Knowing the right time to invest in design is something I see a lot of start-ups and entrepreneurs struggling with. Of course as a designer, I’d first like to say that it’s never a bad time to have great design! However I also know when you’re first starting out and have a concept, a limited budget and a million things to do to get your idea off the ground, it’s a balancing act.
I recently spoke with a group of agency owners and the conversation turned to how the design industry is becoming commodified with services such as Fiverr, 99Designs, and Upwork. Most see it as a threat to our industry and want to fight against it.
However I take a different view. I think for brands just starting out, these services can be a simple way to get a brand going and a site up quickly, test out your concept with a MVP (minimum viable product) and see if you can start building traction. I actually think it’s a reasonable approach if you are starting with very limited funding.
The problem is if your brand starts getting traction and growing, you’ll eventually find that the design is holding you back. Knowing when this happens can be tricky.
It’s is often hard for customers to articulate that it’s the design that's turning them away from your brand. Likely they won’t put their finger on the design — they just know something feels a little off, they are mistrustful and aren’t clear about the value of the product. Distributors and retailers might be more savvy and pinpoint the design but only if you’ve done a good job convincing them on the value of the product elsewhere.
Comments I’ve hear from clients in this phase include:
- We get a lot of traffic from a PPC ad campaign but they bounce when they hit our site.
- The retailer loved our product but we need better packaging before they’ll work with us.
- We’re not able to raise the price-point because of low perceived value.
- We sell really well at other retailers but our own site seems to drive away customers.
- We want to move into the luxury market but our brand looks like it was made in our kitchen.
- We have a good number of loyal customers but have trouble converting new customers.
- We want to go international but the consultant said we have to improve our branding first.
- The profit margin from selling on our own site is great but the site doesn’t convert well.
If any of these sound familiar, it might be time to invest in up-leveling your design.
Once have proven product, traction and a budget, it’s crucial to improve your designs ASAP. With growing, you’ll have increasing numbers of customers making first impressions of your brand and you want to make sure it’s a good one (I wrote a whole blog post on that over here).
You’ll also start having more distribution opportunities and believe me, Sephora does not allow poorly designed packaging into their stores. There’s little worse than trying to redesign a brand while a major retailer is waiting.
Great design also communicates value and allows you to target specific price points and markets. For instance, if you want to make the jump from masstige to prestige, you’ll want to take a second look at your design and make sure it conveys that value.
Finally good design builds trust which leads to a wide range of benefits from engagement on social media and email sign-ups to higher conversion rates.
I frequently talk with business owners and entrepreneurs who threw together quick DIY branding or website to get their concept off the ground, however find that it’s holding them back as they try to up-level their business.
If you feel like that’s you — let’s figure out how to up-level your brand and move your empire ahead.