5 Tips for Making Great (and Cost Effective) Video Ad Creative

shooting a video ad on a phone

In two short words, we can sum up the whole point of this article: video performs. No matter if we’re talking ad performance (like we’ll dig into in this article) or organic engagement, landing page CRO, and beyond, video works. 

Here’s the thing, though, not all video is created equal. As a growth marketing agency, no matter how gorgeous, flashy, or on-brand a piece of creative is, we’ll ditch it any day in favor of creative that converts. 

Like any seasoned growth marketer will tell you: there’s no clear path to growth. An effective strategy leans on fearless testing, thoughtful hypothesizing, and an unshakeable zest for learning from failures. So, over the years we’ve accumulated a list of learnings as a direct result of successes and failures. While these are not complete (and will, frankly, never be because ad platforms are constantly changing), here are some pointers for getting your creative wheels turning:

  • Get to the point QUICKLY. Like within 15 seconds. 
  • Drop in some memorable branded elements (like a subtle logo overlay).
  • Captions are a MUST. About 80% of users watch video on Facebook without sound.
  • Don’t overthink it! Ad creative is ephemeral. It’s more important to get something out there than wait until it feels perfect. 
  • Humor is HARD. Unless you can really do it right, it’s best to steer clear.
  • Constantly search for inspo! Our favorite places to go are Facebook Ads Library, WPromote’s Ad Creative Bank, and PIVADS

Ultimately, when you’re thinking about kickstarting a campaign with video, our greatest pointer: don’t overthink it; just start.

Tip #1: Have Stills? Don’t Count Them Out

If you’re feeling extra tight on budget, short on time, or, you just have a gorgeous collection of stills, simple over-image text animation is an easy way to significantly boost performance. There are two relatively simple ways to go about this:

  1. Hire a freelance designer that can add over-image text in Adobe Illustrator (or some similar program) then migrate it into After Effects to add a little magic of movement. Looking for the perfect fit? Upwork is a great place to start to hire contractors that can jump on it quickly and most often for a super reasonable price. 
  2. Try your own hand! There are tons of drag-and-drop design tools out there to help people without much design experience create something usable in minutes. The reigning champ (in our opinion) is Canva. Pro tip: lean heavily on their templates especially if you don’t have lots of design background.

Animated text inspo roundup: Pilot | DoorDash | Blue Apron

Tip #2: Get Yourself Some UGC

User-generated content is, quite simply, golden. Think about it: how much more likely are you to buy a product like a razor when you see a real, relatable person incorporating it into their everyday life (like billie does) vs. a staged ad that showcases the product in a sterile, overly-glam staged environment (like Gillette does)?

Companies like billie that do UGC remarkably well are likely able to tap a wide range of influencers and probably have a community manager on their team (or partners with a PR firm) who spends most of their week connecting with influencers, managing the creative production, and keeping up with contracts. 

For most smaller businesses looking to get into the UGC game, it can be a challenge to know where to start. That’s why we recommend testing a service like Billo. The interface is super easy to use, the creators are friendly, fun, and super professional, the support is amazing, and it makes getting user-generated content super doable on a tight (financial and time) budget. 

We tested a UGC video from Billo for our partner AKKO — check out the results!

UGC inspo roundup: Shopify | Ritual | Ruggable 

Tip #3: Try Your Own Hand

One of the most experienced Social Ads Experts/Growth Marketers on our team wrote an article awhile back. The title tells you all you need to know about our recommendations for testing video on you ad platforms if you’re not ready to try Canva or UGC: Got a Crappy iPhone Video? You’ve Got the Perfect Facebook Ad.

The TLDR; “Typically, brands think that developing video assets = 💸💸💸. But that isn’t the case. Shoot the video on your iPhone, edit it together in TikTok, and export it to use on other social channels. Mimic the latest video editing trends on social, and you can get scrappy with creating your own video content — and see great results.”

Tip #4: Build Yourself a Rolodex of Freelancers

There are SO many different ways to infuse movement into your ad creative. And so it naturally follows that there is a seemingly infinite number of creatives to help you make it. If you’ve got a bit of a budget to spend, you’ve got the opportunity to hire creatives ready to bring your ideas to life. 

As we mentioned above, Upwork is where we’ll start if we’ve got no existing connections to leverage for a new creative idea. Here’s a quick list of things to keep in mind when you hire a freelancer to help with video ad creative:

  1. Can they help with illustration/animation? (This is one of the easiest ways to create flexible assets that don’t depend on a costly video shoot).
  2. Do they have experience working with ads? They function quite differently than brand creative.
  3. Do they charge hourly or by project? (For three unique video assets without shooting, earmark anywhere from $1200 – $2000)
  4. How quick is their turnaround?

Once you’ve found a freelancer that meets your criteria, write up a quick document outlining your three unique video ideas, the most important messaging you’d like to convey, any existing branded elements you have, and a full folder of creative assets (like illustrations, photos, video, etc) that the freelancer can use. The more information you can provide (plus examples of what you like), the smoother the process will go.

Illustrated ad inspo roundup: Bench | Hotjar | SEMRush

Tip #5: Test, Test, Test

So, we put our creative through the ringer early and often to check up on four key metrics:

  1. Cost Per Click (CPC): is the creative grabby/interesting enough that it can generate a quick click from our audience?
  2. Click-Through Rate (CTR): another way of looking at CPC and essentially answers the same question. Is it compelling enough that we can get someone to want to learn more?
  3. Time on Site (TOS): does the creative match the site experience? In other words, does your creative provide a smooth transition once your user hits the site?
  4. Leads: Can be swapped for revenue, signups, etc. based on your business. This tells us which creative kickstarted the strongest path towards conversion.

In the chart below, we ran a creative audit for a partner of ours that does bookkeeping for SMBs. We tested a wide variety of creative then pulled the top-performers and bottom-performers to compare metrics and glean insights. Based on what we see here we have a strong idea of what messaging resonates best, what creative led to the most conversions, and which creative just simply flopped. 

Creative CPC CTR TOS Leads (calls)
[Video] Let’s go Brad $0.51 4.22% 0:00:11 3
[Video] Stop bookkeeping $1.02 6.36% 0:00:18 8
[Still] Family time $0.51 1.97% 0:00:10 0
[Still] Social proof $0.27 0.22% 0:00:02 0
[Still] Working late $0.43 1.00% 0:00:03 0
[Still] Meet your bookkeeper $1.07 2.71% 0:00:05 0

Now, based on what worked and the resources we’ve gleaned along the way, we’re ready to hit the ground with a creative refresh that leans heavier on what worked and ditches what doesn’t.

Ultimately, creative doesn’t have to be a production. While it should take time and consideration, we see too many organizations that shy away from video to their own demise! Looking for help kickstarting your own ad channels or leveling up your creative game? Let’s talk.

developing ad creative on a computer

The Beginner’s Guide to High-Performance, Channel-Specific Ad Creative

developing ad creative on a computer

When balancing the main components of a growth marketing tactic (strategy + targeting + creative), there comes a time when many organizations find themselves in a chicken-and-egg scenario: which comes first? Is it the campaign strategy and targeting that should dictate creative? Or should great creative—backed by battle-tested value props and watertight messaging—lead the way into a strategy that can really bring it to life; serving it to the right people, and driving up conversion?

The short answer: it depends. (I know, I know).

In a perfect world, the world in which giants like Verison, Budweiser, Nike, and other Super-Bowl-ready players operate, there’s an endless well of data at the ready to inform all of the above. And you’d know what creative works best on which channel paired with which optimized audiences, etcetera, etcetera. But! If you’re here, you’re likely looking for a growth marketing agency that can operate with trim budgets, run efficient tests, and use scrappy creative to drive quick wins and set the stage for scaling. 

So, before we talk about creative, we’ll need to broach the topic: what kind of creative do you already have at your disposal? Your answer to this question might help you hone in on which channels are your best starting point. Here’s our quick guide:

Making the Most of Creative You Already Have

Before you jump headlong into creating a full new library of creative for the channels on which you’d like to run ads, revisit your existing assets with a fresh lens! How about that product shoot you shot last year? What’s left in the B-Roll folder? Revisit that brand video you commissioned for your sales team. Check in with your videographer to see if you might be able to snag some other shots out of his archives to repurpose instead of planning a full new shoot. 

Still Photography/Images:

  • Suitable for: Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, Gmail Ads, Display Advertising, Email Marketing
  • Make them ad-ready: Hire a freelance designer (we love UpWork) or get your own hands dirty with a drag-and-drop tool like Canva. Add simple on-image copy and your logo in an unobtrusive way so it’s super easy for a user to understand who you are and what you do in a flash. 

Owned assets (meaning images, illustrations, or other graphics that have been created specifically for your brand) are typically much more impactful and drive better results than stock photography. But, that doesn’t mean you should rule out stock! 

GIFs or Simple Motion

  • Suitable for: Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail Ads, Display Advertising, Email Marketing
  • Make them ad-ready: Ensure your freelance designer from UpWork has the ability to accomplish simple animations in After Effects or a similar program. Canva also has some simple, easy-to-use motion templates as well. The same advice goes for GIFs or simple motion in your video — make sure it’s super easy for your audience to get the message. If possible, even keep the copy to 5 words or less. 

Super simple motion, like animated text flashing over a still image or a 3 second looping video almost always performs better than still imagery across all the above channels.

Video

  • Suitable for: TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube, Facebook/Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Gmail Ads (as longer as they’re under 30 seconds long)
  • Make them ad-ready: Swing back by Upwork and find yourself a scrappy video editor that can help you recreate ad-ready assets. Ensure product placement (or super strong branded elements) appear within the first 3 seconds and that your video does not run longer than 30 seconds in length.

No matter if you’ve got a branded video, YouTube reviews, or a scrappy library of shot-on-iPhone video, it’s definitely worth splicing, dicing, resizing, and testing video against your still assets.  

🚨 Important! Before you start drawing up your strategy, investigating your targeting options, and setting aside budget, be sure to check out this Creative Ad Specs cheat sheet to make sure your files are large enough and are either in the right aspect ratio or can easily be reconfigured.

Pro tip: you’ll (likely) see better results quicker if—instead of creating brand-new creative—you instead focus on resizing your existing assets to fit each placement. 

How to Create High-Performance, Channel-Specific Ad Creative

If you only take ONE thing away from this whole article: don’t bust your budget on creative. Our approach (and, truly, the only way we can get behind creative production): test, test, test. Then, only then, consider investing in more high-value/bigger-production creative after you’ve gotten an opportunity to really hone in on the messaging and visuals that drive down cost per click (CPC) and drive up conversion rate (CVR).

Here at Tuff, when we take on creative production on behalf of—or alongside—one of our partners, here’s the approach we take:

The Tuff Timeline: Creating, Deploying, and Learning From Creative

When you hire a revenue and conversion-first growth marketing agency like Tuff, before we dig into pre-production, we’ll ensure the first weeks of our engagement are centered on rapid, actionable testing so that we can confidently make new creative that really resonates (and is worth the cost).

Days 1-3

Before we spend a dollar, we’ll start by digging into your target audience and validating/battle testing your value props. Based on the site experience, your sales materials, and what we can learn from you, are we confident that we can make creative that can hit the right people with the right message at the right time? 

Days 3-5

From there, we’ll get into concepting. If “fair, modern and inexpensive insurance” are the strongest high-level value props (for example), we’ll build creative ideas around them and workshop them with you to make sure we’re aligned.

We’ll create three very distinct concepts to test against each other so we’ll be able to understand—from a high level—which works and which don’t work as well.

Days 5-15 (depending on complexity of the creative)

Then, we’ll get into production. We’ve got a Rolodex of photographers, videographers, and designers to quickly and efficiently produce great creative.

We’ll produce 1-2 different pieces of creative underneath each of the three distinct concepts (for a total of 3-6 pieces of creative) every 6 weeks until we hone in on winners and double down there.

Days 30-60

Finally, and most importantly, we’ll put that creative through the wringer by conducting a full creative analysis that measures its effectiveness using two major data points:

  • CPC (is it grabby/compelling enough to get a quick click?)
  • CPL (is the ad-to-site experience seamless enough that the creative helps smooth their path towards conversion?)

From there, we’ll emerge with insights about what’s performing, what’s not, and a game plan for a fresh round of production (the timing on this cycle is totally dependent on ad spend and audience size).

Ready to Get Started?

Whether you’re ready to break out and start testing what kind of creative drives the best results for your growth or you need to enlist the help of a team that can take that burden off your hands, we’d love to hear about it!

inbox on a phone

They WANT to Hear From You: How to Use Email Drip Campaigns to Engage Your Best Customers

person building email drip campaigns on computer

If you’ve been following Tuff for truly any amount of time, you know that we have a history of taking a hard stance on email marketing. Hyperboles aside, email is a channel that truly pulls its weight in a full-funnel marketing strategy. What’s more, your customers (and/or clients, leads, prospects) WANT to hear from you. Need some proof?

Did you know that 72% of customers prefer email as their main channel for business communication? Did you further know that 60% of consumers say they’ve made a purchase as the result of a marketing email they’ve received? (Source)

The short story: an opt-in is a sure sign from your customer that they want to hear you. When you honor that with timely, actionable, and relevant communication in their inbox, you energize your on-the-fence customers and engage your best ones. In other words: you create a real, scalable path to growth. 

The catch: between e-blasts, marketing emails, transaction emails, list segmentation, and automation it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve got your back. 

Disclaimer! As a growth marketing agency, we’re constantly preaching about prioritization; how to identify your highest-impact/lightest-lift activities so you can quickly implement, optimize, test, and use your findings to build more detailed, impactful strategies on other channels. Email is no different. This article digs deep into drip campaigns: in our opinion, one of the best ways to drive revenue using email. But! That’s not to say that e-blasts or automated flows might make the greater impact for you. Not quite sure where to start? Let’s talk.

The Vocab: Email Marketing 101

A solid email strategy starts with a clear understanding of your options. An important note: depending on where you’re getting your information, the following terminology may vary (or be used a bit differently).

E-Blast vs. Drip Campaign vs. Automated Flow

There are a number of different methods for emailing your customers that have opted into hearing from you. The first, and typically the most common is e-blasts. This is where most founders or marketers start: this is a one-off or a consistently sent email meant to keep your customers up to date on new content, product launches, and/or events. These are manual and hands-on—the content will change each time you send. 

A drip campaign, meanwhile, is static, predetermined, and scheduled content based on pre-defined triggers. For example, a series of email that sends to someone who’s just created an account, abandoned their cart, or downloaded a white paper. The content of the series is catered specifically to the action that the user has taken. And while particularities of the content (like dynamic product content blocks based on the actual items in the user’s abandoned cart), the series itself is a fixed number of emails that eventually ends. 

Finally, an automated flow is a series of emails that dynamically changes based on a user’s behavior (the distinction between a drip campaign and an automated flow is relatively subtle). For example, if a customer has indicated through a series of behaviors that they’re a top user of your app, you can program an automated email to encourage them to upgrade their subscription, leave a review, refer a friend, or take another higher-value action. Then, if that user ends up taking that action, the automation will either drop them out of the flow or put them into a new one. 

While each type pulls its weight in a holistic email marketing strategy, above, they’re ordered from the simplest to the most complex. We recommend starting with e-blasts and maintaining a steady cadence while you build out drip campaigns. Once you’ve had an opportunity to really hone in on list segmentation, get super specific with user behavior patterns, and collect data on your open, click through, and unsubscribe rates, then (in our opinion) it’s time to dig into automated flows. 

How to Build an Effective Email Drip Campaign

Drip campaigns are communications that meet a customer when they’re most engaged: right after they’ve taken a notable action. Before you write one subject line or begin to map out your campaign, it’s super important to get specific with your triggers. 

Step 1: List Every Possible Trigger

No matter what kind of business you run (SaaS, B2B, B2C) your customer journey is stacked with actions for your potential customers to take. From the very first time they discover you, all the way through to conversion, they’ll (likely…ideally!) be seeing and clicking on your ads, finding new ways to learn about you, engaging with ways to save, and ultimately, buying. Here are just a handful of examples:

  • Placing an order
  • Attending an event at your store
  • Signing up for a webcast
  • Registering for a report or white paper
  • Abandoning a shopping cart
  • Engaging with customer service

This is also the step during which you’ll do the heavy lifting when it comes to segmentation.

email flow

We could (and probably will!) write a full extra article on segmentation but the short story: if your lists aren’t thoughtfully and properly segmented, the rest of your strategy will have a hard time getting off the ground.

Step 2: Determine Where Each Trigger Fits in Your Marketing Funnel

Where these leads sit in your funnel helps dictate how you message them and what actions you call them to take. Here are the above examples organized by where they fit in the funnel:

Top of Funnel → signing up for a webcast, registering for a report or white paper

Middle of Funnel → attending an event at your store, engaging with customer service

Bottom of Funnel → abandoning a shopping cart

Step 3: Decide How Often to Send

Quick tip: you can send more emails than you think you should. Customers WANT to hear from you. Our tactical recommendations differ depending on industry (eCommerce companies can get away with sending at a higher cadence while B2B or SAAS companies should resist sending more than five emails a month).

Lay out your email cadence depending on how long your sales/conversion process usually takes and/or how long it will take to tell a complete story about why they should purchase or subscribe based on where they are in the funnel.

A quick blueprint to help you find your starting line:

  • Plan to include 5 – 10 emails in your campaign
  • Send 4 days apart if you’re B2C, 7 if you’re B2B

Step 4: Create Your Email Content

An email drip (as well as an automated flow) is a story — how do you tell a full story from end to end? Again, this messaging will vary greatly depending on where your user is in the funnel. 

email campaign example

Users in the top of your marketing funnel will resonate best with heavy education (how does your product/service make their life better), a word from experts, general tips for how easy it is to integrate your product/service into their life. Consider crafting all emails with the primary CTA of “Learn More.”

Users in the middle of your marketing funnel are in the consideration phase. Core messaging here should be focused on how your product or service tactically works, insights or experiences from real users, and press mentions. The primary CTA here is get in touch with customer service or start shopping.

Users in the bottom of your marketing funnel are nearing conversion and actively looking to buy from you or a competitor. Core messaging here should center on your brand story—why they should believe in your company and how you outpace the competition. Here, we’ve found that personal notes from founders, explaining why and how they’ve built the company in all its particularities can make an impact. The primary CTA here is to place an order, subscribe, or whatever your ultimate conversion action is. 

Step 5: Launch, Check In. Optimize. Rinse & Repeat.

No matter which email strategy you adopt and implement, it’s critical to continuously check in on your drip campaigns to increase performance and, overtime, drive more revenue. Here’s a quick cheat sheet outlining the best metrics to scrutinize and what to try to elevate their performance:

Deliverability Rate

  • What it is: The number of emails accepted by the recipient’s server. 
  • Why it might be underperforming: You bought a list of emails (BIG no no), you don’t have a clear unsubscribe rate, or you’re using spammy/overly-salesy language.
  • How to improve it: Continuously clean your lists, delete any addresses that bounce or are invalid, and ensure the unsubscribe button is clearly visible.

Open Rate

  • What it is: The percentage of recipients that open your email. 
  • Why it might be underperforming: Your email has landed in the spam folder, it’s hard to tell who you (the sender) is, or your subject line is uninspiring.
  • How to improve it: Use simple A/B subject line tests to see what kind of language your audience resonates with.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

  • What it is: The percentage of people that open your email and also click through to a link. 
  • Why it might be underperforming: Your CTA buttons are too far down the email, it isn’t clear to your recipients what kind of action you want them to take, or the link isn’t compelling enough.
  • How to improve it: Test different text lengths, button styles, and actionable copy to encourage a click.

Conversion Rate (CVR)

  • What it is: The percentage of people that click through to your site and also make a purchase. 
  • Why it might be underperforming: The experience of your email doesn’t match the experience a user has when they hit the site.
  • How to improve it: Ensure a smooth/consistent experience from your email to your site.

There’s truly no gilded road to email success—the best strategies start with the questions, “what’s going to be the most impactful for my business and my customer/prospect?” Sometimes, this can feel a bit daunting. The good news: we’ve got your back! Ready to fire up some effective drop campaigns? Let’s talk!

mobile delivery app growth

Wait! Come Back! How Our Email Winback Strategy Converted at 27% For Dumpling

grocery delivery in bags

At its simplest, Dumpling is a grocery delivery app. But dig a bit further and you’ll see that Dumpling is taking a service that has historically capitalized on the gig economy and flipping it. 

Dumpling’s competitors like Instacart automatically match you with a shopper. Which keeps things simple, no doubt, but you get no extra communication with the person picking out your produce. So when you’ve put “cabbage” on your list and your shopper shows up with a purple cabbage instead of a napa cabbage, you’re either changing your dinner plans or you’re running to the store. 

Dumpling was founded on the idea that both shoppers and customers could benefit from open, transparent communication and an actual relationship with the people on the other end of the line. So, when you download the Dumpling app and drop in your zip code, Dumpling lists personal shoppers (a.k.a. business owners) that you can connect with through the app. Then, once you send them your list and they hit the store, they can communicate with you in real-time when they walk up to grab a cabbage and aren’t sure which one. 

dumpling app

The best part: you can order with your personal shopper again and again, so eventually, they won’t even have to ask, they just know you want that napa cabbage. 

Dumpling reached out to Tuff looking for a growth marketing agency that could help them attract and keep more engaged users. Here’s a look at what we worked on together.

Goal 1: Drive App Installs

Dumpling reached out in search of a team to help them supercharge their acquisition efforts and smooth their new users’ path to conversion. 

We knew we wanted to drive some quick wins (and the sophisticated Dumpling team had already established a number of paid acquisition campaigns). So we started with robust Facebook and Google Search strategies to drive users to download the Dumpling app. 

Goal 2: Turn New Users Into Power Users

Next, we turned our attention to the large number of users that had taken three key actions:

  1. Downloaded the app 
  2. Created a profile
  3. Connected to a shopper

From there, we identified three subgroups of users that signified a huge potential:

  1. Users that have ordered once and never reordered
  2. Users that have placed 1-3 orders but haven’t reordered in 2+ months
  3. Users that have never placed an order

As part of the signup flow, users shared their email addresses with us, so our reengagement strategy centered around email

email winback flow

Using Value Props to Drive Conversions

In order to entice users to come back and order again, or order for the first time, we created email flows that were super specific to each of the three different types of unengaged users. 

To start, we organized the value props that were most relevant to each user at their particular moments in their journeys. For example, the first email we sent to the segment that had downloaded the app delivered two important messages: first, that connecting to a personal shopper will make their life easier (a tangible benefit) and second, that when you order through Dumpling, you’re supporting your neighborhood. Here’s what that copy looks like in action:

Hi there [name],

We created Dumpling for two main reasons:

  • To make your life easier! Grocery shopping isn’t at the top of anyone’s list when it comes to the best ways to spend time (catch that pun? 😏)
  • To make it easier for people in your neighborhood to be awesome personal shoppers. 

So, our magical equation…

You + Personal Shopper = ✨

Using Offers to Drive Conversions

After we organized our value props and created separate flows catered to each of the three segments, we layered on discounts and special offers. 

The discount that the Dumpling team had found most impactful after testing several offers against each other in their email newsletters and on social media was a 15% discount with an order of $50 or more. So, we ran with it! We sent this offer to most of our segments, but we drove it home hardest with the users that had connected with a personal shopper but had never placed an order. Here’s what that offer looks like in action:

Hi there [name],

It’s simple. When you shop with a Personal Shopper on Dumpling (like bizOwner_name!​) you…

✔️ get what’s on your list

👋 support a local small business

🛒 and you save yourself a trip to the store 

Plus, Dumpling doesn’t mark up your groceries like the other guys. And if you needed just one more reason to place your first order, use code WELCOME15 to save $15 when you spend $50 or more. 

So what are you waiting for? Make your grocery list today.

The Dumpling Team

And, although every email we sent to this particular segment included the offer, we set up some A/B subject line tests to see if including the offer in the subject line would impact overall conversion rate. Surprisingly, the CVR wasn’t significantly different between the emails that included the offer in the subject line and those that didn’t.

The Results

Simply, the results we saw after we implemented these email flows were incredibly impactful and made a significant difference in the overall business health for Dumpling. Here’s what that looks like broken down:

Segment: Users That Have Ordered Once and Never Reordered

  • Of the 2,084 users in this segment, 352 placed an order (17%)

Segment: Users That Have Placed 1-3 Orders and Haven’t Reordered in 2+ Months

  • Of the 2,035 users in this segment, 556 placed an order (27%)

Segment: Users That Have Never Placed an Order

  • Of the 3,455 users in this segment, 480 placed an order (14%)

Are you currently segmenting your email lists and creating dedicated flows? Think that automation can save you time and drive revenue? (Hint, you’re right about that one).

Get in touch!

 

email inbox

A Hill We’ll Die On: Email is Critical to Your CRO

Email marketing is a crucial way of keeping your audience engaged. Full stop. No matter if you’re an eCommerce or SaaS, B2B or B2C, email is an incredibly powerful tool that can move users through the funnel and help them pick up steam on the way towards conversion.

That’s why the way we think about email needs to change.

If your strongest association with email involves things like newsletters and announcements, you’re definitely not alone. But if we accomplish anything with this article, it will be helping you shift your perspective so you think of email as a powerful tool for conversion rate optimization (CRO). Since email is an intimate way of communicating with your customers, it is the perfect way to drive conversions.

Whether someone signs up for your email list at a conference, exchanges it for gated content, enters a giveaway, or joins your list after making a purchase, they are already familiar with your brand. That’s what positions it on a pedestal high above discovery-based channels like social media (although of course, social plays a different but equally important role).

Let’s talk about how to do some marketing alchemy and turn that familiarity into conversions. 

A note on newsletters

Before diving deeper into how email can be used as a CRO tool, it’s important to note that newsletters (while, true, we might have talked some smack above) are also a super important part of your overall strategies. 

Once you add someone to your email list, maintaining regular communication with them is essential. Doing so “trains” your audience to look for updates and keeps your brand top of mind.

Newsletter emails are also a great way to optimize your calls-to-action (CTA) by tracking how customers interact with them.  

In an attempt to avoid confusion for the intent of this article:

  • There is a CRO component to newsletters (button type, subject lines, actionable copy, etc) but that’s NOT what we’re talking about here.
  • Thinking about super targeted emails that communicate with your customer as a touchpoint in their bigger-picture path towards conversion IS what where talking about here. 

Step #1: Map Out the Customer Journey

The first step to turning email into a powerful CRO tool is by putting yourself in your audiences’ shoes. 

While email acquisition is its whole separate strategic beast (we could—and will!—write a fully separate post on this topic) it’s important to think about the different ways people jump onto your email list. 

Email flow and segment chart

So, on that note, before you think about creating CRO-focused email flows, put your heads together with your marketing team to dig in and map out what your customer journeys look like. This includes answering questions like: 

  • What are the myriad ways someone might give us their email address?
  • How long does it take cold traffic to convert? 
  • Is there a seasonality to buying? 
  • How is our sales team involved and how can we avoid duplicate messaging?

Once do the legwork here and get these down on paper (or mapped out on a white board) it will make segmentation much, much easier.

Step #2: Segment

In email marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It’s critical to clearly define your customers and create a personalized email strategy. To get the best results, segmentation is an important piece of the puzzle. That way we can target recipients based on factors like behavior and attributes and make email feel like a real part of a conversation as opposed to an impersonal blast.

Every business is different. (Stating the obvious, much?) Which means there’s no one blueprint to follow for segmentation. Hopefully once you’ve mapped out your user journeys, getting in and segmenting your users feels like a natural next step. 

Here are the two most common ways to go about it:  

Behavior

Behavior segmentation is a good way to target your audience based on how they will react to your emails. A few examples of behavior segmentation would be:

  • When someone downloads your app but doesn’t create an account 
  • When someone downloads a white paper 
  • When someone abandons their cart 

Analyzing how your customers behave on your website gives you valuable insight to help increase conversion rate optimization. 

Attribute

Another way to segment your audience is by their attributes. This involves collecting user information either when they give you their email (the MUCH easier way to go about it) or in retrospect through surveys or other tactics (a good approach if you already have a large list of emails but don’t have much associated information). 

Pro tip: Only ask for the most important information when collecting a user’s email address. 

Tips for Segmenting Your Audience 

Collect the least amount of/most relevant information as possible 

As we mentioned earlier, people don’t want to take the time to give out more information than they need to. It takes more time for them to sign up and users don’t want to give out information if they are not absolutely sure about the value they’ll receive in return. Only ask for the most important data that will benefit the end user and help you segment.

Think about the fewest number of ways you can segment 

Deciding the best way to segment your audience in order to drive maximum conversions can be the trickiest and most time-consuming piece of this equation. Our tip: don’t do it in a vacuum!

Segmenting your audience into fewer categories allows you to efficiently learn user behavior, run tests, and optimize your email strategy. Too many segments will waste resources and leave your approach scattered.

Just like customer journey mapping, segmenting your audience is a difficult undertaking, but doing it well makes the rest of the CRO process much easier.

Step #3: Get Detailed With Your Email Flows

The short story: the better your messaging speaks to your user that’s considerate of where they are in their customer journey, the more likely they will be to take the action you’d like them to take. 

Based are where your segmented audiences are in their customer journey helps you decide how to set your goal for your email flow. Do you want a user to sign up for a premium plan? Buy a product? Continue to a landing page? 

Guiding users to take action necessitates engagement and continuous reasons to stay subscribed (read: offers, awesome content, etc.). One of the most common (and worst) mistakes companies make is emailing too often or sending irrelevant emails without purpose. The last thing you want is the reader asking themselves “what’s the point of this email?”  

For instance, an email to remind someone about an abandoned cart will look nothing like an email sent to someone that signed up for a coupon after seeing an ad.

While designing your flows, keep in mind that you’ll want to have a plan for what to do once a user reaches a goal. This might mean moving them into a new flow or putting them back on a general newsletter. 

Pro tip: this is where it’s super easy to get overwhelmed by the number of possible flows you can create. We recommend starting with an email flow that targets a segment that’s most likely to buy (abandoned cart, quiz takers, and people that have recently joined your list) then refine, measure success, and scale from there. 

Also, stay organized! We map out our users’ journeys in a spreadsheet, like this one

Step #4: Create Really Great Emails

No matter how targeted your flow is, poorly designed emails won’t lead to conversions. The key to conversion rate optimization is creating really good emails.  

Before you create an email, you should be able to answer these questions: 

  • What critical benefits do you want your user to know and in what order? 
  • What are the biggest blockers between your user and conversion? 
  • How can you meet them where they’re at and deliver a targeted, rock-solid message.  

The hierarchy of messaging can make or break your flow. Your users not only need to receive the right information, they need to receive it in the right order. 

Next, consider the obstacles between your audience and conversions. When designing your emails, think of ways to help users overcome these hurdles. (Think social proof, user testimonials, press mentions, or even “personalized” messages from your founder).

Email copy example.

Finally, be sure to keep CTAs in mind. Every email should include a clear action for your audience to interact with. Even if users aren’t ready to make a purchase or subscribe to your service, peripheral CTAs can keep them engaged along the way.

Step #6: Analyze, Optimize, Rinse & Repeat

Once you have emails sending and your strategy in motion, the work isn’t quite done. The way your users interact with your emails can give you super valuable insights. 

Consistently analyzing data like which links are most clicked, which subject lines drive the most opens, and which sends trigger the most unsubscribes should be leveraged on a monthly basis to drive design, copy, and flow. 

Ultimately, odds are, your first email strategy won’t be as effective as you want and that’s okay. The important part is to trust the process, analyze the results, and optimize your strategy until you get the results you want. 

In short, winning companies think about email as a CRO tool. By doing so, you can better optimize your communication strategy and generate more conversions compared to competitors that only see email as a way to talk to your audience. 

Looking to supercharge your email strategy to drive conversions? Let’s chat about it!

Person getting ready for a jog.

Kicking Dynamic Creative Ads to the Curb: How we Decreased CPA by 66% For Joyn

Person getting ready for a jog.

Joyn represents everything positive about the future of movement. True, we’re biased, but one of the best parts of what we do is choosing who we work with. And the truth is, our jobs are much, much easier (and more fun!) when we believe in our partners’ business. So, it goes without saying: we’re big fans of Joyn. 

Simply, Joyn is a movement app for every body. Built on the conviction that feeling the joy and freedom of movement shouldn’t be exclusive to muscular influencers in size 00, Joyn’s online library includes a wide range of videos led by instructors that are positive, warm, and inclusive—truly. At the beginning of each class, the instructor introduces themselves, shares their pronouns, and takes a moment to talk through their recommended modifications to the movement they’re about to facilitate. That way, people that might need to be seated can still have fun and participate. 

When Joyn reached out to us in late 2020, they had a well-established brand, product market fit, and a growing (and super excited) audience. But what they were looking to accomplish was replicating their positive growth across multiple channels and supercharging it with a growth marketing agency like Tuff. 

The Backstory

When we jumped in and got access to Joyn’s Facebook Business Manager, there was already quite a bit of historical data accumulated from past campaigns they had been running.

Similarly to many new Tuff clients, Joyn knew that Facebook Ads were a key tactic for scaling their subscription user base, so their in-house team jumped in, whipped up some creative, and launched ads to start getting a finger on the pulse of which combination of targeting and creative would drive the most conversions on the site. 

Truthfully, for any startup seeking product-market fit, this is the perfect approach. Get scrappy, launch some ads, glean some learnings, and when you’re established and ready to scale, call in more resources. 

When we stepped in, we did it with a pointed goal: drive down CPS. We paired with a clear game plan:

  1. Dig into the historical data 
  2. Test Non-Dynamic Creative 
  3. Get UGC Influencer Style Creative 
  4. Optimize what performs, ditch the rest

Joyn’s Facebook Dynamic Creative Ads: Were they Working?

After pulling and organizing the historical data, we realized that Joyn was relying heavily on dynamic creative ads, giving us an excellent place to jump in and uncover more insights. 

Dynamic ads require the Facebook strategist (or whomever is executing the ads strategy) to jump into the platform and upload several different types of creative along with several different headlines and body copy. Then, when the ad is published, Facebook—using its algorithm—automatically tests different combinations, eventually prioritizing the combinations that are most effective (“effectiveness” is measured based on whether you’ve chosen to run a conversion, traffic, video views, reach, brand awareness, or app install campaign). While generally, marketers can see some positive results using this approach, there are some significant drawbacks:

  • It’s a challenge to drop in creative that’s going to be cohesive no matter what combination Facebook serves
  • It’s relatively challenging to optimize on the fly with dynamic creative campaigns

So, we decided to take matters into our own hands and launch non-dynamic ads. The results speak for themselves. 

Launching Non-Dynamic Ads: a 66% Decrease in CPS

Our main goal when we launched non-dynamic ads was to first optimize spend toward the best performing asset. Although typically when we pivot to test new Facebook strategies (whether it’s a new audience, new bid type, or new ad creative) results are far from immediate—especially given Facebook’s seven-day attribution window.

But, after just $545 of spend, we saw a sharp drop of 62% and within the very first week we saw a 66% decrease in CPS. 

  • Dynamic Spend: $6,583.44 | 153 Start Trials | CPS: $43.03
  • Non-Dynamic Spend: $1,744.40 | 121 Start Trials | CPS: $14.41

faceboook cps decrease chat

True, non-dynamic ads aren’t for everyone. They necessitate a much closer eye and the oversight of someone that can spend time reallocating budget to best performing assets and manually testing creative combinations frequently. When done right, though, the results speak for themselves. 

Fresh Creative: Tapping Into Influencers

Next up on our agenda for Joyn was to deep dive into their creative assets and emerge with…

  1. A full assessment of the creative that’s historically been performing at the top of the pack
  2. Clear ideas for new types of creative we’d like to test

Here’s a peek at what that looked like.

We noted that the strongest-performing creative tended to be shorter videos that open with high energy and/or full-screen movement. Both of our best-performers featured a modified way to access the movement, and bright colors with quick, varying shots. Finally, we were immediately able to see recognizable Joyn branding. 

Strength Training Video  |   Yoga Video

So, the next steps: recommending fresh creative. Joyn’s library of body-positive movement classes is populated by a cohort of inclusive, positive, extremely personable coaches. So when we recommended testing influencer content, we were able to create fun, big-energy new creative on a few day turnaround without having to source or negotiate with influencers. 

We were able to get two raw videos back from two of Joyn’s most memorable coaches, Kanoa Greene and Anna Chapman, use Joyn’s internal team for some extra editing and text overlay, and deploy them without a hitch. 

While there are a few extra steps to take (both on the Joyn Instagram page and on the influencer’s personal page) once we began promoting the two videos, the results were extremely interesting.

  • Kanoa Greene Influencer Campaign: $643.18 | 14 Start Trials | CPS: $45
  • Best-Performing Audience: “Female Leaders” — CPS: $14.81

The name of the game for Joyn: drive a CPS of less than $20. And while our results for Anna’s influencer campaign were not quite as tight, serving Kanoa’s ad to fresh audiences, rotating in new copy, and testing new placements have us seeing results that are closer to what we’re aiming for. 

Ready to See What Works Best For You on Social?

While we have been able to deep dive into both creative strategy and rigorous optimizations with Joyn, no two brands are built the same. Have a suite of creative you think we could supercharge? 

Let us take a deep dive into your brand and develop a strategy built for your business. 

Download a Sample Growth Marketing Proposal

women working on a computer

You’re a Startup. Should You Hire a Growth Marketing Agency?

women working on a computer

Hello, founder! If you identify as such, you’re already among our favorite types of people (along with the UPS guy and the barista with the good latte art). 

Being a founder is a challenging, exhilarating, scrappy, rewarding, and sometimes painful endeavor. And one of the greatest strategic decisions you’re confronted with is which people are the most critical for you to have in your corner to help you navigate murky waters. Decision fatigue is a real, real thing and surrounding yourself with the right brains that have the insight, experience, compass, and know-how to help you steer your ship in the right direction can oftentimes mark the difference between success and failure. 

So, it’s with this understanding that many fresh founders jump into our Let’s Talk form absolutely and irrevocably convinced that they need a growth marketing agency to help them level up. Sometimes, we’ll hop on a Discovery Call, have a 30-minute conversation, and get incredibly fired up to send over a Growth Marketing Proposal with ideas for strategies and tactics that can put the wheels on your growth goals. 

But truth be told, oftentimes we’ll talk to founders, hear their growth goals, and respond with a simple and unflinching “we’re not right for you.”

The more we have these conversations, the more the internal team at Tuff comes back together to really try to get to the root of the question: “if you’re an early-stage startup, should you hire a growth marketing agency?”

Three Reasons You Should Hire an Agency

We’ve tirelessly and ceaselessly worked to build a website that is one major—and continually optimized—pitch for hiring us. Just check out the headline on our homepage: “Quick wins and long-term growth. No mysterious secret sauce.”

A Full, Diverse Team Has a Big-Picture Perspective

When you hire a growth marketing agency, whether it’s Tuff or another like-minded growth marketing agency, the major, overarching benefit is that it (generally speaking) comes stacked with a full team that can get a holistic view of your business, collaborate to identify the best course of action, and delegate execution tasks to true channel experts. 

We’ve structured the Tuff team around the most efficient way to identify strategic initiatives, outline tactics, execute them to a T, constantly monitor and optimize, deliver clear reports, and help you understand our (and your) actionable next steps while gleaning insights that can fuel your business growth in other ways. 

So, again, “Quick wins and long-term growth. No mysterious secret sauce.”

Allocate and Reallocate Resources As You Learn

While there are some agencies out there that charge a percentage of ad spend on a particular channel—known as performance marketing agencies—an agency that charges a retainer fee is built with the freedom to be adept. And as a founder, you know “adept” is the name of the game. 

An agency team is stacked with both big-picture strategists and deeply experienced channel experts. So, here’s a scenario: you collaborate with your growth team and create your original growth marketing strategy around testing Google Ads, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You soon discover after a few weeks of testing and optimizing that LinkedIn is yielding a CAC that simply isn’t sustainable. A performance marketing agency might shrug and recommend reallocating the LinkedIn spend to Facebook. But a growth marketing agency like Tuff can sub in another channel expert (like on-site CRO, email, YouTube, etc.) and test a new channel without skipping a beat. 

Team That’s “Been Around the Block” is Quick at Problem Solving

With a diverse and deep agency team comes a wealth of resources, a large network, and a long history of experience. 

Any growth marketer will tell you: growth isn’t linear. Nor is there any blueprint to follow. So when Facebook seems like a sure thing, then an unpredictable wrench like iOS 14 is thrown, a stacked team of social ads experts can beeline to their go-to resources, talk to other experts in their network, dig into their bag of “tricks,” and problem solve quicker and more efficiently than a generalist. 

Additionally, especially for startups, the peaks and valleys—when it comes to revenue, leads, funding, and even general morale—can be very high and very low. A full agency team has the know-how and the insight to be able to say, “take a deep breath, we’ve seen this before, here are our actionable next steps.”

Three Reasons You Should Definitely Not Hire a Growth Marketing Agency

For some founders, hiring an agency feels like a life raft: they come with the allure of having someone else, or a whole team of someone elses, to be beholden to investor pressure and growth goals. But, when your startup is moving a million miles an hour and any small decision can set off powerful reverberations across your company, stretching a thin budget to hire a full team simply doesn’t add up. The good news: there are lots of other awesome options.

A Scrappy Generalist Can Make a Bigger Mark

Pulling a full-time smart marketing hustler that can squeeze the most out of a small budget and stay in lock step with everything else you have going on can be a huge asset. Plus, when you have someone in the trenches with you day in and day out, they’ll simply understand your business better than any agency could. 

The caveat: it’s much, much easier to hire and subsequently part ways with an agency team. It happens more often than you think. (Side note, pro tip: look for agencies that don’t lock you into contracts). So when you hire someone to become part of your team, doing your due diligence and making sure they come with enough varied experience to make an impact over time is truly critical.

Most Agencies Aren’t Designed To Go From 0-60 (or 6,000)

Simply, founders and startups who are in pre-launch stages have a LOT to learn. No matter how many user surveys you do, beta testers you work with, incubators you participate in, or mentors you have, growth isn’t linear. Nor is there any blueprint to follow. (Yes, I’m repeating myself). 

Before you consider growth marketing, consider your stage. Are you still searching for traction? Paid acquisition channels might not be the right move. Instead, getting scrappier with influencers, networking, PR, and organic marketing can help you learn a lot (and quickly) without dropping bigger budgets on ad spend.

Plus, once you’re on the other side of your launch or you’ve found some sustainable traction, you’ll be able to get much more efficient with spend and make a much more significant impact. 

There are Options Like Growth Guide

When it all comes down to it, you’re in charge of your own destiny. That’s why we created Growth Guide. Instead of clicking into your business as a full growth marketing team (like we typically do), we designed a two-month training program that provides founders with structured, in-depth courses on topics ranging from strategically choosing acquisition channels, to setting smart growth goals, to getting deep in the weeds with channel optimizations, and more. Each are taught by a seasoned Tuff expert. We also include weekly workshops on a variety of growth topics and tactical hours to give you hands-on help. 

While Growth Guide certainly isn’t the only way to learn how to take growth marketing into your own hands as a founder, it is the only one (we’ve found!) that includes real hands-on help and heavy oversight to make sure you’re set off on the right path to traction, scalability, and beyond. 

So, What’s The Verdict?

The ultimately frustrating (but only true) response: it depends. But, we’ve worked hard to help fledgling founders, startups, and scale ups, find pathways to real, sustainable growth.

Think you’re ready to enlist Tuff’s help? Let’s talk

What is a Growth Marketing Agency?

Picture this: you’re a founder or startup. You have product-market fit, your revenue has been steadily climbing as referrals from happy customers or clients do their thing. But you have aggressive growth plans and just aren’t quite sure if you should start with Facebook ads, a strong blog game, or affiliate marketing. You’ve also seen those amazing success stories about TikTok and YouTube ads…but how do you know if it’s a safe bet for you?

Enter: a growth marketing agency.

What is a growth marketing agency?

A growth marketing agency helps organizations of all sizes create a marketing foundation with a strategic vision, a clear roadmap, and the ability to execute. Testing, optimizing, and testing again, we incrementally set and achieve tangible company growth goals, learning about what works and what we should ditch. And we do it all until you’re ready to hire in-house.

Simple. Sort of. The catch is that while most growth marketing agencies have partnered with dozens of companies and have experience in a wide variety of channels, there’s no such thing as a growth marketing blueprint. Meaning, even if LinkedIn has driven strong results for every B2B business we’ve ever partnered with, there’s absolutely no guarantee it’s going to work with the next one that walks through our proverbial doors.

At its core, a growth marketing agency comes with deep experience, hustle, and a scientific approach, but a healthy dose of “humble,” or a strong understanding that the first gut instinct might not work. What separates the great growth marketing agencies from the rest is the ego-less quick pivot and boundless energy and curiosity to find what works.

What is a growth marketing channel?

A growth marketing channel is essentially the way people hear about you for the first time. 

Zoom out far enough and it seems as though there’s a nearly infinite number of growth marketing channels. The quick-hitter core list: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Bing, and TikTok. By no means is this list exhaustive, or even close to it, but it comprises the go-to channels that most growth marketers will put at the center of their strategies (at least until testing proves otherwise). The most important and fundamental thing to understand about growth marketing channels: not all channels are created equal. 

What is growth marketing strategy?

A growth strategy is rigorous prioritization. It’s a high-level roadmap of all the channels and corresponding tactics you plan to execute to find the fastest, most efficient path to growth. 

It’s extremely important to note that a growth marketing strategy is by no means set in stone. Even if we know that TikTok has generated a low customer acquisition cost for many health and beauty industry clients we’ve worked with and read case studies about—so much so it’s at the top of our list—it’s never untouchable. A good growth strategy allows for evolution and changes over time. For example, if we were to begin to collect data, test a number of different audiences and tactics, and in the end, discover that our own TikTok campaigns are underperforming compared to the other two or three channels and tactics we’re trying, it’s axed. 

A growth strategy is critical for companies looking to grow quickly and efficiently. With a growth strategy, we have a plan in place for systematically getting to work every day on the things that have the highest impact on your revenue. 

Far too often founders or startups come to us already attempting to do too many things at once without truly attempting to understand their impact.

Building a growth strategy helps us be extremely intentional about how to invest limited time and resources. It ensures we stay laser-focused on only the opportunities with the highest likelihood of producing meaningful results.

What does a growth marketer do?

A growth marketer is at the helm of this ship. With guidance from the leadership team—often the founder themselves—the growth marketer creates a growth strategy that is actionable, goal-oriented, and laser focused on revenue.

Then, executing themselves, or rallying a team of experts, a growth marketer is responsible for ensuring that everyone is on the same page, moving in the same direction, and that channels or tactics that are underperforming get optimized, restructured, or tossed out. 

What does growth marketing mean to Tuff? 

Here at Tuff we’d never claim to have some mysterious or special back-pocket tricks or secret sauce. Our formula is simple: finding the right balance of quick wins and long-term growth. And we never take our eyes off revenue: that’s our guiding light. Even if a channel is driving colossal amounts of traffic, if it isn’t converting, it’s on the chopping block 

Arguably most importantly of all, we show our work. We walk our clients through every tactic we try and help them understand why we choose each channel. 

Every time we fire up a partnership with a new client, it’s always defined by:

  • Meeting consistently in small teams of two to four (always with a Growth Marketer in addition to one or more channel experts)
  • With weekly or bi-weekly team meetings
  • Following our growth framework
  • With consistent communication
  • Focused on shared goals
  • With rock solid execution

Think you might be in need of a growth marketing agency to level up your business and start showing the revenue you know you’re capable of? Let’s talk.