What is a graphic designer? What are you going to do with one anyhow, and where do you put them?
First of all, you could probably use a graphic designer in your business without even realising it. Anything related to your business that is printed or published online is going to reflect how your business works, how you do business and the personality of your business. Mess that up and you are sending the wrong message. Loud and clear.
A graphic designer will make sure your brand – that is, what people say about you and how people perceive what you do – is consistent. When people view your materials, read your tweets, browse your brochure or click through your website, they are building an image in their head of what your business is like. You want that to be right. You need to appear professional, competent and trustworthy. A graphic designer will make sure that everything you do looks right and looks right without speed bumps or pitfalls to undermine all the hard work.
What are you going to do with one?
Well, you will actually be doing more of what you should be doing anyhow! If it’s your business, you will be taking care of business rather than worry about technical and practical aspects of marketing materials. If you’re an employee, you will be concentrating on what you were hired to do instead of taking on additional tasks – even if your boss thinks you are saving them money. Do what you know, do what you love.
And where do you put them?
Leave them right where they are!
It’s easy to use a graphic designer from time to time, as and when they are needed, so if they work from home they are saving you money (salary, office space, equipment) but are still on call to help your business look great.
Graphic designers are problem solvers. Do you have these problems?
- too few customers
- customers get lost
- people can’t read instructions
- too few people at events
- people don’t understand what you do
- people think you are out of business
- customers phone up with the strangest questions
If these sound like odd things for a visual professional to take on, consider how a logo can make people think of a business, or how a well written and designed brochure can bring people to your door. It’s not just about having a great product or service. People need to hear about it too.
The real question is, why wouldn’t you hire a graphic designer?
My wife is a very patient woman. At the end of my work day I love to show her what I’ve done that day. Yes, I still like Show and Tell.
It might be a new blog post, or a logo design, or a motion graphics video with a new soundtrack. Whatever it is, I like to have something at the end of the day to say I’ve been here. It’s a good feeling.
No Accounting For Taste
Yesterday, at the end of a long work day, my wife decided to do the same. She’s an accountant and showed me a sheet of columns, numbers and abbreviated terms, neatly arranged with a conclusive double underlined figure at the bottom. Very impressive.
Actually, I don’t really know if it’s impressive or not because my understanding of accounting is somewhat limited, despite having taken an accounting course in college. It’s just rows of numbers to me.
For all intents and purposes, that sheet of figures could very easily be reproduced by anyone with a spreadsheet program and ten minutes of free time. Type in the numbers, make them add up (you don’t have to use the formula function if you know what the numbers are meant to be) and make sure they line up properly. Done! But I know that is not really the case. There is a lot of work – and years of training and experience – involved in producing a finance report that goes far beyond what appears on that one final sheet of paper.
Don’t Judge a Lever Arch File by Its Cover
The work I produce can be seen in exactly the same way. Most logos could be reproduced in a matter of minutes. A brochure could be produced very quickly, once you know the layout. Even photographs only take a split second to reproduce. If you look hard enough, you could find online applications to produce most things quickly and cheaply (and they will look like they’ve been done cheaply, too).
It’s the old “my kid could have done that” comments in a modern art gallery. Yes, you (or your children) could reproduce a Mark Rothko, Agnes Martin or Jackson Pollock with a minimum of technical skill.
The difference between an end result that a professional can produce and one that anyone else can produce, is getting to the right answer and avoiding all the wrong ones.
In the case of the balance sheet an accountant produces, it’s not a load of numbers typed into boxes. The real work is knowing where to get the numbers from, what they mean and where to put them.
What Really Goes On
If graphic design ever looks easy, it has achieved its purpose. What you don’t see is the process of understanding the message and the target audience, then creating something that can communicate that message in a way that the audience will understand. You also won’t see all the failed solutions, the sketched ideas and thoughts that didn’t make the final cut.
Design is a constant filtering of the wrong answers, avoiding clichés, double checking of alternate meanings and reading between the lines to make sure communication is clear and concise.
And I’m sure the same goes for your job. Whether you are a chef, recording engineer or roofer, the end result usually looks simple to the untrained eye.
If they only knew!
Building a website for your music shop? Writing the content yourself? Or has your web designer asked you for a list of things you want (they should know what you want, really, but sometimes it’s polite to ask… )?
With the right content and the things that people are looking for, your website can turn surfers into customers.
Here are the things you really should have on your site.
It’s amazing how many shops don’t list their address, or a map of their location. You may be a big deal in town, but customers aren’t local may not be able to find you so easily. Make it really easy for people to find you with an embedded Google map so visitors can plan their route, no matter how they travel.
2. Buying advice
There is a lot of gear available at any price point, but the enormous amount of affordable equipment makes it particularly tricky for beginners (or parents of beginners) to figure out what is needed/wanted/cool/not going to annoy the neighbours. Put yourself in the shoes of a complete novice and don’t presume people know the terminology or abbreviations that have become second nature to you. Break down what is really essential about a purchase, mention some of the non-scientific (or ‘cork sniffing’) attitudes that people might come across. This is your opportunity to explain things clearly and show up your competition who like to shroud instruments in verbose voodoo and mystical terminology. Remember, a beginner might have a parent with them and they are more likely to be the one you have to convince that spending twice the amount won’t make their child a better player, and just because an instrument is inexpensive it isn’t necessarily junk.
More than three quarters of consumers in the UK shop online, with nearly 60% looking to save money, so it makes sense to make sure you have your prices listed on your website. If people don’t see prices, they either assume they can’t afford it or move on.You don’t have to offer items for sale online, just make sure prices are clearly shown.
Consumables are what keep customers coming back and sometimes are what draws someone in to begin with. It may be obvious to you that you stock these things, but make it super obvious to your customers too and have a prominent link to things people will need regularly.
It is now easier than ever to shoot high quality HD video. By high quality, I mean with quality lighting and sound, not just resolution. You now have no excuse for creating your own demo videos, showing customers near gear and useful how-to videos of things like instrument setup, tuning, choosing an instrument or showing off a new service. Create a YouTube channel and embed the videos on your site so visitors can choose the quality they want and leave comments and questions. It’s a great way to connect with customers.
For many people, particularly beginners, music shops are scary and intimidating! Well, most of them are. If you put a sign up on your site inviting people to come in and try instruments you will make the shop more inviting and a place where people can relax, try things out, find out what works for them and be better informed. Music shops don’t have to be places where people just walk in to buy what they need and leave. Build a community by making your shop a safe place for beginners and pros to hang out.
Having high quality pictures of products you sell online is important, but having detailed shots of used gear that you have in stock is vital. Terms like ‘good condition’ are relative. Visitors want to know exactly what kind of condition things are in. Pro photography doesn’t have to be expensive, but if you are not sure what you’re doing, find someone who does. Quality photography can make your site look great and poor photography just makes your shop look amateur.
Include a form online for people to enter their email address and receive your newsletter. Every week or every month you can tell people of your special offers, new products, the great lessons you offer and second hand gear you just got in. People might not visit your site regularly, but you can remind them on a regular basis of what you have to offer. It’s a good opportunity to keep your shop front-of-mind when people are finally ready to buy, or you offer them that once-in-a-lifetime deal
Remember to include these vital elements and your site will do a better job of serving your customers and building your brand.