This article is to serve as a guide to small businesses throughout Rhode Island on navigating the sometimes complex world of Web Design, Graphic Design, and Marketing. I will be discussing the importance and role of each for small businesses in RI.

Graphic Design:

Graphic Design

Essentially, all Marketing and Web Design revolves around Graphic Design. To have a website, or run a marketing campaign requires a brand – which is what a graphic designer can develop for you. A well defined brand is what separates you from your competition, and makes your business memorable. A lot of new businesses try to save here and go to sites like Fiverr to save a buck, and in the long run it hurts them because changing your brand later means changing all of your marketing materials. When allocating budget for design services, give careful consideration to branding – because a million dollar website can’t help a $5 dollar brand.

“Questions about whether design is necessary or affordable are quite beside the point: design is inevitable. The alternative to good design is bad design, not no design at all.” – Book Design: A Practical Introduction by Douglas Martin

What Defines a Brand?

  • Consistency:
    All of your businesses’ materials need to have the same style. Your business card should reflect your brand, as well as any marketing materials and ads. This makes everything identifiable, and also serves to reinforce your brand to the consumer.
  • Color Palette:
    Your brand should have a distinct color palette that sets you apart from competition in your industry.
  • Typography:
    Typeface styles should be reused wherever possible. You need not have something ‘new’ and different for type, readability and versatility are the biggest priority.
  • Personality:
    Your brand should be personable. This means it should have it’s own voice. The way your brand ‘talks’ is through it’s marketing materials and website copy. Make your brand sound like someone your ideal customer would hang out with if it was a person.

Luckily, with schools like NEIT and RISD, Rhode Island is chock full of great designers. If you’re really looking to save a buck, students are the way to go. They are ‘fresh off the press’ and have unique styles and ideas the world hasn’t seen before, and you can find reasonable prices without compromising quality of work. In 1971, the Nike logo was designed by a student in college for $35. In today’s economy, that’s equivalent to $215, but still a steal.

Web Design:

Web Design Mockup

Once you have an established brand, having a website developed is the next step towards solid marketing. A good website is without a doubt a building block of any business in this day and age. Businesses without a website are hard to come by, and for good reason. Even if you don’t intend on making sales or running a blog on the site, you need some sort of formal website to inform customers of your business.

What makes a good website?

  • Usability:
    This seems like an obvious one, but great care should be taken to ensure your site is usable. Have you ever had to use a horrible site to find information? It’s a very negative experience that you don’t want associated with your business.
  • Mobile Compatibility:
    This is a fairly newer trend, but it’s not going away. Customers are using mobile devices more and more, and depending on your target market – you may have more mobile users than desktop, so a simple and easy to use mobile version is a must. Google is now placing more emphasis on sites that have mobile versions, also.
  • Analytics:
    I always suggest this to my clients. It gives you an idea of who you are really marketing to by letting you see their demographics, and how they use your site. It’s also really good for seeing if your marketing campaigns are working. I base all of my design and marketing on analytics, when available.
  • Search Engine Optimization:
    Making your site search engine friendly is almost, if not more important than being user-friendly. A good web designer should make your site compatible, and give you tips to boost your ranking if you plan on maintaining it yourself. One thing to be aware of: No one in the world can guarantee you to rank #1. It’s just not possible – and anyone that will promise that you should be suspicious of.
  • Good Copy-writing:
    No spelling errors. Have it double and triple checked. Errors reduce credibility. I also offer copy-writing services, but I always suggest clients outline their text content and have it tailored to sell. This saves them money, and they know their industry’s intricacies better than I do.

When all of this comes together, what you are left with is not only a great website, but an awesome marketing tool. When you have a good website, you can use analytics gathered from the site to make better marketing decisions and tailor your business to the customer. Many businesses use Facebook as their ‘Home on the web’ but FB analytics only give you the demographics of who ‘likes’ your page, not who is engaging with your content, which is what you need to know.

Marketing

Marketing

The end goal of design for a business is of course making sales. If you’ve got a good digital presence, you want to capitalize on it. Here are the requirements to a good digital marketing campaign:

  • Have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition):
    Put simply, a Unique Selling Proposition is what you offer that your competition doesn’t. This is what you should be yelling from the rooftops. A good marketer will find this for you and build it into your marketing campaigns. I suggest keeping it simple. Your business may have plenty of USP’s, what you want to do is find the one that appeals most to your ideal customer. By all means, tote your other benefits – but focus on one USP for each campaign.
  • Know your ideal customer:
    If your ideal customer is anyone that will buy, you need to rethink your strategy. Marketing to everyone is costly. Define your target customer as much as possible, because you will spend less in advertising and get better leads. I have a post dedicated to finding your ideal customer, if you would like to learn more about this.
  • Know how much that ideal customer is worth:
    How much profit does one ideal customer bring you? This will define how much you spend reaching that customer. It doesn’t have to be exact, but find out an estimate on what a reasonable amount to spend on each customer is worth to you. If an ideal customer spends a minimum of $30, and $15 of that is profit – it’s worth spending $5 on ads to bring in that customer. Also, keep in mind that every sale offers the opportunity for repeat business, so it might be worth spending more.
  • Keep it simple:
    You don’t need a million different marketing techniques, and using more than a handful does more harm than good. Pick one or two avenues to focus on, and don’t put much effort elsewhere until it starts paying off. Marketing takes time, but once it gets traction it pays off. Social media for example, takes a long time to build a following and see results, but it is well worth the effort.

And that about sums it up. I figured I would do a write up on this to serve small businesses, and help my clients decide which services they need, and understand more about my process. Marketing is what my business is truly about. While I do spend a lot of time designing, the ultimate goal of my clients is marketing. Making sales. Most graphic designers are shy to admit it, but 90% of what we do is sell stuff. Rather than avoid the topic, I embrace it.

If you need help with your marketing efforts, don’t hesitate to contact me here and we’ll discuss how I might be able to help your business.

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