challenge you to navigate around the web right now and see how many buttons are truly beneficial.

Three categories of CTA buttons

There are three categories of CTA buttons:

  • Value-neutral buttons – These buttons don’t have a positive or negative value. For example, using the word “Submit” or “Go.”
  • Value-negative buttons – These buttons have a higher cost than value. For example, “Buy Now.”
  • Value-positive buttons – These are beneficial buttons. They show the customer the benefit of taking action. For example, “Download My Template.” By filling out the form and clicking the button, you will get the value of a template download.

You can see the full landing page yourself: Free Template to Help You Win Approval for Proposed Projects, Campaigns and Ideas

How to categorize your CTA buttons

Two marketers can see the same button and disagree on whether it’s a beneficial button.

For example, Kodak considered a “Subscribe” button to be a beneficial button for its email registration page while a “Submit” button was not. (From the case study List Growth Tactics: How Kodak added 33% more email subscribers and 53% more YouTube followers).

Read more…

Marketing 101: What is lead attribution?

June 4th, 2020
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Marketing has a language all its own. This is our latest in a series of posts aimed at helping new marketers learn that language. What term do you find yourself explaining most often to new hires during onboarding? Let us know.

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

Lead attribution is the process of determining which marketing activities should be credited for bringing in a potential customer, also known as a lead.

The exact definition of what is considered a lead will vary based on the lead management process at each company, but for the purposes of this article, we will consider a lead as a potential customer that indicates interest in a company (for example, filling out a form or calling for more information).

Lead attribution is extremely valuable

Lead attribution is both extremely valuable and maddeningly difficult.

It is so valuable because if companies know which marketing activities produce leads, and which do not, they can optimize their marketing investment. As department store owner John Wanamaker famously said more than 100 years ago, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”

So even though lead attribution doesn’t have the creative glory of other marketing practices like copywriting, design, content marketing or branding, don’t overlook it. In fact, I’m writing this blog post because I received a question when I was waxing poetic about lead attribution in the recent article – 8 Mini Case Studies of Using Marketing as a Force for Positive Change in Our World While Getting Results for Your Company and Clients. In the article I say …

“Listen folks, I’ve been doing this a long time. So when I started looking for stories for this article, I had my assumptions about which marketing tactics this article was going to cover:

Landing page optimization to better communicate value —that’s a given.

Content marketing — probably more than one mini case study.

Better ad targeting — of course.

But lead attribution?

Valuable tactic? Absolutely. But it’s boring, behind the scenes, and has little direct correlation to bring about positive change for people. At least, that was that my assumption.

If you’ve had similar assumptions, check out this next story.”

The mini case study goes on to tell the story of how a marketing attribution technology helped fuel a little friendly competition between radio stations in a radiothon that ultimately raised $500,000 for Feeding America during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Which brings up the point — while lead attribution is the term I most often hear thrown about, attribution can be applied to any customer action that companies seek, including product purchases or, in the above case, donations during a radiothon. For that reason, there are other similar terms — like marketing attribution or revenue attribution – that refer to roughly the same thing: understanding which marketing or advertising (or even sales or public relations) activities contribute to a company achieving its goals.

Read more…