Design strategy: The key to honing your business goals and messaging

Design strategy and business goals

Digital marketing works hand-in-hand with design. We spoke with Bright Story Design about using design to take on and conquer your business challenges.

When your prospects experience your company’s story for the first time, that experience can be a memorable, enjoyable one — or it can feel more like homework, depending on how you present your content.

Getting a prospect’s attention and engaging them with the right content, presented in the right way, is critical to capturing opportunities and bringing prospects into your marketing funnel. A Digital Trends report found that organizations with well-designed user journeys that assist clear communication and seamless transactions are 57% more likely to have significantly exceeded their business goals.

We sat down with Rob Iacocca of Bright Story Design to discuss how businesses can achieve their goals by applying design to their marketing content.

Q: It can be easy for companies to be laser-focused on their company’s product or service, causing the work it takes to make their content-well designed an afterthought. Why should companies be thinking about visual design in their marketing?

A: Visual design can offer companies two things in their marketing. First, there’s the branding aspect of it. Visual design can help the piece to look good and convey a certain feeling.

Second, when you’re marketing you don’t want to communicate everything all at once—you want to communicate some key things first. You want whoever is seeing the piece to understand what it is they’re looking at in a very simple and intuitive way.

As a rule, content almost always drives design. The content has to be there first and foremost before design can help to augment it. This is one of the reasons it can be so challenging to use design templates. Sure, templates look great initially, but our content rarely fits these templates, nor should it be force-fit into them.

Once the content is there, design can help to highlight or emphasize certain key elements of the piece. By breaking down the content into these smaller bite-size chunks you’re essentially helping to create these easy-to-understand attention hierarchies for your audience. For example, on a website, design strategy can help your audience better understand and synthesize what your company’s product / mission is all about in a quicker and more intuitive way.

Q: At Bright Story Design what is the most common challenge clients come to you with and how does design help them overcome that challenge?

A: A lot of times clients are unhappy about something, but they can’t quite put their finger on what it is — maybe their website isn’t creating the impact they had hoped or a presentation for a big client isn’t feeling right. The fundamental problem that a lot of our clients end up having is that they realize their materials aren’t quite reflecting what they want to communicate digitally.

That’s part of the challenge of design strategy — working with the client to try and figure out exactly what the problem is they want to solve.

Design is a powerful tool for solving problems, particularly in the digital world, and design strategy allows you to think about these problems and solve them from the ground up.

Q: Visuals are key to making a very important first impression with customers, no matter what business you’re in. What should companies avoid when it comes to their design strategy?

A: I would avoid rushing the decision of picking your company’s preferred design partner for any particular project. Take some time to do some research and find the right person or team. Ask for referrals. Ask people whom you aspire to and ask who they recommend. And finally, try to avoid focusing only on price. I think that’s a great way to start finding a quality design team that works for you. After you find someone you like, sit down with them and have a short conversation to see what they think and if you mesh. Design can be a very intimate process and requires a partner that you feel confident can best represent your company and who you are.

Let’s take designing a logo for example. It’s the face of your company—that’s important. You have to make sure the person you’re working with is compatible with you and that you’re talking the same language—that they believe in your company and the things that you’re working on.

Q: I would also say, companies shouldn’t rush to be everybody’s everything. Focusing on who you want to be, who you want to target, who you want to talk to — having that identity to stick by the whole time rather than targeting everyone is really important and plays into design. If you’re trying to connect with everyone, you’re likely going to connect with no one. 

A: Yeah, I totally agree. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing to have tons of lofty company goals, but it’s also important to be aware what the most important of these goals would be if you had to cut back a bit. A question I often ask clients is, “What are the top three things you want to accomplish with this project?” I find that this exercise really helps narrow focus, which in turn helps us to really clarify the challenge we are trying to solve with this project.

In most cases, having a long list of ambitions for a project is something to avoid. Narrowing focus and taking care of your primary concerns really well is extremely important. Having a bunch of extra goals can water down your primary concerns and your final product can often suffer as a result. Let’s take websites for an example. People typically aren’t on websites very long and have a limited attention span while there. How are you supposed to communicate 10 important pieces of information in a conversation that often lasts less than 10 seconds? It just doesn’t work.

Q: When companies want to invest into visuals for their marketing efforts there are a lot of options and avenues available. What is your advice for a business wanting to improve their visual design?

A: If you’re feeling uncomfortable or unsatisfied with your design, take some time to try to understand why you feel that way. If it’s only the look and feel or aesthetic of the designs that you are unhappy with, that’s okay. Sometimes people just want to create something more artistic themselves because that is who they are and believe it’s what best represents their company. But if you’re trying to achieve certain business goals that aren’t being met it’s time to get some outside help.

The good news is that if you’re not reaching these business goals — you’re not getting enough visitors on your website or people are telling you they’re having a hard time following your presentation — you are already a step ahead, because once you know the elements that aren’t working you know what you need to fix. At this point, you won’t just be throwing money at a fancier website, logo or slide deck. You will have clearly defined problems and you will be trying to improve something measurable — you will already be using design strategy, and I think that’s a great place to start.

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