One of the best investments you can make in your business is to plan the customer experience before spending a dime on advertising or graphic design.
What is the Customer Experience?
We hear a lot about customer experience online, but it applies to the real world as well. What’s it like to do business with your company? Everything from how you answer the phone to the way you thank customers for purchases is part of the customer experience. Every touch point, every impression adds up.
I’m fond of reminding organizations that – whether they planned it or not – they have a brand. The same is true for customer experience. If you’re open for business, you have created a customer experience.
With this in mind, shouldn’t you be intentional about making that experience the best it can be? Customer interactions with your business should be memorable, in a good way, so they’ll come back AND tell others.
Then define your customer experience, make some notes about how you want a customer to feel before, during and after interacting with your business. What’s it like when you walk in the door? What happens after the sale?
Translate through Design
When you have a good understanding of your desired customer experience, design can help you express it. If you don’t start from this strategic view, you’re ceding this important business decision to an agency or designer who certainly won’t know your business as well as you do.
As a leader, you’re responsible for designing the customer experience. Providing a clear vision for your designers enables them to bring you creative ideas that bring your vision to life.
After formulating your desired customer experience, work with a professional designer to create a logo and marketing materials that create the emotional response you want. It may cost a few hundred dollars, but creating a strong identity from the beginning is a smart investment.
Think Beyond the Logo
The desired customer experience should inform decisions about things like signage, packaging, etc. Scent and tactile feel of materials can be very important in addition to visual considerations. Color matters in terms of evoking a restful or energetic impression, but consistency in applying brand the design is equally important.
Echoing things like a shape or an icon can reinforce the image and experience. For example, an arch or a curve can be repeated in the shape of a bag, in the background of wall graphics and on dressing room doors or employee apparel.
I have a client that has done this very effectively with a stylized dragonfly that is part of their logo, but also appears etched on glass in their office, on the background of their website and other places where the image can subtly reinforce the brand image.
In retail, this idea can be used in packaging – bags, gift wrap, samples, hang tags, coupons, etc. Applying design to things like ribbons, cards and tissue paper works well. An affordable alternative to custom items is to find off-the-shelf colors and materials that contribute to the overall image. For businesses on a budget, investing in more highly visible items or those with broader use like multi-purpose note cards can be cost-effective.
Finally, be a vigilant guardian of your brand. Use your logo, colors and fonts consistently everywhere you can. That means no spin-offs or modifications of the original design. Stretched, skewed or alternate color logos will hurt branding efforts.
Being obsessive about design and branding will save lots of money in the long run by creating a positive customer experience and a strong foundation for your marketing.