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Designers and Marketers Living Happily Ever After


Your designer is really, really talented. She studied design in college, has an outstanding portfolio, and navigates Photoshop like no one you’ve ever seen. She’s mastered the art, perfected her HTML5 and CSS3 skills, and can even code up magical widgets with her killer JavaScript knowledge. Her skills are levels above so many designers you’ve seen, and you are lucky to have her on your team.

However, there is something inside of you that still believes – when it comes to the design of your site, application, or various other digital marketing campaigns – your instincts about “what will work best” are the only ones to be trusted.

After all, you studied business. You even have your MBA. Your thesis took months to complete, and was quite profound. You eat, sleep and breathe marketing strategy. You’ve launched dozens of “successful” business ideas and marketing campaigns, and your list of speaking engagements continues to grow.

So congratulations­, for three reasons: First, a great designer is hard to come by. Second, you’re apparently doing a great job with your career.  And third, your relationship with your designer is about to improve exponentially, thanks to A/B split testing.

It’s all about trust.

“Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs.” – Ansel Adams

Designers are great at painting the picture. That’s their gift and their training. That’s what they get paid to do. As the lead marketer in your organization, however, it’s hard for you to trust these paintings – especially when large sums of money are involved.

So how do you move from gorgeous paintings to believable photographs? How do you learn to trust your designer to make real-time decisions that you believe will positively impact your bottom line?

It’s time to grow up.

When I was a young designer, I thought like a young designer. I, after all, had been trained… at a University… with an Art program. I was the only one in the company keeping up with the design community: the newest methods, the hottest design trends, the gnarliest scripts, the best UX, and – of course – the complex world of web standards.

Whenever a manager or director would challenge my creative, it was time to play defense. And I was ready. I had done my research. I had examples and statistics by my side, and I was prepared to use them.

As I progressed in my career, I became more and more uncomfortable with the overlap in skill sets that I was experiencing among my peers. I was now working with folks who thought like I did, yet had different areas of expertise. Many times we’d be challenged to solve the same problem – and inevitably had a different opinion on how things should be designed.

I also began to notice a large disconnect between the world of design and UX, and the revenue-driven decision makers in the marketing department. There was always this tension between “the right way” to design, and what management believed would drive in dollars for the organization.

This is not an easy environment to navigate. And more often than not, the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) makes the call and the designers hang their heads in utter frustration.

Along came testing.

And then one fine day – before testing was even popular – it clicked. Thanks to some great team members and some analytical thinkers equipped with the right testing tools, we decided to “test” a creative element through A/B split testing. Both sides had their own hypothesis, and it was time to let this test run to prove that we were right!

And the rest is history.

Of course, we lost. But I was okay with that. I loved what we had accomplished together, and my eyes were opened. We had – for the first time in our organization – collaborated as designers, analysts, and sales directors and discovered that the gains we could collectively make with testing were enormous, and the possibilities were endless. We were building trust – through testing – for the benefit of everyone.

Our meetings became testing brainstorm sessions rather than arguments. Our results were believable and mostly accurate, which was enough to keep our egos at bay. We embraced the objectivity of testing and in the process fine-tuned our mutual trust and relationships to a new level.

Data is powerful.

It’s hard to imagine that one chart in a slide presentation showing the winning test cell and resulting revenue impact could change the culture of an entire department, but it’s true. It also changed the way I think about design and marketing, and the entire approach to my career.

If you are a lead marketer (CMO, director, etc.) and you have not fully embraced the power of testing, now’s the time. Those designers sitting in the corner are very talented and can be your greatest asset. Introduce them to testing. Equip and empower them with education and tools that foster a testing mindset. By reaching out and creating a culture of testing, you will bring out the best in your designers, in your marketers, and in the bottom line.

Trust, collaboration, and profitable results are only a test away.