Crowd-sourcing creative reviews. The act of getting so much input from so many different people on each round of review for a marketing piece that the project goes on-and-on, in circles, resulting in excessive time, money and resources being spent for a sub-par end product.

Round 1: My boss suggested making the green button bigger.

Round 2: Let’s make the button red, my colleague thought that would look nice.

Round 3: I think it’s too much red and my wife agrees; let’s make the button gray.

Round 4: It’s not popping when it’s gray. I showed my boss again and he says that we should try green again, but I didn’t like the last shade of green, so make it a different green this time.

Round 5: It’s still not doing it for me. Please create a few versions next round, some with large buttons, some with small, in each of the colors we’ve tried so far and any other colors that you think might work. I’ll show my lunch group and see what they think looks best.

You get the idea.

I did some of this myself when I was a young marketing manager. I was very comfortable with spreadsheets and numbers; copy, wireframes and design were exciting but foreign to me. I was a bit lost so I would ask anyone and everyone what they thought. I was lucky to have colleagues who were patient but firm — here are few things they taught me which I offer up to help you or your colleagues who may be struggling.

1. Have the Courage of Your Convictions

Unlike numbers, copy and design can be very subjective. And what looks great to one person may not appeal to another. Just because someone questions your choice, doesn’t mean your choice is wrong. Think about why you made the choice you did — if it’s a choice the copywriter or designer made, ask them why they made it.

Sometimes there are good reasons for a choice. Let’s say the call-to-action button on your email message is green and someone suggests to you that it should be red. Ask why they believe red might be more effective at driving conversions; see what they say and then compare it (in your mind) to your (or your designer’s) justification for making it green. You should be able to justify everything in every marketing piece you create — at least everything that’s material (more on that in a bit).

If you colleague has a better justification than you do, you might decide to change it to red. If not, you might decide to stay with green. The key is to know what’s behind the green button choice so you can analyze suggestions and determine whether to:

A. make the change,

B. run an A/B split test to see if the red button drives more bottom line conversions than the green, or

C. thank the colleague for their input and stay with green (if you’re like me, you’ll share the reasons behind the green choice and try to bring them around to your way of thinking. But even if you fail at this, you’ll stick with green. Convictions, courage.).

2. Understand What is Material — and What’s Not

In the above example we were talking about a call-to-action button; there’s little question that this is a material part of any marketing email. But I often see those new to the creative process spinning wheels on things that aren’t material. When I say material, I mean things that will directly impact the bottom line performance of the marketing piece.

The color of a call-to-action button is material; the color of the border on your email message typically is not. Headline copy is material; the copy around the unsubscribe link in the footer is not (assuming it’s clear and truthful). Fixing a typo is material; taking the headline font down one size typically is not.

Now, it’s not that you never make changes to things that aren’t material. It’s fine to resize a headline, change the border color of an email or rework your unsubscribe copy. But you make these changes in the first round of review — not in the third round and certainly not the day of the send when the piece has already been through multiple rounds of review and feedback.

In email marketing, the goal of the email is to meet your business goals. And if it’s not material then by definition it won’t directly impact the bottom line performance of the email. In which case, it shouldn’t be changed past the first round after it is introduced into the design (if it has been there since the start and is identified as a change in a late round, there’s been a breakdown in one of the earlier rounds when it was missed or overlooked).

3. Don’t Hesitate to Rely on Your Creative Team

I came up through the brand (client) side, but for the majority of my years I’ve been on the agency/consultant side. All agencies and consultants want you to succeed; they want you to meet your goals and they want their email marketing pieces to help you do it.

Your creative team, specifically the strategist assigned to your account (and if you don’t have an actual strategist, you’re at a disadvantage; few account managers truly have the experience to act as strategists), should be able, as I said before, to justify everything material in the email message.

As a strategist myself, I know that it is my job to help my clients make informed choices. It’s their choice to make the button red or green — but it’s my job to share with them the pros and cons of each option. If I can show them testing we did with another division in their company last year where a green button outperformed a red button by 68% in return-on-ad-spend (ROAS), that bolsters my case. But even if I don’t have quantitative support like that there is usually a good reason that I can articulate for the material choices I’ve made.

That green button? It’s based on the psychology of color. Green is the color of go; red is the color of stop. When I’ve tested it in the past, green has always won over red. It would be great to test it to see which performs better with the hypothetical client’s audience, and the results of that test may change my opinion, but without that data point I will always support green over red.

4. If You Must Crowd-source Creative Feedback, Do It Responsibly

There are times when some level of crowd-sourcing creative reviews is required. Perhaps the ‘crowd’ is your boss, or a product team or some other group or person who you have to get buy-in from. If this is the case, just do it responsibly. Here are some tips.

  • Determine who needs to be involved in the review process with you and include them in the very first round.
  • Include the same people in every round of review and feedback. This way no one is seeing the creative for the first time in round 8 and providing feedback that reverses what was done in round 3.
  • Ask their reasons and vet the comments people give you. Don’t just blindly pass the feedback to the creative team, make sure that it makes sense to you.
  • Consolidate the comments you get and confirm that none of them contradict each other. It’s not fair to make your creative team determine what to do when one comment says ‘make the button red’ and another says ‘keep the button green.’
  • Help yourself, the creative team and the people who are reviewing marketing pieces with you by educating them on best practices for providing feedback — this article is a good start.

Try these tips with your next crowd-sourcing creative experience and let me know how it goes!



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