The Difference Between Designers and Marketers

A reader of this blog, recently, inquired about the difference between Designers and Marketers. I took some time to think about it and came to so many conclusions that it was Wicked Marketing entry worthy. This won’t be as snarky as my usual posts, but then again I’ve been known to surprise myself now and then.

The most basic definition of a Marketer is someone who promotes or exchanges goods or services for money. A Marketer is also known as a promoter, but in the very rare occasion a Marketing is also responsible for Public Relations (something entirely different, but yet the same). A Designer, on the other hand, is someone who creates or makes original print and web marketing materials, artwork and the like.

While the two work hand in hand on most projects very rarely are they the same person. A strong Marketer will have at least a working knowledge of the limitations of design. Marketers are responsible for creating, executing and tracking the marketing strategy and tactics a particular project or campaign. Marketers are also responsible for understanding their clients’ needs, consistency of message, target audience and demographics, establishing milestones and creating, or outsourcing the creation, of the text content that is to be used on whatever piece, or pieces, is needed. When they have a concept in mind, they generally create thumbnail sketches or rough drawings of what the pieces they need will be to best communicate the ideas to the Designer who bring them to reality. Last but not least, marketers are also responsible for defining a strategy for and tracking the Return On Investment (ROI) to show the effectiveness of the marketing piece or campaign. First and foremost, Marketers are strategists, tactical analysts and sales people. A Marketer, for the purposes of defining the name, could be a person, team of like minded individuals or firm (larger than a team of like minded individuals, but smaller than a football team).

A strong Designer will have at least a working knowledge of marketing strategies, branding, the psychology of what sells or attracts and the different between how to design for print work or web. The Designer will translate the ideas created by the Marketer and the client to a visual medium. The Designer may suggest alternative marketing pieces, offer multiple variations of the initial design for choices, and suggest alternative mediums to assist in marketing the client (namely to their own benefit). Designers are responsible for creating the deliverables (marketing pieces), providing the pieces in formats for use on multiple platforms (if needed) and working with the Marketer to provide the best possible avenue to produce and create the designed items. A Designer needs to understand the clients budget restraints, voice, target market, avenues of use, and be able to communicate any questions, comments, concerns or ideas directly to the client. First and foremost, Designers are creative people. That means they are one part artist, one part mind reader and one part fortune teller. A Designer, for the purposes of defining the name, could be a person, a group of freelancers, a studio or a firm.

So now that we’ve outline, roughly, what they are; let’s go over how they work together. Generally a client will either source out their Marketer and/or Designer. If they have found their Designer first, hopefully, the Designer will suggest that the client uses a Marketer to come up with the strategy and allow the Designer to do what they do best”¦design. The Marketer will work with the client to determine their desired outcome, target audience, understand past marketing attempts, create a scope of work as defined (or limited by) a budget, and create the overall message. The Marketer will present a few rough ideas to the client for their selection or find one they feel strongly will best represent the client and run with it. The Marketer will then bring in the Designer to meet with the client, get a feel for the visual personality of the strategy and answer any questions the Designer may have regarding past work(s) the client has created.

From there the Designer goes away to that magical land called creation and waits for their respective Muse to hand down a few ideas. Mine tends to wait till the last possible second and then overload me with more choices than I can possibly present. Those ideas are then turned into rough drafts to present to the client. Notice I didn’t say finished works? The Marketer presents the ideas to the client who then has to choose one, or two. The designer gets any notes and feedback on the selection, returns to the land of creation and brings back a more polished product. This process could repeat several times. We’ll fast forward as thought they hit the proverbial home run on the first try.

The client signs off on the designs and the Marketer and Design begin their process of finding the best possible avenue to have the piece(s) created. Once done, the Designer steps out of the picture, tips his/her hat to the client and waits in the wings for the next piece, revision or what have you. The Marketer takes over at that point and, depending on the strategy, distributes to piece to the client or out to the avenues they determine them to go. After the run of the piece, the Marketer will look at the overall success of the project/campaign and report back to the customer with suggestions, improvements, or a finished report.

Please note I said “œGenerally” when this example started. Marketers and Designers are fickle people and the route that a project could take varies depending on both the Marketer and the Designer. The example was, in my opinion, the simplest route that a project could go without going into too much explanation. I only have so much space for text you know. Besides, I’m pretty sure you don’t want to get bored reading this.

Good Marketers and Designers are the mad scientists of their industry. They create pieces that sometimes won’t see the light of day for sometimes close to six months. When they create these pieces they have to look into the future and feel confident that these strategies and designs will still be relevant and appealing as they are when they created them.

What you need to understand, as I close this extremely long entry out, is that both Marketing and Design is subjective. Not everyone will like every concept or idea. These things are organic and can often take a life of their own. As a Marketer or Designer, you’re trying to get as many people you’ve never met to connect with something strongly enough for them to remember it firmly enough to tell other people about it, pull out their hard earned cash to pay for it and simply just engage them in such a way these pieces stand out in their day to day lives. Marketing and Design are not two things you should go lightly into assuming everyone can do. You’re bound to spend a lot of money on things that bring you very little if you do.

In closing, the difference between a Marketer and a Designer is vast, but ultimately you should feel confident in both enough to trust your business, project or event will be a success”¦whatever you decide that to be. I’d love to hear the experiences you’ve had with the Marketers and Designers in your past. I’d also like to know that you found this entry informative and educational. Drop me a line.

Who are you designing for”¦ you or your customers?

I called this entry “œWho are you designing for”¦you or your customers”, because most business owners can’t see that what they are asking a designer, marketing firm or neighbor down the street to do is create the image of how people who have different tastes and interests will perceive their over all brand. They say that first impressions are very hard to change, but triple that when someone picks up your business card, brochure, sees your ad in the paper or looks at your website before they even talk to you. Unless you’ve invested the time in your Brand Identity to ensure that it is reflective, and supported, in all of your marketing materials.

Let’s understand the difference between Brand Identity and Brand Image before we go any further. Your Brand Identity is how you want people outside of your company perceive your company. Your Brand Image is how people outside of your company are currently viewing your company. The two are separate, but the same. Your Brand Image should constantly be reinforced and supported by your Brand Identity. One can weaken the other.

Let’s face it, when it comes to how effective your marketing materials are”¦the initial perception people get is reality to them. You could be the best schmoozer in the world, but hand someone something that looks like you put very little effort into the presentation and all your schmoozing is for nothing. Convincing, begging and bribing may not drive the message home that your first round of marketing materials were done to be “œcost effective”, but instead they may came out making you, and your company, look less than stellar.

First and foremost your marketing materials should be created with your customers, current and future, in mind. When you sit down to have someone create your marketing materials, the building blocks of your Brand Identity, my best advice is to remove yourself from process as much as possible.

I don’t mean that you should not be involved, but you should remember”¦you aren’t trying to use these marketing materials to get you to invest into your company, product or what have you. Sometimes that means you need to leave the confines of your office, ask your best customer some good questions on how they perceive your business and start looking at your company, product or widget from the customers side of the fence.

Your design is an impression not a true test to your companies’ capabilities, but like I said before sometimes all you get is a first impression. Make it the best one you can.

How accurately do you think your companies marketing materials reflect the over all view of your company as a whole?  Do your marketing materials work with or against the way your want your company to be perceived? How strongly do your marketing materials communicate the personality and ethics of your company?

But this worked four years ago?

I was sitting at the mall waiting for my niece to get out of a certain store that had huge round mouse ears, I watched a gaggle of tween-age girls walk by in outfits that I hadn’t seen, and honestly hoped never to again, since 1988. The leggin’s, oversized sweaters and neon bracelets in the hundreds made me think about marketing and design. Because let me be honest”¦everything does.

With that story out of the way, let’s get this entry rolling. I hate to burst your bubble right out the gate, but marketing trends are much like fashion trends. While as all trends do, often enough, come back around”¦ the revival of an old trend tends to be the very thing you hoped would never again see the light of day.

I love when I meet someone who hands me a piece of marketing material or directs me to a website that clearly hasn’t been updated in years. The design is outdated, the content is so old the addendum explanation ultimately could be it’s own piece, and more times than not the reason for this is that some head honcho, maybe even you, was really, really proud of it”¦a long time ago in a marketing plan/budget far, far away.

The reality is that today’s buyer is getting younger and younger. These potential clients are becoming savier to the lack of time or effort you put into your whatever it is. They really don’t want you to dust off the remaining brochure from four years ago you somehow still have and parade it around at a networking function. They want the latest and greatest.

I hate to regurgitate other people’s ideas. Rather than do that take a look at Kim T. Gordon’s The Hottest Marketing Trends for 2008. I agree with her points of engaging your customer, integrating your off-line and online campaigns and following your customers. The one trend that would seem obvious through her suggestions, but is missing is a trend to actively create new/fresh content. All of the trends that she mentions rely completely on having new information to share with each of these trends.

You’d be surprised how many business owners, marketing managers and sales people get stuck in the trend of repeating and regurgitating half a decade old pitches, gimmicks and what not without realizing that their clients see them as tired and old. The widget may work, the sales person may be able to sell sugar to a diabetic, and customer service staff may be the best in the world, but if your customer can’t get beyond the feeling of “œI heard it” or “œbeen there, done that and just had the same thing better pitched by your competitor ten minutes ago” then the new trend you’ll see is a lack of revenue.

What trends do you see today that should have stayed dead and buried? Do you know business owners or marketing managers that are still clinging onto that shred of hope that this could be the year for dusting off that tried, but not true piece? What new emerging trend do you see having legs in the future?

Driving Customers to Your Site

Ultimately as a graphic/web designer, it’s my job to create designs that, hopefully, will attract the attention of people that view the sites we design for our clients.Through a combination of strong design and stronger content, the website should be a great resource that people not only want to come back to, but want to tell other people about.Yet, no matter how good the design, alone, of any website is, it’s getting people to visit the site that is the most important thing.

While search engines are a common way to find what you need on the web there are thousands of businesses competing for top ranking in each industry.There is no sure fire equation to guarantee that you will always get, and have, top billing in the search engines.There are tricks and techniques that you can do to cheat some of the search engines, but you run the high risk of getting your site banned.

Whether you’re creating a new site or revising what you have, there are things you can do to help the search engines that won’t get you flagged.Creating keywords (any word or phrase that has particular significance to the content of your website) used consistently in your meta-tags, the content of your site and when needed in the alt tags (alternative text embedded in the HTML code for graphic files) helps the search engines track your site down. The best way to create key phrases is to define what it is your business does and find the key verbs, nouns and adjectives that repeatedly pop up when you describe your business.Another way to help search engines out is to vary your meta-tags, keywords and page titles for each page so they relate to the content on that page. You know, it seems like keywords would make a whole entry.

So, outside of search engines, how do you get people to visit your site?

How do you make people aware that you have a site?

What can you do that is cost effective?

Funny you should ask.

Placing your web address on all your marketing material from your business card and flyers to your radio and television commercials is an excellent way.It sounds like a common sense suggestion, but you’d be surprised just how many people leave off a website, phone number or mailing address. Most occasions, people won’t just stop to look at the directions or just look at the contact section.They will take time to learn about your company through the content that’s on your site and any marketing materials you have.They will get an immediate impression of the person, or company, that they are looking to do business with.They will remember to check back at later times to catch up on what your company is doing or is offering.And, lately, a website address seems easier to remember than a phone number.

With telemarketers calling at all times during the day and spam emails overloading their websites, today’s consumer doesn’t want to feel hassled or feel like they are obligated to buy something if they want to learn more about your company.By having your domain name on all of your marketing material, and even your letter head, it allows people who receive that material to visit your site freely.It costs nothing more to add the website address than to leave it off, but it brings another way for people to learn more about your business.

The best way is to get out there and hype up your website.Think of a movie you saw based on a friends recommendation.A recording artist you may never have heard of without someone suggesting it.Even a restaurant that you tried because a family member, or coworker, gave it raving reviews.Websites act in the same way.Word of mouth drives people to websites, because they know that the information is there, people have used the site and it’s been brought to their attention that a site exists. The new term for Word of Mouth these days is Viral Marketing. One person passing an idea to another and so on and so on.

So, it isn’t just having a website that will get people to visit it and potentially buy into your company.It’s the effort you put behind creating strong content that will have people wanting to visit your site, the effort in advertising your website that will increase people’s awareness of your company and potentially increase your sales.So get out there, talk up your website to anyone, and everyone, and make sure it’s on all your marketing material. Take that advice and sit back and watch the hit counter grow.

What was the last website you were directed to that kept your attention?How do you learn about most websites or businesses you visit?

Yeah it’s cheaper, but what are you really getting?

I’ve gone round and round about what to talk about this time and, after many heated battles with Nerf balls and Twinkies, a phone call gave me the solution.  I recently spoke to a gentleman who decided that, rather than create a visually appealing website; he was going to spend as little as possible on his website, marketing material and promotional items.  His reason, you might ask?

“œI don’t expect to get a lot out of them so I’m going to go somewhere cheaper”.  He also said something to the effect that if the visual aspect of the marketing materials sold the product then he felt his product wouldn’t appear that strong. Oh, and let’s not forget the ever popular reason “œI don’t want to spend too much money”.

So let’s take a few to address why sacrificing your marketing material for a lower cost to you is a bad idea.

Here’s a visual test for you.  Forget you own/work for a company and come to the visual standpoint of a consumer.  I want you to picture two companies. These two companies sell the same Whatchamacallit, they are in the same area, they target the same demographic, but there is a large difference between them.

Company A invested in creating a strong professional image. They invested a few dollars into coming up with a strong brand identity. They invested in two or three visually strong advertisements that they place in their windows and news papers. They invested a few extra dollars in paint and nice displays and they invested in a website that customers can learn about them and what it is they sell. (This word investment keeps coming up”¦must be something in that, eh?)

Company B decided they needed to spend as little money initially as possible to cut costs.  They had a friend’s kid that’s interested in drawing come up with a logo, they printed a few flyers on their home PC and reproduced them on a library copier in black and white, they brought in used displays they got here and there and they got the same kid that had an interest in drawing create a simple web page that has their contact information, a small blurb about the company and doesn’t visually display the visual message or feel the company is trying to convey.

Now if you saw a running theme with Company A, then you noticed the theme of what I’m saying here.  Your marketing material (brochures, business cards, website, advertisements and etc) are an investment in future success of your overall visual brand.  Not I said the visual brand of your company. No marketing material out weighs the value of a superior product, staff or service your company provides. They are simply tools that tend to reach your potential clients before you or your sales person do.

The minute your marketing materials go out, you are establishing a strong presence, or expectation, positive or negative, in the customers mind and the mind of businesses in your area. You are giving potential customers reasons to take your business seriously by saying without words “œI care about my own product”¦so I will take the same care with yours”.  Or you are giving potential customers reasons to say “œthis company can’t even be bothered invest in themselves”¦so how can I assume they will provide a good service for me”.

If you say “œI don’t want to spend that much money” on your own marketing material, you run the risk of getting exactly what you paid for.  Clients who want to spend very little on your product to get the biggest bang for theirs.  Very rarely, do you get something for nothing.  You also run the risk of a potential customer saying the same thing about your service or product.

There is an old adage that stands true no matter what business you are in “œyou have to spend money to make money”.  A better one, in this case, is “œyou get what you give”.  Before you break out the pitchforks and torches to come after me for suggesting you break the bank and spend everything you have on amazing materials.  That’s not what I’m suggesting at all.  What I am suggesting is that you should look at what marketing materials you will need and budget accordingly.  Plan out what you need in the order you will need them; for example identity (logo), business cards, website, advertisements and so on.  Work closely with a professional firm, or studio, that you have talked to in great detail and compared prices to get the best value.  Or better yet, Steven Fisher is doing a great Marketing Plan Series in his little slice of Technosailor.com heaven. Take some time and follow some of his advice.  Between the two of us you may come up with some ideas you hadn’t thought about before.

Once you look at your marketing materials, from your logo to business cards to even your website, as an investment in future profit then “œI don’t want to spend too much money” will be replaced with “œwhat I’m putting out now”¦will come back to me with interest later”.  Here’s a thought I’m going to leave you with, have you ever gone to a networking event and been handed a business card that you found it difficult to keep the expression off your face that would let the person you met know they just handed you something that looked like it was just printed seconds before they met you? Were you ever handed a business card that immediately had you showing it off to someone near by because it was that impressive? Where between the two do you think your business card, or any of your marketing materials, falls?

The difference between success and closing next year…

The silver bullet for marketing a successful business”¦doesn’t exist. Sorry to disappoint you. There’s a world of difference between closing in six months and seeing year two come and go. A lot of it is hard work, timing, patience and the ability to adapt. I’m going to say this over and over again over the course of these posts so let me get it out of the way. Your marketing/brand materials are only one aspect of your business. Depending on your industry they could be a very big thing or the thing that keeps you fresh in your prospects minds.

When it comes to the marketing and design aspect of a successful business it comes down to three simple things:

  • A clear message
  • A consistent brand identity/message
  • The ability to see beyond what you like and into what your prospective customers

You have to simultaneously predict the future, correct the problems of the past and be able to change on a dime if the marketing shifts.

You don’t have to throw all of your money into your marketing materials, and I highly suggest you spend what you can afford, but make sure that you put your best possible marketing foot forward with each piece you put your companies brand on. The major corporations that you see on a daily basis put the same kind of care and effort into each marketing piece. You need a plan of action, a budget, a visions for your message, a target audience and reasonable sense of what you expect to receive; you’re return on investment (ROI). These things are established in your marketing plan. Rather than go over what’s all ready been done on Technosailor, take some time and read Steven Fisher’s Marketing Plan Series.

Let me put something into perspective for you. Coca-Cola historically has put close to forty percent of their profits back into the marketing of their business. They have 400 brands in over 200 countries and they have advertisements in every possible avenue of marketing. You can practically go anywhere in the world and people will know the Coca-Cola name. They are in almost every store, office vending machine and are a house hold name to people who don’t even drink the stuff. But if they are that well known why spend the money?

Because they want to be the only cola you think of”¦even when you’re not thinking about it. Because they know their competitors are working just as hard to get your attention. Because without you, and everyone else who drinks their product or who will ever try it, their company and product simply wouldn’t exist.

Do you think of marketing your company in the same way? Do you keep your competitors in mind when you’re working on your website, advertisement, elevator speech or whatever aspect of marketing you’re working on? Do you put a dedicated effort into making sure every piece of marketing you pay for supports each other while simultaneously keeping awareness of your product? Is it more than just a business card, a brochure, or a website to you? They are to Coca-Cola. They are to your competitors. They are to your customers and prospects. Your marketing materials are just one of the several crucial pieces of the puzzle that makes the difference between success and closing next year.

It’s time to get Wicked”¦

After much arm twisting, pleading, begging and bribing of Aaron, Technosailor himself, and Steven Fisher, of VentureFiles fame, I bring you the content whose focus is to help you get into the mindset of the visual side of marketing your business, product or self. Each week, I’m going to go over topics from what to look for, and expect from, a designer, the things you should think about for your marketing materials and most things marketing/design related for the new, or current, business owners.

Really the decision to create a blog that is geared not to designers, but people either in their first year of business or are just wanting to think about the visual branding of their company, all started over a couple cups of coffee. There was no real arm twister, or the like, but a general idea that this type of blog series might be worth while.

My name is Michael Dougherty and I’m bringing my years of experience to help be the translator between the business owner and the designer. Being of the rare breed of designers who balance well between print and web (there’s a world of difference between the two) that designs with a focus on sales and marketing my clients, I spend a lot of time finding creative solutions to help business owners, marketing managers and start up companies effectively understand why a visual brand is an extremely effective tool for their business that not only needs to be created, but maintained and nurtured.

To get it out of the way, the tone of this blog series will not be stuffy, terminology laden, or over your head. I understand that things like bleed, font weight, appropriate resolution for the medium and a wide variety of industry related terms may turn you off or confuse you. So relax. If those do pop up from time to time I’m going to find easily understandable comparisons to put them in plain speak for you. This series should feel like a conversation with someone over a cup of coffee.

So grab a cup of your favorite beverage, of course mine being coffee, and join me each week for a rare glimpse into the mindset, expectations and opinions of a professional graphic/web designer. I also look forward to hearing your horror stories, successes and thoughts on each topic.

So That's What You Believe…

Just some random thoughts I have.

  1. Social Media is only as valuable as what you put into it.
  2. Your Blogging success is not based on the number of pageviews, but the number of “conversions” (forget advertising here, folks. Think deeper)
  3. Your company needs to be blogging because you can then facilitate the conversation that is happening anyway
  4. Presence Marketing can be the most effective use of social media. Read: Twitter rocks
  5. You can be more effective as a well connected, thoughtful blogger with 500 subscribers than you can as a “powerhouse” blogger with 500,000.
  6. Search feeds can be more important than blog feeds
  7. The best networking happens over alcohol, after 10pm
  8. Ask questions, receive feedback, take action.
  9. Great business is birthed out of great community which is made of great individuals with great ideas.
  10. Share and share alike.
  11. Don’t be offended if someone criticizes you.
  12. Be honest and constructive, not destructive
  13. Laugh at yourself
  14. Don’t oversell by spinning.
  15. Recurring sales come from trust.
  16. You cannot control your brand, but you can influence how it is percieved
  17. There are valuable things in social media. Everything else is not valuable.
  18. Early adopters are geeks, but they are also filters.
  19. Never say never, but if concerned, proceed with caution. But do proceed.
  20. Generations change. Practices change. Principles remain the same.
  21. A blog is the best resumé someone can have
  22. Your archives will always be there. It’s your chance to shape what they will look like.
  23. Think differently about the value of traffic. It may not be as effective as you think it is.
  24. Do not be afraid to be vocal.
  25. Think clearly and coherently and shape your words, but spend more time thinking than you do writing.

What would you add?

Video Questions for Social Media Club DC

Thursday night, I’m going to be speaking at Social Media Club DC. If you’re in the area, I’d love to have you come by. It’s at Viget Labs in Falls Church, Virginia and you should RSVP to Larissa Faire by Tuesday if you plan on attending. It is BYOB – Bring Your Own Beverage (non alcoholic, if I recall). More details here.

The name of the talk is Blog Draft Day: Making it into the Bigs, and I’ll be talking about some of the things bloggers encounter when trying to break out of the “long tail”. Specifically, my talk will be around marketing, message and brand and I’ll be sharing some of my own thoughts as a blogger who has enjoyed reasonable success. I’ll also be sharing some of the things I’ve learned at b5media working with bloggers who have encountered their own success.

One of the things I really want to engage is questions from both the audience as well as those of you who can’t make it to the event in person. Because of the good folks at Viddler, you can send your videos which I will try to share at SMC, via comments right here on this blog. Click on the “Record or choose a video?” link in the comments section and you can record your video right there and it will post as a comment. Simple as that. No special knowledge, or gear. As long as your computer has a webcam, then the hard part is taken care of for you.

Give it a try. It can’t hurt.

(Now to test out the ustream embed for Technosailor TV)

Zuckerberg, Quit Insulting Our Intelligence

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook has taken one more step in the Beacon war. As we’ve noted, Facebook is wrong to not fully make Beacon an opt-in program, partner companies are wrong for releasing customer data to Facebook and by the way I made a Firefox extension that will help consumers know when they are on a site that is using Beacon technology and will send data about their customers to Facebook, regardless of whether the consumer has a Facebook account or have the program turned off.

So, back to Zuckerberg. Mark posted an entry today on the Facebook blog apologizing for Beacon, admitting that the program was mismanaged from the start and that the response to the outcry were abysmal:

We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it. While I am disappointed with our mistakes, we appreciate all the feedback we have received from our users.

Zuckerberg continues on to outline how to turn off Beacon altogether – and that’s where this is still breaking down. First, Beacon is still “opt-out”. That is, users still have to proactively turn the “feature” off. I’m guessing that most Facebook users are not paying attention to this whole Beacon uprising, and thus probably have no idea that there is something that can be turned off and how it would be turned off. The majority of Facebook users, I’d venture, are purely using the site to keep up with their circle of people. No one is paying attention to these higher-level issues – something I admit I’m disappointed in as I think these issues affect all users.

The reality is that Beacon is damaged goods and I will be surprised if partners don’t continue to drop the technology. It’s a huge mistake to send data to Facebook and let Facebook determine if the user 1) exists or 2) has not opted-out.

Someone I talked to recently described Facebook and Beacon as, “[Facebook] is like inviting the devil into your home by accident and now [Beacon] is seen as angel of death.”

No, despite Facebook’s steps to “right the wrong”, they have not gone far enough. At the very least, they need to make it completely opt-in and let their marketing department “sell” opting-in to their users. In an ideal world, Beacon is completely abandoned – something that might very well happen if the backlash doesn’t stop soon.