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In this episode, Charli talks with Monika Pawlik, Lead Marketing Designer at Funding Circle. Monika talks about how she and her team have collaborated and stayed a tight-knit group through lots of change, working with external agencies, and how Funding Circle’s most successful campaign came to fruition. Funding Circle is a UK-based lending platform that offers specialized funding options for small businesses.
Welcome back to another episode of Inside Marketing Design. I'm your host Charli Marie. I'm the creative director at ConvertKit leading the brand and marketing design efforts there and I am obsessed with learning about how other companies handle this side of design and tech. So that's what the show is about.
This week we are going behind the scenes with a UK-based FinTech company called Funding Circle. They are a lending platform that offers specialized funding options for small businesses. And our guest today is Monika Pollack, who leads the marketing design team at Funding Circle. She's been at the company for about a year and a half, and I first met Monika when she responded to an issue of my newsletter, the Marketing Design Dispatch, to tell me about a win that her and her small team had had. She told me about them breaking free from like, the rote production work that marketing designers can often end up stuck in when there's just like a lot of work to do at a company. And she shared how her team got to actually take on some of the more fun creative work that had been previously outsourced to an agency. So there's definitely a win and we'll get into that and a lot more in this episode, including talking about things like print design work and creating TV ads that are not super common across other companies that I've spoken to this season.
Of course, before we get into it though, I wanna thank Webflow for supporting the season of the show. Webflow is a visual development tool that more than 3.5 million designers and teams use to create websites without writing code. I use it for my websites and one of the best things about it is the flexible content management system. You can create collections of content, whether that's blog posts, features, testimonial codes, whatever the heck you like with whatever fields you like, and you can pull content from those collections and fields into your design to style it however you want. It's an incredibly powerful feature while also being extremely easy to use. So check it out at insidemarketingdesign.com/workflow to learn more.
But now let's jump in and take a look inside Marketing Design at Funding Circle.
Welcome to the show, Monika. I'm super excited to have you here and to be able to dig in on more of the exciting things that you know you emailed me about, about the impact that marketing design and you and your role have had at Funding Circle. So I mean, let's just get started there. Tell us about your role leading the marketing design team. What are you responsible for? How big is the team? Give us the lay of the land.
Monika:- So in marketing design, we've actually always been a very small team. When I started about a year and a half ago, there was only me and one marketing design manager. He'd since left the business around early April. So luckily by that time we'd already started the hiring process for a new marketing designer to like, help me out a bit and he joined the team 10 weeks ago. But there was a short period of time where I was the sole person responsible for delivering on all of our marketing campaigns.
Charli:- I know that feeling well.
Monika:- Yep. So we were really beneath when the new marketing designer joined the team. So now there are two of us and that definitely makes the workload easier to manage, especially as the design needs of the business are like really expanding at the moment. So just for context, we have 20 people on the marketing team and then within that, we've got like sub-teams who focus on different channels. And so for us that will be email and direct mail dev, digital and social media. And then we have our bar and introducer channels in like our B2B to C space. And then we have like internal and external comms. So with all of that we kind of have this fast-moving marketing machine that needs design support pretty much 'round the clock. So we definitely have our hands full. And then, as well as the two of us on the marketing design team, we have a digital designer who's part of the wider design team at Funding Circle and he kind of sits between marketing and products, and he's basically like, a After Effects wizard and we kind of pull him into projects whenever we have like, a social asset that needs animating or a video that needs editing, and so on. And then, in terms of my role, it has kind of evolved in the last few months because last year, in the space of the year we lost both our head of design and the marketing design manager who hired me. So there was suddenly like, all of these gaps that needed filling. So with the new marketing designer joining, I stepped up to more of a management role. So now I'm generally responsible for setting our creative direction and maintaining processes and just making sure we stay on track as a team.
Charli:- Nice. Wow, that's a lot of change then, for you to have gone through in your year and a half at the company so far.
Monika:- Yeah, quite a bit.
Charli:- Yeah, well done for tackling all that. Where does the, so you're part of the marketing team, right? Marketing design fits within the marketing team. Where does that team fit within the like wider org structure of your company?
Monika:- This is where we've had a bit of re-shuffle lately, as well. So the design team, as a whole, used to sit under products. So that would be both product designers and marketing designers. But since we like lost some of that high level design leadership and then our marketing design manager, it just made more sense to actually split up and sit with the departments that we work closest with. So our product designers now sit under products and like support that side of the business, and marketing design sits under brand, which is part of the wider marketing team. So yeah, as a transition, like it's definitely been one that made sense because products and marketing at Funding Circle do work quite differently and in the end, like there was just very little overlap with what product was working on and marketing was working on. So yeah, like for us splitting up just meant that we can become close to the marketing teams that we were supporting on a daily basis and then align our work well with what was happening in the brand as well. So yeah, we're quite happy with where we are now and actually overall, as a wider design team, it's kind of motivated us to like come closer together in the middle and like create that space where you know we can be designers together and really share design ideas and have that shared goal of making Funding Circle a design-led business, like being in two different camps. Yeah, it's been working out great.
Charli:- That's so interesting, the fact that like actually splitting the team, so that everyone is having their own separate focus and like area of expertise, I guess, has brought you all actually closer together.
Charli:- In the end. Why do you think that is?
Monika:- I think it's like, since we lost some of that design leadership, we've kind of had to really, really come together as a team and it's just nice to like, bring the designers and the company together and actually talk design. So even though it makes sense for us to split to like a more practical perspective, like we're still all designers and we still have things to talk about and we still need to align the UX side of things with the marketing end side of things. So, yeah.
Charli:- Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Tell me a little bit more about these, the like, the rest of the designers in the company, like about their roles and more about how you collaborate. Is it more than just giving feedback in these joint design team meetings?
Monika:- So yes, there are two of us on the marketing design team and we now have two product designers, like literally as of a few weeks going because for a long time, we only had one person, and then there's our digital designer who sits in the middle. And yeah, like I said like even though we support different sides of the business, we're a very close-knit team and like you said, like we have, we still have our day in the once a week where we sit together, like in what we call our "design corner" and those are kind of dedicated design days where we can just like, hang out together, share ideas and collaborate and yeah, like especially since our head of designs left we all kind of became jointly responsible for like running the whole design functioning company. So we've really come together in fulfilling that role as a team and I think that's what's actually brought us together. And yet, even though we don't actually work together directly on most projects, we have actually collaborated on our new website refresh, which is due to launch in a matter of weeks. Like by the time this is live, the website should be live. Hopefully. So yeah, like over the last year, we've basically been working on refreshing our website UI and just generally updating some of our Elemental by Visual brand, which has been a huge effort. Our single product design at the time was basically solely responsible for building a whole new component library and then the new design of the website was led by us in marketing design, and that was just like design and up direction and around the photography that we've used on that website. So yeah, it's been a very good thick product to work on together.
Charli:- Yeah that that is awesome. And oh my gosh, I'm just hearing so much change you're going through at the moment, right? Like all change for the better obviously. But I know that when we, we talked previously, the website didn't used to be your responsibility to design, right? It used to be something that the product designers were responsible for, which was really interesting to me. Tell me a little bit more about that change in your involvement with the marketing site then, versus now.
Monika:- Yeah, so like you said, so the old website we didn't really get involved that much. I think like as the core part of our product, which is the small business and loan application, it was usually the product and the product designers who like made changes to the UX elements and just worked on like the user journeys within the platform. And then in terms of marketing and SEI, that all belonged to the digital team in marketing. So we only ever really changed like the hero images on some of the core pages, but that usually happens in line with like, launching a new TV campaign and even then, it was kind of a bit of an afterthought. But yeah with Product Refresh I definitely, because we're taking a more design-led approach with it, we're eventually introducing a CMS as well, which we didn't have on the old website. So yeah, so the hope, the hope is that we'll have more flexibility in updating elements, understand you'd be able to take a more creative approach to how our brand elements, like Campaign appear and live on the new website.
Charli:- So speaking of like this refresh and the the Funding Circle brand in general, I'd love to hear how it is you describe that. What does the brand show, visually?
Monika:- Funding Circle is the UK's number one lending platform for small businesses and we are really proud to be small business specialists. So like one of the main reasons why customers might come to Funding Circle is because, for whatever reason, they can't get a loan with a traditional bank. So in that respect, we've always seen ourselves as the alternative to traditional lenders, you know, because we're led by cutting-edge tech and we specialize in really understanding small businesses so we can help them access the funding they need to be successful, which is a really great mission to have. And the reason I love working for Funding Circle, just supporting small businesses, it's really great. But yeah, this is something that's definitely reflected visually in our brand. I would say our visuals are definitely more playful and informal than what you'd ever see or expect from a bank, but we're always kind of toeing that line between playful and approachable and then also being seen as a trustworthy financial service. So yeah, there's always that balance that we try, we're trying to strike. And historically, actually like, a lot of our marketing assets have featured, and visual, from a TV campaign that we would have on at the time. So then our job as marketing designers would be to take that creative, whatever it may be, and integrate it into assets across channels. And most of the time, that works really well, right because you've got, you've got all of these high value visuals, they look really premium and professional, and then they link back to that ad that you might see on the tele. And it was usually enough to like visually carry a marketing campaign alongside our base brand elements, like colors and typography. And we have produced like really, really cool quite out-there TV creative over the last few years. At the moment our TV ad concept is based around this idea of business owners growing these purple Muppet hands and the main idea is that you know, Funding Circle can be the lending hands for your business and they're really cute. Like, they're actually physical purple Muppet hands that we can kind of create assets with. So actually the agency that we worked with to produce that ad have created like a bunch of static and gift assets. So we're really all about putting giant purple Muppet hands all over our marketing, which is very useful actually. Like when you need to like point to a CTA or like, cute thumbs up and a DR email. Yeah, so practically they're working really, really well which is great 'cause there definitely have been times where a TV creative, like it didn't necessarily lend itself as well as other marketing assets and that's when we'd definitely be kind of stuck because we've relied on campaign visuals to carry our marketing for so long. Our core brand elements like, hadn't exactly evolved to function independently. So this is a big thing that we're focusing on now with the new websites and the refresh, we're really looking to create like a richer, more layered core brand, just so we have something a bit more neutral to fall back on and if a TV campaign just doesn't quite work for a particular reason. So for instance, like if there's a financial crisis or like another pandemic, you know, purple hands might not be the most appropriate thing to have on a newsletter.
Charli:- Quickly pivot to something else, right?
Monika:- Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we're really trying to mitigate that.
Charli:- Oh that's so interesting. Yeah, to think that most of the brand visuals you're using came from from the TVC's, so you were like you know, really constrained to that in a way and that now you're having a little bit more freedom and perhaps the TVC creative will come more from the space brand and the visuals that you've been creating now, too.
Monika:- Yeah, like so the idea is to definitely have both, like definitely have that core visual brand and then be able to like, integrate the campaigns into it but also be able to take them out as and when we need.
Charli:- Let's talk more about producing TVCs, then. 'Cause that is not something that a lot of tech companies do. You know? We may like, earlier in the season we talked to the team at monday.com who produced an ad for the Super Bowl but that was very like, you know, that one TV spot, but very digital mostly, for the campaign. So I'm definitely keen to learn more about this. I'm sure our listeners will be too. How often are you producing new TVCs? Let's start there.
Monika:- So yeah, we've definitely had our fair share over the last few years surely because we had to like, re-calibrate some of our more positive messaging around Covid when times weren't so great for small businesses. So we've had about four different TVCs over the last four years. So yeah, definitely lots of challenges to the marketing design team to like integrate those into a whole new set of assets every time. But the idea of Lending Hands is definitely to have it there for a longer period of time so we don't have to keep like, switching over, Like to have something a bit more evergreen, that we can just use long-term alongside a more neutral core brand.
Charli:- Oh interesting. So will the like, Muppet hand thing sort of become like a mascot, I guess, for Funding Circle?
Charli:- At least.
Monika:- Yeah, yeah.
Charli:- For the life.
Monika:- Yeah. Yeah, yeah that's how we're calling it.
Charli:- And what, what about your involvement in the process of making TVCs? Do you get to like contribute to that? 'Cause I can imagine it would be a pretty fun thing to work on as a marketing designer and like, what does that process look like?
Monika:- Yes, actually anything relating to commissioning a new TVCs, that's from like, sourcing a creative agency to managing that whole process, usually falls under brand leadership. But where we as designers do get involved is making sure that whatever's decided on we get the supporting assets or anything else we might need to integrate that campaign across channels. But yeah, tends to be a very open process. Like we're usually involved in all the feedback stages and get to like, peek behind the scenes when ads team meet. But I think because it's such a big investment the big decisions tend to be made on a high level, and definitely like, producing a campaign that can integrate well across channels has been a learning curve for Funding Circle. And this is something that we're increasingly prioritizing when looking at creative pictures from agencies because we've learned that, you know, you can have a great TV ad, but if that creative doesn't really stretch beyond the TV screen you kind of have to have that core visual brand that's like strong enough and varied enough to fill that gap. So that's definitely where we're heading now.
Charli:- So since you were so used then to- to working with Campaign Creative that, that comes from these TVCs and like, that is the main visuals that you work with, how did you as a design team settle in and like, decide on what this neutral brand would look like going forward?
Monika:- It kind of started when we looked at refreshing our brand look and feel with the new website. We definitely wanted to reflect how that brand has evolved over the years because our brand guidelines just hadn't really been updated for a long time. And then, we, as designers, began to take a more flexible approach with it.
Charli:- Making up your own rules.
Monika:- Kind of. Yeah, but that's actually, that's given us a better idea of how that brand wants to be used organically. So like, for example, our "official" brand guidelines would have purple and orange as like the core primary colors, but then I tend to be more reserved designer when it comes to using color, in general. So I was more drawn to like the grays and like, the slate side of the palette. So I kind of used that for blocks and then used purple and orange as more of the, like, accent color. And then we did all eventually agree that it, it makes our assets look a bit more premium, so now we really have a chance to form isomer based on things and have the actual brand in use as bases, which is really exciting. And then in terms of creating that vitch, like virtual brands, we're just starting to explore how to make it as robust and like future-proof as possible. We're really growing as a business and we're actually launching some new products later this year, so we really need to think about creating a design system that can support us having multiple products as well. So with the research, like we're definitely starting some solid fundamental elements, like we've introduced new photography, which looks great, and then we've introduced new colors to kind of signify all the different products and we're introducing circles as well as like a graphic device, which we didn't really have before. So that's already giving us a lot of flexibility but the idea is to definitely build on those elements and create that solid, neutral style and we're actually working with like an external creative agency, as well, to help us with their discovery and development process for this. And it's become like a really nice creative partnership where they're helping us take our visual brand to the next level and giving us that outside perspective that we might not necessarily have working in-house.
Charli:- Yeah, this is coming up honestly as a trend as I've been talking to companies throughout the season about brand refreshes or re-brands, there's a lot of getting an outside agency involved for that, you know, third party perspective. That's really interesting. Tell me more about how you typically outsource to agencies at Funding Circle. 'Cause I know this is not like the first time that you've done this, right? You also do it for TVCs. Tell us more about that.
Monika:- Yes, I obviously hope- we're a really small in-house team but actually, up until recently, we've just about managed to keep most of the actual design work in-house. We do work with freelancers on occasional ad hoc projects but most of the time I tend to be quite protective of our work and try to like, keep inside the org as much as possible. But we'll usually work with agencies on bigger brand campaigns, like our TV ads, where we just don't have that kind of capability in house or we've worked with dedicated social media agencies or motion graphics agencies. But actually, since we've expanded that resource in house with our digital designer and we've kind of managed to bring motion back in house working with the creative agency on the visual brand development now kind of feels new. Since I'm really beginning to see the benefits of actually, you know, handing off some of that work and to an external party and kind of seeing how their perception of our brand differs from how we see it internally, it's still definitely a challenge to let go because it kind of feels like the agency gets to work on all the fun bits while we still have to do the marketing meetings and we still have to tick off all the tickets. But yeah, there's, I think there's a benefit to actually meeting in the middle, and working together on something that's ultimately going to make our brand better. And I think I've learned as well that it doesn't mean that your internal resource is less capable or less creative, it just means accepting that sometimes you just can't do it alone. And sometimes you just need an agency who can spend two solid days flushing out design integrations. Where internally, you just might not have that luxury 'cause, like-
Charli:- Too many meetings.
Monika:- Too many meetings . But yeah, I definitely think it needs to be a partnership, so I'm really trying to make sure that we get the most value out of working with an external agency. So like, rather than being given out of the box ideas, we're actually there to brainstorm and workshop ideas together and do some of the design work as well. And that means that a lot of that value will ultimately stay in house and enrich the internal design resource instead of competing with it.
Charli:- Yeah and also like all the context you have as an in-house designer, right, is so important. Like you know the brand 'cause as we know, a brand is more than visuals so you know the brand perception and like, what Funding Circle is trying to build much better than an agency can.
Charli:- Because you've got all this experience. So yeah, by, by meshing together as a team you'll get a better result at the end as well, right?
Charli:- This idea of in-house versus agency and like, the context that in-house designers have, this is the like how we met, right? This is what you contacted me about and you told me about the impact your team had had and I'd love to dig into this more. Tell us about the Neon campaign. How did it come to be?
Monika:- I'm so glad you asked about this campaign because that was actually the one campaign for us where we were able to show just how much we can achieve creatively in house without necessarily the need for agency support. And it came about when around 2019, so that was before I joined Funding Circle. We launched this TV ad that kind of explored this idea of small businesses being the future of our economy and it's featured the singing baby. Yep.
Charli:- You said you'd done some, some weird, wonderful things.
Monika:- And that's one of them, and yeah it, it definitely wasn't everyone's cup of tea but yeah, we had the singing baby, the ads kind of ran in the period leading up to Covid, as the pandemic hit, we had to take it off air and replace it with an ad for like a government coronavirus support scheme which we became accredited for at the time. So that then ran for about a year, by the time the government scheme ended we had no other creative treatment or campaign lined up. So what we did was we put baby back on air again. Like we just had absolutely no campaign assets to work with to extend that campaign across our marketing channels. So that was when I-
Charli:- You mean you didn't wanna do like baby hands? Or like-
Monika:- We did every,
Charli:- Every ad had a baby face on it.
Monika:- So that was when I joined the company so-
Charli:- And that was a fun challenge for you to start with at your new job.
Monika:- So yeah, so right off the bat we had to basically come up with a way to make our marketing assets work with an ad that was never scalable, not kind of usable in any other way than TV. We tried everything, like we tried taking stills from the video, but it just didn't work and yeah, like you said, we just didn't wanna start putting babies all over our marketing. So we really had to improvise. I think it was, it was about time. Because that was a time when businesses were opening up again after such a long period of uncertainty, you know, emerging from the pandemic, ready to taste the future. So we just kind of brainstormed it and we immediately thought of these like, "Open for Business" neon signs in shop windows and then we thought, actually that's a really nice visual next to the baby's purple nightlight in the TV ads. So that was kind of our bingo moment like yes we've got it. So we kind of ran with it and we just created a bunch of like neon sign assets and what we did as well was use our existing case study photography 'cause we had no budget or time for new photography, and we put these big like, neon quadrants around our borrowers, which was like a graphic device that we were using at the time. And this kind of really nicely conveyed how the purple glow of Funding Circle empowered small businesses to keep going after the pandemic. So that was really great. And yeah, we just came up with this entire conceptual campaign in a matter of weeks and created everything in house and then when we actually started applying it to some of our existing marketing templates, everyone just absolutely loved it. And I think, yeah, it was definitely right for the times, it was right for us as a brand because it was bold and different and very much alternative, and yeah, best of all as well, we got to expand the campaign internally so people like, coming back to the office after lockdown. So it was kind of like Funding Circle's open for business as well and we actually installed real neon signs down at the office and yeah it was very, very cool.
Charli:- Oh, that must have been so fun. This wasn't the usual way you worked, right? Like usually it was the agency coming up with the campaign creative and like in house, you are doing like, applying that, essentially. Was it hard to convince leadership to let you handle it in house? How did you go about doing that and like, also how did you make time for it because you also had like all the work on your plate still, as well.
Monika:- Yes, I, the timing was actually so quick that honestly I don't think anybody thought twice by the, by the time we kind of realized the baby ad just wouldn't translate well across our marketing, it was already kind of too late and then a solution had to be found really, really quickly. I don't think even we expected for the campaign to be such a success and to be used for as long as it did. We ended up using it for like six or seven months, which is completely unprecedented. That's not what we expected. It was meant to solve like a major problem we had at the time, but it just became everyone's absolutely favorite campaign and it definitely made our marketing materials could save face. So yeah, I don't think anyone really expected such a big impact and it was a massive win for our team, right? Because we showed that actually, we are the creative powerhouse, despite having relied on external campaign creative for so long and yeah in terms of making time for it, we just kind of had to do it, because we had no other way and I definitely spent a couple of late nights, like, adding convincing neon effects to images but without all that extra effort a lot our most successful marketing to date would never have happened. So yeah, it's definitely worth it.
Charli:- Oh that's, that's awesome. Quick aside, before we get into, I wanna dig into that, what you said about most successful marketing. I hope there's some metrics there, but what design tool were you using to add those neon effects? Were you in Photoshop for that?
Monika:- Good ol' Photoshop. Yep.
Charli:- Yeah. Nice. Okay, just gotta check. You gotta go nerdy for a second. Okay, coming back tell us about the impact of the, the campaign then. You said it's the most successful one to date. What does that mean? How much can you share with us?
Monika:- Yeah, so that campaign actually performed really, really well. If it hadn't, it probably wouldn't have lasted as long as it did.
Charli:- Makes sense. Yep.
Monika:- One stats I can remember off the top of my head is click-throughs on social going up by 75% in the first three months. So I can definitely like have that and die happy. That was great.
Charli:- Oh that is just so rewarding. As you know, marketing and brand designers, a lot of the work we do feels like it's not strictly measurable, you know, in a way. And so when we get a start like that, when we can see the impact that our work had, I'm just like ah, it's my favorite thing.
Charli:- Love that.
Monika:- It was just such a win because when we did bring in Lending Hands, people were sort of like, "Well what's gonna happen to Neon? Are we getting rid of Neon?"
Charli:- And you're like look, we can do this again. We did it before, we can have success again.
Charli:- So what- you said that this means that the team, you know, like everyone internally saw that your team is this creative powerhouse, we don't need agencies to do the creative work, we can use them for overflow because we are a small team at the end of the day. But yeah, tell us more about how the perception, I guess, of your team has changed internally because of this and if any processes have changed because of it too.
Monika:- I think to be honest, like a lot, most of the changes I can see internally within my team definitely for myself leading the team, I definitely realize now how important it is to actually carve out room for those creative opportunities. Even if we're super busy dealing with BAU or like, we're having to partner with an agency on bigger brand projects. Fundamentally it's definitely important that the internal team can grow and develop as designers and have those opportunities, you know, to solve complex design problems and work on their Photoshop editing skills and just think conceptually about our brand. So it's just about being protective of our internal development while ensuring the needs of the business are still being met. So for example, now when working with agency partners, I'm really pushing for those creative sessions where we can really become almost like extensions of each other's design teams instead of having that one-way delivery system. And what I'd really love to do as well is actually block out at least one full day, every two weeks for my design team to forget DAU. Like really focus on just designing and experimenting with new ideas. You know, it's not always possible and we are definitely not quite there yet 'cause we're just so busy. That's something I'd definitely like to see happen in the future.
Charli:- Yeah, it's so important right, to have that creative freedom time because that's investing in the long term, you know? Like yeah, in the short term we need to get these ads shipped, but we also need to know like, where do we wanna be six months from now, a year from now? And carving out that time.
Charli:- Agreed. I also need to do that more and also am not prioritizing at the moment so I can relate, but yeah, let's, let's both make that happen. So as well as TVCs, I know that something else that's interesting about your work at Funding Circle that may not be part of like, you know the regular day-to-day for other tech companies is that you do a lot of print work, right? That like, that's a big part of Funding Circle's marketing, is direct mail. Tell us more about that and like how much of the work you do is, is print versus digital?
Monika:- Yes, so direct mail, and print campaigns actually account for about 40 to 50% of conversions at Funding Circle.
Charli:- Important channel.
Monika:- We send people a lot of letters.
Charli:- So it's you.
Monika:- So yeah, in terms of design it's probably like a 50-50 split between print and digital work, which I know, like you said, it's quite unique for a tech company so a lot of it would be like standard A4 letters with a campaign or a non-campaign design treatment. But what what we do as well is like a lot of cool high-value print formats, like brochures, filled out leaflets and little gift packs. So as part of the Neon campaign we sent out a self-mail package with like, you know one of those wireless sign chargers that you can put on your desk and they charge your phone, and it said Funding Circle, Powering Small Business. So we do nice little things like that as well.
Charli:- Nice. There we go. So it's, yeah it's not just letters, it's also like, you know, little gifts and things to make people remember you. Oo I like that. What do you find the differences are between designing for print in comparison to designing for digital? I used to do a lot of print design, like, that's where I got my start in design, and these days, I would say I maybe have to think about print once or twice a year and usually it's like someone needs a business card so I feel like I've forgotten all about this now. So yeah, tell us, tell us what it's like for you.
Monika:- So I absolutely love designing for print, and I love using, I love using InDesign, I just love it, call me old school but I just love InDesign so it's just as well we get to do a lot of that, but it's definitely more time-consuming and there's more pressure on like getting that final artwork absolutely perfect before it goes to print.
Charli:- You can't do any like fixes after it goes live, can you?
Monika:- Nope. And there's definitely also tight deadlines that you can't usually push back on. So creative print projects will definitely take up more time and resources. So for us, a project will normally kick off with the briefing the the direct marketing team and then it will go to copy before it goes to design. And sometimes when the format's a bit more complicated we'll collaborate with copy at an earlier stage just so we're aligned on what goes well and kind of thinking about the UX process of like opening up that pack as well. And then after designing we'll just get everyone to review it, proof it, and then send it off to print. And that's it.
Charli:- And so do you have like longer, what is the word for it?
Monika:- Lead times.
Charli:- Lead times. Yeah. Longer lead times with it, too?
Monika:- Yeah, if we're lucky. Yeah. But yeah, we usually prep print campaigns like two weeks before print so we just have time to like, go through the print process and then send them on, on the date that it's meant to be sent.
Charli:- Well let's talk about the print process, 'cause this is something that I remember finding quite fun in my first graphic design job where I did do a lot of print work was getting involved with that. What level are you able to like review the proofs and and that sort of thing with the, these campaigns?
Monika:- Yeah, not really. So once we export a file for print our job usually ends there. I think in, in an ideal world that we'd love to be reviewing the web proofs, especially for those high value print projects. But we usually have to turn them around so quickly that we just can't afford waiting for like an extra four or five days for the proofs to come back. So we generally just like trust our print partners to get all the paintings right and then the first time we'll see a campaign is when it lands on ours doormats.
Charli:- Oh wow. So you get sent your own campaigns, that's really fun.
Charli:- Yeah, now that I'm thinking about it in the, the graphic design job I worked in, the printers were like sort of just down the road from our office so we, we got print proofs very quickly from them so yeah, maybe that's why I was able to be so involved in it. But another interesting thing about print work versus digital, 'cause we were just talking before about how great it is as designers to be able to measure the impact of our work and like, oh that's fun to get those metrics. How do you measure the impact of your work in print assets? 'Cause it's not like someone is like clicking on that letter and you're tracking that click. You know?
Monika:- That's an excellent question, actually, because before I started working at Funding Circle I definitely used to think that it was harder to measure the impact of print assets versus digital 'cause you know, you haven't got the click-through rates or interaction indicators that you can measure and therefore the performance metrics just wouldn't be as precise unless you have like a QR code or dedicated fine number for print channels. But actually what our marketing team at Funding Circle is really good at is measuring the impact of our print campaigns. Basically we just send a lot in volume. So if you're qualifying small business in the UK you will have received the marketing letter from Funding Circle which kind of makes our success and failure highly measurable. And then in terms of conversions, we know exactly which businesses and addresses we sent to from our database so we know if they respond by saying, "Yeah," to loan application and again like, you know you can never be 100% perfect but we do have a strong baseline of what print campaigns do to our overall conversions in the business. Self predictions can be very accurate just on that basis. Yeah, I don't like, fully understand it but it's a very well oiled machine.
Charli:- I wonder if it's- sort of sounds, sort of like measuring brand advertising, right? Where it's hard- brand ads, like general awareness ads, aren't designed to get people to click straight away. Like, it's great if they do but it's not the the whole point and so we sort of like test different markets or like, it's on-off testing, where it's like, oh brand ads were running during this period and we got this much traffic. So imagine maybe something similar for the campaigns where it's like, well we know we sent out this letter in this month and this is all the traffic we got so probably it had an impact.
Monika:- What we do as well is a lot of creative format testing. So when everyone wants to do like a cool new print format, like a gift pack or a print pack that's just a bit more into that like.
Charli:- Like the wireless charger?
Monika:- Yeah, yeah, yeah. We'll usually send it along like a control version that we've tested before so we can measure the direct impact. And what we have actually seen is that creative packs do have a direct, a positive impact on our conversion. So we're always looking to do more of that and just keep learning by testing things out.
Charli:- Ooh. That's fun, to like know as a designer, as well, if you're like, look, the data shows that if I do something more creative than just sending an A4 letter, we're gonna get better results, so let me do something fun.
Monika:- Very satisfying. Yeah.
Charli:- That's awesome. Okay, we've talked about a few, like, challenges that you've been working through at Funding Circle throughout this episode already, but I'm curious to hear like what are some of the main ones you're facing right now, either you and your role, you know, in this new space leading marketing design efforts or perhaps as a team?
Monika:- So yes, as a wider design team we are definitely working to make Funding Circle a more design-driven business and that kind of means pushing the boundaries of what we've done previously. At the moment, like the refresh project, we're also looking at redesigning all of our existing marketing assets just in line with the new design style.
Charli:- Just all of them.
Monika:- Just all of them, yeah, bit by bit. There's a lot of work to be done here and one of my main objectives actually, is to deliver a tight and robust set of brands and design guidelines of the back of that project. So we can make sure the new standards we are trying to set for the business stay with us long-term. And then also we're transitioning into a multi-product world and launching multiple products alongside our core small business term loans, over the next few months. Like, we're really trying to figure out what that multi-product face of the brand is going to look like, and how we kind of properly differentiate between the different products visually while still making them look part of our core brand. And I think the, the main design challenge is that we're a really very fast-paced tech business and things are usually developed and launched before we've had a chance to like think about it or like, come up with the whole complete design treatment. So for the next few months, it's definitely going to be about living with like, temporary inconsistency until we've like, just gone through all the beta phases, and learned what does and doesn't work. So yeah, we'll just really need to blend and base activity as a team.
Charli:- Yeah, and like definitely sounds like, as a team, you know as a design team, you're sort of self-governing the standards of the brand, right? Like you said that you, you don't have the leadership there and you are, you're doing it together as a group and so it'll be really important to like, ask you ship things that are temporary, just remind everyone this is temporary and we are gonna do this differently 'cause we can do better than this.
Charli:- That's what I always find myself doing as well. It's like we're gonna ship this now, 'cause I know we need it quickly, but I'm not proud of it and I wanna do it again later.
Charli:- And what about you in your career? I mean you know, you've obviously accomplished a lot since starting at Funding Circle and your role and like responsibilities have sort of changed a bit over the, that year and a half as well. But what, what's next? What skills are you building next? What growth are you looking for in your career?
Monika:- So I've been thrust into the world of team management in the last few months and while it's really exciting, and where I kind of always wanted to be, I still have to learn a lot about creative leadership and just managing a small in-house design team. So I'm just reading lots of management resources, I'm focusing on being the best leader I can be.
Charli:- Oh I love that. If you need a recommendation, then I'm gonna suggest for you "Making a Manager" by Julie Zhuo.
Monika:- I'm reading that at the moment. I'm actually reading that.
Charli:- There we go, I think it's fantastic.
Monika:- Yeah it's fantastic.
Charli:- Yep. I read it when I started leading the brand team at ConvertKit which is like, still feels pretty new to me. It's only been a couple of years and it was, it was a great read. So I love that. Let's end by talking about what you are proud of and obviously you could answer everything that we've talked about. All the wins that we've shared in this episode, but is there a certain like, project or impact from your time at Funding Circle that you are most proud of that you wanna share?
Monika:- The Neon campaign and how well that-
Charli:- That 75% increase in conversion?
Monika:- Yes. Yep. But honestly like I think I'm most proud of how far we've come as a wider design team and how tight knit we've become. You know, despite no longer having a head of design to create that unity between marketing and product, we're filling a lot of those leadership gaps in both products and marketing just by sharing ideas and striving towards the same goal. And this is already starting to have a massive impact on our work across the business and all of our designs are just wonderful, like insanely talented guys and yeah, I just couldn't be happier with where we are a team right now.
Charli:- That's awesome. Well it'll be exciting to see like look at this new website that by the time this episode is out, like everyone can go and look at it and see the hard work that your team have been doing and yeah, just seeing how things evolve from here. Thanks so much for everything that you shared today, Monika.
Monika:- Thanks Charli.
Charli:- Now I don't know about you, but I just loved Monika's attitude towards her work. You can really tell she takes ownership of the projects on her plate, right? And isn't simply like, churning out briefs from the marketing team. She has a vision along with the rest of the design team for what design can do for Funding Circle and she's working to bring that to life and I find that really inspiring. I often hear from marketing designers who are feeling frustrated that they can't take on the projects that they want to work on or that there's not, perhaps, the design culture that they really want within the company they're at. So if you are in that situation, I hope you can learn from what Monika shared today and just open your mind to the possibilities that could come with you deciding to step up and take ownership of those things. It was really fun to get to talk print to going back to my print design roots and especially surprising to hear just how much of the conversions that drives the Funding Circle. 40, 50% is is a lot from print. So thanks again to Monika for all the insights she shared today. I'll leave links in the description and the show notes where you can follow her and her work. And thanks again to Webflow for sponsoring the season. If you or your team is looking for a website building tool that has all the ease of a drag and drop editor without any of the like, clunky code that comes along with those usually, then head to InsideMarketingDesign.com/webflow and you'll find all the episodes of the season so far, as well as the past ones in both video and audio format at InsideMarketingDesign.com. Thanks for listening and I'll see you next time.
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