This is Why You Should Have a Designer on Your Side
It was 2011 and the company I had just spent the last 7 years of my life building had collapsed. I was out of the job and so was my co-founder, Ryan, a talented graphic designer.
Instead of making resumes and going separate directions, somehow I convinced him we should make a pitch deck. I had a new business idea and I needed his help.
Fast forward two months later, that pitch deck landed us a $100k investment and (after a few pivots) resulted in the 7-figure company we run today, UniTel Voice.
Why Did that Pitch Deck Work?
The same reason our startup did: good design.
If Ryan hadn’t made our deck look professional with graphics and a logo, we won’t have closed the deal. And if he wasn’t on our founding team, we would never have been able to grow from 0-20,000+ customers in such a competitive space.
The lesson learned was if you want your startup to succeed, you need a designer on your founding team.
Here are five vital reasons why:
When you’re a brand-new business you don’t have any testimonials, online reviews, or social proof to showcase. So, how do you get customers to trust you?
The same way you would convince someone you’ve never met to trust you. You look and sound professional. Your business can do that through design.
Good design makes every part of your business look, feel, and function professionally. That’s why having a designer on our team, from seed funding pitch to product launch and beyond, has been so key to our credibility.
In the early days, investors, customers, and partners took us seriously because our marketing collateral, website, product, and branding all looked legit. Our credibility came from having a well-designed presentation, not because we had an established reputation.
You might be thinking you could outsource your design needs and hire a designer down the road. But that would be a mistake. It would end up being more expensive and too time-consuming to outsource everything that needs to be done.
Startups are constantly growing, changing, and pivoting as they learn what works and what doesn’t. In that environment especially, there are just too many things that need a designer’s touch.
Having a designer on your founding team keeps your business from looking cobbled together.
2. User Experience
Speaking of credibility, a startup’s trustworthiness and user experience go hand in hand.
Your user experience (or UX) is all about the interaction between real people (your customers and users) and your company’s tangible assets, such as your website, apps, products, and services.
For startups especially, UX design is critical for every stage of the sales funnel because it’s directly tied to how customers perceive your business. Even if you have little social proof, you can engage potential customers simply through the ease of use and beauty of your site. As a startup in the events industry, for example, SpeakerFlow grew its click rate by more than 400% in the first year alone. Their content, sales offerings, and meeting links all gained traffic (and happy customers).
If your customers have a poor user experience while browsing your website, they’re not going to download your marketing material. And if they have a poor UX with your product during their free trial, they’re not going to convert to a paid account. In fact, research shows that customers who have bad experiences don’t give second chances.
You need a designer on your founding team to advocate for the end-user and own the customer experience as you progress. Whether you’re redesigning your website or developing a brand new product, if your UX is an afterthought, you’ll never gain traction and grow.
3. Problem Solving
Businesses exist for one reason, to provide solutions to customer problems. Where there are problems to fix, there’s money to be made. No problems, no business.
Designers, by their very nature, are problem-solvers. Every design project involves solving problems by helping people better understand something.
Designers are masters of clarity. They’re able to cut through the clutter and create solutions that are both beautiful and useful.
As we learned in our first year of business, no skill could be more important for startups trying to figure out which customers to focus on to achieve product-market fit.
Without a designer on our founding team constantly iterating our product offerings, we would
have never been able to figure out who our target customers are and how to package our
business phone system solutions to satisfy that market segment.
A designer’s job is to learn what works and to recognize when changes need to be made to move the business forward.
You should think of your startup’s branding (your logo, colors, fonts, messaging, etc.), as the “face” of your business. It tells customers who you are and sets their expectations about what you can deliver. Companies succeed when their branding, product design, and customer experience are cohesive and meet expectations.
When customers visit your website or try your product for the first time it leaves an impression. Branding is the process of shaping that impression across all customer touchpoints. Having a designer on your founding team ensures your brand has a professional look and feel right from the start.
A startup that establishes a brand, and maintains that band consistently over time, develops credibility in the marketplace that can attract, partners, customers, and journalists.
The foundation of your company’s culture is built on your brand promise.
Your brand promise is the experience customers can expect to receive every time they interact with your company. How well your employees believe they can deliver on that promise sets your company’s culture.
This is where designers can help. They have the ability to make things beautiful and easier to understand. Beauty and clarity drive inspiration. And the best way to shape a company culture is to do it with an inspirational brand promise.
Having a designer on our team since day one has not only helped us with marketing to customers but also with marketing to employees. Nothing’s more powerful than getting your staff fired up about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
When your team is excited about your company’s purpose, your company’s culture supports your brand promise.
Over To You
Whether you’re considering starting a business or in the process of building your founding team, remember, when it comes to startups, first impressions matter. Having a designer on your team ensures your startup delivers one that will get your foot in the door, earn business, and help you grow.
Dave McClure, the founder of 500 Startups, once said that the holy trinity for a founding team is a hacker, hustler, and designer. A hacker to own the tech. A hustler to own the vision. And a designer to own the look, feel, and function that brings it all together.
That formula has worked for us and I believe it can work for you too.
About The Author
Greg Roth is the Head of Marketing at UniTel Voice and the editor of the blog Startup Stockpile. As a marketer and an entrepreneur, he loves helping startups discover new tech they can use to grow their business.
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