August, 2018


marketing ROI sketch brainstorm credit rawpixel

The question invariably comes up (as it should) in business development meetings or as we ramp up with new clients. “How can you prove return on investment?” “How will we know this is working?” “When will we see some gains from this?”

While any good businessperson should ask these questions, the answers are usually not simple. The connection between resources spent and revenue earned can get murky with marketing. There are often overlapping campaigns, different media tools, delayed results, and other influences that make it challenging to isolate a marketing program or campaign in order to measure ROI.

However, there are some basic actions you can take to get closer to understanding your Return on Investment. More importantly, there are things you can learn in the process — about what to do next, how to improve, and when you’ve achieved success (however that may be defined).

In simplest terms, the formula for ROI = (Net Profit / Total Investment) * 100 (ROI is typically shown as a ratio).

marketing ROI formula

Start with strategy

Of course, every legitimate marketing project will begin with strategy. In the ROI world, strategy must include measurable factors. You can’t determine ROI without having a benchmark to measure against. And those B2B benchmarks range greatly. Your goal could be to:

  • Generate X leads to fill the sales pipeline
  • Increase awareness among a core group of prospects by X%
  • Produce $X in revenue from contacts generated by your campaign
  • Reduce employee turnover by X%
  • Increase customer satisfaction by X%
  • Grow web traffic by X% and engage X new users
  • Generate X click throughs and gather X prospect requests
  • Land X new client contracts with average fees of $X

Make sure there’s a dollar figure associated with any factor you plan to measure (every new lead is worth an average of $X). Establish a timeframe in which to measure results, and determine the beginning benchmark measurement, before proceeding. And remember to calculate customer lifetime value (CLV), as the acquisition of a new customer will likely lead to more than one purchase.

In the ROI world, strategy must include measurable factors.

Tweet this

Calculate cost

The cost to execute your campaign includes any incremental fees or hard costs expended specifically for your marketing project:

  • Agency fees (from strategy through coordination)
  • Media fees (from placement costs to pay-per-click spend)
  • Creative costs (writing, design, editing, coding, etc.)
  • Production expenses (printing, photography, illustration, etc.)

What’s not included? Your internal marketing team costs. Overhead. Fixed costs which have no bearing on a specific project or campaign.

Determine results

Revisiting your initial strategy and benchmark measurement, gather data that answers your strategic focus question (How many new leads were generated? How was employee retention affected? What was the impact on web traffic?). Calculate the total dollar figure associated with each result. And then plug your profit and investment numbers into the ROI equation above. Fair warning: You’ll likely be collecting data over a significant period of time to prove ROI.

Corporate communications, like this project for HNTB, are hard to gauge, but they raise awareness and promote business expertise. When it’s time to select a firm for a project, this type of communication increases the likelihood of participation in the proposal process.

Show and tell

Rather than presenting a series of charts that map out raw data, focus on those actionable takeaways we mentioned earlier. Of course, you’ll need to include your ROI results. But follow them up with key findings, as well as recommendations for improving ROI in the future. Build on what you’ve begun. Repurpose your marketing efforts across different platforms, from social media to print reports. Used correctly, ROI is a vital marketing metric and a valuable tool for focusing long term strategic efforts.

What does a successful marketing campaign mean for you? We’d love to hear about your goals and objectives. Let’s discuss over a cup of coffee. We’d be happy to share our initial thoughts and let you know how we can help. Call or email us today.

For more content like this, follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Posted on: August 29th, 2018 by Angela Michka


infographic visual impact

Visuals allow us to quickly process information, which is why infographics are such effective communication tools. When we hear information, we can recall 10% of it three days later, but if we see a visual with the information, we can remember 65% (Brain Rules). It’s no wonder infographics become so memorable.

On top of memorability, here are 3 more benefits of business infographics:

1. Easy to digest.

With 30% of our brains devoted to visual processing (compared to 8% for touch and 3% for hearing), we process images and graphics much more quickly than plain text. If you’re targeting a tight-for-time audience, bite-sized information is especially valuable in reaching them.

2. Easy to share.

Visual content is 40X more likely to get shared on social media than other types of content (Hubspot).

3. Easy to repurpose.

Extend the life of your infographics in the digital space. Zoom in on a portion of an infographic to highlight a key stat, or direct users to the visual content in reports, white papers, case studies, and blogs. You’ve already invested the time and money to develop the original content. Now, repurposing it gives you a greater return on investment.

infographic benefits visuals

The not-so-easy part comes in the actual creation of an infographic.

What it takes

Mingling various pieces of data to create one cohesive infographic takes time. It seems contradictory to say a simple infographic is complicated, but its development often demands a deep understanding of the subject and a solid vision for its execution.

What we do

We help clients harness strategy and focus messaging before creating any design. Often, data is compiled by our clients — the industry experts. In our role as strategic consultants, we can guide messaging, organize and simplify information, ultimately building a narrative that puts your insights in the limelight.

We can develop copy or edit long lines of text into quicker info-bytes. By rendering content to simplest form, we ensure a clear hierarchy of information, and as a result, we produce a more successful and compelling infographic.

A visual alternative to the infographic is something we like to call an “infolist.”

infographic SMG infolist

You can see the full example of this in a project for client SMG. This is a great solution when you want to expound your expertise. Still easily consumed and visually supported, an infolist bears the same 3 benefits listed above.

Do you need a consultant and design studio to bring your industry findings to life? We’d love to find the right solution for you. Call or email us today.

For more content like this, follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Posted on: August 22nd, 2018 by Laura Uber


When you attend an event, you want it to be worth the investment. The same is true for your own event attendees: they need to feel that their time, money, and energy was well-spent. If they don’t see the value, they won’t commit the time.

event branding graphic

Hosting an event, whether a company-wide celebration or a large-scale conference, can be an effective brand proponent, helping B2B companies engage with employees, prospects, and customers.

While the actual event considerations — staging, production, and logistics — are managed by a specialty event company, the branding and communication materials for your event may be better trusted with a branding consultant.

It’s important that events keep your brand’s core messaging at the forefront. Participants need to see that your content offering is unique, relevant, and valuable. Help them answer questions like:

  • What will I learn?
  • What insights will I take home? And will they be easy to implement?
  • Where can I turn for more info?

When event messaging is consistent, your brand is consistent, and guests can trust your brand to deliver on its promises.

We believe in the power of events, and that the offerings and excitement leading up to an event are foundational. A visually stimulating brand should build (and live up to) anticipation of the event. And when it’s over, your brand should leave guests with lasting value, from satisfied feelings to physical takeaways, like presentation notes and giveaways.

The Creative Department can help you develop:

  • an event theme, including name and tagline
  • an event mark that is flexible across applications
  • a marketing plan for before, during, and after an event
  • strategic messaging
  • an email marketing campaign
  • a social media strategy
  • promotional materials
  • event materials, like handouts, field notes, signage, and name tags
  • presentation decks

It’s not about implementing all of these communications but finding the strategies that are right for you. We can assist you in boiling down your event’s top objectives, whether it’s to increase revenue or enhance customer and employee engagement; to increase brand awareness or identify client and prospect needs.

We aren’t just order takers. We’re strategic consultants, problem solvers, and brand advocates. If you’re looking to partner with a design agency to help you to achieve high-level results, look no further. We want to see brands succeed, and we’d love to help yours.

See how event branding brought an intangible idea to life at SMG’s Forum 2018.

In another event branding project, Pink Fountains, we encouraged the Kansas City community to come together for breast cancer awareness.

Posted on: August 15th, 2018 by Laura Uber


You’ve likely been the recipient of thoughtful gifts as well as thoughtless gifts. You feel the difference, right? One expresses a giver’s deep sense of understanding, and the other reveals a lack of effort, lumping you into an anonymous group of business acquaintances.

Your clients are no exception.

Gifting expert John Ruhlin of the Ruhlin Group believes that “dollar value given doesn’t always equate loyalty gained — in fact, the more expensive a gift is the lazier and less knowledgeable it can make you look” (Forbes, 2016).

“You can’t buy people’s loyalty and business.”
— John Ruhlin

While some enjoy a pricey wine and cheese gift basket, many may not feel a personal connection to your business through it. And if it’s not strengthening your client relationship, then what is it doing?

Here are 3 strategies for more effective client gift giving:

1. Listen to your clients

Our team values the time it takes to grow a client relationship. For us, that means making room for appropriate personal conversations. In addition to asking questions about a client’s culture and workflow, ask about outside-of-work matters.

Take note of what they care about and what they like to do. Keep a record of their key interests so you’re prepared when gift-giving season approaches. That list will be crucial in coming up with thoughtful gifts.

2. Send client gifts at unexpected times

Many corporations send client gifts during the winter holiday season, and although this is a great time to send warm sentiments, they can easily be lost in the pile of other holiday gifts and greetings.

Consider sending an annual gift around less universal gift-giving occasions, such as:

  • Valentine’s Day
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • Independence Day
  • Thanksgiving

Each year, we help customer research firm SMG create a deliverable for their clients around Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving. (Check out our 2018 Valentine’s Day gift set for SMG.)

SMG Valentine’s Day client gift

You can even surprise clients by remembering more personal special events:

  • Birthdays
  • Anniversaries (like founding days or company milestones)
  • New business acquisitions
  • Achievements and recognition (especially if you assisted in a successful pitch or project)

3. Make a creative statement

Messaging can showcase your creativity. Share an insight, play with words to highlight your capabilities, and emphasize the value of your partnership.

In 2017, SMG sent personalized heart-shaped cookies to clients for Valentine’s Day.

TCD developed a concept around SMG’s customer comment technology. The personalized messaging inside the accompanying cards showed appreciation for SMG clients, while the gift set also played up a product.

SMG Valentine’s Day card cookies client gift

At TCD, we made our creative statement with these metal tumblers, combined with hot cocoa mix and a card illustrated by our own Laura Uber. We loved the “crinkled paper” look and how it reflected on the creative work we do with our client partners.

TCD white creative geometric tumbler client gift

TCD warm wishes card envelopes gift tags

Add local flavor by including a gift from a small business in your city. Complete the package with handmade gift tags or handwritten elements, like a short greeting and signatures on a card.

The bottom line: When generosity puts a spotlight on business partnerships, both parties recognize the value of the relationship. Gift giving can be a catalyst to customer loyalty. Don’t miss out on regular opportunities to thank your clients.

Need help? We specialize in finding strategic, creative solutions. Call or email us if you’re seeking innovative ways to get in front of your target market.

Posted on: August 8th, 2018 by Laura Uber


Google search bar magnify

Have you been paying attention to your website analytics? Some clients come to us for consulting when they’re unsure about website traffic. We typically start with a look at their analytics, which typically reveal a drop in traffic.

To seek at least one quick answer about your website’s lower-than-desired traffic, test one of the page URLs through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. If it doesn’t pass, it may not appear in mobile search results on Google. So, how is your audience finding you?

It’s been more than three years since Google announced a mobile-friendly update to improve user experience. With Google’s “mobile-first indexing,” it predominantly references mobile versions of websites to rank them in search results. This replaced a system that primarily indexed desktop versions of page content.*

In this case, you should consider Google one of your primary audiences — if not your most important — because it is your link to customers and prospects.

To keep you climbing for the top, Google provides a basic Q&A to outline steps for ensuring websites can be found by its “crawlers.” Some of these tactics include utilizing Google My Business and improving your visibility on search engines (with SEO).

Google wants to be the most trusted and useful search engine, so it looks to generate top quality results. Even with a mobile-friendly site, you can still enhance your content by ensuring it is:

1. High quality. Content relates to user queries and is spam-free.
2. Quick to load. A site’s speed affects its ranking in Google Search.

Read more tips for mobile design in our post, 3 ways your mobile-unfriendly site may be stunting your growth.

Truly, the task list adds up when you look at all it takes to optimize your site and make it easier for prospects to find you. At The Creative Department, developing responsive websites is one of our strengths; and we like doing it! Get in touch with us — we’d love to help you improve your site and increase traffic. Tap into our knowledge and expertise, and let’s accomplish your business goals.

*Note: Google evaluates each web page rather than an entire site.

Posted on: August 1st, 2018 by Laura Uber

The Creative Department is a proud sustaining member of AIGA.

We follow AIGA's Standards of Professional Practice and adhere to its principles of integrity that demonstrate respect for the profession, for colleagues, clients, audiences or consumers, and society as a whole. We utilize AIGA's Basic Terms & Conditions and Intellectual Property Provisions to maintain the professional practices of the design industry.