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From the Trenches

Why You Can’t Win at Content Marketing Without Good Design

Yvonne Lyons | October 6, 2016
Why You Can’t Win at Content Marketing Without Good Design

There is no accounting for taste. Really. It’s very subjective. Like your style of clothing, or the car you drive, visual things are not right or wrong. They are subjective. That said, most of us have some kind of style, because we understand that it adds to who we are.

You can think of content and design similarly — design is like the “visual style” for your words. You could go with naked content — black words on a white page — for most of what you do. But it’s boring, like people would be without the added distinction of the style that their clothing, and jewelry, and hairstyle offers them. (OK, some of you might vote for people running around naked, I get it, but let’s keep it clean, please.)

Adding good design to your remarkable content gives your content marketing strategy a much better chance of success. Content and design work better together. Like peanut butter and jelly, or vodka and tonic. The most successful content marketers know this and are using design skillfully in every single piece that they produce. The most successful companies know that design is key to overall success. In fact, a 10-year study by the Design Management Institute and Motiv, Inc., showed that between 2004-2014, design-led companies (think Apple and Coca-Cola) have maintained significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 219 percent.

You don’t have to have an Apple-sized budget to make design an integral part of your content marketing effort, nor do you need to become a design-led company right away. (That would be very cool, though. Let me know if it happens.)

Here is why you do need to make good design part of your content marketing efforts and some tips to getting it right.

Design communicates brand. Good design speaks volumes about a company’s professionalism, quality, and leadership in its market vertical. Using great design consistently on all your materials and throughout your website is good branding, and makes you look legit — like you have your act together. You can write all the smart things in the world, but if you look like a mess, you’ve lost your audience before they start reading.

This doesn’t require a billion-dollar budget. It requires consistency. Get a good designer to establish your company’s look and feel and stick to it. Don’t stray because you get bored. Remember, your audience doesn’t spend day in and day out with your brand. That’s just you.

Your difficult-to-navigate, ugly website will scare people away. Yup, it’s true. If you are barreling ahead with a killer content marketing effort and driving all of those prospects to a website that makes people scratch their heads about what you do, how to find your core services, or how to navigate logically to the resources they need (and that you have toiled long and hard to create), you have lost the game. This is where good design is mandatory, not just a nice-to-have.

You MUST find yourself a talented team to design and develop your website and make the user experience logical, smooth, and easy.

Good design engages readers. Companies spend money on book jackets, magazine covers, and fancy packaging for smart phones and tablets for a reason. Because first impressions draw people in. The engagement is the whole experience. Something as simple as an interesting featured image in your blog post is a chance to draw readers in along with — or maybe in spite of — your headline. A unique email header might be just the thing to get recipients click through. A bold direct mail piece in the mailbox could be what stands out after the chaos of an overloaded email inbox.

Once that reader is actually in your content, well-executed design should work in concert with the content to help keep them engaged and move them through the piece. Is your content easy to skim? Have you created sidebars or boxes for “resting points” in your copy? Is there imagery to break up the gray of all that content? Effective design does all these things for your content … and looks good, too.

Design gets your point across quickly and effectively. Design is a powerful tool that can get a point across more effectively than words alone. Many of us — some say 65-80 percent — are visual learners, and prefer images to words to take in information. As I said in my last blog post, there is no one BEST type of content. So offer your audience a variety of content that is visual: infographics, well-crafted video, even graphics or charts within your blog posts. Then use those images to stand out in your social feeds. The more interesting your visual, the more likely your social post is to stand out in the crazy sea of content that floats by every day.

If you’re not quite ready to be a design-led company, at least make design an integral part of your content marketing efforts. It shouldn’t be an afterthought, it should be something that you’re always thinking about. Need help working great design into your content marketing planning or execution? We can help.

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About Yvonne Lyons:

Yvonne Lyons is Right Source’s vice president of creative services, overseeing content and design for all of our clients. She ensures that all creative produced at Right Source is of the highest quality and is aligned with our clients’ business strategy and goals. Yvonne received a bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University in writing and literature and has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, branding, and communications.