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How Meta and Canva are helping SMBs ‘design together’ to supercharge creativity

By Michael Nutley | Writer for The Drum

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June 8, 2022 | 9 min read

There are lots of ways in which big businesses differ from SMBs, but the simplest and most obvious is that they have more people to carry the load. Tasks such as marketing, which are handled by entire teams in a big business, are often just part of one person’s job at an SMB, and in many cases, that person is usually the owner.

“People in SMBs are typically juggling multiple functions and roles in the business; for instance, a SMB owner might function as an accountant, sales, finance, as well as marketing,” explains Kate Marsden, Partnerships Marketing Lead at visual communications platform Canva. “As a result, SMBs may prioritize operational/financial priorities over marketing meaning they may not have time to create compelling content for their digital channels.”

Enter Meta, whose ongoing ‘Community Conversations’ programme is empowering SMBs to quiz the experts and relevant partners about the issues they’re struggling with. In the most recent session, Canva and Meta came together for the ‘Designing Together' session, to help SMBs in APAC re-engage with creativity in their digital advertising.

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It's about intention and relying on your own judgment.

Understand the barriers to better creative

Leading the Designing Together conversation was SMB specialist and creative strategist at Meta SG, Jip Jirat, who made clear the challenges he sees SMBs repeatedly come up against: a lack of creative capabilities or resources; a lack of platform knowledge; and creative fatigue.

“A lack of creative resource is the biggest challenge [for SMBs] and it often results in poor creative that doesn’t resonate with the audience and makes it difficult to drive business outcomes,” says Jirat. “Many SMBs only build a few creatives and then keep reusing them. Over time these creatives may not perform as well as before, but if the SMB doesn’t have a hypothesis when building these creatives in the first place, it will be more difficult for them to come up with new, better-performing ones.”

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A three-step plan to improve your creative output

To overcome the challenges they face and improve their creative output, Meta and Canva highlighted three key things for SMB marketers to consider if they want to supercharge their performance:

1. Commerce starts with a conversation.

This is just as true online as it is in a physical store, but the thing to remember is that we’re not talking about the conversation between a customer and a salesperson; we’re talking about the conversation between a customer and the brand. This conversation starts the second the two interact, as Canva’s Marsden explains.

“Your brand story begins the second someone hears your brand name for the first time,” she says. “It’s the service your brand provides, and what your brand ethos is. It’s your logo, your website, your ‘About’ page, and your social media interactions. A compelling narrative can help you build a loyal audience that is truly invested in your business.”

Jirat emphasizes the need for brands to be looking for ways to start a conversation with prospective customers.

“Today, online shoppers message businesses to get more out of relationship with brands,” he explains. “They buy products right in the chat. On top of the convenience, it’s the conversation in the chat that often helps close the sale and unlock higher spending. But why does it have to happen only in the chat? Can we give the hint of it before the chat happens, right in the creative content, to spark the conversation in their mind?”

Melody Tan, a cafe owner from Singapore and one the session’s attendees, noted how she has found Facebook Messenger to be a great tool for starting conversations with customers and then driving them towards key conversion points such as a website or reservation page:

“It’s a fast and efficient way for customers to get very simple information, like ‘what’s your menu?’ or ‘can I make a reservation?’ From there, we can say ‘Here’s our menu’. And then, after that, ‘Can we make a reservation for you?’ Or if they’re not going to visit us at the cafe, ‘Here’s our website, you can purchase products online.”

2. Making the most of moments

All marketers want their commerce conversations to end with a sale, but there are a lot of steps between the first meeting and the closing transaction. And just as a conversation between two people moves on by one responding to what the other has said, in a commerce conversation the brand must be able to respond to new questions entering the customer’s mind.

“An effective creative strategy is one that impacts your audience at every stage of their customer journey,” Marsden says. “One way to achieve this is through the use of research. You can gather and interpret research in two different ways; firstly, by explicitly asking your customers what they want or who they are (social media and online reviews are a great place to start) or, secondly, by responsibly obtaining customer data using browser and purchase history to track preferences. With this data, try and build a picture of your primary audience. Then you can get to know them better and offer them more personalized and relevant services.”

It's an approach that Jirat also advocates: “Before you start building your creative, think about your hypothesis and couple that with a measurement,” he says. “This helps you better understand who your audience is, and how to iterate your next creatives. For example, if you are building creatives that let people start a conversation with you in the chat, you might want them to talk to people like a salesperson does.”

3. Choosing the right narrative

The third and final takeaway for SMBs was to get better at testing different approaches to content and seeing which works best. Jirat advises smaller organizations to lean into tried and tested creative structures, such as the Conversational Copy Framework developed by Meta’s APAC Creative Shop, to accelerate success.

The framework provides SMBs with a three different narrative approaches to creating copy that resonates:

  1. Be eye-catching: Write your copy to grab the attention of your audience (e.g. showcase your personality or make a bold claim), then follow up with your product benefits and how these tie into your bold claim, and then end with a call-to-action (CTA) that focuses on starting a conversation (e.g. via email, phone or on-site chatbot).

  2. Be a problem solver: Empathize with your customer by highlighting a problem they may have, then show how your product/service can provide the solution, and then finish with the call-to-action to chat.

  3. Be provocative: Try to provoke people in a positive way or encourage a reaction with strong copy, then resolve this tension with your product/service, and then end with a clear call-to-action to chat.

Of course, choosing the right copy narrative is important - but it can be a fine line to tread, as noted by Ziana Sakhia, CEO & Co-founder Bechlo.pk, an online marketplace empowering Pakistani women to set up and run their own businesses from home, who asked: “how we can provoke the customer without offending them?”

“Ask yourself if your intention is to make people stop and think and feel something or if your copy has a chance that might end up hurting people’s feelings,” says Jirat. “If you build three different creatives according to this framework and run them in a campaign, you’ll learn which narrative resonates best with your audience.”

For SMB marketers who are still uncertain how to start creating content, making the most of existing templates, designs, and ideas on a platform can prove a valuable starting point, as Marsden explains: “At Canva, we have over one hundred different design formats, spanning infographics, posters, social media posts, videos, flyers, business cards, and more. They’re available in more than 100 languages and can be easily customized for your business needs – so there’s no excuse for a lack of creativity!”

And creativity is the name of the game, a critical piece in the puzzle of success that SMBs have greater access to than ever before. As Jirat concludes: “There are many differences between big brands and SMBs. But one thing remains the same. You have to grow your business - and creativity is a powerful tool that can help.”

To find out more about Meta’s Community Conversation series visit the Meta Supports Small Business Hub, or visit Canva to learn more about the tools and templates that can take your creative to the next level.

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