Better results from your marketing/design feedback loop

Badly organised feedback loops between marketing teams and designers always increases the amount of time a project takes, inflates costs, demotivates everyone involved and generally results in a piece of work no one is really happy with.

A lot of this is totally avoidable by using a predetermined and structured feedback loop.

The initial brief

Include as much information here as possible. Assume nothing, and specify exactly what you want.

The worst thing you can do is simply hope the designer creates what you have envisioned. Chances are you’ll be disappointed by their inability to read minds.

If you have a clear idea of what you want, let them know before they start.

“We need an arrow!”



If you only have a general idea or simply just a need for some collateral, and you need their creative input at a more granular level, there are still plenty of ways you can speed up the process. Key information to provide includes:

  • Brand guidelines/ colour schemes and logos (if you are outsourcing)
  • Deadlines – So, so important but often overlooked
  • The target audience
  • The context in which it will be used – magazine, Facebook, website, hand out, exhibition…
  • The purpose of the collateral – what do you want it to achieve?
  • Dimensions
  • File size limit
  • Are there any text ratio limits (like Facebook enforces)?
  • Can it be animated, and if so are there any time/frame restrictions?

If you struggle to articulate exactly what you want, a great way to help get your designer off on the right foot is to provide examples of other work that you like the look of.

Obviously you don’t want a carbon copy, but this acts as a mood board to illustrate your thinking.

How to give good design feedback

Plan ahead

I would recommend creating a feedback schedule in advance that everyone agrees to, and signs off.

Use your launch date/deadline and then work your backwards, pinpointing when each iteration should be ready for feedback.


A Gantt chart with each stage broken down by time and responsibility is a great way to do this.

Remember to allocate enough time between each stage for your designer to work on any amends.

Too many cooks…

If there are multiple stakeholders who are giving feedback, make sure one person is given responsibility to gather it all and disseminate.

Additionally, you should all discuss any conflicting opinions and come to a compromise before submitting feedback to the designer.


(Taken from

There is nothing worse than having multiple, contradictory opinions to deal with.

Be specific

Again, be specific with what you want changing. Just giving a general sense of “we think it needs to be more striking” is impossible to action.


Tools such as ‘Awesome screenshot app’ allow you to annotate and draw on images. This cuts down on any misunderstanding of what you are describing you want changing.

Remove subjectivity as much as possible and test

A major problem with design is that everyone has an opinion. Unlike programming code or mechanical engineering, we all have our ideas about how something should look.

There are times when this leads to conflict, and with out someone backing down, it can lead to a compromise design or no design at all.

If there are two opposing opinions on a major component (e.g. the image to use in a website’s home page header), remove personal opinion and test them both with an A/B test. If the disagreement is over something relatively minor, trust your designer, that;s what you pay them for!

Don’t use email to manage design projects

Email is a terrible way to manage feedback on any project. Multiple conversations and versions make version control very difficult.

It can also very easily result in different groups knowing different things as conversations develop.

Slack logo

I would recommend using software such as Trello or Slack. Both of these offer free plans, and all feedback, files, comments and to do lists are all in once place for everyone to see.


5 things you don’t want to hear about your marketing

We all like to think we are doing an amazing job, and it is a brave marketer who approaches performance and analysis with an honest and open mind. They are also usually the most successful.

Here are five truths that can be applied to every business’ marketing, no matter how big or small their budget.

Most email marketing sucks, and yours probably does as well

I can count on one hand the number of emails I get from companies that I actually read. And even then I’ve got fingers to spare.

This is despite my professional interest in email marketing. If I didn’t have that, I’d only open offer based emails from brands I already bought from, or emails that deliver really useful content.

Moz top 10

Really useful content from

If you look at your email marketing metrics (opens, clicks, conversions, unsubscribes etc.) they rarely make for great reading.

This is usually because you are either going through the motions, or applying the same thinking as 10 years ago.

Putting together a generic newsletter every month, with a mix of company news and offers doesn’t cut it any more. Your marketing emails must serve the customer, not the product.

Just ask yourself if your emails are valuable even if your potential customer never buys.Noah Kagan, AppSumo

This image below is a genuine screenshot from my a folder I created to highlight how many emails send.

sportsdirect emails

Whoever is running’s email marketing is certainly productive at putting them together and hitting send.

Running too many price promotions/offers reduces sales

Short-term price promotions are a great way to increase sales quickly. However, this quick win can lead to long term problems.

What you’ll often see is an immediate increase in sales, and then once the offer ends, a slump that goes below the previous non-promotional level.

The next promotion will raise sales again, albeit at a smaller level than before, but then you’ll see a decline yet gain post-promotion.


Regular price promotions train customers to expect them, and they’ll often wait for the next round of discounts before making a purchase.

A succession of short-term response-focused campaigns (including promotionally driven ones) will not succeed as strongly over the longer term as a single brand-building campaign designed to achieve year-on-year improvement to business success.

I’ll support this with a personal anecdote.

I came across sunglasses company Hawkers ( recently and really liked their designs.

However, being in the UK, I don’t have a lot of use for them and went on my way. I then started to be shown their remarketing banners, which varied from single product to multi-product adverts.

What was consistent was their use of discount codes for me to get money off. Oddly, these would also be different, sometimes 10% off and other times 30% off.

Facebook hawkers

I nearly purchased a pair a couple of times, but even if I decide to complete a purchase, I definitely won’t without a money off code.

They blinked too soon and too often.

Effective marketing is now permission based

Interruption marketing is firmly on the decline. People interact with media in radically different ways compared to the golden age of interruption marketing (1960’s to the late 80’s).

They no longer have to passively consume what is being distributed, a trend highlighted by the falling viewership/readership of TV, magazines and newspapers.

Like it or not, the ad industry’s traditional approach to a story arc—beginning, middle, and end in a 30-second spot—is a thing of the past.”

Additionally, we no longer have to accept being part of a small number of large homogenous groups. All our preferences and tastes are now catered for, no matter how niche.

We are in control.

This means that brands have to work significantly harder to a) be noticed and b) be accepted.

Booking your magazine advert, combined with leaflet drops and the occasional email is not marketing in a modern sense.

90% of marketing is a simple 5 step process

Every industry or discipline likes to talk up what it does, and essentially create unnecessary layers of complexity.

Marketing is full of theories, frameworks and models from the 1970’s that are never used in the real world (E.g. The Boston Matrix), and we continue to add to this bloated universe by over complicating new technology such as social media (Amplification etc.)

The key to effective marketing is to:

  1. Understand your market
  2. Identify who your target audience are within that market (and their traits)
  3. Agree on how you want to position yourself
  4. Research where and how they consume media
  5. Go and do it

Pretty much everything else is bloat.

If you aren’t thinking mobile first, you are losing

We all know that most emails are now read on mobile devices.

But what is less known is people now turn to their phones or tablets to solve immediate problems, and they expect brands to deliver them with immediate answers.

For example, when choosing what to cook for their evening meal, research has found that while people over 35 are more likely to print out a recipe, 59% of 25- to 34-year-olds cook with either their smartphones or tablets handy.

The graph below shows the percentage of people in the UK who use their phones and tablets to research local information (restaurants, shops etc.) The two combined have overtaken traditional PCs.

Consumer Barometer(Source:

Mobile first marketing is a great opportunity for every business:

  • Of smartphone users, 91% turn to their devices for ideas while completing a task.
  • Nearly one in three millennials say they’ve purchased a product as a result of watching a how-to video.
  • 82% of smartphone users turn to their phone to influence a purchase decision while in a store.

The key is to identify which medium your target audience use to use to discover and consume this information on their mobile devices. These are typically…

  • YouTube videos
  • Step by step written guides
  • Map search

None of these are exclusive to big brands. For example, if you have a device to capture film and audio (most smart phones are good enough for this) and a YouTube account, you should be taking advantage of this huge opportunity.

Trust is email marketing’s most important metric

There are two broad approaches to marketing, interruption marketing and permission marketing.

One barges its way in to your consciousness though noise and repetition, the other adds enough value that you actively choose to receive it.

Effective email marketing is absolutely based around the principles of permission marketing. All those spam emails you NEVER read? Interruption marketing at its worst.

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. – Seth Godin

So how do you convince someone to a) sign up to receive marketing emails from you, b) read them and c) act on them?

By building trust

Effective email marketing is:

  • Anticipated: People will anticipate the service/product information from the company.
  • Personal: The marketing information explicitly relates to the customer.
  • Relevant: The marketing information is something that the consumer is interested in.

In this post I will show you how email marketing based around trust will create a profitable relationship with your customers and subscribers.

Content they know they want

Two important questions to ask yourself before sending any email are:

  1. How are you adding value for your readers?
  2. How are you helping them be more successful?

Sending people company news is absolutely fine, as long as it is written in a way that shows how it benefits your customers/readers.

But just sending this week after week isn’t going to excite anyone, and it won’t make people look forward to your next email.

By solving problems and adding value, your readers quickly learn to trust your emails as being a useful resource, and not another cold sales email.

Cross-pollenating content from your blog is a great way to tick both these boxes. (Don’t have a blog? Here is why every business should have a blog.) have always used email marketing really well. Their ‘Moz Top 10’ is packed full of useful links and makes no attempt to get me to buy their service.

Moz top 10


They use email marketing as an extension of their content-led marketing strategy. Moz use their own, and 3rd party content to position themselves as thought leaders.

This makes them extremely confident I will choose their service if I have any need for that type of software. Maintaining contact and my engagement is achievement enough for them right now.

Target and personalise

Email is one of the few marketing channels you have that you can heavily personalise to a user. Take advantage of this.

This goes beyond inserting their name in to the salutation (e.g. “Hi Matt” rather than “Dear customer”), and it includes personalising the content you send them as well.

The easiest way to do this is to segment your list based on the actions they take (or don’t take).

If you are a blog…

This can be done by segmenting your subscriber list by their level of engagement (e.g. opens and clicks). Services like MailChimp (which I use) gives each subscriber a star rating based on how they interact with your emails.

The type of content you send to the regular readers can be a lot more content driven and interactive than those who don’t engage with you.

The unengaged segment list should get emails aimed at getting them to, you guessed it, engage more.

If you sell products online…

Segment your list using a Recency, Frequency and Value model (more on that here).

Your VIP group should receive content designed to mobilise them to advocacy, rewards to treat them as a special group and maintain a strong brand relationship.

Your bottom group (typically inactive customers) will need strong incentives to start buying from you again, so focus this content on special offers, bundling and getting feedback on how you can fulfil their needs in the future.

Ask your subscribers to self-categorise

Another approach to segmenting your subscribers is to ask them to put themselves in to categories.

These categories will depend on your audience, but as an example you could ask them to choose whether they are an individual, a business, a charity etc.

I have previously written what a great job Costa Coffee did with this in an email to me. You can read more about that here, but in a nutshell they are asked me to share my favourite coffee moment. These were predefined options to chose from:

  • The ‘reboot my morning’ coffee
  • The ‘I’ve shopped till I drop’ coffee
  • The ‘Three peaceful chapters’ coffee
  • The ‘Tell me everything’ coffee
  • The ‘Little cup of me time’ coffee
  • The ‘In my own little world’ coffee

As customers, we were segmenting ourselves for them. This information, married with purchase behaviour gleaned from my loyalty point card, will be an incredibly powerful tool for their branding, product and customer retention marketing.

Be a person, not a faceless company

We all get a lot of emails. To filter out irrelevant messages, one of the things we do when checking our inbox is to see who the emails are from.

I would recommend personalising the ‘From’ address to come from a named person. This helps to turn your company in to a team of people, not a faceless corporation. E.g. is better than

Making it clear the email is from you contributes to trust by ensuring you’re quickly recognised. This draws on the strength of your relationship with the subscriber.

In the email itself, the biggest identity benefits come from a recognisable sender in the from line. The most appropriate format here depends on the nature of the email list and the familiarity of subscribers with all the options.

Typical alternatives are:

  • Person’s name (e.g. a known account manager)
  • Organisation’s name
  • Person’s name + organization
  • Brand name
  • Name of email list or newsletter

Double opt-in

A simple thing to set up, and highly recommended. Double opt-in pretty much guarantees good list quality.


By asking subscribers to confirm they asked to sign up via an initial email, this mechanism removes any email addresses that are either fake, or used by someone else to sign them up.

Green PR is a gift that keeps giving

PR is an essential activity for any business, but it can be easy to get tunnel vision and engage in typical, formulaic PR activity.

New client information, award shortlists and new hires are the bread and butter of PR ventures, but there are other avenues to explore that are much more satisfying.

Green PR is one such avenue, and it comes with a multiple benefits.

What is Green PR?

Green is an adjective frequently applied to things that are perceived as morally or socially conscious, and ‘Green’ PR is no exception.

Green PR is essentially promoting the less corporate, more ‘feel-good’ aspects of a company’s activities.

It can take the form of publicising the recent charity work a company has been involved in or could be promoting the efforts a company has taken to become more eco-friendly.

The benefits are that the company gains brand awareness whilst raising its profile within a community – all the while genuinely benefitting society as a whole.

Many companies undertake community and charity work as a means of giving something back to the public, but these activities aren’t always taken advantage of from a PR perspective.

A business can also adjust the scope of these efforts according to the scale of the activity.

So, for some ventures simply notifying the local and regional press will suffice, whereas others can tie in national media outlets or specific foundations and organisations related to the type of activity.

How is it done?

Green PR is usually no harder to implement than simply creating stories around the good things a company gets up to already and then distributing them.

However, if the company isn’t already taking part in PR-worthy activities then there’s no need to worry as supporting the community is as simple as it is rewarding.

Here are a couple of examples of what companies could get involved with.

Support a charity

Charities rely on the goodwill of others, and companies are in a great position to help make a difference by supporting those in need.

Regular donations are obviously a wonderful contribution, but actively taking part in fundraising events is more beneficial to both the donor and the charity involved.

This is because it supports their ability to publish their activities and gives the donor a new opportunity to promote their own.

Not only that, but supporting a charity can reinforce a company’s ethical element, brand values and trustworthiness – all of which are hugely attractive to both customers and prospective employees.

Supporting a charity also gives a great opportunity for business networking, as other similarly motivated business owners and employees are likely to be involved.

A good example is Safestore, who’ve pledged to support the disability charity, Scope.

The company has branches across the UK, and each regional store is competing against each other to fill the most sacks with clothes etc.

By doing this, they not only put in a huge effort for the charity, they benefit from being able to publicise their efforts in each regional location, multiplying the exposure.

Go green

A company’s green credentials are important, not just from an environmental perspective but from a public relations viewpoint as well.

There’s an ever increasing pressure for businesses to recycle and to make socially conscious decisions, and it’s actually becoming easier for companies to make efforts towards becoming more responsible.

Many local councils offer comprehensive recycling solutions, and there are other options available for modest fee.

However, to really make a great story from going green, businesses are likely to need to go above and beyond the usual level of activity.

Is there any way the business could use renewable energy sources, such as installing a small wind turbine? Are solar panels a possibility?

Working towards becoming more carbon neutral is certainly a newsworthy story that can be sent on to any local media and trade publications.

Recently, Nissan’s Sunderland plant has applied for permission to build a solar farm on its premises in order to offset some of its energy consumption and save a large amount of Co2 emissions.

The permission hasn’t even been granted yet, but local media has covered the story nonetheless.

Support a community

Supporting the local community is a fantastic way of raising the profile of a business whilst giving something genuinely beneficial back.

Similar to supporting a charity, helping out in the community has the chance to benefit a large number of people whilst also making for a great story and strengthening company values.

The benefits don’t just stop there either, as staff are also likely to reap positive benefits.

Working together on a voluntary project can increase your staff’s morale and also help to create a closer working relationship – all of which makes staff more efficient and happier.

Hudgell Solicitors provide a great example of a business giving back to the community and changing lives in the process.

The Hudgell Solicitors Trust offer grants every three months to individuals and groups, and the aim is to support grassroots level activities.

These activities may relate to health, sport, education or other worthwhile causes.

Getting involved in socially conscious activities can reap big rewards and open the door to widespread coverage that goes beyond publicity and serves to reinforce brand values and make a business more attractive.

How to control your PPC budget

A badly structured and unmonitored PPC account can easily burn through your marketing budget in a matter of hours.

There are plenty of horror stories recounting how small businesses have wasted hundreds or even thousands of pounds on PPC. Understandably this makes other small businesses nervous to start using channels such as Google AdWords.

It doesn’t have to be like that, and it is a shame they are missing out on sales, when all you need to do is follow some very basic rules.

Here are my tips on how to manage your PPC budget effectively.

Target the lower end of the conversion funnel

Think of the way you use search engines to search for a product or service you haven’t purchased before.

You start with broad terms such as “best headphones” or “headphones reviews”. After conducting your research, you filter down to the products you want to buy with transactional searches such as “Bose SoundTrue Around Ear Headphones”.

conversion funnel

The first search term is at the upper levels of the conversion funnel (the research stage). These traditionally have a low conversion rate because people aren’t ready to buy yet, which means higher CPAs if you bid on those keywords.

The second search term is at the purchase stage of the funnel. This is where you should focus your budget.

Only advertise on Google’s search network

By default you are opted in to advertise in Google’s search partner network. This includes websites that carry Google searches as part of their services.

These typically send lower quality traffic which means higher costs and CPA’s.

Campaign Management – Google AdWords

When I set up a new campaign, deselecting this is one of the first things I do. In some cases I have seen savings of up to 25%.

Use exact match and negative keywords

Broad match and phrase match are notorious for eating through PPC budgets. This is fine if you have thousands to spend and a high CPA is acceptable.

However, if you are on a small budget, and you need to work towards a low CPA I would recommend exclusively bidding against exact match keywords.

Additionally, don’t overlook your negative keywords.

I have had negative lists that run in to the thousands before. Some of the keywords to include in this list are obvious “sex” etc. Some are less obvious, and others are impossible to guess at.

Every week run a report to see which keywords triggered an advert. Fish out any that you don’t want to show an advert for and add them to your negative list.

The chart below is taken from Google’s support pages.

Match type

Special symbol

Example keyword

Ads may show on searches that

Example searches

Broad match none women’s hats include misspellings, synonyms, related searches and other relevant variations buy ladies hats
Broad match modifier +keyword +women’s +hats contain the modified term (or close variations, but not synonyms), in any order hats for women
Phrase match “keyword” “women’s hats” are a phrase, and close variations of that phrase buy women’s hats
Exact match [keyword] [women’s hats] are an exact term and close variations of that exact term women’s hats
Negative match -keyword -women are searches without the term baseball hats

Only show ads during busy traffic and sales periods

You don’t have to shows your ads 24×7, every day. You can pick and choose the time slots your ads appear, and the days, very easily.

To do this, follow these steps:

Go to your campaign > Settings > Ad schedule > Click on +Ad schedule > Click on + Create custom schedule

Use your sales data and Google Analytics to identify when your busiest periods are. This is clearly the optimal time to advertise, and rather than spreading yourself thinly over 24 hours, invest your budget to be seen as much as possible at these times.

Use geographic targeting

PPC isn’t exclusively a national channel. Google gives advertisers some seriously cool tools to target people based on where they are. This is super-important if you are a local/regional business.

If you service a limited geographic region, the last thing you want is someone the other side of the country clicking on your advert when they can’t possibly use you.

9 Location targeting map

This is done at the campaign level of your account: Settings > Locations > Click on “+LOCATIONS”

If this is something you’d like to find out more about, check out my detailed step-by-step guide on how to create a hyper local PPC campaign.

And finally… Set a daily budget you can afford!

Don’t set your daily budget to be more than you can afford. This may sound obvious, but I have been asked to help numerous small business AdWords account that have not thought about budget control on a day to day level.

Because Google AdWords asks for a daily budget, some account managers set the daily targets higher than the monthly budget.

Don’t do this.

The maths is simple. If you want to advertise 7 days a week, take your monthly budget and divide it by the number of days in the month.

If you only want to advertise during the working week, divide your monthly total by the number of weekdays in that month and so on.

More about Google AdWords

If you are just getting started with Googe AdWords, have a read of my Teach yourself Google AdWords post. If you are looking some advanced tips, you should read my How to target mobile phone users using Google AdWords.

Tools to instantly improve your marketing for only £15.47

Now more than ever, we all have free (or low-cost) access to marketing tools and technology that used to cost thousands of pounds.

The extent to which you manage and analyse your marketing efforts is no longer a budgetary decision.

Marketing performance is an area that is full of amazing free, and super low cost tools. Here are the tools you need to improve your marketing, that are either free, or ridiculously cheap.


A/B testing


Tool: Google Analytics Content Experiments

Instead of guessing, or using educated assumptions, use data to direct you towards the perfect page.

Google Analytics comes with A/B testing built in, allowing you to statistically determine the best way to present information to achieve your goals. Read my post about running your first A/B test.

Cost: Free


Email Marketing


Tool: MailChimp

I use MailChimp myself to manage this blog’s subscribers and automated emails. MailChimp is very easy to use, and quick to pick up. You’ll need to upgrade to a paid account (starts at $10 per month) to remove their branding or use the automation tools.

Cost: Starts at free


Brand awareness tracking


Tool: Google Consumer Surveys

You can use this service to run a survey asking “Which of the following companies have you heard of?” listing your own and your direct competitors. After your brand campaign has finished, run the survey again and track the changes in awareness. I’ve covered this in more detail in my post “How to do brand awareness tracking without spending thousands.”

Cost: £60 per survey


Customer surveys


Tool: SurveyGizmo

A very easy to use, hosted survey tool. Everything is point and click, and you can easily add your own branding. Analysing your survey results is made as simple as possible as well.

Cost: $25 (£15.47) per month


Project/ task management


Tool: Trello

I am a huge fan of Trello, and have used it extensively for large and small projects, across multi-office teams. Trello helps to stay on top of all your projects and tasks, including documents and comments.

Cost: Free


Event marketing


Tool: Get Invited

If you organise events for your customers (and here is why you should), don’t run it through email and Excel. Get Invited has all the tools (including sign up form) to keep on top of all the admin surrounding any event. Here are my 9 tips for running a successful customer conference.

Cost: Free (free events) or 2% + 50p per ticket (for paid events)


Giveaways and competitions


Tool: Rafflecopter

Run competitions on your website with this copy and paste tool. You can also incentivise people to share the competition via social media. Plus it integrates with leading email platforms (including Mail Chimp) to help you generate more leads. You can see a live example here.

Cost: Free to $84 per month


Image creation


Tool: Canva

I only came across this excellent online image creation and editing tool, but the more I play with it, the more impressed I become. It comes with ready made templates (e.g. Social media profiles, blog graphics, posters, business cards, presentations etc.) and a huge library of free pictures, icons, shapes, illustrations and more. I used Canva to create the images in this post.

Cost: Free (with some images charged at $1 each)

Grand total = £15.47