Show your click stats to the designer, or how creativity at scale is hard work


This post leaped out of my head as I’m wrapping up my six or so years of heading marketing of Pipedrive and I’ve started to reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly. There might be more posts like this, you sign up to receive notifications in the right sidebar.

Q: What moron pays good dollars for the right to show Facebook ads to the perfect audience and then cobbles together stock illustrations and copy that makes one yawn at best?

A: The moron that wrote this piece.

Hear me out, there may be a lesson or two here. You see, I’ve considered myself as a “creative” marketer which has been somewhat justified. I’ve rented a tram for a month and had it transport people for free, brightly Skype-branded. I’ve won creative awards on both sides of the table. I’ve managed a creative team at an agency and run my own little boutique.  And then I completely stupidly dropped the creative ball as head of a 20+ person tech marketing team.

How some of our marketing got bland

Being a marketer with a knack for copywriting meant I was always close to the creative development and also had access to results, whether this meant clicks or purchases. I had both the left and the right brain view on marketing.

At the early days of Pipedrive marketing (context: we had no budget whatsoever which is a lot less than “low budget”), I did all the copywriting myself whether it was text ads for Adwords or our welcome email copy. I would look at creative executions with my right brain first to assess whether they’d got “it”. Then, when the results started to roll in, my left brain would look at the results and took note of what worked. I owned the results after all. Things went full circle.

Our second and third marketer also had a knack for writing and in the early days everyone did everything, so there were no silos of stats or isolated pockets of creativity. Our marketing was usually fresh and stood out. We had creative team members and there was no need to have a process for staying creative.

But around the 10th marketing team member, we were so big that we had someone doing nothing else but pulling together stats and someone doing nothing else but writing copy. They sat deceptively about two meters apart from each other, so in theory, they could have just turned around and looked at each others computer screens, but things get busy in a startup and they didn’t. Just to be clear: this was my fault, not theirs.

We kept scaling and adding people. Some were more creative, others more analytical. As we scaled, some of our marketing stayed creative and some of it got “analytical” depending on the people who were working on it. By “analytical” I mean it was on message, but drier than Winston Churchill’s martini (or as Ott once said:  copy is safer than the lobby of Health & Safety Bureau of Norway).

How do you scale creativity

Short answer: I don’t yet know with certainty but think three approaches have been or could be helpful.

Hold creative review meetings. We had talked about our creative hits and misses in a couple of monthly retrospective meetings. Independently of my own musings my colleague Dario recently summoned an ad performance review meeting where we looked at best and worst performing ads and analyzed what can be done better in the future. It was a great way to get the whole team looking at creative executions with stats.

Create a regular forum for feedback. A bit of context: autonomy was a big goal in building the marketing team. There is currently no formal sign-off process for creative executions, whether we’re talking about new pages to go live or onboarding emails or blog posts. People tend to share their work in relevant Slack channels and with their managers, but some things might get too much attention and others not at all. Feedback is sporadic and spread unevenly.

I had been planning to take a page out of Pipedrive’s design team’s ways of working and summon a regular feedback session (a la design review meeting) in the marketing leadership group where ready work could be submitted and discussed from all aspects: message, idea, visual, content and results / reactions. Alas, I never got to summoning our first one.

Build up the resources. Last but not least: establish a strong creative function early on. We’d hired a copywriter and a couple of designers but in hindsight this way less than we needed. Other marketing teams of our size usually had more creatives in the team. There were a couple of good reasons for not being able to build out the team faster but if I could turn back time, I’d probably find a way to get this done faster.

One of the luxuries you could afford by having more creative resources is not doing more things but allowing more time to optimize the 20% of assets that generate 80% of impressions / results. For example a monthly or at least a quarterly challenger development for things like the welcome email, best performing PPC and display ads and content pieces.

PS. I started this post as a Pipedrive employee and finished it as a member of Pipedrive alumni, hence a bit of fluctuation between “us” and “them” here in this post. I’ll soon start working on a project that unites the worlds of sales and marketing. If you need help on lead generation / nurturing stuff and if you’re using a modern CRM like Pipedrive, I may be able to help (like, really help). If this sounds interesting, please shoot me an email.

Photo by Ehimetalor Unuabona on Unsplash

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