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3 Tips for Facilitating “Creative Conversations”

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by: Darryl Bolduc (@darrylbolduc)
19 May 2015

Why is it that your creative team seems so much cooler than you? It can't just be the hipster glasses and ironic fashion sense — after all, there’s more to knowing what makes good creative than being trendy. Whatever it is, it can make the prospect of communicating with the creative team a daunting one. But don't shy away from these important conversations. Today's marketing campaigns require a mix of awesome creative, strategic planning and technology-driven logic, and one of the best ways to achieve this is by facilitating communications between people in your department.

Look at it this way: As marketers, aren't we all iconoclasts? Don't we innovate? Don't those ROI numbers feel just as good as a stunning piece of creative? That's the conversation you can bring to the table. Performance. It's not folklore that triggered messages perform nearly four times better than standard messages. When marketers combine the power of marketing automation with inspired creative, the result is usually fantastic marketing.

Here are three tips for facilitating creative conversations among diverse members of your team:

1) Build a Great Creative Brief

Given that each of your team members might approach a creative challenge differently, what’s the best way to foster conversations? In my experience, starting with a quality create brief is an excellent idea. Doing so will give your teams a foundation to ground the project, no matter who might add, remove or contribute to the project.

Here are some elements to include in your brief:

  • Background: Include the history of why the idea might be important, details of the product and how it’s supported.
  • Marketing Objective: What does your organization want to get from this project? Simply state why you’re spending money, resources and sweat equity to get this piece out the door.
  • Communication Objective: This is what you want your audience to be left with after they read or experience your marketing, so put plenty of thought into it. Your objective should be idealistic and reflect your corporate mantra, yet be specific enough to drive performance.
  • Target Audience: Think of not just who, but when, where and how these users will come into contact with your brand.
  • Key Messages: In some cases, you may need to add calls to action or secondary messages. These should be prioritized, and are best kept minimally succinct.
  • Deliverables: List what you’re building, including all the specifications and details — no brick is left out of the plan.
  • Success Metrics: Define what equals success, then add a stretch goal, testing plans, timing, etc.
  • A Reason to Believe: Similar to the communication objective, this is the one succinct idea your customer must believe before they double tap to their wallet app. It will be the last thing your creative team hears in the briefing, so it’s very important to the conversation.

2) Understand the Customer Journey

Having a great creative brief doesn’t mean instant success. The team you've assembled must also understand the customer journey so the moving parts work as you’ve intended.

In the past, a simple approach consisting of “awareness, consideration, purchase, repeat” might have been enough to get you by. Today, you must consider all interaction points in each step of the journey: where your message could be received, how it can be acted upon, the insight that can be gleaned, and the next opportunity that might be presented.

This journey still lives within a lifecycle framework — just make sure the consideration points include the data, content, cadence and measurements to make them most successful within your marketing ecosystem. Some ideas to get you started:

  • Discovery & Acquisition: No matter if it’s a physical store, online via a desktop, within a social media feed on a smartphone or somewhere else, this is where you’ll be creating a first impression between your customers and your brand.
  • Interacting & Exploring: Information is abundant here. Navigation, usability and helpfulness are all qualities that make this phase most successful. Much like a social profile, you want this to reflect the best of what you have to offer and help customers progress to the next level of engagement.
  • Engaging & Exchanging: Forms of payment are being stored, mobile apps are being downloaded and products are being purchased. Simplicity and ease of use are the key factors here.
  • Loyalty & Ownership: Consider spending more time and resources in the oft-neglected ”building advocacy” phase — as the adage goes, it can be five times more expensive to get a new customer than to keep an old customer.
  • Churn & Recycle: On the other hand, know when it’s time to say goodbye and cleanse your customer base from time to time. This will make your marketing more efficient and create fewer risks on the deliverability, data storage and maintenance side.

Your conversations that happen around the customer journey are critical to helping other groups understand the full vision for your marketing. Having these talks more often and having a good vision diagram will go a long way to further your creative development.

3) Optimize Your Content Delivery Process

A rock-solid delivery process can make or break the success of any given project. Once you're adept at delivering a stellar creative brief and communicating your customer journey vision, turn your attention to conversing about the build process.

Keeping a build simple cannot be understated. Pictures say a thousand words, right? If you have the luxury, try to find a heroic and visual way to convey your marketing message. Then, keep you words brief and your layout basic. A simple design still allows your creative teams to deliver a responsive framework in the modern style that your brand is looking for.

Be sure your teams are comfortable with the process you’ve designed, understand it and deliver based on the reasonable timelines you’ve defined.

Some things to keep in mind when having process discussions with your teams include:

  • Simple Design: Ensuring your creative delivers on the most basic aspects of your brief can be done with a few images, headlines and well-positioned links. Leave the rich content for the programs that require more depth to the experience.
  • Organization: Content and deliverables can be complex on their own. If you have naming conventions, you’re doing well. Be sure to assess and evaluate your process and organization just as you audit your strategies. Make it a point to do it at least annually.
  • Measurement: Everything that gets built needs to be measured. Be sure it’s not hard for your teams to measure performance or do a test. Making that part easy is really half the battle to measurement. Have a subject matter expert design some tests and replicate the idea.

With so much to talk about, why shy away from conversations with the creative people in your department? Not only is the creative process better when shared, but these chats may be among the most interesting you’ll have at the workplace. Try fostering more of these discussions, both within your department and outside it. Rarely does a creative idea germinate within an isolated ecosystem!

Related Resources:

1) Ebook: “Ultimate Guide to Assessing Your Digital Marketing Program

2) Blog: “Mapping the Customer Journey: A New Vision for Digital Marketing

3) Blog: “’Buyer Personas’ Is Not a Fancy Name for Segmentation


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