How A Small Design Tweak Led To $80 million

Back when Microsoft was developing what would eventually become Bing, the company decided to change the color of its links to a specific blue. Though seemingly small, according to then, Bing User Experience Manager, Paul Ray, that decision led to an extra $80 million in annual revenue for the company.1


It’s not by happenstance that powerful corporations like Apple, Facebook, Google, Airbnb and Capital One have made design a core component of their company cultures. A 2015 study by The Design Management Institute showed that over a 10-year span, design-led companies maintained stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by 211%.2


But is design thinking something that only benefits mega corps? Absolutely not. According to the State of Create 2016 report by Adobe, nearly 60% of individuals surveyed chose to do business with a company over its competitors based on good design.


So how can your business get in on the action? The following steps will help you get the most return on your design investment.


1. Rely on insights, not opinions


Nobody knows how to bake an apple pie like your Aunt Betty, but unless she’s your ideal customer, it’s best to leave Aunt Betty’s prowess to pie baking and out of your branding decisions.


It’s imperative to remember that design is a language. It’s the visual conversation between you and your customers where you’re telling them what value your company has to offer.


As with any communication, ideas are delivered with the most impact in the native tongue of the recipient. Therefore, it’s vital that the designs you use speak to your target audience in a way that they understand and value. The more you rely on research to guide your design decisions instead of subjective opinions (including your own), the more likely you are to arrive at a solution that works. Author and Branding Expert, Marty Neumeier stated it best when talking about what a brand is in the eyes of its customers: “It’s not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.”


Therefore, in order to arrive at design decisions that help achieve goals, there should always be a thorough design brief in place. Think of a design brief as a research-driven instruction manual that guides design decisions.


A good design brief should accomplish the following:

  • Outline your company’s details, goals, values, mission and messaging
  • Identify your target audience
  • Establish project goals, objectives and deliverables
  • Help keep your project on time, on budget and on brand
  • Give you a sense of comfort that your project is in good hands, and that you’re involved in the process


2. Fall in love with buyer personas


An effective design brief should always be tailored to communicate with a specific audience. A buyer persona, or avatar, is a somewhat fictional representation of your ideal customer or client based on a combination of market research, data and your own industry knowledge.


Creating a persona will remove much of the guesswork that rookie marketers, designers and business owners make when deciding how to appeal to the people they want to do business with most.


When crafting your persona(s), let your imagination run free! Give your persona a name and consider this person’s unique demographic, psychographic and behavioral attributes. What’s his/her motivations? Goals? Fears? The deeper you dig, the better.


Over time, even rainfall can cause some form of erosion, but with enough force concentrated into a single jet, it becomes powerful enough to quickly cut through metal. By identifying who your ideal customer is, you’ll be able to concentrate 100% of your resources and efforts in the right place with the right communication and exponentially increase your market share faster.


3. Snuggle up with your competition


Ok, not really, but it is important to know what your competitors are doing and more so, what they’re not doing. This is the sweet spot where you get to stand out and show off what your business does better than the rest.


In his book, Brand Intervention, accomplished Designer and Consultant, David Brier, says “To become visible, brands must differentiate. Otherwise, a brand puts itself on the same playing field as its competitors.”


In a world where your potential customers are hard-wired to ignore sales pitches, the right combination of voice, storytelling and design are necessary to make a solid and meaningful connection with them.


I hope that this article has helped you gain some fresh insight for your business.


Running a company is a special privilege that not everyone gets to enjoy. Treat it that way and remember that bad design translates to sloppy business in the eyes of your target audience. Like your dress and grooming, take pride in the visuals and messaging that represent you and your unique vision.


Good design should never be viewed as an expense, but as an investment that pays for itself over and over again as you get the most out of your marketing budget and efforts.


Do you own a business that you’re proud of? Reach out and let’s see if I can help you breathe new life into your vision with strategy-driven design.


Stay Curious. Stay Different.


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