The marketing department at your company probably juggles a lot of different responsibilities on a day-to-day basis. From guiding strategy & creating content to optimizing pages and monitoring conversion rates, marketers are constantly forced to switch between creative and analytical functions. This sort of context switching is tough on it’s own and staying creative when you’re focused on keyword rankings and signup goals often results in sub-par visual elements for the whitepapers, blogs, infographics and emails that keep fresh leads coming in.
At Form + Function, our own marketers face the same struggles. We’re a design and marketing agency, so it’s safe to say that the need to remain creative is a bit more important for us than some other brands, but regardless, we started to recognize that this struggle wasn’t one that was unique to our company or industry. In an exceedingly crowded space, marketers in enterprise-level companies everywhere need to maintain visual excellence in their content while keeping conversions strong. The talent needed to balance these two goals doesn’t always exist in the same person, but it’s imperative that it exists in a marketing team as a whole and that all members of the team, regardless of their knowledge of InDesign or PhotoShop, see themselves as design-focused marketers.
Adequate Planning Turns Do-It-All Marketers into Design-Focused Marketers
Whether it’s repurposing a quote with your company’s colors and branding for a quick social media post or putting together your next whitepaper to generate leads, design is a central part of quality content creation. Yet, the person on our team who is best-suited to research and create awesome content isn’t always the best person to design it. Having a marketer who doesn’t know how to create clean, consistent graphics leads to a lot of unforeseen last-minute work handoffs between different departments, which adds extra time and cost to creating content that most companies can’t afford.
Rather than encouraging our staff to try and be do-it-all marketers, we’ve achieved stronger visual consistency by teaching our team to foresee design needs and make plans to involve designers in their content planning process earlier on. A marketer doesn’t need to design all of their own resources in order to be design-focused, they just need to know when to draw on talent elsewhere in the team to achieve the best results.
Now, our designers take part in the brainstorming sessions that result in our own editorial calendar and help set cross-department deadlines for content creation so that ample time is left to ensure each piece of content can receive the professional design attention it deserves.
Having an email campaign or eBook that is written without design in mind, only to have images artificially inserted in after the fact, is a sure way to create choppy content that lacks flow and vision. But involving our designers in our planning process resulted in a lot of fantastic ideas we might not have otherwise had. It’s substantially elevated the look of our branded materials and resulted in measurable improvements in click-through rates in some of our most successful content.
Write Your Content with Design in Mind
Enterprise-level companies are held to a higher design standard than most, and rightly so. As a thought-leader, you need to look the part and sloppy content just doesn’t cut it. When producing content in a Word or Google Doc, most writers or marketers aren’t necessarily thinking about how things will look when laid out in eBook format or on the web. However, we’ve found that the most successful content requires doing just that. Now we have our writers try to visualize how their content will flow when moved into a more visual format, consciously breaking up large text blocks into lists and smaller digestible chunks.
Beyond the simple formatting tips that writing for the web requires, we’ve also found that having our writers include some simple notes within their manuscripts helps for smoother design handoffs. When a writer notes the heading style of text, it helps a designer organize long blocks of copy into main and supporting paragraphs in a way that aids the reader’s consumption of the content. When a writer is producing content with design in mind, they naturally begin to realize where their content can be improved by including pull-quotes, call-outs and graphics, and they can make note of all of these thoughts for a designer to act on. Creating content with this sort of collaboration in mind helps create the craveable, shareable pieces that customers have come to expect from leading brands.
If you’re interested in more tips about improving your content creation process for design hand-off, check out this post on our blog.
Know When to Add to Your Team to Fulfill a Design Function
If creating visually-stunning content is important to you, think about the content you plan to create this quarter. Your lead-generating eBooks, emails, infographics, microsites and sales materials will all require design work. Do the resources on your team have the skills and bandwidth needed to ensure the content they create is designed in a way matches the quality of your brand?
If not, don’t fret, plan around it. Adding some outside design talent to your team can help you reach your content creation goals while helping every member of it focus on what they do best. Finding a design partner outside of your organization can help you create more engaging content without the need to hire additional staff. Enterprise-level companies we’ve worked with in this capacity have found that handing-off their design needs has helped them to free-up time for the most important marketing tasks that need to be handled internally while accelerating the speed at which their team could create content and generate leads.
Start Embracing Design Today
Becoming a design-focused marketing department isn’t difficult to do, but it does require a few conscious changes in thinking. If you invest the time needed to shift your department in a more design-oriented direction, you’ll see the payoff in the form of higher customer engagement.