3 Marketing Messages All Web Designers Should Know

Learn these 3 marketing messages

Web design is complicated business.

If you’re doing it all yourself, you have to know something about graphic design, typography, CSS, HTML, javascript, PHP, and probably hosting, FTP, WordPress. And that’s hardly a comprehensive list.

Don’t let companies like Weebly fool you. You can’t drag-and-drop your way to website nirvana. At their best, they cut out some of the programming. But there’s one thing that gets skipped over and over again: marketing.

Now, on some level, you’re thinking “that’s stupid, websites ARE MARKETING.” But is that true?

Marketing, to me, encompasses two parts: the message and the medium.

In billboard marketing, the medium is the physical metal pole and canvas of the billboard and the message is the image and text that’s on the billboard.

In TV marketing, the medium is television (moving pictures and text) and the message is the idea being conveyed by the moving pictures and text.

In a website, the medium is the website (including the HTML, CSS, graphics, text, etc.) and the message is the idea that the graphics and text are trying to convey.

The problem, as I see it, is that people confuse building a website with creating a marketing message. And it’s not hard to see why. Building a website demands expertise. And the expertise it demands has historically been done by introverts. These folks (and I am one of them) are good at interacting with a computer. They can get lost in design and/or code. They are creative and problem solve and made wonderful things.

But these skills aren’t the same as relating to and motivating people.

And in the workplace, they can seem like oil and water. Put a salesman and a programmer in the same room and watch the awkwardness ensue.

But, this isn’t 2003 anymore. These days, there are a lot of multifaceted web designers. But I believe that messaging is still an overlooked art.

Here are three marketing messages that as a web designer, you really should know.

1. Selfish Claims Are Always Bested By Providing Service

We’re all selfish at heart. We all have wants and desires that are unmet. As a result, we don’t have a lot of time for other people’s wants and desires. This is why direct, selfish appeals or appeals that break down to “spend your money with me, not the next guy” are doomed to failure. All ads that talk about a product being “the genuine” or “the original” or claim a special lineage fall into this category. Nobody ever bought Lee jeans because they were The Original jeans.

People, to put it simply, don’t buy products. They buy solutions. So don’t sell products, sell service. If you can sell a solution that a person or business needs, then the customer will not mind using your product or service to obtain that solution.

Think about a website that offers surveys. They can offer that as a solution. They can claim to be the best survey tool. They can claim to be the easiest to use. They can claim to be the easiest to design. They can claim to be the prettiest. But all of that will fall on deaf ears.

What users want to know is: What problem do you help me solve?

For the survey company, a more effective appeal would be “Listen to Your Customers and Make More Money!”

Now the claim addresses a business problem: revenue. This specificity makes users want to learn more.

2. People Believe in the Wisdom of Crowds

Most people do not consider them specialists in most things. They don’t know, for instance, how to evaluate the quality of a car or whether a certain fashion is worth wearing. Rather than become an expert, they do what everybody else is doing. Need a reliable car? What’s everybody else buying?

Did you think Honda? I do. But Toyota actually sweeps the reliability rankings. Why do I think Honda? Because everybody I know has owned or currently owns a Honda and they all talk about their reliability and that they last routinely more than 200,000 miles.

The next time I need a car, other manufacturers have an uphill battle. I’m predisposed to want the Honda because of the wisdom of crowds.

What about fashion? How about knickerbockers? Are those a good idea? Corsets? Bell bottoms? Bright colors or muted tones? Natural fibers or synthetics?

Before choosing, it’s a smart idea to see if it’s in the fashion and gossip magazines or if celebrities are wearing them. After all, you want to be seen as part of the in-crowd by others.

That idea of being part of the in-crowd, of being savvy enough to have the newest Apple product, or whatever, is the basis of crowd wisdom.

People want to follow the crowd. They trust the wisdom of the hive.

So whenever possible, communicate how your product or service is being used by others. If the numbers are impressive, say so. Talk about the number of signups, or the number of downloads. Talk about how other important people/businesses use your product or service. Make others seem like they are following in well-worn footsteps of others.

3. Users Hate General Statements (But Love Specific Ones)

Every user expects a company to claim that their product is the easiest, or the cheapest, or the best, or made out of 100% organic, free-trade bees knees. And so claiming such doesn’t affect the user at all. But when a website makes a specific claim – now you have said something that is either a truth or a lie. And people don’t expect companies to straight up lie to them. They believe – surely – that there must be an organization that polices such things. (Though it’s true that if you make egregious claims you’ll get known via social media, BBB, and through other means.)

For example, instead of saying, “Do your bookkeeping faster than ever before!” say “Work 2 hours faster a month than in Quickbooks!” The first is a meaningless claim. The second is a direct, specific claim against the major competitor in the bookkeeping market. If true, then clearly the product would be worth trying.

So remember, specificity sells.

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