MarketingSherpa Wrap Up: Creative Do’s and Don’ts
By Julie Graham / March 2, 2016

MarketingSherpa Wrap Up: Creative Do’s and Don’ts

As you’re settling back into the office from MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 or catching up on the latest new from your #Sherpa16 Twitter feed, you’re likely feeling inspired to take your learnings and apply them to your own marketing challenges. I’m here to tell you, you are not alone. This year, our Coaches spent 3 days with attendees solving their biggest challenges from email creative to segmentation and testing strategies. Some of the greatest challenges from this years’ Coaching Clinics are in the realm of email creative — calls to action, mobile design, creative performance optimization, and much more! I sat down with John Bilderback to get the lowdown on the most talked about challenges and how to solve them.

What were the most common creative challenges at MarketingSherpa Summit?
I met with many awesome email marketing managers and designers this year at MarketingSherpa Summit, many of them email experts. No doubt about it, Sherpa16 was a good time. Of course, each attendee is unique in their level of expertise, needs, and challenges –from lack of time and budget to appropriate design approach, or a need for support. Support largely being determined by the features or service model of their current ESP.  However, even with the uniqueness of everyone’s needs, challenges fell into two buckets:

  1. How can I get better performance from my creative?
  2. How can I produce my creative faster, more consistently, but still deliver that “wow” factor in the inbox?

What are your recommendations for overcoming these pain points?

  1. Keep your main idea the primary focus of your email. “Fatigue” is something that struck me, and it comes up year after year as I review creative at Sherpa and with our customers. After a while, you can see email design fatigue as it slips into just getting it out the door. Don’t lose that “loving feeling”. Make sure your big idea remains unique and avoid being generic.
  2. The reality is, good creative is a craft and can take time. If you can balance one wildly creative message with a typical email format: transactional emails, internal notifications, etc., you can pre-plan for your more creatively intensive campaigns, investing time to craft a solid, well-designed, thoughtful message.
  3. To streamline production, it’s ok to create a re-usable template that can be broken into smaller pieces and reorganized based on the intent of your message. The process should be adaptive to whatever your workflow, send rate, or seasonal needs are.
  4. Designing for the click is a good way to think about email overall. Think about that email is a conversation starter. Y0ou don’t need to present everything to the consumer at once. Draw the click-through by providing some content in your email and putting the rest on your site, landing page, etc.
  5. With email, shaking things up is not a bad thing. Bold changes in the layout, message or color can be done while staying on brand, in the same template, without having to break the bank. Test your creative to better gauge what resonates with your audience.

I have to ask, is mobile still a hot topic? Or has this been completely solved by marketers today?
I have to admit, I am amazed that this is still a question and furthermore, that it’s not on the top of marketers’ to-do lists. I won’t recite any stats or point to any studies but as a consumer, if I watch people, wherever I go, by bus, train, trolley, or car (drivers included – yikes), everyone is on a mobile device. Not saying every one of them is checking email, but…if that’s a possibility, the opportunity for mobile optimization should be a top priority. You should be seriously considering, implementing, and acting on mobile. Do not delay, contact me, we can talk.

We always stress “test, test, test”. What do you see many marketers testing creatively?
In a 30-minute session, it can be difficult to get into the details of an attendee’s testing strategy. I heard that testing could be more thorough,  and exactly what to test and what an effective test is can be unclear. So, my thoughts might go like this:

  1. You can, and should, test anything in your email. Test valid action, conversion, motivation, value prop, and action elements, not broader changes to the entire email.
  2. Be focused on one element per test, designing your test to prove a hypothesis.
  3. Repeat your tests, don’t draw definitive conclusions from just one round of testing. The more tests you run, the larger the sample size for understanding patterns of behavior.
  4. Based on test results, create sub-segments of your audience (i.e. those who clicked on a call-to-action). From there, use this segment to test alternate variations to gain a clearer picture of consumer behavior to shape your design and/or message approach.

“Batch and blast” emails are non-targeted and while I perceive there are a few (or many) of them out there, marketers are losing opportunities to convert by not engaging or embracing the tools they have to make their emails great. I love great design and greatly-designed email, and the decision making power that comes from testing your design can only improve what you had considered your best design yet!

Email Expert: John

John Bilderback Director, Creative Services

As a Director, Creative Services at BlueHornet, John Bilderback draws on his 15 years of digital design experience as he takes a consultative approach to helping clients realize their campaign goals. Throughout the collaboration, John balances aesthetics and functionality, while incorporating industry best practices to deliver email designs that get noticed. Before joining BlueHornet, John served as the Creative Director at SnowDog Web Development, the marketing & UI designer at Upturn Solutions, and as the web designer and production manager at Paz Design Group.

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