Selling design is very different from selling tall skinny lattés, boxes of cereal, or tubes of toothpaste, unless you own a logo warehouse that is. Great design is not a mere commodity and this is what makes differentiating your product a challenge at times. As a designer would you want it any other way?
Many designers struggle to define their product because it is more than just the sum of its’ parts, logo, website or layout. Your product is something pretty special. You give form to ideas. Your ‘art’ is the ability to take something abstract or imagined and create the visual connection which helps the world to make sense of that idea, product or company. Designers are the conduit between the imagined and reality. You are not just selling logos, identities and websites. You are enabling your client to tell their story better.
It doesn’t matter what product you choose to market there are three steps to understanding the placement of the kind of product you want to sell to the type of customers you want to attract.
1. Understand yourself
What do you love to do?
Why do you do what you do?
What do you care about and believe in?
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
How can you best play to your strengths?
How will you mitigate against your weaknesses?
Who do you want to work with?
Which designers do you admire and why?
How could you emulate some of what they have done to become successful?
How are you different?
What will make you better?
“You do better work when you believe in what you do.”
— Lee Newham
2. Understand your target market
Who is your ideal client?
Where will you find them?
How will you reach them?
What drives them?
How do they choose?
What communication channels do they use?
How can you nurture professional relationships?
How can you package your product to meet the worldview of the audience you are trying to reach?
What are the tools you will need to create a presence in your chosen market?
Are you designing for everyone or perhaps creating things that some might dislike?
Are you asking people to switch to you or are you creating a whole new market?
Why would I buy from you and not the designer who ranks in the top ten in Google?
”It’s not a matter of who can benefit from what you sell. It’s about choosing the customers you’d like to have.”
— Seth Godin
3. Understand how to differentiate your product
What story does your product tell?
Does your story really define what you do?
What makes your design stand out?
What makes your work blend in?
How is your product different?
How is your service special?
Are you delivering on your promise, original, unique, timeless, flexible, enduring?
Can you create a new market and do something that hasn’t been done before?
Can you reinvent something that’s already been done and do it better?
What is selling right now?
What’s not selling today that could sell if it was marketed in new ways tomorrow?
Could you produce something that’s scalable?
Is it possible to create scarcity?
What makes your product remarkable?
Does your design start conversations?
If not how could you make that happen?
“It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.”
— Paul Arden
Designers have the privilege and the power to change how people feel about an idea. Your work not only influences others to make a myriad of choices each day. It moves people. Your product breathes life into ideas. You galvanise, captivate and woo. I can’t think of anything better to market.
The full ‘Building your design business’ series:
Bernadette Jiwa is an Australia-based brand and marketing strategist.