Design is notoriously undervalued within small businesses. To most small business owners it seems to belong at the bottom of their list of priorities. But the landscape has changed. Growth is no longer automatic, markets are fragmented, and risk is everywhere. Most importantly, customers are more savvy — communication is no longer a one way street. This, as every visionary knows, is a rare moment of opportunity. There has never been a time when integrating design and design processes into a business can have significant benefits. Aside from creating a stronger identity, which greatly increases customer loyalty, design can stimulate innovation and raise the bar on competition.
“So in order to be distinctive and differentiate yourself from the rest of the market, you have to offer a product or service that is very robust with a meaningful value proposition. And that’s what design allows you to do.”
The definition of design by the general public can be misleading though. Design is visually appealing, good-looking, pretty. However, this prettiness is simply a natural byproduct of the design process; and because humans are naturally visual creatures, people tend to get distracted by the aesthetics. Which is why when most people hear the word design they often think of something artistic, something pretty, trivial — decoration. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There’s something called The Shiny Object Syndrome. When businesses look at their successful competitors it is often that the first thing they see is how these other companies are more visually attractive than they are. Their first reaction is usually along the lines of these few examples: we need a flyer that pops just like (fill in company’s name); we need our logo bigger just like — —; we need a website that animates just like — —; we need to look fresh and modern just like — —. When these businesses view the competition they fail to see how the brand personality is being communicated, how effortless and intuitive the user interface is, or how the users are taken into account in creating — designing — every single touchpoint. They simply see how these other businesses are prettier than they are, so they attribute success to the aesthetic difference.
“We have begun a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.”
Design on the other hand is research driven; it is methodical, repeatable — practical. It has the capacity to answer your business challenges. It makes you look at what might be and guides in figuring out how to get to it, rather than looking at what has been and then figuring out how to modify or extrapolate from there. Don’t assume that the proposition you’ve been out in the market with before, the one that sells today, is going to be there in the future. Applying design can help connect with customers by telling your story and that is a valuable source of differentiation.
For an example of how design can help your small business succeed, whether you’re just starting to lay the foundations or transitioning and making improvements, have a peek at the tools provided by Strategyzer.
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