A whole new look at ugly when results are on the line

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Yes, I have a preference for ugly creative. When presented with two options, nine times out of 10 I will select what is deemed the uglier version.

Now, I just don't settle for any kind of ugly. A girl's gotta have standards. I am more of an ugly elitist when it comes to b-to-b marketing. While clean, crisp, award-caliber creative is aesthetically more pleasing, it doesn't pay the bills. As a b-to-b direct marketer I am responsible for driving sales and demonstrating ROI for marketing activities.

I used to envy my friends in b-to-c marketing because I always thought they got to have so much fun with interesting branding campaigns, artistic photos and, oooohhh, the coveted white space. But I find b-to-b marketing far more challenging. It's all about how the individual elements come together, and even more so about the messaging and the call to action.

While I am not advocating for b-to-b marketers to lower our creative standards, I am challenging us to step up our game and utilize the proven techniques of direct marketing to accelerate our path to success. There will be a price to pay for this revolution—oh, the glares we receive from the graphic designers. But, now more than ever, as we fight for every opportunity, it's all about the function.

Here are three proven direct-marketing tips ideally suited for the b-to-b audience:

  • Communication, not beautification. When in doubt, use the most simple of designs to drive results. A basic layout should consist of a picture or dominant graphic, headline with large type (engaging question preferred), body copy and clear call to action. A reader has been trained to follow the page from top to bottom, so ┬ákeep it simple and focus on the key message and the call to action you would like the reader to take.
  • Font choice matters. This is especially true when targeting decision-makers. Numerous studies have proven that the best font choice for comprehension is a black serif (one with feet) font on a white background for body copy. Studies show that whitepapers and technical content are critical in the b-to-b purchasing cycle, but you are doing yourself no favors if your potential customers download a whitepaper and doesn't remember a thing about what they read.
  • Sex sells, even in b-to-b. Who are we kidding? We are all human and like to look at attractive people. Now I am not advocating using people just for the sake of adding a human into your creative. But, if you can use an attractive, apparently smart-minded, business-appropriate person in your marketing materials—one that can lead the reader onto the page and right to your key message or call to action—you will significantly improve recall and results. That's how sex sells in the b-to-b world; it's far less complicated that in the b-to-c world.
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