In the previous two articles, we discussed the first two steps for developing creative that drives results—effective briefing and building a creative concept. Now, we'll introduce you to the third: delivering your marketing messaging via the right medium.

The Medium Is the Message

How often have you heard that phrase?

If you're involved in marketing, I can safely assume that the answer is "very often."

The phrase was coined by Canadian communication theory philosopher Herbert Marshall McLuhan—the man who also predicted the creation of the World Wide Web almost three decades before it was developed.

Essentially, the phrase means that the medium used to transfer the message from one party to another actually shapes the message by influencing how the audience experiences the content.

For those of us involved in digital marketing, that phrase has always been important, as our fast-changing media environment is hard to predict. So we have to pay attention to how our medium affects our audience, and we must consider how to use what we learn to our (or our clients') advantage.

Changing the Message to Suit the User Experience

For example, let's take a look at a staple of modern digital marketing—email.

Email marketing is relatively inexpensive, easy to track, and highly effective when done right. And though many businesses still use print, email has replaced a lot of direct marketing efforts as a result of the prevalence of the Web.

One outcome is that email messages adopt a less formal tone than other forms of written communication—perhaps as a byproduct of their accessibility through nonofficial channels at any time. As a result, marketers can write direct marketing emails (we call them eDMs) that read less like form letters or brochures and more like a personal message between friends.

But, now, smartphone and tablet technologies are changing the game again—with some studies estimating that well over 40% of email is opened on mobile devices.

You Still Have to Get That Click
As the formulation suggests, "results-driven creative" focuses on developing creative content that shapes the user response—and, in email marketing, that response is a click-through, usually to a campaign website.

But as mobile adoption increases, the time spent reading individual email messages has dropped. So you can't easily get that click using long-form email content.

That means your emails must be inviting—regardless of the screen they are viewed on—with short, accessible copy, plenty of white space, and thumb-friendly designs.

The content itself has to speak to the target audience quickly about the challenges they're facing—with compelling points and relevant graphics—and must offer an obvious reward for the readers' time and consideration.

Finally, effective eDM design generates a click using an obvious call-to-action button. The structure and the content work together to explain the benefits of clicking through, and the thumb-friendly button usually features action-oriented text that describes the benefits the user is about to receive.

Click Acquired. What Happens Now?

Well done, they clicked through! The reader is now a visitor on your campaign site.

Here, your design and compelling creative tell a digital story that encourages further action.

But how do you get a visitor—albeit a targeted one—to take a prescribed course of action once they reach your page?

Making Them Care
You appeal to their emotions. As we covered in a previous article on creative concepts, even in B2B marketing those making the purchase decisions are still people. And although the motivators behind business decisions can differ greatly from those that drive consumer purchases, this one simple marketing truth remains valid:

You are selling a lifestyle choice.

When you or your creative team set out to build a campaign, you're constructing a compelling story that shows the target audience how they would be better off by following a specific course of action.

Here are a few B2B and B2C examples that show how the storytelling approach works:

  • Bake-at-home buns: Paint a scene of the audience enjoying hot, delicious baked goods straight from the oven—a little piece of homemade luxury.
  • Champagne flutes: Tell a story in which their lives are made that much better with—or could suffer due to a lack of—flawless crystal drinkware.
  • New office space: Demonstrate how the business benefits of a modern working environment can flow onto the person making the purchase decision—in the form of praise from superiors, promotions, and their team's renewed enthusiasm for work.
  • Desktop virtualization: Explore how desktop virtualization actively delivers business benefits that simplify the decision-maker's day-to-day tasks.

Although the methods used to tell those stories are sure to differ—with whitepapers and industry reports for businesses, and personal imagery for consumer selling—the fact remains that you are telling a story about a better life.

Every element in your campaign should be geared toward telling that story—and giving the user a simple action to follow.

One Call to Action

When you're building a campaign, you're setting up structures that draw your audience to one key conclusion, and give them a means of acting on it.

Before you start, it's important that you have your desired outcome firmly in mind.

If you're unsure of the way forward, choose a simple action with simple messaging. Explicitly state the action you want the audience to take, and reinforce the need for action using clear language. It's better to deliver an overt call to action (CTA) that gets results than an obscure suggestion hidden by a convoluted pun or inside joke. If your campaign doesn't make it as simple as possible to act, your visitors will just ignore it and move on with their day.

Now to the obvious question: why just one CTA?

Your campaign is an investment. Gaining your audience's attention takes valuable time, effort, and resources. So it's tempting to maximize the returns on this investment by loading a campaign with multiple CTAs that might result in revenue.

But will you really get better results from multiple CTAs? It is possible. But it's more likely you'll just confuse your audience.

Stay on Message

The mantra "stay on message" warns us to keep campaigns simple. Stacking multiple CTAs into a campaign has the potential to interrupt the story you've worked so hard to craft.

By this stage, you've guided your audience to a point where they expect direction. With multiple CTAs, you instead give them a range of choices—which may not match the campaign message. As a result, choice paralysis and message dilution can rob your campaign of effectiveness.

Moreover, it's easier to track the effectiveness of a simple campaign with a single call to action—which in turn helps you gauge audience interest and better calculate the return on investment.

To sum up:

  • Respect your audience's time: Solve their problems without waffle or fluff.
  • Stay on message: Keep the value proposition clear.
  • Give them reasons to care: Use design and content to inspire action.
  • Make it easy to act: Put as few steps as possible between the point of entry, message reception, and call to action.
  • Sell a lifestyle choice: It delivers better results than just listing facts.

In the next article—the final installment of this series—I'll show you how marketers can help close bigger deals more often.

Articles in this four-part series:

1. Results-Driven Marketing Creative in Four Steps, Part 1: Efficient Creative Briefing

2. Results-Driven Marketing Creative in Four Steps, Part 2: Building a Creative Concept

3. Results-Driven Marketing Creative in Four Steps, Part 3: The Right Medium

4. Results-Driven Marketing Creative in Four Steps, Part 4: Matching the Lead Gen Process

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Results-Driven Marketing Creative in Four Steps, Part 3: The Right Medium

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image of Cameron Avery

Cameron Avery is the CEO of Elastic Digital, a channel marketing company and creator of the demand generation platform The Grid. Elastic Digital complements The Grid with a full-service creative agency and team of channel marketing experts.

LinkedIn: Cameron Avery