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Being the only marketing designer on the team can be tough, but also very rewarding as you'll hear in this wonderfully transparent episode from David Preston. At Sendible, everyone on the team is encouraged to be the "CEO" of their own domain and you'll get a lot of great insights from David as he talks about his responsibilities and process for getting a lot done as a team of one.
0:00 - What to expect for season 2
1:30 - About Sendible & today's guest
3:10 - David's role & responsibilities as Brand Marketing Manager
5:40 - What David works on day-to-day
9:00 - The Sendible marketing website
13:00 - Marketing at Sendible
15:00 - Sendible brand & messaging
18:50 - The web design & testing process
26:10 - Tools & software
27:25 - Why David does his own photography
29:15 - Measuring success & data
31:10 - Project management
32:45 - Designing social media images
35:55 - Design system & staying aligned with product
37:50 - Challenges David is facing at the moment
39:40 - Planning work in 2 week sprints
42:35 - The impact of marketing design at Sendible
Charli: Welcome to season two of "Inside Marketing Design,". I'm so excited to be back this year and bringing you another set of in-depth interviews with the designers and leaders behind brand and marketing design in tech. This whole series started from a place of pure curiosity for me. In case we haven't met before, I'm Charli, I'm the Creative Director at ConvertKit. And for a very long time, I was a marketing design team of one. I found myself really wanting to learn from my peers in the industry, how they got their work done, how they handled projects, how they approached principles. And there wasn't a lot of content out there that focused on this... Let's call it “non-product side of design and tech”.
So, I started Inside Marketing and Design as a way to kind of solve that, I suppose, as a way for me to get those learnings by getting on calls with people and hearing about how they do things. And then of course, it's a way to share those insights with you as well.
I'm really excited for season two. We have a stacked lineup of episodes. We're gonna be hearing from designers at Dropbox, at Notion, at Figma, at Stripe, loads of great tech companies, both big and small. And so, I hope you will subscribe so you don't miss any episodes. You can watch video episodes on our YouTube channel or find the audio only version in your favorite podcasting app, just search for Inside Marketing Design or head to insidemarketingdesign.co to find links to all the things.
We are kicking off season two today with a bang, starting with my conversation with David Preston, who is the Brand Marketing Manager at Sendible. Sendible is an all-in-one social media tool for agencies. It helps them handle post scheduling, approvals, engagement, reporting, and David joined the team about a year and a half ago as the first marketing design hire. Recently, he was promoted to be the lead on all things brand for Sendible. And so, he's not only responsible for the branded marketing design work, but also the strategy behind it now as well.
Sendible are on the smaller side of the companies that'll be featured as part of season two of the show. There are about 45 people at the moment, and David shared a lot of great advice and insights in this episode for how to get work done as a small team. And I also really appreciate how transparent he was about the challenges that come along with that as well. So, I know that if you work at a small company or if you're a solo designer on the team, you're gonna find this episode very relatable.
Before we get into this first episode, though, some more exciting news about season two of Inside Marketing Design is that we have a sponsor, people! Webflow has come on board to support the show for the season, just like they support designers everywhere with their no code website building tool. I have been a happy Webflow user for many years with my personal websites. And we just recently started using it at ConvertKit for a few projects as well. So, if you wanna check it out and see how it could help you or your team get your work done and build some great websites without needing to code them by hand, then you can do that at insidemarketingdesign.co/webflow, and that'll be linked in the description as well for you.
All right, enough preamble, without further ado, let's get into my conversation with David Preston and take a look Inside Marketing Design at Sendible.
Welcome to the show, David, I'm really excited to have you here and to learn more about marketing design at Sendible, especially kind of selfishly, because you're in a very similar position to me. Our roles are very similar at our different small tech companies. So, let's start with that. Do you wanna talk us through your role and where you fit within the org structure at Sendible?
David: Yeah, awesome. Thanks for having me. So, I sit under the growth team. Well, I said under growth, my boss is the VP of Growth. And we are part of sales and marketing. So, I sit within the marketing side of things, and I recently was promoted to brand marketing manager, which has been more of a stream of work management, which is something you've mentioned to me in the past, which I think makes sense. But yeah, that's pretty much where I fit into things.
Charli: But you are the person who's responsible for the marketing and brand design at Sendible too.
David: Yeah, that's right. So, I was actually hired as a visual designer over a year ago now, about 14 months ago. And on my year anniversary, I got promoted to the brand marketing manager. So, I've still got the design role. I've just absorbed the brand side of things as well.
Charli: Let's go into that more. First of all, congratulations. What are your responsibilities as brand marketing manager? So, you're responsible for the marketing brand design. What else are you responsible for?
David: The main thing for me now since the role change has been increasing brand awareness or even just maintaining it, but trying to get the brand spoken about, obviously as a web product. Getting spoken about online, whether it's on blog posts on social media and then having customers kind of bring up the brand in person as well is a big thing. So, brand awareness is kind of my "metric," I guess you could say, which is tied to measure, but that's what it is.
Charli: Yeah, and this is super fascinating for me because when I moved into the creative director role at ConvertKit, I was a little unsure about it at first, to be honest, because I didn't know of any other designers who are also responsible for this brand awareness side of things. So, that's why I'm very excited to have you on and be talking about this 'cause, I don't know, maybe some other designers who are also in this sort of like brand marketing manager/designer role will come out of the woodwork after hearing this episode. So, you're responsible for brand awareness and like building the brand and yet brand awareness is the metric that you're mainly responsible for. What about the work you do on a day-to-day basis though? Like what is the focus, the main area of work for you?
David: Yeah, I mean, it varies from bigger picture stuff to more individual requests from a specific teammate or somebody in customer support might need something on the help desk, our support side. So, our biggest is broken down into those two parts where one of the big things I'm working on right now is a long-term brand strategy, pretty much like where we wanna be next year and like how are we gonna get there. And then within that, I'll get perhaps a more specific request from the sales team saying, "Hey, we need this asset for a customer who needs a customized dashboard," or something. So, yeah, it varies between big picture stuff and requests, whereas before just as the visual designer, it was more like requests based stuff.
Charli: And how's that transition been for you? Going from being responsible for design, like I'm guessing you were in... Well, what tool do you use to design in?
David: Well, it's kind of interesting because I used to be in Adobe for everything, and I swear, I literally don't do anything outside of Figma anymore. Like, it's just, it works too well. And I'm lucky to not have to create print assets. So, yeah, Figma is just, it's hard for me to do anything else in any other place. If I can figure out how to do it in Figma, I'll do it.
Charli: I'm like that way with print assets, whenever there actually is a print thing for me to do, I'm like, "Can I do this in Figma though? "Let me try."
David: Yeah, I've searched online. There's like plugins to convert to CMIK and I'd get print colors accurate in Figma. I'm like, "Okay, I'll figure it out."
Charli: Okay, so, how then has the difference been going from working day-to-day in Figma, designing as the main part of your job to having the strategy layer added in on top? What's that transition been like?
David: Yeah, I mean, to be honest, I've enjoyed it because I guess I'm full of ideas and I can think ‘big picture’ very naturally. Like, I think of an idea and I get all excited and I'm like, "Oh, cool, we could do this and that and this and that." So, like now I'm being forced to like document those ideas and document like a strategy on how to get there. In the past, it was more like, "Oh, that would be cool to do." And then kind of forget about the next day. Now I'm like, "Oh, I've actually gotta act on that "and do something about it." Then it's sharing my ideas with the CEO, the VP of Growth, the product designers on the product side, kind of chatting to them about what they think of these ideas and kind of tweezing out the things that people seem to be interested in and seem to work. And then also playing with my own kind of gut-feel.
Charli: Yeah, that's important.
David: And then it's about putting it together into a format that people inside the company can then look at it and be like, "Okay, cool, we're doing this because of this." I'm not just creating this new website to have a pretty site, but it's like a lead gen tool, or it's a, I'll give you an example. Like I wanna start posting our blog featured images on Unsplash and that's part of a strategy. And then I've got to figure out how to get people on board with that sort of stuff.
Charli: Gotcha, yeah. It's almost as if sometimes we have to do internal marketing as well as external to get buy into our ideas and this type of thing, it's really interesting to, yeah, and thanks for that example too, that's cool. You mentioned the marketing site there. I'm gonna guess that is a core part of your role, and the work that you do is taking care of that. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and about the approach to that?
David: Yeah, of course. It's a social media management tool, right? Mainly targeted towards agencies. So, it's a web product. So, the biggest thing in terms of metrics is converting visitors to trialists or demo requests so that our sales team can get involved as well for bigger accounts. So, yeah, the marketing side is a huge part of what I do, whether it's designing for it or adjusting content that's already on it, changing the assets based on changes in the product, that kind of stuff. So, yeah, website is a big one.
Charli: And you're the one designing it. Are you also the one building it?
Charli: And do you think that'll be the next hire you make whenever that's possible?
David: I think what it will be is probably to go freelance first. Try and get somebody who's not quite an agency, but somebody who can work closer with us without the commitment of hiring somebody. 'Cause I guess the thing we're a bit concerned about right now is there not being enough work for that person.
Charli: Gotcha. Yeah, and with your time split between the design work and the strategy, I can see how that could be a concern 'cause you wouldn't constantly be producing new designs for them to build. Yeah.
David: And with the development, it's like for someone like me, with my knowledge, it's very much trial and error. So, I can spend a long time doing one thing because I'm literally figuring out how to do it. So, I spent 80% of the time figuring it out then 20% of the time actually implementing it. So, it can be a bit of a time cost for me to be developing stuff.
Charli: So, how does the process work right now when you wanna make a change to the website? Well, first of all, do those come about when you wanna make a change or are they usually a request from someone on the team to make a change?
David: Yeah, it's an interesting one, because again, it's a bit of a balance. One of our core values of the company is to be the CEO of your domain.
Charli: Huh, I like it!
David: Which is really, really cool. So, we're trusted. It's hard for me to say that there's a specific stakeholder on a project because if a problem has been brought to you, it's kind of up to you to lead the charge and figure it out. So, a lot of the time I will have a specific request where it's like, "I need this thing for this thing." And you're like, "Cool." There's not really much flexibility needed there. And then other times it's like, I need this thing. And then I'm like, "But why?" And then you get to like the kind of nitty gritty of it and you actually don't, they don't actually need what they requested, they need something else. So, that can be one way that it's done. But I mean, if you want to get into the details of that specific process, requests can come in by the marketing board on Asana, and then the marketing team and the VP of Growth, who is kind of the marketing team lead, obviously, we will do a bit of a backlog grooming every two weeks and we work in like a two week sprint cycle.
Charli: Okay, that's short.
David: Yeah, if a request has come outside of marketing, we'll review that as a team every second Thursday and then see the urgency if it fits into the next sprint or not.
Charli: I like this, and this is, by the way, the exact level of nerdy detail that I like going into on this show. So, keep it all coming. Yeah, okay, so, Asana, meetings every two weeks for the backlog, that's cool. I feel like maybe we need to dig into a little bit of the marketing team structure because, obviously, that's where a lot of your work comes from. Can you talk a little bit about that and maybe what the main focus is for marketing at Sendible? Like what type of, I don't know, marketing channels maybe is the right word. I should probably know what they mostly use.
David: Well, the company is 48 people at the moment. The marketing team specifically is six people. Sales and marketing combined is about, I would say maybe 12 or so. So, there's six of us in marketing, inbound marketing manager, customer marketing manager, VP of Growth, product marketing manager, myself, and content writer, social media manager. So, our main focus, honestly, is getting people into the funnel. I mean, it's very buzzwordy and I don't love speaking that kind of way about it, but yeah, getting people into the top of the funnel and then trying to get as few people to leave the funnel as possible, basically. A lot of it is inbound. It's been very new to us to start doing outbound with the sales team actually making some calls to people who have perhaps moved away from us in the past, a lot of organic social media, a lot of website landing pages, getting people to request demos. And then we have started doing more paid social recently.
Charli: Oh, interesting.
David: And a bit of Google display ads, but that hasn't actually gone live yet.
Charli: Gotcha, it makes sense that as a social media management app, that social media is a core marketing avenue for you.
David: Yeah, you know exactly. It's actually a bit of a double-edged sword or whatever, but we're talking about social media on social media. It's very hard to engage an audience. It's tough. You've got to kind of get into the bones of things to get people interested.
Charli: Let's talk about that a little bit more. What have you done with your brand or the approach you take to marketing, and the design in particular, to make that connection and to help cut through the noise, I guess?
David: I think because we are targeting agencies specifically, one of the things we like to focus on is almost the free time that having a social media management tool can kind of free up for you, either to spend time with your business on other areas of your business or more importantly, be spending time with your friends and family. So, trying to get that kind of aspect into things like set up this, not an autopilot system, but something that's gonna free up a lot of your time so that you can grow your business. And if their business grows, we grow with them. So, that's kind of our mission… Get agencies on board and let us grow together. So, that's definitely one side of it, but yeah, it's not easy. I think just general social media management tips and what works on social media blog content about different best practices on social, what channels are working, that kind of thing. Those are the kinds of topics and areas we go into.
Charli: Talk to me a little bit more about the Sendible visual brand. So, I know that you were the second creative to join the company, right?
Charli:- So, is the visual brand something you established? Did you work in it with an agency? Someone else at the company?
David: Yeah, so, I was lucky. I came on board just after a rebrand.
Charli: Why do you say you're lucky about that.
David: Well, maybe because I was able to like take on this foundation and like build it.
Charli: But not enough to do it all yourself?
David: Yeah, and I think it's a good thing that, Steph, the lead product designer, that's where he sits now, it's a good thing because he was at the company. I mean, he's been there for about six years. So, he knew like the essence of the brand. So, he knew what he was gonna create and how I was gonna create it. I've then just taken what had done and try to build on it, evolve it, but still maintain that initial rebrand. So, yeah, I joined as the second, I guess, design hire, he then focused only on product and I then took all his marketing responsibilities, and since then we've hired a second product designer. So, that team has kind of grown out a bit, and yeah, I guess I worked with the rebrand. The biggest thing we did, which is actually still in process is the rebrand of the website. So, yeah, the homepage was the first port of call. We kind of rebranded that, got new styling, new everything kind of going. And then that was the kind of template for all the other pages that we've slowly started doing. And if I could spend all my time rebranding the site, I would, but it's been a bit of a slow process.
Charli: Oh, I feel you on that. I mean, I don't know, right now we're actually working on a redesign of a page that I designed when I first joined the company, which was almost five years ago. So, it's like it's about time. It just happens when you're a small marketing design team that there's gonna be parts you're less than proud of, let's say that.
David: And these pages just come out of nowhere. Like you didn't know the page existed and suddenly you're like, "Well, wow--"
Charli: Wait, where was this? And you learn it's getting like thousands of people visiting it each week. And you're like, "Oh dear, that's embarrassing. "We better get onto that."
Charli: How would you describe the Sendible visual brand?
David: I would say playful. We try not to be too corporate, too serious. I'm actually putting together brand guidelines now. So, it's good to actually talk about these things.
David: But yeah, I would say it's like relaxed, playful.
Charli: Nice, okay, so, speaking of the website, something that like a core flow of work that happens for us at ConvertKit is a new feature launches in the product. That generally triggers like a change that needs to happen to the website. Is it similar at Sendible? Is that commonly where you find the updates needing to be made?
David: Yeah, I think the biggest is probably product screenshots. If something within the app changes, then we need to update that specifically if it's like a big architecture change within the product. But yeah, it will be like an announcement on the product blog, and we'll need some cool header image for the product updates blog. And it will be, there's almost like an entire launch process whenever we launch something new with the products. And then I'll kind of come in at the tail end of that for any assets that they need. If it's something a bit bigger, like if they need a video or if we're actually gonna run an ad campaign or something to promote this massive change, which is not very often, then I will probably get involved a little bit earlier.
Charli: Nice, let's talk through a project maybe that could help to like go through your process. Can you think of a recent project that was perhaps one of those bigger launches, maybe where you designed a landing page as part of it, and tell us a little bit more about how it came about, how you worked on it, who you collaborated with.
David: Let me think. I'll say the Request a Demo page, just because it is quite paramount to the sales team and what they do and need. So, that was one of the, I don't know, third or fourth pages that we really needed to rebrand. And it started out with getting some information from the sales team, first of all. So, it was actually our inbound marketing manager who like prompted the update.
David: And then I had to collaborate with the sales team. What information do you guys need from potential customers or trialists like company name, email address? 'Cause the form was quite long and I really wanted to get it down to as few fields as possible. Turns out a lot of the fields were needed because of our kind of qualification automation process. So, I lost a lot of battles in terms of removing fields.
Charli: Then at least you can say you tried.
David: Yeah, it would just be an email address if it was up to me, but at least our homepage has got just an email.
Charli: Yeah, I was just gonna say your homepage is just an email.
David: So, yeah, we just figured out a way to kind of organize the information better because it was a little bit difficult to digest. So, I broke it up into sections. That was all done in a bit of a wire frame style, kind of got everybody's okay on it. Mainly once I had the information that the fields that were required, then the sales were no longer involved because they just wanted to make sure that the fields they needed were in there and then kind of collaborated a bit with our product design team, because I used a bit of our design system within the fields and the design of the page.
Charli: Huh, interesting.
David: Yeah, that was a good one. Then it was about handing it off to our agency to develop the actual page itself in HubSpot. And once that was ready, we kind of switched around the theme onto the page and pushed it live really, and then just tested it to make sure it worked.
Charli: Oh, speaking of testing, is A/B testing or multi-variant testing something that you've ever done on the Sendible website?
David: Yeah, definitely. Specifically on the pricing page, I'm very lucky to have a boss who is very hands-on and he is very much involved in the pricing and I guess the kind of where we're going with the pricing strategy. So, he does a lot of pricing tests on there. We try not to change too much design in that kind of test because we're literally testing figures and the order of maybe the way prices are displayed. And yeah, we kind of just look at the conversion rates and then just stick with the one that kind of wins. As I start to rebrand more of the sites and more of those pages are updated, that's when I'll probably go back and optimize them and maybe do an A and B and see how things are. But to be honest, we don't get like ultra specific about a certain aspect of like a button or a text size or something. But as long as the new design isn't worse than what was previously, we're okay to move forward. And then from there we can try and increase that conversion rate.
Charli: And when you say that as long as the new design isn't worse, do you run an A/B test of the new versus the old, or is it more "Ship it and let's keep a close eye on it "and make sure that it's not tanking things."
David: I guess, for like the Request a Demo page, we did an A/B test, but after 48 hours, or I don't know, three or four days, we made sure that the current conversion rate of the new page wasn't any worse than the other one. And it fortunately wasn't, but because we're rebranding, I'm very much pushing luck. Look, guys, we need to get the brand updated first before we can A/B test these things because we don't want an entire old site just because it's a winning by 000000.1%.
David: But then again, it's like it's a very tough balance for the business because if it is something that's crucial, you've got to just take the thing that's winning in terms of getting conversion. So, looking more to optimize on the rebranded stuff once it's rebranded, basically.
Charli: Yeah, that's kind of been our approach as well at ConvertKit. Like we shipped a new homepage recently and we did not run it as an A/B test. 'Cause I was like, "I want this new page to be the thing that greets people "when they come to our site." It communicates our brand better than the old page does. And so, for that reason, we're gonna go for it and we'll make tweaks from there to optimize for the conversion if it tanks or anything. But luckily, it's held strong.
David: That's a great point though, like to make a decision based on, like this is the direction we're going in. And in short term it may be 0.01% less of a conversion rate, but in the long-term it's gonna do a better job. So, yeah. And it's tough because you understand that some people within the team have their own metrics and their own things that they're measured on. So, you have to respect that, but yeah, definitely, you want to try and make decisions for the long-term as well.
Charli: Yeah, exactly. That's a really great way to phrase it for sure. So, just to continue with this example of the demo request page, how is your process and like relationship like with the developer who built it?
David: That is an interesting question because I actually don't know who works on it.
Charli: Oh, wow, okay. So, almost nonexistent relationship.
David: Yeah, that's why I say it would be such a benefit to work with somebody 'cause then at least I know that I've told them something in the past, I don't need to tell them again. So, every time I submit a new like ticket with the agency, it could be any number of four or five different people, depending on what their inbox looks like at the time. So, I often have to repeat myself and sort of a slow process, bit of back and forth. But yeah, it's hard to say that I have an actual relationship with a specific developer.
Charli: Gotcha, so, it is definitely more like a hand it over the fence type of process where it's like, "Here's all the things you need," then they will email you probably with the thing to review before it gets shipped, yeah.
David: Yeah, I'm a big fan of Loom. You'll see me out record Looms all day long.
Charli: Oh, nice.
David: To tell like click here, do this, please do that.
Charli: Well, okay, well, since you mentioned Loom, and you've also mentioned Asana and Figma, HubSpot for the website, what other tools are part of your process that we should tell the people about?
David: Yeah, Asana project management, HubSpot is what the website's built on. I use my iPad, Apple Pencil and Apple Notes for sketching. I just love the way, I mean, first of all, the way that the pencil feels in Apple Notes is just supernatural, and then... Well, not supernatural, but super space natural. And if you've got a set up with ArtCloud and you've got a Figma frame open, you just drag the png of the drawing in Apple Notes onto your canvas, and you literally just have this thing, and it's just so seamless. ArtCloud and Notes is a dream. I've tried all kinds of notes apps, but it just works the best. I've been experiencing with FigJam lately as well. But as a company, we use Miro for like processes and flows and things like that. So, yeah, Miro like more of the tool that I'm using, and then Figma, obviously for wireframing, prototypes, and kind of high fidelity designs, social assets, video editing, accounting.
Charli: Love it, and speaking of social assets, I know that something that you do that I think is perhaps kind of unique to, I don't know, to the way other companies do it, and you referenced it before when you talked about putting your blog imagery on Unsplash, this is photography that you take yourself, right?
David: Yeah, lately I've been kind of experimenting with that. It's definitely something I try and incorporate in my workflow mainly because I enjoy it, to be honest, but also because it gives you a unique spin on things. Like I really love the images on Unsplash and I use them all the time, especially in my personal work, but especially within the social media space you see a lot of our competitors, you see a lot of other people using the exact same images and they start to become a bit recognizable. So, it's just one way for us to stand out and throw in like a little bit of our brand element within the photo. So, often I'll wear like a Sendible hoodie when taking the picture, for example.
Charli: I love that you take the time for that. It's sort of like the added level of quality detail that a lot of people don't bother to go to, and you're right, it's something that can help stand out. Is any part of your concern that if you put these photos on Unsplash they will become the photos that everyone is just using all the time?
David: Yeah, definitely. I think the idea would maybe to be put them up a little bit later once we've got the published article live and then also maybe just post some more of the like unused photos.
Charli: Yeah, yeah, I like that. This is something we've been doing at ConvertKit for our creative stories. We commission like photography of each creator. And if the creator is okay with it, then we share them on a like ConvertKit Unsplash account. And yeah, they've had a lot of use. There's one particular one of Courtland Allen from Indie Hackers who like he's recording a podcast with the photo and we just see it all over the place now. It's really funny. We also talked about conversion rates and brand awareness as some like metrics that you keep an eye on. What else can you tell us about how you measure the success of your work at Sendible? Is there, I don't know, some sort of like goal setting structure you're held accountable to like OKRs or anything like that.
David: Yeah, it's a tough one for me personally, because like I don't have a specific number that I can target, but brand awareness, we try and keep, like I keep an eye on that with Google Trends to see how often we're being mentioned and that kind of thing. But yeah, I really get properly judged on that per se or measured on that. But yeah, we use measuring the tools like Google Optimize, Crazy Egg for a bit of screen recordings and like heat maps and flows of where people are going on the site. But generally, it's looking at visitor to trial conversion rates and then visitor to request a demo rate as well. Those are the main ones really that I would say I'm involved in.
Charli: That makes sense. And how often do you look at that data?
David: I'm really lucky to have to work closely with the inbound marketing manager who looks after all of that. So, that's a huge thing that's not necessarily on my plate, but I definitely get the updates from her every now and then whether it's at a daily up or if something's really bad. Like "Whoa, we're not getting any trailers today," or something, then we know what's up. So, I'm lucky to have her to work with.
Charli: Nice, so, you can trust that if an issue arises, she's gonna raise it and then you can address it together from there.
David: Yeah, and she's a boss at that, to be honest. Like the way she knows Google Analytics and Crazy Egg and all that, it's just, it makes things a lot easier for me.
Charli: Oh yeah, for sure. We have a data team as well who's super smart. And like, I don't know, sometimes we clash 'cause I'll be like, "Can't we just run the test?" Like I just wanna run this test. And they're like, "Well, we have to be smart "about the way we structure it." And I'm like, "It makes sense, fine." Moving on, what about project management at Sendible? What does that look like? I'm assuming that as the manager of the stream of work of brand marketing, there's probably a lot of that that you have to do.
David: Yeah, definitely. Asana is the go-to place for that. In terms of a tool, I've recently implemented a brand design project board in Asana, and this has been incredibly helpful for me. And it's only been around for about three or four weeks now, but I've created a tag that has every single channel that the brand touches. So, it'll be like a support site, social media, paid social, the website, all those kinds of channels. And I can then filter that board based on a channel to kind of get an update on what that channel is doing right now. So, like, "Oh wow, we've got a lot of work going on "in social," or "We haven't done much on the website," or "This has been delayed or something." So, that's been huge. And at the end of every month, I'm gonna start this next week. As we record this, a week from now, an update to the company where I walk through the brand design board. So, that'll be a monthly thing that I hope to introduce. But a lot of it is from a broader perspective as the VP of Growth, lately, we've been very aligned in our vision and our future. So, those updates come either monthly or quarterly as a whole company. And then we have daily stand-ups as well as a marketing team. So, those are good to kind of stay in sync.
Charli: Yeah, that is, I think it's really important to stay in touch with what the marketing team's working on. Sounds like, okay, I'm projecting here, but as a designer, designing images for social media, not my favorite thing. Is that something for you that you have to design each one? Are there templates that either you use or that the marketing team self service? What does that stream of work look like and how do you make it easier on yourself, I suppose is my question.
David: Yeah, I bet you, if the marketing team listened to this, they'll be keen to hear my answer because I think I hold on to the creative rights on those images a little bit too tightly sometimes. So, lately I've been trying very hard to use auto layouts in Figma for social assets. So, if I get a code, for example, I can paste it into a graphic and the order layout in Figma will adjust the size for me.
Charli: Oh, that's so good, yeah.
David: So, that's been something that has helped a lot in terms of time. But I think being a small team, it's hard for me to expect people to create assets that are up to the brand standards and guidelines that we want. So, unfortunately I don't work with like a freelancer or an intern or anything like that. So, I just try and make the process as simple as I can on my side by doing little shortcuts and things in Figma. So, yeah, I think that's the only way I get around the issue. And if there is a new type of asset that we get at the very first one I make will probably take a little bit longer than normal because I have to set up the asset in the template pretty much.
Charli: Yep, that's smart though, to make use of auto layout for that. I didn't even think about that for social media images.
David: It's huge, auto layout and using components for things like Instagram carousels. If you create one long Instagram carousel as a component, create, set it up, duplicate it and then make a frame, duplicate it, move the thing a little bit. So, there's little things, little tricks.
Charli: I like it, I like it, that's good, yeah. It seems like you're making it easier on yourself. My approach to it that can work, it has been to, thankfully, be able to hire a freelancer.
David: Nice, nice.
Charli: I know that that's, maybe that's also the next step then for you, along with hiring the creative developer as a freelancer that you can put on your wishlist.
David: Yeah, that's it.
Charli: And also I think it's... I like that you keep, I don't know the reins tight on it. I do the same thing, I get super nervous about self-service just because we're responsible for the brand, right? And so, anything that goes out is ultimately our responsibility, even if we haven't been the one to create it. And so, if someone takes the template and perhaps uses it wrong, or I don't know, perhaps just doesn't catch the things we would, it reflects poorly on us at the end of the day. It's like a constant battle that I have between making things easier and self-servicing some areas, but yeah, Still holding things very close because I wanna stay in control of it. So, I feel you.
David: Yeah, definitely. And it takes a long time to build up that consistency when you're specifically talking visually and it doesn't take many off-brand posts to kind of break up that kind consistency.
Charli: Yeah, exactly, that's why it's important for sure. You mentioned a bit earlier about, how was the demo request page? You took some elements from the product design system. Tell me a little bit more about this, as you've been rebranding, have you been building a design system for the marketing and brand assets in Figma?
David: Yeah, that's a great question. I have been borrowing a lot of it from our product design system and then adapting it... If I adapt component enough it will then become its own marketing design system component.
David: I tried to do that as little as possible so that if there's updates on the product side, I then don't have to keep in sync. But yeah, that's another beauty about Figma is just the way that the design systems work and the components. I would love to create actual website modules as components, like an entire section, so that when we design a new page, it's like almost drag and drop.
Charli: How do You stay aligned with the product team visually? Do you have weekly or monthly or whatever crits with them where you will meet as a "design team" like an unofficial way to stay in touch?
David: Yeah, definitely. We have a weekly design meeting. It's the three of us. And I just give them a bit of a show and tell what I've been doing over the last week. It's less about accountability and more about, "Do you spot anything "that maybe you've got suggestions on?" Or I've used a button and then Steph will say to me, "Oh yeah, we've actually changed that button" or something like that. So, sometimes you can think you're meeting too often, but then as soon as the meeting starts and something is mentioned, you're like, "Okay, I'm so glad we met "because I didn't even think of that."
David: So, yeah, it's very helpful to meet at least weekly.
Charli: That's good, cool, yeah. I love that you're maintaining that connection. That's something that I feel like we lost for a bit at ConvertKit as our team group and where we're like getting it back now with every other week, I think it is that we meet and do a crit together, yeah. Okay, so, we've talked about some of the challenges or like, yeah, the main issues that you face in marketing design at Sendible, main one I'm hearing being working with the developer. Like you would love to have someone who can be more collaborative on that. What are some other challenges that you're facing or like working through at the moment?
David: I would just say protecting my time because I can be a bit of a yes man. Like I do actually protect my time quite well, I think, but then I get a request about something that I really want to do. And it's like I say yes and I'm like, "Might not tell my boss straight away" or I might like, so, it's a bit of a balancing act, but the bi-weekly sprints that we have as a marketing team, it does help protect the time because I can, if someone gives me a request, I can say, "Cool, I'll start this out." Or "I'll review this in the next print planning and act." Don't just take something on straight away. That kind of sends a message to people outside of the marketing team to plan when they request something with me and like, "Oh, if I need this in a month, "I need to ask David like tomorrow" kind of thing.
David: So, that has helped a lot, but yeah, protecting my time is definitely an obstacle. And then I would say people coming to me with a solution rather than a problem that I can then kind of mold into a solution. So, sometimes you'll have somebody asked for something. I mentioned it earlier where that's actually not what they need and something else can be done to solve their problem that either already done, or it's just easier and more effective. And then yeah, you touched on the website development. That's a big one.
Charli: Yeah. Just quickly on the planning, with these two week sprints, how long do you spend planning for them? Because I'm just thinking like, I don't know. I could imagine myself getting into a situation where I'm spending like way too much time planning. 'cause I'm planning so often.
David: Yeah, I know it's a good question. In the beginning, I was like, "Two weeks is tough." And what I've recently learned is that instead of being stressed all the time, you're kind of just stressed for the one or two days before the sprint ends.
David: I mean, it hurts for those two days sometimes, not all the time, but then as soon as you get to the end of the sprint, you like can breathe again. So, it's like this constant cycle of like, I can be stressed if I haven't planned well enough. Or if I've taken on more tasks, it's like pretty much all on you if you took on too much. But then when the next sprint comes, it's like fresh thoughts, you breathe, you settle. And I've found in previous roles. It's like, if there's no structure, you're just always stressed because everyone always needs everything now. So, I felt that it's actually helped. But in terms of how long we spend on planning, every second Thursday we have a sprint retrospective, then a backlog grooming, then a sprint planning. And if I have something, I would say I'm one of the few in the team who has like things that take longer than two weeks. So, what I do is I create what is a marketing rock and that'll be in Asana and then I'll break it down into sub tasks and then I'll put the sub tasks into the sprint so that I've always got the momentum flowing and I'm doing kind of one thing at a time and it helps to get my personal momentum going, excuse me. And the confidence to feel like I'm reaching the end of a goal. It wasn't always like that, it definitely took a while to figure that out because in the beginning I was like, "Yeah, I'm doing this." Then the sprint came to the end and I was like, "I'm still doing this."
David: So, yeah, it took a while to learn and figure it out, but it's working well now.
Charli: That's smart. And just going back again to the demo request page as example, was that one that fit within a two week sprint or was it one that spanned multiple sprints?
David: Multiple for sure, yeah. Wire frame was about two weeks. I would say high fidelity for two weeks and then developing for two weeks. So, you could almost say six weeks on that.
Charli: Yep, and is that pretty typical for like a new landing page on the website that would be the timeframe that it's completed in?
David: Yeah, I would say so. I think if we had internal developments, it would be faster. I don't mind to taking that long only because we know everybody knows that we're working on other things and it's not just me working on other things. The sales team are, can't give me a feedback straight away. The rest of the team can't give me feedback straight away. So, if it was the only thing I'm working on, yeah, we could try and get it done in two weeks, but yeah. Kind of spreading yourself amongst other projects as well.
Charli: Yep, it's like a trade-off, isn't it? It's like we can get it done faster, but I can't literally do anything else during this time.
Charli: Lastly, let's talk about the impact that marketing design has on the business at Sendible. Yeah, what do you think it is the impact that it has? Is it treated as something that's very important 'cause I find that sometimes the role that we're in, it can be like a coat of paint type of approach to it that the rest of the business takes, or sometimes it's like really embedded and seen as a core part. Where on the scale do you think your role fits at Sendible?
David: Yeah, no, I think it's very important because we are so dependent on kind of inbound traffic and the VP of Growth being our manager, he's the one updating the company on our metrics every month.
David: So, he's very much got his finger on the pulse in terms of what we need to be achieving. So, yeah, it's a huge part of that, and not only feeding the sales team with leads and high quality leads, but also the product lead marketing. What can we do within the product to keep people or to be not kind of churning? And how smooth is our onboarding process, all that kind of stuff. So, yeah, and then having the brand spoken about in person, and I mean, our customer support is a huge part of our brand, which is a huge part of marketing in a way, because they do such a good job that almost, I would say over 50% of our positive feedback is people saying how amazing the support was. And to me, that's part of our brand, that's our brand. It's not our logo, it's not our color, it's not our website, but it's the way that that customer felt because of that interaction with the support team member. So, yeah, I almost wanna say the whole company is a marketing team.
Charli: I like that.
David: And we just are the ones with the titles.
Charli: I like it, cool. And I lied before when I said, lastly, there is one more thing I wanna ask you. And that is, what are you most proud of from your work at Sendible so far? Is there a certain project that stands out or a certain, I don't know, piece of customer feedback, a certain goal that you met as a team.
Charli: Oh, I love that. What a lovely heartwarming note to end on.
Thanks, David. Thanks for sharing all this, for all this detail that you gave. Like I said, we like to get nerdy on this show and the people who listen to this are like, "We're interested in the details." So, thanks for sharing them all and for telling us about marketing and design at Sendible.
David: Yeah, no worries. Thanks for having me on, I love chatting this nerdy marketing and design stuff too.
Charli: I hope you enjoyed listening in on that conversation, especially if you're a designer who wears a lot of hats, like David is. I love what he said about how customer support is such a big part of the Sendible brand, he's right. Like brand is more than just the visuals we designers put on the page. I also really like the Sendible company value of being the CEO of your own domain. I think that's a really good way to approach it, especially when you're a small team. And I think it's clear from the way David talked about his work, that he takes that ownership over the brand and the strategy and the design of it all really seriously and truly is the CEO of that domain. I'd love to hear what takeaways you had from this episode, though. Those are just some of my favorites. So, please feel free to share them with me either in a comment on the YouTube video or tag me on social media. I am @charliprangley across most platforms. You can get more episodes of this show as well as links to subscribe in all the places at insidemarketingdesign.co. And I wanna say another huge thanks to Webflow for coming on board as the sponsor for the season. You can check them out along with links to David and Sendible in the description. Thanks for tuning in, and I'll see you next week for another episode.
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