What You Should (And Shouldn’t) Be Doing with Your Creative Retention Efforts

There are three responses to a piece of design: yes, no and wow! Wow is the one to aim for. If your fare falls under a resounding 'no; or a lukewarm 'yes', here are some ideas to consider

Lauren Dowdle
May 18 2017

As you go down your checklist of ways to retain customers, you probably mark off things like providing great customer service, offering a loyalty program and keeping the lines of communication open. But one thing that might not (but should) be on your list is focusing on your creative retention efforts. It might seem like a small thing, but it can make a world of difference.

Whether you’re sending customers an email, designing a whitepaper for them to download or just creating a button on your site, all of the different creative elements — including colors, fonts, micro-copy and designs — need to work in unison and grab their attention.

Show your clients you know what they like by creating a look that really speaks to them. Check out these leading creative trends, plus some dos and don’ts for each.

Say It With Color

Colors have a way of invoking both thoughts and emotions.

Earth tones give the natural, relaxed vibe, for example. Yellows and oranges might even boost your mood. And put colors in combinations, and they can spark thoughts about a certain brand, holiday or sports team. Color also increases brand recognition by 80 percent, so you need to make the most of this creative retention tool.

Your color choices — whether for your site, font or an email — need to convey the right message to your clients. (Hint: That message should make them want to stick with your company.)

There’s a full spectrum of colors to choose from, but some have become more popular recently. Pantone, known for its color matching system, named greenery the 2017 color of the year. This nature-inspired color is supposed to be symbolic of new beginnings. There are plenty of color pairings for greenery, from coral and caramel to copper and dazzling blue.

Some other things to consider when choosing colors is your audience. For example, women tend to prefer softer hues, while men go for bolder colors. The colors you use should be a good representation of your customers.

Color effects are another trending way to catch customers’ attention. Several big names, including Spotify, are using the duotone effect in their branding efforts. Like the name suggests, duotone is an image that uses two colors. It helps you add a pop of color without distracting from your overall design.

And if you need help pairing complementary colors, you can always turn to the handy color wheel. That will show you what works and which combos to avoid. Just remember: Your color choices should represent your brand, not confuse customers with a rainbow effect.

Let Your Font Speak For You

The fonts you use can either take away from your message or help drive it home. You might not notice a good font choice, but you’ll definitely be able to point out a bad one.

Beyond just being legible, your fonts need to reflect your brand and messaging. Having a font that conveys your brand will help build customer loyalty and trust. (Here are some good font examples to get the creative juices flowing.)

Some of the all-time favorite fonts include Times, Helvetica, Gotham, Gill Sans and Futura. For headlines, trending fonts are Pier, Liberator, Billy, Berlin and Panama. Fonts are subjective by nature, but these are some of the tried-and-true options out there.

There are also some fonts you should steer clear of: I’m talking about you, comic sans. Some that are worn out or were never that great to begin with are papyrus, brush script, curlz and courier. While there isn’t a rule outlawing any particular font, I’d think twice before using these.

As for the font size, you’ve got to think about how and where the text is going to be read. Will it mainly be seen on a tablet or smartphone? Or, is more of a desktop application? You don’t have to pick a font size solely based on where it will be consumed, but you better make sure it’s readable on that medium.

The majority of sites and emails you see have 13- to 16-pixel fonts, and that’s a good size to aim for. But remember, pixels and points aren’t the same. A 16-pixel font normally equals about a 12-point font.

Several companies are also turning to bolder typography to add some weight to their homepages. If you take that approach, make sure to leave some extra white space so it’s not too busy.

Keep It Short And Sweet

It’s easy to overlook micro-copy — I mean, it does have “micro” in its name. But, that’s a big mistake and can hurt your customer retention efforts.

Whether you’re creating a “Download Now” button, form field or CTA, you need to create micro-copy that’s going to enhance the customer experience. Think about what you want to tell the customer and what you want them to do — and then create micro-copy that ties the two together.

The text should be personable and in an active voice, and the look should match your overall branding (back to the color and font pointers). Keep the content short since you’re working with a fairly small amount of real estate. And make sure the micro-copy stays consistent: All buttons are rectangles and form fields have the same color background, for example.

You can also do some A/B testing to see what wording or placement is working best for your micro-copy.

Design With The Customer In Mind

Don’t let design overwhelm you when it comes to your site or client communications: There are a few simple dos and don’ts that can take your design up a notch and wow customers.


  • Keep it simple. White space is your friend.
  • Use matching illustrations (with the same colors and style).
  • Include animation, if it makes sense for your brand.


  • Use a design template that’s not responsive.
  • Forget the customer experience. Ask yourself if you’d enjoy using the site.
  • Design only for desktop viewing: 56 percent of consumer traffic to the leading U.S. websites comes from mobile devices.

Here’s a favorite quote to guide you when looking at the outcome of your company’s creative work: “There are three responses to a piece of design: yes, no and wow! Wow is the one to aim for.” — Milton Glaser

Visit some of your favorite sites and see what you enjoy about the look and feel of them — and then see how you can incorporate those ideas into your design. Your design is often the first way customers can connect with your brand, so make a good lasting impression.

You can have the best products, services and content around. But if you don’t incorporate the creative aspects of retention as well, you’re limiting your company’s potential.

A good design — from the color to the fonts — will set your brand apart and boost customer loyalty. There really are benefits to having something that looks good, so start incorporating these techniques to experience them yourself.

Lauren Dowdle

Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer and magazine editor based in Nashville, Tenn. Her nearly decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing — plus being interviewed by Jay Leno and winning a backhoe-operating contest. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her spoiling her four furry babies and exploring the city with her husband.

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