In my experience, design is the first thing to go when a small business hits tough financial times. More than that, design is usually the last thing on a small business owner's mind from the get-go. I've heard statements from business owners sound like:
"I just invested money in products or inventory, so I can't afford design."
"The business has been running for 60 years without design, so why would I need it now?"
"Your prices are too expensive, I will just have my secretary design some flyers to hand out."
All three of the examples above are fairly common excuses to avoid dealing with faulty or nonexistent design. As a freelancer it is my job to convince these people that (professional) design is not only beneficial to their business, it is necessary. I compiled a list of 5 key benefits good design can have for a business.
1. Design is a differentiator
Any business owner would say that differentiating themselves from the competition is necessary for running a successful business. However, many focus on things like product quality and service, while leaving design by the wayside. Design can be an immediate and visible differentiator in any market in many ways, but first and foremost, good design will immediately increase the trust level of both current and potential consumers. Sometimes, just this professional appearance can sway customers to try your product or service at which point your quality and service differentiators will be tested.
2. Design can highlight all your other differentiators.
Sure, maybe your small business has the best coffee, food, or product out of all your competitors, but if your brand and design don't back that up, then you are missing out on potential customers. My favorite example is to give people the choice between going to an established restaurant chain over the mom-and-pop shop 3 blocks away. Clearly, more people choose the restaurant chain over the mom-and-pop shop, hence the size and billings of many restaurant chains. Part of the reason for this is because people know what they are going to get when they go to a restaurant chain. Why? Because the chain consistently tells them what they will be getting in every piece of media they consume. Good design allows a small business to highlight all of the other things your business brings to the table in a consistent, reliable, and appealing manner and capitalize on gaining customers who may not be associated with your business in any way outside of seeing your marketing materials.
3. Smart design converts more customers than sub-par design.
A well-designed website can mean the difference between converting 20 customers or 100 customers a month. A well-designed proposal can mean the difference between 5 closed leads and 20 closed leads a month. Basically, my point is that smart design not only creates an air of professionalism, it should help lead your potential client or customer to actually take action (i.e. an appropriately placed "Buy Now" button, consistent sales messaging, an easy-to-understand website or sales pitch, etc.)
4. Engaging design helps tell your brand's story.
To piggyback off the points above, good design can help a small business establish a distinguishing look, feel, and message. All of this makes sure your customer perceives the story and identity you want them to see. Engaging design can help evoke the desired emotions, thoughts, and interests of a customer. Engaging design oftentimes tells a story and creates an aesthetic that people admire. Take the (amazing) people over at Cultivated Wit who have created an amazing web page with profoundly engaging material and design.
5. Quality design is worth it.
Quality design lasts much longer and creates more value. It consequentially also costs more money. However, up-front investments in quality design mean less regret down the road after Cecil, your cousin's friend's neighbor's gardener, says he will create a flyer for you in Microsoft word for $20. That is a waste of time all around. Just the same as you would hire a contractor to build the new addition on your house, you should hire a designer to design the visual components your business needs.
If you or someone you know owns a business and is need of design work, then view my portfolio at Behance.net/kylekarnes or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.