How to Give Effective Creative Reviews

How to Give Effective Creative Reviews

Creative content, from videos to blog posts, makes your brand stand out. However, the content production process requires a clear scope, lots of communication, and ample time for client reviews and creative edits before the content is finalized. How do you critique creative deliverables? How do you convey your feedback effectively? How can you make the process more efficient?
In this guide, we’ll run through the ins and outs of effective creative reviews.
 

Benefits of an Effective Creative Review Process

Providing effective creative reviews is in your best interest. With carefully notated creative reviews, you can ensure your project is on the right track to be completed on time and within scope to meet your goals.
It can help you:

  • Convey vague ideas or feelings in a tangible way
  • Give feedback that creatives can actually respond to
  • Help creatives craft a final project that reaches your goals

Ultimately, an effective creative review can help you get the results you want quickly.
 

5 Steps to an Efficient Content Production Process

Effective creative reviews start with an efficient, well-defined content production process. Over the years, we’ve gathered best practices for creative reviews. There are six key steps to an effective content production process:

  1. Start by conveying your needs to the creative team. Include a description of the project audience, deliverables, desired outcome, and due date. This is also known as the project scope.
  2. Stand by for questions. Creatives may ask questions during the kickoff meeting. They’ll probably run into more questions as they dive into the project. Ensure to emphasize what’s important to you for this deliverable.
  3. Approve the brief. In some cases, your creative team will come back with a proposal, outline, or brief for your approval. Approve it at this stage, or return it for revisions. At this point, your creative team will start working on their deliverables.
  4. Review the creative. Start by reviewing the deliverables thoroughly. Identify sections that you feel haven’t hit the mark and form your feelings into tangible, actionable feedback that the creative team can work with. (More on that in the next section.)
  5. Provide feedback. Pass the feedback back to the creative team and answer any subsequent questions they have.
  6. Allow for multiple revisions. Revision is the most important part of the creative review process. Depending on the contract with your creative team, this is a repeatable step.

The more clear-cut your content production process is, the easier it will be to follow these workflows in the future, saving critical time.
 

The Creative Review Process at SmarkLabs: The Client’s Perspective

If you’re planning to work with SmarkLabs for your next video or website project, that’s great! We’re here to make the project process easy.
SmarkLabs clients follow a simple, effective process:

  1. Kickoff: During the kickoff call, clients convey their project needs to the SmarkLabs team.
  2. Internal QA: The SmarkLabs team comes back with any questions they have for their client. Then, they start to work on the creative.
  3. Client review: The client reviews the creative and either approves it or if there are suggested edits, sends it back for revisions. SmarkLabs’s creative team begins work on the revisions.
  4. Revisions: The client reviews the revisions and approves them or sends more feedback.

 

Examples of Effective vs. Ineffective Feedback

Communicating your opinions about creative content can be difficult to express. Focus on tangible changes that creatives can make.
Effective feedback is:

  • Specific rather than general. (E.g., “I think the copy in this eBook is too clinical” vs. “I don’t like the copy.”)
  • Constructive rather than destructive. (E.g., “The colors here don’t evoke the feeling of relaxation to me. Can we try a calmer color scheme?” vs. “I hate these colors.”)
  • Relevant rather than irrelevant. (E.g., “I’d like this copy to sound more like our competitor’s white paper copy” vs. “I’d like this copy to feel like a Pixar film.”)

Specific, constructive, and relevant feedback will help your creative team make revisions that meet your vision.
 

Useful Tools for Creative Reviews

The technicalities of providing feedback on creative can be a challenge, especially if it’s visual. The SmarkLabs team recommends these tools to get your feedback across:

  • Govisually: a point and click design review tool with revision tracking
  • Vimeo review tools: a video point-and-click tool with comment capabilities
  • Pastel: a web and design point-and-click tool with comment capabilities

 
It can be hard to articulate what you want until you see it. Refer to these sites for creative inspiration:

  • Landingfolio: a page design inspiration tool
  • Siteinspire: a web and page design inspiration tool
  • SmarkLabs video portfolio: a video inspiration tool designed by the SmarkLabs team

 

How to Manage Reviews by Priority

Prioritizing projects helps streamline the creative review process and saves you time. It is especially critical if you have a lot of content in the pipeline. We suggest categorizing low-effort projects or projects that you haven’t made your mind up about yet as low-priority reviews. Categorize high effort or time-sensitive projects as high-priority reviews. Complete high priority reviews before low priority reviews.
 

The Bottom Line

An effective creative review process helps you get your ideas across, provide effective feedback, and get the results you want. By following best practices, you can empower your creative partners to produce deliverables that meet your vision faster than ever.
 
 
Have questions about giving effective creative reviews? Let’s talk.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and Marketing Alignment

As more and more information has become available online, sales teams no longer have control over what information buyers have. In fact, over 60% of the sales process is typically over before a sales rep can even enter the picture. Because the sales process relies so heavily on marketing efforts such as social media, blogging, and SEO, it is necessary for the two departments to work together more than ever before. 
Unfortunately, it often leads to friction between marketing and sales departments, with sales complaining about marketing failing to generate quality leads for them and marketing blaming sales for not being successful with the leads they get. Smarketing provides a solution to this friction and can increase your ROI in the process. 
 

Defining Smarketing

Smarketing (sales and marketing) involves integrating the sales and marketing processes of a business, leading to better growth and larger profits. This alignment is about more than just big picture goals. The departments should agree on a lead generation process, data systems, customer profiles, account scoring, and anything else utilized by the two teams.
 

How Does Smarketing Drive Growth?

  1. Alignment drives growth. Highly-aligned organizations see a 32% year-over-year revenue growth. Less aligned competitors saw a 7% decrease in revenue.
  2. Better alignment, bigger profits. Highly aligned companies are 15% more profitable.
  3. Top-line revenue is a good thing. Highly aligned teams drive 208% more revenue as a result of their marketing efforts.

 

What are the Key Steps to Smarketing? 

There are several steps you can take to better align your sales and marketing. 

  1. Audit your customer journey and attack major friction points in the sales process that don’t add value for the buyer. Look to marketing to “digitize” these manual processes.
  2. Skill-up sales teams to align with the buyers’ process, including the content and tools required to facilitate this alignment.
  3. Align 80% of your sales reps with your ideal customer profile (ICP). Let executives or “whale hunters” develop the other 20%.
  4. Track and analyze your losses more than your wins, including sales objections along the way. Use this data to feed content ideas for marketing teams.
  5. Create a playbook that maps content to the customer journey. Show sales teams how to use this playbook to overcome objections or provoke urgency in buyers.

 

Overcoming Smarketing Challenges

As you create a playbook for smarketing, be on the lookout for potential pitfalls. In today’s tech-driven marketplace where most of the buying process occurs online, communication and understanding between the two departments is a must. In order to collaborate effectively, they need to be equal partners, not separate silos. 
 

Here are six tips to keep in mind: 

  • Have sales and marketing meet frequently: Establish that no new sales project will proceed without marketing approval and vice versa. Hold each other accountable. 
  • Build multiple relationships between sales and marketing: Ensure that both teams know each other well and function as one team rather than only leadership meeting together. 
  • Mix marketing and sales desks together: Structure your office so that sales and marketing employees understand each other’s work on a day-to-day basis. 
  • Provide many types of feedback between marketing and sales: Empower all team members to give feedback, and listen to that feedback. 
  • Agree on terminology: Develop a similar language and vocabulary for your smarketing team and build that into your reports and culture. 
  • Use data to communicate: Utilize daily reports that show exactly the progress of both sales and marketing each day.

 

The Bottom Line 

Building a playbook to align your sales and marketing is a great way to increase revenue. Your marketing team will deliver increased high-quality leads, and your sales team will be equipped to transform the leads into new customers.
 
Want help with your brand’s B2B smarketing efforts? Let’s talk.

A Complete Guide to B2B SEO

A Complete Guide to B2B SEO

These days, SEO is a frequent acronym used among marketing professionals as they develop and implement their marketing plans and campaigns. SEO has become an integral part of marketing strategies for any organization that wants to survive and strive in the digital era of the internet. But as a B2B marketer, you might be asking yourself how does SEO work for my business?
 

Defining SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of boosting your brand’s visibility on search engines, namely Google. Its goal is to increase your organic web traffic and lead qualified internet users to download your resources and fill out your web forms. 
SEO requires your team to optimize digital assets by:

  • Providing metadata
  • Developing code
  • Editing digital content
  • Writing new, SEO-friendly content

Technically, SEO is part of search engine marketing (SEM). SEM focuses on placing your brand’s digital assets at the top of search engine results. While there are other SEM strategies, SEO is the most effective for B2B businesses. 
 

Defining SERP and Indexing

Two other terms are critical to SEO. 
A search engine results page (SERP) is what appears when you type a query into Google. A complex algorithm determines the order of SERPs, but SEO helps improve ranking. Your business wants to be on the first page. Page one results have a 71% CTR while pages two and three have a combined CTR of 6%
Indexing refers to adding web pages into Google search. Non-indexed sites won’t show up on SERPs. WordPress websites are automatically indexed. Google crawlers also follow links and discover websites to add to their index. 
 

The Three Types of SEO

There are three types of SEO:

  • On-page SEO includes activities carried out on webpages that will be published (e.g., inserting keywords, links, or meta tags) 
  • Off-page SEO includes activity performed on a webpage after it goes live (e.g., sharing, liking, or commenting on the post to build engagement)
  • Technical SEO includes behind-the-scenes website setup activities (e.g., creating SSL or XML sitemaps)

For the best results, your team should use each of these tactics.
 

The Process of Keyword Research

Your website should appear in search results when internet users type in relevant keywords. SEO empowers your brand to rank for keywords. For example, a digital marketing agency may want to rank for the keyword phrase “SEO strategy.” 
Your team must conduct keyword research to determine which keywords your business should rank for. Keyword research is in-depth research into keywords that receive ample search requests. Once your team identifies these keywords, they can begin including them in their content.  As a result, your content will rank higher with search engines and additionally, appear higher on SERPs.
When conducting keyword research, here is a recommended approach: 

Consider Your Prospects’ Online Searches

Research search queries people are using to find your business, similar companies, and even competitors. These keywords can be found through Google Autocomplete, Google Search Console, Reddit, or even SEO tools like Ahrefs. Make sure to include every stage of the sales funnel. If it helps, replicate the buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision) and designate topics or key phrases that prospects might be searching for. When creating keywords consider:

  • What are the problems that your personas face?
  • How could they be searching for ways to overcome these pain-points?
  • How are you the solution?
  • What are the main features of your product or service?
  • What are the keywords driving the highest amount of organic traffic for your competitors? 

Use SEO Tools

Type these words and phrases into SEO tools like Ahrefs. These tools reveal volume, competition, keyword difficulty, and more. With this data, you’ll be able to distinguish and create a list of the best keywords to optimize your website and content for.  
 

Optimizing B2B SEO for Businesses

SEO tactics are useful in any industry. However, there are a few B2B-specific SEO tactics every B2B marketing team should know.

Promote Thought Leader Content

B2B businesses make many sales through their thought leaders. Ask your brand’s top thought leaders to write blog posts and other content. Publish them on your website, and link to them on your professional networking sites. 

Publish Original Research

Publishing proprietary data on your website will attract attention from bloggers and journalists in your niche. They will link to your website, boosting your SEO without extra effort on your team’s behalf. You’ll also further establish your business as a credible source. 

Pick High-Value, Low-Volume Keywords

B2B businesses should focus on high-value, low-volume keywords. Long-tail keywords, which contain 3 or more words, are also preferable. They are more specific and may fit your brand better. This is especially important if your product solves a niche problem. 

Use Keywords from Disrupted Industries

If your product is disrupting an industry (or two), include keywords from the industry you’re disrupting. They will probably be more popular than those for your new product, and you’ll be able to draw attention away from older solutions. 

Create Keyword-Specific Landing Pages

There’s a good chance that your brand will have multiple top keywords. Create landing pages for each keyword. These landing pages should offer valuable content that centers on the relevant focus keywords, as well as support keywords. 

Provide Value

Your content team may feel pressured to create a large quantity of content for the sole purpose of promoting your keywords. However, search engines are getting better and better at identifying keyword-stuffed content. Plus, customers won’t trust your brand if they come across content that’s less than the best. Ensure all of your content prioritizes value—while staying SEO-friendly. 

Diversify Content Types

Most blog posts are about 500 words. Most of your website’s blog posts can be this length. However, include additional staple blog posts of 800+ words, eBooks, white papers, guides, and other critical content. Use these longer pieces to collect valuable customer data—and further analyze your audience. 
 

How to Work with a B2B SEO Agency

B2B SEO agencies provide expert SEO advice and content that helps your brand increase web traffic and generate more leads. Working with them should be a collaborative, streamlined process. 
When you begin working with a B2B SEO agency, be sure to:

  • Assign a dedicated agency contact
  • Communicate your goals and business vision
  • Establish a clear brief review and feedback loop

At the end of the day, a B2B SEO agency will help you improve SEO—and fast. Working with them effectively will only help your team reach its goals faster. 
 

The Bottom Line

SEO gives you the tools to provide the right audience with the right information at the right time. It helps establish your company as a credible source, generate leads, and, ultimately, boost sales. 


Want help with your brand’s B2B SEO efforts? Let’s talk.
 

3 B2B Marketing Examples that Produced Results

3 B2B Marketing Examples that Produced Results

In the world of B2B marketing, there is a lot to juggle. Between budgets, creative, strategy and leads, B2B marketers definitely have their work cut out for them. To make matters even more stressful, marketing to businesses is completely different than marketing to individual consumers. There are entirely separate methods and strategies for promoting and marketing towards business audiences. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some B2B marketing examples to follow?
Lucky for you, we’ve already tried and tested some of the best B2B marketing strategies (so you don’t have to!). If you’re looking for some successful B2B marketing examples to follow, here are a couple to inspire you.

3 B2B Marketing Examples (That Deemed Successful)

Lead Generation with Webinars

Overall, most successful marketing strategies focus on lead generation and guiding those prospects through the marketing funnel. This example shows how Vertrax, a supply chain management solution provider within the oil and gas industry, increased their qualified leads using repeatable and valuable content for their prospects. 
Vertrax began hosting rotating product webinars — monthly webinars that alternated between Vertrax’s three main products. Unlike a full-on demo or sales pitch, these webinars took a deep educational dive into the problems their solutions were solving. These webinars gave Vertrax’s sales team tangible content to send their leads and the opportunity to repurpose the webinar as gated content to capture even more leads. 
Since Vertrax’s first product webinar, Vertrax’s pipeline has increased in the number of healthy, reliable, and qualified leads. 

Creative Storytelling with Video

When it comes to B2B marketing, It’s always important to know who your buyer persona is. What kind of content are they consuming? Where are they consuming it? What content would resonate with them enough so they are aware of your solution/product?
In this B2B marketing example, IngeniousIO, an innovative solutions leader in the AECO space, realized that their end customers were not likely to read heavy content like lengthy whitepapers or research reports. They needed an accessible and exciting way to present their solution.
Ultimately, they decided that a humorous, approachable product video would be the best way to communicate their message. After a few weeks of paid advertising on YouTube, IngeniousIO generated tremendous activity from their target demographic with 260k views, 475k impressions, and a total view rate of 54%. The ad also caused a large increase in inbound leads for IngeniousIO, further confirming that video was the best medium to reach their buyer persona.

Repeatable Marketing with Content

Many B2B marketers may have finite resources to dedicate towards strategic marketing efforts and campaigns. Marketing plans might include a reoccurring marketing strategy to enable a continuous stream of content generation without depleting your marketing team’s resources. 
Take this situation for example. Bridge Financial Technology, an analytics SaaS platform in the financial industry, needed a measurable marketing program that would allow them to be more strategic with their marketing efforts, and enable their organization to scale. 
As a result, Bridge built a repeatable marketing plan to support their marketing and sales team’s needs. This repeatable solution could be promoted through all of Bridge’s marketing channels. This included newsletters, blogs, social posts, and a weekly webinar to showcase a broad overview of Bridge’s platform functionality.
The frequent, repeatable marketing content substantially impacted Bridge’s pipeline, with 29% of Bridge’s MQL converted to SQLs and a 9.6% conversion rate overall. 


Looking for success similar to these B2B marketing examples? Let SmarkLabs do the work for you! Drop us a line, and we’d be happy to help.

A Guide to SaaS Marketing and SaaS Marketing Metrics

A Guide to SaaS Marketing and SaaS Marketing Metrics

As businesses start to switch their operations and procedures to software solutions, the Saas industry has begun to take over. Saas products’ virtual and online elements have caused its delivery model to become the core of business applications. This technological shift has not only grown the Saas market significantly but has also created a vast new customer base for Saas companies. While this offers an incredible opportunity for your Saas business, to make the most of this technological advancement, you’ll need to know how to make the most of your Saas marketing. 
Don’t worry— we got you covered. Here’s a guide to some Saas marketing strategies (and metrics) that will encourage growth for your business.

How is Saas Marketing Different than Other Industries?

No doubt promoting Saas products has its challenges. Since there is nothing tangible to show your potential customers, your marketing efforts must work twice as hard to convince your audience that your product can solve their problems. Ensuring that promotion efforts focus on your product’s value is crucial because users can’t physically see it themselves.
Marketing efforts must also target every stage of the buyer’s journey. This is because most Saas users decide which product to use fairly quickly. The decision-making process is sped up as users have access to information with one quick online search. To appeal to the informed buyer, your content must be loaded with pertinent and relevant information to convince users o try your service.

Effective Saas Marketing Channels to Utilize

SEO

Today’s buyer is more informed than ever, and most of the time, they are going to search engines for their answers. This means SEO is crucial for any Saas business that wants their solution discovered on Google. Working on SEO provides businesses with better search engine rankings and visibility to create their presence online and, most importantly, to be found by users. 

Content Marketing

No matter the market, businesses use content marketing to grow their brand and build awareness. Most importantly, content drives leads. Creating and promoting content attracts website visitors and ramps up audience engagement to turn uncertain prospects into paying customers.

Retargeting

Retargeting (or remarketing) turns website visitors into customers. After someone visits your website and then leaves, retargeting can re-engage with them by displaying online adverts on other sites they visit. This valuable tool gives your brand another chance to establish trust and familiarity with website visitors so they can come back and convert into customers.

Referrals

For some Saas solutions, users can naturally expand a customer base by introducing the product to others. With referrals being one of the lowest costing and quickest ways for Saas companies to have new users, many businesses have implemented a referral system or program. To ensure quality referrals, organizations will often ask for information regarding the person’s industry, company, or job title and sometimes include an incentive.

Saas Marketing Metrics to Focus on

Next, let’s talk about metrics. Monitoring analytics not only helps the effectiveness of your marketing but also exposes risks and finds opportunities to accelerate scalability. To help to stay focused on the growth of your Saas business, concentrate on analyzing these metrics: 

Churn

Churn is one of the most important metrics for any Saas company because it tells a company how much business they are losing over a certain period of time. While customer service may play an essential role in keeping a low churn percentage, marketing should also be analyzing ways to improve this metric. Churn is more than lost customers or revenue. A sure way to keep a high churn rate is to market and sell your product to those who truly need it.

Qualified Leads

Let’s talk about LEADS. Any marketer or sales reps know the importance of generating leads. However, you don’t want to waste your time on just any lead — you need to make sure they’re qualified. In addition, break leads into lifecycle categories like MQL and SQL. This helps outline where potential customers are in the buying process and identify any leads that get stuck in the funnel.

CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost)

Customer Acquisition Costs tells companies how much it costs to acquire new customers and how much value they bring to your business. To calculate CAC, take total sales and marketing spend and divide it by the number of new customers (over a specific time). CAC helps companies manage their growth and accurately gauge the value of their acquisition process.

CLV (Customer Lifetime Value)

CLV shows the average amount of money each customer pays during their engagement with your company/product. This metric is very insightful for Saas companies because it articulates an accurate portrayal of a business’s value and growth.


Ready to implement these marketing strategies? We can help! Let’s get started
 

4 B2B Social Media Strategies Businesses Can Test Out

4 B2B Social Media Strategies Businesses Can Test Out

For most of us, social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives — whether you’re a marketer or not. With over 3 billion users worldwide, social media is now an essential channel for communicating and connecting with friends, colleagues, and, most importantly, target audiences. 
You may think only B2C companies are allowed to have social media creative fun  —  but wait! B2B companies can also find ways to build and spike their social media engagement too. The landscape of B2B social media has completely transformed in the past few years. B2B companies have begun to fully embrace their brand and social media content to engage, attract and inform their audiences.
So how can your B2B company successfully use one of the influential marketing channels? Let’s take a look!

4 B2B Social Media Strategies For You to Try

Work on Your Brand Tone

If your audience can recognize your company based on its logo, they should be able to do the same with your brand voice. When posting on social media, your tone should be identifiable and your own. Having this unique voice will make your brand stand out among your competitors while additionally helping with your brand awareness. Don’t forget to use those brand colors to encourage brand association!
Most importantly, this should reach beyond social and bleed into your other content as well (website, email, etc.) If you’re having trouble creating a brand voice, look back at blogs or landing pages and try to adapt the same tone to your social messaging.

Test Out Content and Posting

There’s only one way to see if alternate types of content will work — you have to test it out! Every audience is different, so it’s worth trying to experiment with what grabs their attention the most. While there are numerous social media experiments possible, here are a few to try on your channels:

  • Test out various hashtags for impressions
  • Adjust your posting schedule (more posts vs. fewer posts)
  • Place CTAs and links in different places in posts 
  • Put a paid campaign behind alternate posts (image vs. text vs. video)
  • Test platform features to track views and clicks (polls, stories, etc.)
  • Change to smart content instead of everyday posts

Recognize Your Channels’ Audiences

Despite what social platforms you use, it’s important to realize that not every channel has the same audiences, which means you should be tailoring your content accordingly. The most important platform to note for B2B marketers is LinkedIn. As one of the world’s largest online professional networks, this channel is one of the best ways for B2B companies to reach targeted audiences and potential prospects. 
With LinkedIn being a more professional setting, users join to find resources, connections, and knowledge within their career path or industry. As a B2B company, it’s important to use your LinkedIn account to establish your expertise and be a trusted thought leader within your industry to attract engagement and leads. With this in mind, LinkedIn social posts should be meaningful and educational, using content like blogs, webinars, whitepapers, case studies, videos, infographics, etc.

Let the Numbers do the Talking

Now that you’ve posted your social content, it’s time to analyze the metrics. However, you shouldn’t be focusing your attention on vanity measurements like likes and comments. Instead, look at metrics such as clicks, engagement, views, impressions. These numbers give a more accurate picture of how your post resonated with your followers and audience. 
Using platforms like HubSpot, you can also track WHO is interacting with your social media post (website visits, landing page clicks, etc.) As a B2B company, this is super valuable as it enables you to follow more qualified leads. 
While these are only a few strategies, it just goes to show that B2B companies can get in on the “social media action” too. Just remember: The more you work on your B2B social media strategies, the more you’ll be on your way to figuring out best practices. 


Looking to implement a B2B social media campaign? Let’s talk!