Do we focus too much on the components and miss the bigger picture?

website design strategy and advertising

Most businesses don’t care much about the nuances between graphic design, advertising and marketing — what they want is results. Simply put, when we look at different service providers, graphic design is essentially the dressing on a salad, or the frosting on a cake. When it comes to business, you have to be thinking of the bigger picture and how every element works together.

Frankly I’ve stopped caring about titles and designations, all I care about are results. There are experts within Design, advertising, marketing and seo; who are experts in their industry because they excel in areas that cross niche boundaries and that’s what brings about business results. Look at Aaron Wall, legendary SEO and founder of the, he may be labeled an SEO, but he knows more about marketing and brand building strategy than most marketing agencies. There are plenty of “design companies” that I know of that actually have more experience launching successful brands and businesses than competing brand ad agencies out there, and there are many advertising agencies that specialize in marketing and conversely I have seen plenty of marketing agencies that create award winning designs.

All that to be said, when I look for experts, I look for individuals or agencies that know how to build businesses — those are the people who will help you see the bigger picture. If you’re in the creative / marketing business it pays to be well rounded, because with any of these arenas the main goal is to help build a successful business.

Graphic designers are able to create and work with a wide variety of media and elements. For instance the services of graphic designers are needed in making TV ads, movies or print publications. They cautiously make, select, and systematize the typography, images, and white spaces, in order to deliver the message properly. Really good designers or agencies do more than just design, they research, plan and strategize to create a strong message in order to build a brand; which crosses over into the marketing niche. Really good designers will be able to help businesses with not only ad creation but ad placement, maybe even PPC. The main point is that many service providers are capable of handling the bigger picture, and those are the providers entrepreneurs should be seeking.

Where To Start?

If a business is just starting out, many people begin by seeking a designer for their logo or maybe a website, but really before graphic design can be helpful, you have to establish a target demographic and perfect your company’s brand message and then design assets around them. It doesn’t stop there — then you have to discover how to reach your target demographic, and figure out how to engage them to gain their trust. Doesn’t it make more sense to research what kind of company can help with all of these aspects, since they are so closely intertwined?

Without market research it’s impossible to know who the hell your community is, without thoughtful graphic design you can’t relay your brand image, without effective advertising it’s impossible for businesses to reach their community . I’ve seen this business quote floating around the internet plenty, “A business without a sign is a sign of no business.” Here’s my quote, “A business without a plan should plan for no business.” Successful entrepreneurs have thought about their business, what makes their business special, who their audience is and the message they want that audience to receive — the design and advertising elements need to support that.

Maybe we need an example to illustrate what I’m talking about. . .

Let’s say someone is about to become an entrepreneur by launching a new local boutique clothing store. This could be a hard niche to gain traction in anyway, so what does one focus on to become successful? How do they let everyone know about their unique stylish clothing, and why would anyone want to pay more for their clothes?

These are real questions and the answers can be found by taking advantage of the power of brand design, advertising and marketing summarized in the following steps.

1. The 3 D’s of Brand Building

Define your message, determine your audience, and design to support them.
Who cares about design if you’re communicating the wrong message or to the wrong people? This is where you can really see the correlation between design and advertising and how important it is. One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs can make is to focus on these elements independently — they must be viewed as whole and how they will work together to achieve your goals.

2. Community Outreach

No, I’m not talking about community service or donating to a charitable organization, I’m talking about communicating to your community. I classify community outreach as a little advertising with a little marketing that supports your brand message. This means that boutique clothing store owner has spent some time figuring out who is a qualified buyer, where those people spend their time, how they spend their money and is crafting content and supporting graphics to speak directly to those individuals where those individuals are frequently found. This content has to be more than just a hard sell, it has to make potential customers relate to the business, make them feel like they are part of something unique, provide them with something they can identify with on a personal level. Content for your community will come in many forms like, blog posting, Facebook posts, forum participation, videos or even local events. Your content should always be “share worthy” and constant in both your brand message as well as frequency. I talked about a great brand building strategy in one of my recent articles titled, “Matilda Jane: The Mark of Branding Success.”

3. Reaching Out with Advertising

The more well-rounded your advertising efforts are, the better off you are. We all know not to put all of our eggs in one basket, but how many of us are guilty of just dabbling in one effort and quitting. A good example that I hear every week is some business owner trying $200 bucks in Adwords and saying, “well, that didn’t work out, what a waste of money.”

Even if you are a small company boot-strapping your way to success, you have to have some budget for spreading the word. Of course there are all of the basic things any new business should do, such as setting up your Google + business page, social media accounts and local business listing to get those increasingly important citations. But what do you do after that? Perhaps this fledgling clothing store could combine a direct mail, Facebook and Google Display network campaign to work in conjunction with in-store promotions. Or maybe running local television ads with sponsored local events is a better way to gain visibility? The one important thing to note is that this business should have a plan before spending one dime or any effort will end up a waste of money just like throwing a couple hundred bucks blindly at Adwords. If you don’t have a plan find an expert who can help.

4. The Value of YOU.

One of the most commonly overlooked assets your business will have is you. You can’t do everything, which is probably why you’re reading this to begin with, but even the best designer, ad agents and marketing gurus don’t have your experience and expertise in your field. You have information about your business, customers, common problems and solutions that your community will find of great value. This information can help you create topics for a content marketing schedule that can feed your blog and social outlets. Your knowledge can drive massive traffic from forums by providing useful tips and solving problems. One of my clients drives over 800 unique visitors per day from diesel truck forums — it’s crazy.

Just like any successful brand, the driving force is the unique voice the owner(s) provide the business with. Be you and be different.

Collaborating for Success

Collaborating and choosing who you partner with can make or break your business. Part of why you might read through this article is to determine who you need to contract for different services. Like I said early on, don’t get hung up on granular components. The best thing you can do is take the time necessary to find the right people to help you plan and grow your business. These people might not even be in the advertising business; they might be other local business owners, attorneys or consultants that help businesses source funding.

Just like the owners of this little clothing shop example, any business owner will want to plan an internal business strategy that includes things like customer service, and future business growth goals, day to day operations and other necessary expenses and how they can support your unique message. This internal structure is necessary, because ultimately it will back up your outward brand message — the message crafted to resonate with your community. As many businesses discover, simply having a few great components isn’t enough to build a business without a plan that covers the bigger picture to hold them all together.


Author: Chris London is the art director for Pixel Productions Inc., a strategic graphic and web design company where his focus is to continually find creative and innovative strategies to implement with businesses who need brand design and marketing with impact.