I love great design.
My team, over the years, has often given me a hard time because I can tell if a design is off by a single pixel from across the room. I like design to be clean, balanced, and pixel-perfect. We all should.
But the reality is that few business owners are design-centric. Business owners don’t understand that a great design can grab serious attention from a potential customer. They don’t understand the subliminal trust it can build.
Unfortunately, a DIY template from a big-box hosting company usually reeks of business desperation. Something I expect from my local Chinese restaurant, but not my lawyer.
We know this. But how do we get our clients to know this?
There is no question that great design costs more. It takes time to do moodboards, custom concepts, revision rounds, and fine tuning. Not only that, but it takes talent. And great talent always costs more, whether you are the designer, or you have a rockstar on your team.
So how do we get clients to pay for great design?
Reason #1: Design Must Be Understood
Educating your prospect is one of the most important (and often overlooked) steps in the sales process. A prospective customer calls you on the phone with a list of “needs,” and you automatically assume that they know everything about web. They are asking me for a website, they must know exactly what they want. Right?
At best, your prospective customer has done a little research, and if you are lucky, they’ve had a website built before.
Even the prospects that seemingly know exactly what they want are desperately under educated about what it takes to succeed online. So instead of jumping right into, “here is my portfolio” to show them your amazing design, first take a quick assessment of what your prospect knows about design. Here are some questions that can help:
- “How important is great design to your business?”
- “Have you thought about your visual brand?”
- “What is your expectation when it comes to quality design?”
While these questions don’t outright say, “What do you know about design?” or “Are you willing to pay extra for great design?”, they will certainly give you a test to see where your prospect is at. I’ve had clients that simply said, “I want a great design, and I’m willing to pay for it.” Others have not been so straightforward or simple.
And for the ones that aren’t quite there yet, it’s important to have a series of educational moments where you teach your prospect what to look for and how great design might actually affect their business more than they know. Talk about the credibility factor and how fast visitors make a “trust” decision when visiting a website.
Teach them about common heat map patterns, like the popular “F-scan” approach, to how people naturally read webpages. Explain basic concepts around avoiding “mystery meat” navigation and making sure important call-to-action-elements are designed to get attention.
Recently, I taught a web design class at a local high school for an hour, and I imagine the exercise I took the class through would be valuable to any business owner. They were working on a project to build a local bed and breakfast company website. I had them pull up a local directory of B & Bs and we perused a dozen or so sites. Each time I would ask the class “what do you notice about this site?”
They would point out things about where the logo was, whether there was anything “off” about the site or not. I was able to introduce concepts about why most sites choose top-left logo with a horizontal nav for ease-of-use. I was able to bring attention to websites that had clear call-to-action buttons, making it easy to “book a reservation” or “call for assistance.”
The conversation didn’t take long, but I was able to easily communicate the value of great design by educating the class about what to look for.
Do this with each and every one of your prospective customers. Later, they’ll appreciate the extra non-selling time with you when it comes time to talk price.
Reason #2: Design Must Solve Their Pain
I talk a lot about buyer pain because I need to. Before I understood how to discover and sell to pain, I didn’t get it. People are more likely to buy to solve a pain than to gain a reward. It’s human nature. Potential future reward is intangible. Whereas the pain I have today is tangible and, most often, measurable.
To say to your prospective customer, “I’m going to charge 2X the competition because my GREAT design is going to make you more money!” is a hard sell. Whereas, I can state, “your current design is losing you business today because it confuses customers and makes your business look sloppy,” and I will probably grab some attention.
But great design isn’t just about credibility. That is a big part of it, but it’s also about a bigger conversation: their customer.
In order to design well, your design must be centered around the person that is visiting the website. Your prospect’s customer is the center of attention. So what are they currently looking for that they can’t find? How can design solve that problem? What does your client want that visitor to do? I bet great design can solve that problem too.
Great design is a powerful driver to action. And most of our clients have a desperate need to get their limited amount of website visitors to take action.
So when you are speaking to your client about why your spectacular design portfolio matters to their business, put it in perspective of their problems. A powerful exercise I have done is to show my prospective clients the before and after scenario of my other clients. I’ll walk them through a snapshot of a company’s website before we got involved and say, “here is where this client was, here is what we found was wrong with their design, and why it hurt their business and their customer’s experience.”
Then I would pull up the finished and live website and walk them through why we did what we did and how that affected their business. Sometimes, for extra education, I would even pull up several design comps that we created during the design process so they could see the evolution and iterative process that we all know design requires.
This process of not just talking about my prospective customers pain, but also relating it to other customers who had the same pain, and showing the solution, builds an intense fix of value.
Reason #3: Design Must Dictate ROI
Business owners are all pragmatists when it comes to spending money. I admit that I have been in the company of a couple business owners who have written me juicy checks on the spot, but they were rarely very successful. The question every client is going to ask themselves (either consciously or subconsciously) is: “will I get a return on this investment?”
And if you are selling great design as part of your value proposition, then you’ll need to answer that.
So how do you relate great design to ROI?
Professional credibility is a hard thing to put a number on.
But, you can easily put a number on increased numbers of email opt-ins, leads, and sales. So create some reasonable targets.
It must be a candid conversation for you to be able to say, “look, right now your website is suffering because people leave too quickly, so let’s take a look at your Bounce Rate and set that as a metric. If we can reduce your bounce rate by 25%, then we should be able to increase the amount of leads, opt-ins, and sales by 25%.”
You have to find the metrics you are willing to stake your claim against during your discovery process. If you want your prospect to invest 2X or 3X over your competition because you put the time in and you value great design, then you’ll need to find the numbers to make it work.
There is More Value to Great Design Than Prices
I always put a high value on our company producing designs that we can be proud of. Many times we ended up producing projects at a loss in order to hit the quality target we wanted. I don’t recommend that strategy over the long haul, but sometimes that approach can pay dividends.
Your portfolio is one of your most powerful marketing assets on the Internet. If you are like us, you put a “design by” stamp on the bottom of every page, on every site that a client allows it, linking back to your website. This little stamp earned us a steady portion of our inbound leads.
When we would launch a new restaurant website, the Denver community took notice. Because every other independent restaurant site in the city, all of a sudden, looked subpar. So when other restaurant groups decided it was time to open a new joint or upgrade an existing one, we got the call.
In that sense, there is another way to extract value out of investing in great design: it can become a key marketing strategy for growth.