Here is a short summary of User-Friendly’s work over the last 12 months, some key learnings and how we plan to progress.
We have also produced a short showreel of some of our projects below.
We set up User-Friendly, a creative agency, to specifically service the EA space with the aim of increasing the quality of marketing output for EA orgs. As well as supporting output, we also aimed to share helpful advice on marketing best-practices to increase exposure to successful marketing as an impact multiplying tool. Our first year has provided us with a sense of both the desire and the necessity for such a service.
In our February 2022 scoping survey, 72% of respondents agreed that effective marketing was important to the success of their organisation's objectives, 89% of respondents agreed that an EA aligned marketing agency would be a useful resource within the movement and 62.8% of respondents indicated that they would be likely to use this service.
We were awarded an EA Infrastructure grant to support our set up costs but other than this, we are entirely funded by organisations paying for our services. Over the last year, we have worked with a total of 27 organisations across all cause areas on a range of different projects.
Over the past 12 months we have;
- Completed 15 graphic design projects from brochures and report designs to social media templates and pitch decks
- Branded eight EA organisations
- Designed and built four simple websites and designed another four which a developer has then built
- Designed and developed four campaigns, three focussed on brand building and one focussed on increasing donations
- Worked with two organisations on their messaging and positioning
- Ran the social media accounts of one organisation
All of the above work was completed with us operating at 'full capacity'.
Client Survey Results
An important part of testing this service offering has been feedback from our clients. We introduced a client feedback survey mid last year in order to better understand our performance, pricing and positioning in this space. Below are the key results;
- 21 organisations completed the form
- 95% Said that the collaboration was successful (1 entry was neutral)
- 95% Said their overall experience of working with us was positive (1 entry was neutral)
- 47.6% strongly agreed that the requirements of the brief were understood and delivered upon, 47.6% agreed (1 entry was neutral)
- 57.1% were very satisfied with the standard of the completed work, 33.3% satisfied (2 entries were neutral)
- 100% were satisfied that User-Friendly had the necessary expertise to complete the work
- 66.7% found us appropriately priced, 9.5% expensive, 14.3% inexpensive and 9.5% very inexpensive (price change in late 2022 will have skewed these results across the 12 months)
- Half thought that they would have service requirements in the next 12 months with ⅓ requiring this resource in the next 6 months
- 100% would recommend User-Friendly to others
- 100% of those who have a specific future service demand would be likely to use User-Friendly again
General additional comments included:
- Some clients reported that they had expected to receive editable files, which isn't always a part of a quote (e.g. a long form report design), so we have adapted our process to ensure this is more clear at the quoting stage.
- Some feedback mentioned the need for more clarity during a web development process as to the stages. We have created a new timeline document that covers this in much more detail and captures each stage of the process with deadlines and feedback rounds blocked out.
- We received feedback that being able to provide a web development service, rather than just design would be helpful. This has always been our intention, and whilst in some cases we've been able to partner with a developer that we can trust to deliver the site, this is an ongoing challenge. We would welcome being connected to any freelance developers as this is a constant bottleneck across the movement - we design more websites than one developer could undertake, so we are constantly in need of more resource in this area.
Other than three forum posts and commenting on the odd slack thread, we didn’t market ourselves. We’ve worked entirely through word-of-mouth and recommendations which, whilst not necessarily recommended (more below), has shown a steady demand for this service over the past year.
It has been a pleasure to work with User-Friendly as they redesigned our website and social media presence. They were responsive to our needs and their marketing expertise consistently shone through. They helped us find a look that captures who we are and amplifies the messages we wish to convey. We would gladly recommend User-Friendly to those looking for a site that embodies their organisation.
Samuel Curtis, The Future Society
Working with User-Friendly was a great experience for us! In need of a full website redesign, we wanted to collaborate with someone who would understand the nuances of our messaging and mission. Not only did User-Friendly create a redesign that we’re truly excited by, they also helped us refine our overall brand and better understand how to position ourselves as an organisation.
Probably Good, Anna Beth Lane
Alongside the desire from the movement for this service offering, what these collaborations and our general observations within the space have shown us, is the necessity.
We started User-Friendly with the aim of supporting the movement in this area of expertise, providing high-quality marketing and communications in order to increase the quality of marketing practices across the movement more broadly.
We feel that this area of expertise is being underutilised and have perhaps been overly optimistic in regards to how easy it would be to convince others in the movement that highly-effective marketing should be more highly prioritised.
We feel that marketing remains under-utilised as an impactful tool for success and we base this on the following observations;
- We regularly see new organisations receiving funding without any budget for marketing. In one example, a public-facing organisation had received a substantial donation to start their intervention with nothing allocated for any marketing elements e.g. branding, website etc.
- Very few organisations have marketing professionals in the team.
- Very few organisations have a marketing budget and most that do are severely underfunding it.
- Prioritisation of short-term objectives over long-term brand building.
- Strong lack of social media presence across the movement.
- Organisations launching with substandard branding, even though your first impression can be critical to your future success.
- Very few successful brand building campaigns being developed.
We hope that our existence and through our organisation collaborations that the dial can shift in favour of utilising marketing more effectively for organisation objectives. We plan to apply for further funding to commit more time to resource building and developing tools to support organisations more broadly.
Alongside general marketing principles being utilised by the movement, we are very optimistic about the possible impact organisations could have with more creative marketing, advertising and campaigning.
As a movement focused on impact, we believe there is a huge potential ‘left on the table’ in regards to our marketing attempts and are excited to support organisations that believe the same. We want to test our intuition that utilising creative marketing practices could generate bigger and more long-term results for brands within EA as well as spreading the ideals that underpin them. We are planning a dedicated push towards running and trialling more creative marketing campaigns, with the support of funders, so that we can make this case clear. We would love to encourage a step up in the marketing output that the movement produces, most specifically in public-focused brands.
If there are any organisations that would be interested in partnering with us, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
User-Friendly Key Learnings
Quality over volume
When we first started supporting organisations we were overwhelmed by the initial response and received a substantial volume of requests that often came with short deadlines. In our first months, as we wanted to hit the ground running, we took on most projects within our broad service offering. This resulted in a lower standard but higher frequency of work as we attempted to adhere to these short timelines.
This was not a sustainable model and was not producing high-quality outputs. As a response to this, we reduced the volume of projects undertaken within each month (by also increasing our pricing, more on this below). This allowed us to ensure a higher quality of work and a degree of focus on each project that would support the most effective outputs.
We also began to collaborate with external creatives who have brilliant skill sets to add to our service offering. This has increased our capacity to offer high-quality, creative outputs for our clients in some cases (more below).
Proving the concept
It can feel difficult to prove the power of marketing and branding, especially over the short term. And whilst there are metrics which can neatly make this case, most organisations aren’t tracking them - either through lack of resource or know-how.
In short-term activations, however, it is much easier to capture supporting data:
There have been multiple client collaborations which have proved our intuition that effective marketing can multiply movement efforts. Most notably; 80,000 hours commissioned work from three graphic designers and our contribution significantly outperformed the work of the other designers. Our collaboration with Animals Aotearoa resulted in over half of the total signatures they received coming directly from our ads. In the first week of the campaign, 48.72% who clicked on our ads, signed their petition. We have recently worked with CHERI on their fellowship application ads and, working alongside Good Impressions, they saw a 560% increase in applications compared to last year (~80 - ~530).
In late 2022 we increased our prices. The increase still pitches us at roughly 25% less than the UK average for creative agency work. The feedback we received from some early clients and advisors was that we weren’t charging enough and so we increased our rates in order to fulfil the above, quality over quantity.
We also now typically ask for a 50% upfront fee and 50% at completion. This is common practice within most agency work and we have found it helps our cash flow to stay more balanced. If there is any organisation that can’t do this, e.g. awaiting funding, we are flexible with this arrangement and wouldn’t let it prevent work starting.
Over the last year, we haven’t marketed ourselves. We’ve been very fortunate to have worked entirely through word-of-mouth and recommendations. One year on we plan to hone our service offering and start to increase our outreach and pitch more intentionally for the work we are most skilled to execute. Within a small team, we also have a limited number of hours we can commit to each project and so the more time intensive work e.g. social media management will be less of a priority for us.
We would characterise these changes broadly as:
- Website design
- Marketing and Communications Strategy
- Creative Campaigns
- Graphic Design
- PR or press work
- Social media management
- Setting up the infrastructure of ads (Good Impressions didn’t exist when we first started so we are delighted to support them with the design elements of their work when requested, but leave the running of ads to them)
Collaborating with other freelancers
We began collaborating with creatives across many areas of expertise in order to expand our ‘one stop shop’ approach and bring external creatives into the space. We trialled the collation of a database of these individuals however, the management of this e.g. co-ordinating and paying for test tasks, vetting their work, keeping them up to date etc. takes up quite a substantial amount of time, which, without funding, we don’t have the means to support.
We have had some successful collaborations from this database which have increased our ability to provide affordable, creative solutions such as working with; an animator, a voice over artist, a digital content expert and a website developer. We will continue to utilise external services such as these but will likely retire the database unless we can secure funding to manage it.
Overall, we feel very optimistic about our first year supporting 27 organisations across all focus areas. The feedback and testimonials we have received demonstrate our ability to create impactful and effective marketing outputs that satisfy our clients. We have learned a great deal from our experience and continue to make improvements to our process by prioritising quality over quantity, asking for 50% upfront fees, and focusing on marketing ourselves more effectively. We aim to expand our outreach in areas such as website design, branding, strategy, and campaigns in our client-based model. Alongside this, we are going to dedicate much more of our time on trying to develop bigger and more creative marketing and campaign ideas.
Additionally, we continue to aspire to educate the movement with advice and knowledge on best practices in marketing practices and will continue exploring ways to do so. We are currently looking for funding to execute creative campaigns both in client collaborations and independently. Within both projects, we want to test our intuition that utilising creative marketing practices to develop memorable campaigns could increase the impact of this movement's work. If you are interested in funding this work, please get in touch.
Overall, we are proud of our accomplishments and are excited about future opportunities to support EA organisations to multiply their efforts to solve the world's biggest challenges.
My team and I had a great experience working with User-Friendly on our recent marketing campaign. User-Friendly created six graphics and accompanying copy to help advertise our research fellowship – all of which were creative, professional, and highly effective in attracting potential candidates. We’d definitely recommend User-Friendly for anyone in need of a keen creative eye!
Swiss Existential Risk Initiative, Sofia Mikton
For the first eight months, this was completed by 1 full-time member of staff (James Odene), with some support from Amy Odene. Amy then joined User-friendly full-time in December 2022. We have resisted the urge to grow too fast, even if this has meant turning down work, as we wanted to ensure we tested the model in detail and would require funding to support the sustainability of growth beyond this.