Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Designing Demand..

I had a flyer thrust at me yesterday from a long term business advisor and mentor about "a programme pushing the benefits of design for business and how good design can lead to a real return on investment".

This struck a chord, its something that rings very true with me - long have I been espousing the benefits of good design consideration to our clients!

It's sponsored and run by the Design Council and they certainly seem to have done some homework; the stats are impressive, they claim:

Thats a pretty bold statement, however, in my view its not the complete story. For example, you can have a beautifully crafted and designed website, but no strategy to launch it or get it to market, so the great design doesnt get aired and the business gets no return on its investment; or a brilliantly designed advert, but not have considered your target market or their needs and completetly miss the spot.

However, if the design is part of a coherent business strategy that encompasses business objectives, target market, purpose, measurement and delivery, then you have a really good chance of your good design hitting the mark.

And its not just about good visual design and branding; (though there's a huge amount to be said about positioning your products and services appropriately for the target market, and why brand perception is given so much consideration by the FMCG marketers!) - its about designing a good product in the first place...

I met with a friend today, who has a fantastic business concept but is struggling to work out what will sell best and how to pitch it, but doesnt want to launch it early or malformed for fear it may get snaffled, or miss an opportunity; ah-ha I thought - he needs to get his idea aired and get some feedback from a sample market, or a focus group to help him work out how others will actually take to it.

Trouble is, most entrepreneurial types dont have the money to invest in this kind of activity so go off to market with a half-baked idea or it stalls and never sees the light of day.

But what about the social web? There's a huge opportunity, on a tiny budget, to set up a forum, or microsite, or a blog (!!?) that could be published to a select (and controlled initially, if IP is an issue) group to engage with them to run the idea in its barest form - its an online / easy access, brainstorming session. There's loads of ways to setup and run this kind of social community for pretty much zero cost, and you get free product / service design feedback that can make or break that leap, and, assuming they liked it, you know that part of your target market are already buyers of the product you are about to launch. And if they didnt, they either help you shape it ("Ok, so what about if we offered it in blue, with a handle on this side?") or go back to the drawing board and start on something else.

The great thing about communities is that if you listen properly you can often find a need, even if its not what you thought they wanted. I was ranting recently about how some big brands are doing this, but the great thing is it can work for any product, any market and size company - welcome to New world marketing - conversational marketing, where your audience can define and then buy your products.

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