Reverse Engineering Your Marketing Graphics


On social media, educational marketing graphics and visuals have been growing in popularity over the years for one key reason. They help people. Not only do infographics, explainer videos and white papers provide educational content for a reader to quickly consume, it provides them something to share with their audience.

In the world of social media, everyone wants to share quality content to build their brand and following. Everyone is trying to compete and gain recognition in their professional fields. To grow, each person has to continually learn and share what they know. Applying the 80/20 rule, 80% of the time you should share content created by peers that would be valuable to your followers, and the other 20% is when you should clearly, self-promote yourself and content, telling your followers what you want them to specifically do.

The goal behind any educational marketing graphic, is to get your followers to share your content. When a person shares your content with their followers, they are advertising for you. Then the next person or hopefully hordes of people who share your content, continue to advertise your business over time to more and more eyeballs. Ideally, you want to invest time now, to create quality content that is continually valuable over the years. Like anything else in your business, you want a return on the time and money you’re spending today.

Since creating quality content is a vague statement. What gauges quality?

Celebrity gossip news might seem childish and pointless to some, and to others it might be extremely important and valuable. Pick any topic you can think of, and there will be polarizing ends of the spectrum. From personal choices such as diets, to large global topics such as climate change, you are going to find stark contrast among people.

So if you’re planning on using educational graphics to market your business, where should you start? Should you start illustrating whatever comes to mind, or should you outline a strategic approach? I suggest you take the latter.

With any educational marketing graphic, you want to build it backwards. If you want to sound fancy, call it reverse engineering.

You start with the call to action and finish with the headline. This isn’t trickery, this is simply logic. You want to clearly understand the purpose of your graphic, then validate your solution, then clearly explain your benefit and pain point you’re solving. Once you have this complete, then you can write a relevant headline (not clickbait) that grabs attention.

To start developing your next piece of content, start by answering the following 5 questions, which will also make you rethink how you define your small business.

1. Call to Action. What's your goal?

What is the entire purpose behind you making content? Do you want to sell something? Drive traffic to a website? Get email subscribers? Answer client questions? Build awareness about an issue you care about?

Whatever the purpose is, you need to nail down what exactly you want the person viewing your content to do. Before you move on to the following questions, you have to determine the single action you want to persuade a reader to do.

2. Validation. Has your solution worked for living, breathing people?

You’ve determined the action you want a reader to perform, so is what you’re selling been sold before? Whether you’re offering an experience, product or service, you want to show a reader you’ve already sold your offering to another person.

Most people, don’t want to be the first who tries or test something new out of the fear of losing resources or being vulnerable. Validating your experience, solution or product with customer testimonials, will help you frame the answers to the following questions and help persuade your reader to perform your call to action, since real people have already tried and tested it.

3. Solution. In one-sentence what's your solution or product?

If you can’t explain your business in a sentence without stumbling over words, then you don’t understand your business.

If you’re struggling to explain your business in a simple few words, use this template.

My business helps (customer categories) + (fix a problem/solution) + (specific benefit)

For example: My design business helps entrepreneurs illustrate their ideas in under 2-weeks.

With that sentence I’m telling a person what my business is, who I help, the solution I’m providing, and ending with a specific benefit a person can understand.

If you’re self-employed use this template.

I am a (job title) who helps (client category) + (action)

For example: I’m a designer who helps entrepreneurs illustrate their ideas.

My job title is a designer, my client category is entrepreneurs and my action is illustrating ideas. It seems simple, and yes it’s still vague since entrepreneurs can be in any field, illustrating ideas is a broad statement and the term designer isn’t niched down to a specific label such as graphic designer. There’s a strategy behind this simplicity.

Most people don’t need to know all the specifics up-front. Ideally whether you have a small business or are self-employed, you want a person to ask more about you and your work after you’ve told them a simple, clear sentence. You want to start a conversation and listen to their pains so you can be the solution.

4. Pain Point. What big problem are you solving?

Now you want to think about what pain do you really solve for a client? Once you have a clear understanding of the pain you’re solving, you can structure this into a sentence to use in your content. From the previous question, you’re most likely already close to answering what this problem is.

For example, as a designer I help entrepreneurs illustrate their ideas. Entrepreneurs are solving complex problems with their progressive vision and technology. The big problem they have, is taking their hard work, and trimming away all the unneeded fat. They want to tell the world about every single feature and benefit of their complex solution, which is confusing to hear, read, and visually consume as a customer.

The problem I solve for them, is I help them illustrate their complex message into a simple narrative and visual.

5. Headline. How can you explain the problem your business solves in a short sentence?

So, you’ve determine your goal of this content, how your solution has helped others, you’ve clarified your message into a sentence and clearly understand the pain you solve. Now you have to write a headline that provides a title and overview of all of this information. Since the headline is going to be read as a tweet, post, email subject line or as a small thumbnail image, you need the headline to hook the reader in and clearly tell them what they are about to consume.

Review your answers from the previous 4 questions and spend thirty minutes writing a headline.

Think about how you want a reader to feel after reading your headline. Do what them to be happy, interested, scared, worried, excited, impressed or another adjective? Then think about where the reader is going to find this? Will it be on social media, a forum or in an email? Take the time to think about how this headline is going to be seen, and how as a first impression will it affect the viewer.

Once you’re done, all you have to do is take your reverse engineering and arrange your answers in the correct order:

  1. Headline
  2. Pain Point
  3. Solution
  4. Validation
  5. Call to Action

From this point, you can illustrate the visuals yourself, or find a creative professional who can do it for you, using the 5 answers you’ve written.

If you’ve done the 5 steps I mentioned above, you probably have a better perspective on what your small business is.

The more you do this, the deeper you’ll understand what exactly your business does, and the more valuable your content will become, because you’ve refined it and continue to do so. Over the years, I've seen time and time again, the design process I use with every new client, becomes a business workshop, where asking questions about what you actually do and for whom, is written over and over. This is a good thing.

Fine-tuning your unique selling position and communicating the pain you solve for your specific customers in words allows for visual simplicity and clarity to shine through with rhythms used in storytelling. It's hard work, but it's well worth the investment. Once a marketing graphic is complete and is clearly telling your message, you can use it for years across all of your online and print platforms. Again, the entire purpose behind making quality content, is to provide valuable information to help people with their problems, give them content to share on their platforms, and allow them to help you advertise for years.

Chris Brock