How to Give Effective Creative Reviews

How to Give Effective Creative Reviews

Creative content, from videos to blog posts, makes your brand stand out. However, the content production process requires a clear scope, lots of communication, and ample time for client reviews and creative edits before the content is finalized. How do you critique creative deliverables? How do you convey your feedback effectively? How can you make the process more efficient?

In this guide, we’ll run through the ins and outs of effective creative reviews.


Benefits of an Effective Creative Review Process

Providing effective creative reviews is in your best interest. With carefully notated creative reviews, you can ensure your project is on the right track to be completed on time and within scope to meet your goals.

It can help you:

  • Convey vague ideas or feelings in a tangible way
  • Give feedback that creatives can actually respond to
  • Help creatives craft a final project that reaches your goals

Ultimately, an effective creative review can help you get the results you want quickly.


5 Steps to an Efficient Content Production Process

Effective creative reviews start with an efficient, well-defined content production process. Over the years, we’ve gathered best practices for creative reviews. There are six key steps to an effective content production process:

  1. Start by conveying your needs to the creative team. Include a description of the project audience, deliverables, desired outcome, and due date. This is also known as the project scope.
  2. Stand by for questions. Creatives may ask questions during the kickoff meeting. They’ll probably run into more questions as they dive into the project. Ensure to emphasize what’s important to you for this deliverable.
  3. Approve the brief. In some cases, your creative team will come back with a proposal, outline, or brief for your approval. Approve it at this stage, or return it for revisions. At this point, your creative team will start working on their deliverables.
  4. Review the creative. Start by reviewing the deliverables thoroughly. Identify sections that you feel haven’t hit the mark and form your feelings into tangible, actionable feedback that the creative team can work with. (More on that in the next section.)
  5. Provide feedback. Pass the feedback back to the creative team and answer any subsequent questions they have.
  6. Allow for multiple revisions. Revision is the most important part of the creative review process. Depending on the contract with your creative team, this is a repeatable step.

The more clear-cut your content production process is, the easier it will be to follow these workflows in the future, saving critical time.


The Creative Review Process at SmarkLabs: The Client’s Perspective

If you’re planning to work with SmarkLabs for your next video or website project, that’s great! We’re here to make the project process easy.

SmarkLabs clients follow a simple, effective process:

  1. Kickoff: During the kickoff call, clients convey their project needs to the SmarkLabs team.
  2. Internal QA: The SmarkLabs team comes back with any questions they have for their client. Then, they start to work on the creative.
  3. Client review: The client reviews the creative and either approves it or if there are suggested edits, sends it back for revisions. SmarkLabs’s creative team begins work on the revisions.
  4. Revisions: The client reviews the revisions and approves them or sends more feedback.


Examples of Effective vs. Ineffective Feedback

Communicating your opinions about creative content can be difficult to express. Focus on tangible changes that creatives can make.

Effective feedback is:

  • Specific rather than general. (E.g., “I think the copy in this eBook is too clinical” vs. “I don’t like the copy.”)
  • Constructive rather than destructive. (E.g., “The colors here don’t evoke the feeling of relaxation to me. Can we try a calmer color scheme?” vs. “I hate these colors.”)
  • Relevant rather than irrelevant. (E.g., “I’d like this copy to sound more like our competitor’s white paper copy” vs. “I’d like this copy to feel like a Pixar film.”)

Specific, constructive, and relevant feedback will help your creative team make revisions that meet your vision.


Useful Tools for Creative Reviews

The technicalities of providing feedback on creative can be a challenge, especially if it’s visual. The SmarkLabs team recommends these tools to get your feedback across:

  • Govisually: a point and click design review tool with revision tracking
  • Vimeo review tools: a video point-and-click tool with comment capabilities
  • Pastel: a web and design point-and-click tool with comment capabilities


It can be hard to articulate what you want until you see it. Refer to these sites for creative inspiration:

  • Landingfolio: a page design inspiration tool
  • Siteinspire: a web and page design inspiration tool
  • SmarkLabs video portfolio: a video inspiration tool designed by the SmarkLabs team


How to Manage Reviews by Priority

Prioritizing projects helps streamline the creative review process and saves you time. It is especially critical if you have a lot of content in the pipeline. We suggest categorizing low-effort projects or projects that you haven’t made your mind up about yet as low-priority reviews. Categorize high effort or time-sensitive projects as high-priority reviews. Complete high priority reviews before low priority reviews.


The Bottom Line

An effective creative review process helps you get your ideas across, provide effective feedback, and get the results you want. By following best practices, you can empower your creative partners to produce deliverables that meet your vision faster than ever.



Have questions about giving effective creative reviews? Let’s talk.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

Sales and Marketing Alignment

As more and more information has become available online, sales teams no longer have control over what information buyers have. In fact, over 60% of the sales process is typically over before a sales rep can even enter the picture. Because the sales process relies so heavily on marketing efforts such as social media, blogging, and SEO, it is necessary for the two departments to work together more than ever before. 

Unfortunately, it often leads to friction between marketing and sales departments, with sales complaining about marketing failing to generate quality leads for them and marketing blaming sales for not being successful with the leads they get. Smarketing provides a solution to this friction and can increase your ROI in the process. 


Defining Smarketing

Smarketing (sales and marketing) involves integrating the sales and marketing processes of a business, leading to better growth and larger profits. This alignment is about more than just big picture goals. The departments should agree on a lead generation process, data systems, customer profiles, account scoring, and anything else utilized by the two teams.


How Does Smarketing Drive Growth?

  1. Alignment drives growth. Highly-aligned organizations see a 32% year-over-year revenue growth. Less aligned competitors saw a 7% decrease in revenue.
  2. Better alignment, bigger profits. Highly aligned companies are 15% more profitable.
  3. Top-line revenue is a good thing. Highly aligned teams drive 208% more revenue as a result of their marketing efforts.


What are the Key Steps to Smarketing? 

There are several steps you can take to better align your sales and marketing. 

  1. Audit your customer journey and attack major friction points in the sales process that don’t add value for the buyer. Look to marketing to “digitize” these manual processes.
  2. Skill-up sales teams to align with the buyers’ process, including the content and tools required to facilitate this alignment.
  3. Align 80% of your sales reps with your ideal customer profile (ICP). Let executives or “whale hunters” develop the other 20%.
  4. Track and analyze your losses more than your wins, including sales objections along the way. Use this data to feed content ideas for marketing teams.
  5. Create a playbook that maps content to the customer journey. Show sales teams how to use this playbook to overcome objections or provoke urgency in buyers.


Overcoming Smarketing Challenges

As you create a playbook for smarketing, be on the lookout for potential pitfalls. In today’s tech-driven marketplace where most of the buying process occurs online, communication and understanding between the two departments is a must. In order to collaborate effectively, they need to be equal partners, not separate silos. 


Here are six tips to keep in mind: 

  • Have sales and marketing meet frequently: Establish that no new sales project will proceed without marketing approval and vice versa. Hold each other accountable. 
  • Build multiple relationships between sales and marketing: Ensure that both teams know each other well and function as one team rather than only leadership meeting together. 
  • Mix marketing and sales desks together: Structure your office so that sales and marketing employees understand each other’s work on a day-to-day basis. 
  • Provide many types of feedback between marketing and sales: Empower all team members to give feedback, and listen to that feedback. 
  • Agree on terminology: Develop a similar language and vocabulary for your smarketing team and build that into your reports and culture. 
  • Use data to communicate: Utilize daily reports that show exactly the progress of both sales and marketing each day.


The Bottom Line 

Building a playbook to align your sales and marketing is a great way to increase revenue. Your marketing team will deliver increased high-quality leads, and your sales team will be equipped to transform the leads into new customers.


Want help with your brand’s B2B smarketing efforts? Let’s talk.

Why No One Is Opening Your Emails

Why No One Is Opening Your Emails

A marketer’s worst nightmare:

You spent valuable time building a piece of content for your subscribers, maybe multiple pieces, only to realize how few are reading it. The good news is that email marketing is still the number one channel for advertising. In fact, Digital Agency Network found it is 40 times more effective than methods such as social media! 

So what’s the bad news? Convincing people to OPEN these emails is not easy.  

According to Campaign Monitor, the average office worker receives 121 emails per day, but only opens 17% of them…Those are tough odds to overcome. 

Take this inbox for example: 


It may be similar to how your inbox looks right now. People are too busy to read 100+ emails every day. They’ll focus on the ones that capture their attention from the start. Since you can’t change how people’s inboxes look, you’ll have to play the game and find a way to rise above the competition.

But how?

Better Subject Lines

A good subject line dramatically increases the likelihood of your emails being opened. In fact, Convince & Convert found a 35% increase in open rates from relevant subject lines alone. While it may be just one component of the email, it’s the first thing recipients see. 

For marketers, subject lines are an opportunity to stand out above the rest, so don’t rush them. Some characteristics of a good subject line include writing with a personalized tone and staying short and sweet. 

For more examples and tips on creating the perfect subject line, click here.

Send Fewer Emails 

Don’t get trigger-happy with the ‘send’ button. A study from HubSpot found that 69% of email users have unsubscribed from a business because the organization sends too many emails. When people sign up for a newsletter or subscription, make sure they know what they are getting themselves into. 

Be clear in the intro email about the communication cadence so they have an idea of what to expect. Is this a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly newsletter? Without addressing this, you run the risk of becoming a nuisance–leading people right to that ‘unsubscribe’ button. Don’t become a spammer.

Wait, how do I know how many is “too many”? Glad you asked! 

Segment your list of contacts and test different frequencies. For example, consider using A/B testing. A/B testing can be used to try different techniques within a small sample size of your target market.

Source: Split Metrics

In this case, let’s say you have a thousand contacts in your database. Take a small sample, maybe 300 or so, and split them in half. Send one-half a higher frequency of emails than the other. From there, you can look at the open rates and click-through rates to see which frequency has higher engagement. 

Another quick way to offer a better experience to your audience is by asking them what they want. For instance, let them decide how often they want to hear from you. This can be done within the intro email by giving them an option to choose from: once a day, once a week, twice a month, etc. 

This allows the reader to dictate your relationship with them and provides a more personalized experience as a whole.

Overcome Triggered Spam Alerts

Emails can be sent to spam without having the recipient manually ‘mark as spam.’ Email accounts such as Gmail are becoming smarter as technology continues to grow. As a result, spam detection is becoming more prominent and sensitive to emails originating outside the organization.

A study from Propeller CRM found that 45% of all emails get triggered as some type of spam. 

Yes, you read that correctly! 

Nowadays, email software is designed to detect certain words that are most often found in spam. These are known as trigger words. If you use enough of these trigger words, your message will be sent to spam. That’s why it is imperative you understand how sensitive these systems are, and how to avoid overusing trigger words.

Here a few examples of common trigger words, and how to work around them:

Try to avoid using a word like “free.” This extends to the subject line, title, and body of the email. Instead, try using words like “complementary,” or “at no charge.” Doing so allows you to avoid spam detection while still getting your point across. Other common trigger words include “guaranteed,” “100% free,” “act now,” “attention!,” or any repetitive use of caps or character symbols. 

Understanding these trigger words and strategizing around them will keep your emails away from the spam folder and give you a better chance to be seen.

Looking Ahead

As mentioned earlier, email is still the most useful tactic for marketers. Experiencing low open rates can be frustrating, but you can use it as an opportunity to step back and assess your strategy.  

Continue to optimize your subject lines, frequency of sends, and keep track of potential trigger words, and you will have a better foundation to analyze your current email strategy to see where improvements can be made.

Interested in more business tips like these? Subscribe to our blog or contact us today to let us help strategize and increase your inbound leads. 


Is the HubSpot Reporting Add On Worth The Price?

Is the HubSpot Reporting Add On Worth The Price?

Without the proper tools, pinpointing the engine behind company growth — sales, marketing, or the two working in tandem — is an arduous task. In this article, we explore the value of the HubSpot reporting add on tool. 

If this is you, you’re not alone. According to HubSpot’s “State of Inbound 2018” report, 40% of surveyed companies stated that their top marketing challenge was proving the ROI of marketing activities.

Similar issues come with sales. Which representatives are closing the greatest number of deals? Are cold emails working? If you’ve been there, then you’re at a point where in-depth reporting that closes the loop between marketing and sales is a must.

HubSpot comes with standard reporting capabilities, but to drill down to metrics unique to your business, you’re going to need HubSpot’s Reporting Dashboard Add-On on. Priced at $200/ month, it’s not an investment to be taken lightly.

With that price tag, is it worth it? Read on to find out what the tool offers, why it’s unique, and some potential drawbacks.



So, what exactly is HubSpot’s Reporting Dashboard Add-On? It’s a tool for building customized reports in a way that’s organized and easy to understand. You can then syndicate your findings across your organization. Let’s break these components down:

Building Customized Reports

With HubSpot’s Reporting Dashboard Add-On on, you can create a custom visual look at your data that answers virtually any sales or marketing related question. Want to know how many marketing qualified leads became sales qualified leads this month? Done — with the conversion rate in plain sight.

You can choose from pre-made reporting templates or roll your sleeves up and build reports from scratch. Choose from an array of displays; pie charts, bar graphs, donut charts, and more. Data can be viewed in real time, so you’re never left wondering how to pivot your sales and marketing efforts to achieve optimal results.

Organizing Your Reports

Of course, with endless options for creating reports, you need a way to organize them. This is where dashboards come in; Create up to 200 dashboards which can house up to 10 reports each.

Now, everyone in your company can have visibility on aggregated metrics that matter to them — whether that’s a high-level overview of marketing performance or the amount revenue a specific sales representative generated last quarter.

Syndicating Your Reports

Don’t let critical reports go unnoticed. The HubSpot’s Reporting Dashboard Add-On on allows you to send reports to your team’s inbox on customized timelines. Whether it’s daily, weekly, or monthly — your team will always be aware of their progress.


Why It’s Great

It’s Simple

You don’t need to be a data scientist to understand what you’re looking at. It’s all in one place — organized and in the format that is most useful and convenient for you.

Visual reports allow you to understand trends at a glance, and precise numbers provide a more detailed view of progress.

Enables Sales and Marketing Alignment

When marketing and sales work together, the possibility and fear of a lead slipping through the cracks dissolves. As a result, the ROI of marketing efforts increases, your sales team runs more efficiently, and there is visible top-line growth.

In fact, in organizations where sales and marketing are aligned, marketing acquired leads are 67% more likely to close.

How does this connect with the add-on? With the tool, you can create a report where you can see how many sales qualified leads to become opportunities. If this conversion rate seems a bit low, you have a jumping off point for correcting the problem.

Read, “The Right Way to Follow Up with Marketing and Sales Leads.”

Monitor Metrics Unique to Your Business

Because you can easily build custom reports and dashboards, you have unhindered access to metrics that matter to your business. Say goodbye to scouring your arsenal of tools to find the data points you need. They are neatly and conveniently packaged to be accessed at will.



Drilling Down Into Data

With customized reports, you can’t access granular data on broad metrics. For example, let’s say you build a report that shows how many leads fall into lifecycle stage for the current month. You can’t just click on the sales qualified lead bar to see who these leads are. For this, you will need to create a list where you will define the qualifications for a lead to appear on that list.

The Price

$200 per month is a lot — especially when tools like Google Analytics are free. To decide if it’s worth it, you need to assess why you want the tool. If you are interested in granular data such as bounce rate, entrances, the assets driving conversions, and so on, then you’ll be just fine with Google Analytics.

However, if you have grown to a point where you need to close the loop on marketing and sales efforts, then the HubSpot add-on is worth it. This brings us to the answer to the question that started this blog: Is HubSpot’s Reporting Dashboard Add-On on worth the price?


The Verdict

The tool serves as a single source of truth that encourages visibility throughout your company. Instead of just being a tool on website performance alone, like Google Analytics, it’s the be all end all tool for measuring the health of your organization.

The main drawback is the price, but if you strike up a deal with just one lead that would have slipped through the cracks otherwise, then it’s already paid for itself.

So, the answer is yes. Investing $200 per month for the add-on is worth it.

The Best Email Subject Lines For Sales

The Best Email Subject Lines For Sales

Crafting email subject lines for sales has become an art. To make your email stand apart from the hundreds in your prospect’s inbox, you need to capture his or her attention immediately. Easier said than done, right?

We’ve compiled a list of tried and true email subject lines that are favorites of industry professionals. Tweak the content, press send, and watch your open rates increase.

Cold Email Subject Lines

When a prospect hasn’t heard from you yet, it’s hard to get them to take the bait. Here are some examples of email subject lines that will help you score that initial click.

“Erica Banks told me to drop you a line.”

If you have a connection with your prospect, mention him or her by name. Your prospect is more likely to open the email with this trust-building information. Be sure to tell your connection before reaching out in case your prospect asks for verification.

“Have you been to the Gotham Bar & Grille on 12th St?”

This casual question is a great way to start a rapport with a prospect. Whether or not you’ve been to the restaurant or venue (preferably in their city of residence), it’s a fun way to begin a  conversation. Once you’ve started talking, ask if a meeting at the said location would be possible.

“So, I hear you are a master in data analysis”

Like the restaurant tactic, this method is likely to catch your prospect’s eye. Why did you ask about their specialty? Is there an opportunity related to it? This email subject line shows you did your research, but ensure you have a legitimate reason for mentioning personal information.

“Josh, did you meet your advertising goals last quarter?”

This email subject line is successful for two reasons. It mentions the recipient’s name, possibly increasing the open rate by up to 22.2%. Then, it asks a pertinent question about his job. Tweak the question for your industry; a health tech salesperson might write “Hi [name], are you frustrated with your supply chain?”

Follow-up Email Subject Lines

Whether you’re sending another email after receiving no response or checking in after an initial call. Here are a few ways to make that second contact as smooth as the first.

“Here’s that case study I mentioned”

If you referred to some kind of information, like a case study, article, or blog post in your first email or call with the prospect, that’s a great reason to follow up. You’re reminding the prospect about your initial conversation and providing value at the same time.

“Jane, I thought you might like this new Forbes article”

This is an information-packed follow-up message, especially useful if you didn’t make contact the first time around. You’re mentioning the prospect’s name and letting them know that you want to provide value.

“Can I help you meet your Q2 goals?”

Every professional has quarterly and yearly goals—and feels a lot of pressure to meet them. Offering help with this critical project can quickly catch a prospect’s eye.

“Would you like to spend one less hour a day on email?”

This is another email subject line that can be adjusted for your industry. Boil down your product, determine real-world value it can provide for your prospect, and feature it in the subject line.

Last-Chance Email Subject Lines

Maybe your prospect hasn’t answered any of your emails or has just gone radio silent—try to revive that relationship with these email subject lines.  

“3 steps and we can get started”

People love numbered emails (and articles and lists), so a number is a great way to start an email. This subject line implies that you two have a rapport, so even if you haven’t actually spoken to your prospect, they may be intrigued enough to see what’s going on.

“15 minutes on Thursday?”

It’s hard for anyone to ignore an email about a meeting. Your prospect might think you’re waiting on their answer to complete your schedule or may be interested in hearing your rapid-speed pitch.

“Ready to part ways?

Sometimes honesty is the best policy. If you haven’t received a single message in return from a contact and need to know if you should stop wasting effort on them, this message might be your best option. If they respond with a negative or simply don’t respond, you’ll know their answer.

I need to apologize for something”

If you are willing to do whatever it takes to get a certain prospect to click, think outside the box. Other clickable options include “HBO Go Password?” (a favorite of HubSpot) or a classic: “Like cute cat videos?” You’ll get more clicks, but it’s up to you to craft creative content in the email body that lives up to the subject line.


Interested in more business tips like these email subject lines for sales? Check out our blog.