Why we are now entering the Era of Design in online marketing

If you're in the info-marketing space, I'm wiling to bet that you've taken more than a few trainings from well-known industry leaders.

People like Frank Kern, Mike Koenigs, Lisa Sasevich, Jeff Walker, Ali Brown, et al might ring a bell.

For the record, I consider them the "old guard" of online marketing businesses. 

They've been at this a LONG time. Sometimes 10 years plus. (So if you've ever compared yourself to them, please don't. These peeps are like the first people to be on twitter...who now have 150k real followers. Early adoption does make a huge difference.)

Just because you're not an early adopter doesn't mean your online business is doomed to mediocrity!!

In fact, I believe we're entering a new era of online marketing- the Era of Design. #eraofdesign if you will. 

In the Era of Design, first to market won't matter nearly as much as customer experience (CX) and design is the bedrock of customer experience.

In the next wave of successful online entrepreneurs, we're going to see a few things happen. 

First, design will become a key product differentiator. Second, customers will sort themselves based on brands' perceived value (communicated online largely by design). Third, as design cleans itself up, so too will the other elements of online marketing- messaging (thank God!), marketing etiquette, quality of products, and last but certainly not least, intention. 

So, let's get into the nitty-gritty of each of these trends that are happening as we enter the Era of Design.

1. Design matters and is a key product differentiator that influences POS and conversion. 

Gone are the days when any old "flea market" style website will make you money. Today's consumer is savvy and has been exposed to great design for the better part of a decade, thanks in large part to companies like Target who made design mainstream. Remember Michael Graves for Target plungers? 

Here's a little in-store display of said plungers. Lovely, no? And easy to use...

Here's a little in-store display of said plungers. Lovely, no? And easy to use...

Web design is constantly changing and I must admit that one of my talents is being able to cite a website's "birthdate" just by looking at the design.

Got lots of text and tons of frames? Circa 2006, my friend. A drupal site? Probably closer to 2009/10. 

I told my husband that I'm super excited to go through a huge custom branding overhaul in the new year and he was all, "But didn't you just do a new site?" And the thing is, we constantly have to reinvent our online presence to stay current, relevant and converting. Such is life. It's also superfun to have photo shoots. 

Anyway, thanks to the tech world superstars (sites like airbnb, RentTheRunway, and Apple things in general), hip, clean design is the norm for our consumer eyeballs. 

When we see a site that doesn't look good, we take note and have a reaction, even if we may not be able to articulate why. 

I wish that Wells Fargo would hire some of the same designers Apple uses and revamp their online banking site. It stinks. USAA, by contrast, has a really intuitive and modern website. I go to it much more! 

Your buyers will judge you based on your design. If faced with infoproduct options, the site with the best design/CX is gonna win, even if the product is more expensive. 

Want to see some proof? 

As you can see, the launch of Nikki's new and improved and amazingly designed website garnered her a HUGE burst in traffic. FWIW, my fab client Sarah's website has also seen massive conversion just from overflow traffic from Nikki's site. #eraofdesign #designmatters

As you can see, the launch of Nikki's new and improved and amazingly designed website garnered her a HUGE burst in traffic. FWIW, my fab client Sarah's website has also seen massive conversion just from overflow traffic from Nikki's site. #eraofdesign #designmatters

Who do you want to learn copywriting from? Someone who clearly has a templated shit website or this gorgeous mom rocking a retro style who has taken great pains to communicate her unique value proposition both verbally and visually? 

I know who I'd sign up with! 

The key take away?

Design drives traffic and conversions. Design drives point of sale decisions for savvy consumers.

Now, point numero dos. 

2. Design is one of the most crucial elements to get right for your brand. To be clear, "brand" is a much more broad concept than driving traffic or conversion or your USP or product differentiation as discussed above. Brand comprises a complex set of attitudes, beliefs and behaviors of the people who are connected to your brand (actual customers and innocent by-standers) as well as logos/marks/visuals/products of your brand along with your brand story. 

Branding involves a lot o' moving parts, ya'll. And customers engage with brands (whether or not they buy) based largely on their perceptions of your brand.*

Where do these perceptions come from and how can you best influence said perceptions? 

You guessed what comes next: design! 

To wit: 

I love the Hermes brand. I love to visit their (quirky, fun, bizarre, beautiful) website. I do not buy scads of Hermes (at this time) but I do have an Hermes scarf and some perfume. In my book Hermes is one of the top luxury brands. 

They have repeatedly revamped their website, added intriguing content, and at the same time stay true to their brand essence. They also refuse to take themselves too seriously. (Could you ever imaging Ralph Lauren posting this video on HIS site? Hell no! He's trying wayyyy too hard whereas Hermes couldn't care less about gravitas.) 

The point is: I vibe with Hermes, even if I'm not buying a Birkin every month. But you can bet that when I get to a certain goal in my biz, I'm scouring the world for the Kelly bag o' my dreams as a reward, not the Ricki bag from Mr. Lauren.

Why? It's not just the bag. It's the brand. 

How does this branding concept translate to your info marketing world domination plans? 

Marie Forleo offers a great case study. She has re-branded herself and her site several times since she launched B-school. She hasn't tweaked the content all that much in the past four years, but this most recent launch was her most successful by far.


It's her brand, silly! 

Her buyers want to be associated with the Marie Forleo brand more than they want to be associated with someone who's marketing basically the same stuff (how to start and run an online biz) but via different branding like, say, Fabienne Frederickson, Ali Brown, Lisa Sassy or Suzanne Evans.

They like her sophisticated Jersey girl persona. They like her website's colors. They like (and identify with) both Marie and Marie's clients' success stories. They like her BRAND. 

Have you ever seen Marie's tribe in person? They skew younger, they wear trendy clothes and jewelry and they dig her vibe. 

I fall into that Marie demographic very well. When I have attended online marketing events hosted by the other ladies mentioned, their crowds are usually a good 15 to 20 years older than I am. Some of them still might be quite stylish but it's an entirely different market that self-selects based on branding.

And when we're talking about online businesses, branding is most driven by visuals and design, and secondarily by copy. 

You want to create a brand that has customers as well as those innocent by-standers going, "Yeah, that's a brand I'm into" and who then talk about you.

So, if you want to bring in the big bucks online, your brand better be consistent and aspirational, as in: something your customers aspire to.

Whew, still with me? 

Our next and last concept for today is very imp. 

3. As design becomes cleaner and clearer and more intentional, so too will the actual marketing. 

Online marketing has a skeezy feel to it, no? I sorta hate that word "infomarketing." Blech.

And for good reason. The industry as a whole has a decidedly shyster-ish reputation because of their design/marketing tactics. 

Let's review: 

How many times have you read some infinite sales page with hideous yellow buy-now buttons circled in red? (Hahaha and actually bought the product for sale?)

How many of you have experienced not one, not two but three or MORE "exit pops" asking if you really really really want to leave this page without taking advantage of this limited-time offer? 

How often have you signed up for something online and realized only after the fact that it was an on-going subscription but didn't notice because the font saying that was so stinking small? 

How often do you read a sales page that makes you feel less than, worse about yourself or otherwise like you'll be inferior and a failure forever and ever if you aren't willing to invest in yourself enough to buy this product right now!?!?!?! 

Infomarketing has a bad rap because design, intention and messaging have been at best, kinda ugly and coercive and at worst truly hideous and incredibly manipulative. 

But I know that many of you out there want to step into the light (cue choirs of angels singing). 

You WANT to communicate to your customers that your product rocks but without making them all feel like shit. 

You want to share how magical life can be with your solution to their problems without digging into their deepest insecurities and fears.

And you want to do this without an infinite scrolling sales page, nary an exit-pop and sans shitty colored buy now buttons sprinkled everywhere throughout your site. 

This, my friends, is the dawn of the Era of Design. 

This marriage of pure(r) intention, messaging that uplifts, and gorgeous design is upon us. (Where's the angel choir again?)

In summary, design will drive your business, your brand and clean design can be integral to your overall emotional engagement with potential and actual customers. Design rocks! 

Tomorrow I'll talk more about how to engage with these principles in your business so that you, too, can enjoy massive conversion, brand fanatics, and divinely inspired marketing yourself.


*You do not want to discount the non-buyers who self-identify with your brand. They are hugely valuable for marketing and brand awareness if not for cash money. 


Sarah Ancalmo: www.public-persona.com

plungers from pinterest

design infographic from www.NikkiElledgeBrown.com