How to Create a Graphic Design Strategy in Marketing

Many people think that the quality of any graphic design is determined by how aesthetically pleasing it is: Although making the card look good is important, this couldn't be further from the truth. The only true measure of any design, at least commercially, is "How well does it pull?". By pull we mean what type of response does it elicit? Does it pull in calls, or pull people into the store? In essence, does the design accomplish what it set out to do?

From this fact it is not a reach to come to the conclusion that the merit of a graphic designer is based on the performance of his or her designs. You may be able to put together the most beautiful ad that the world has ever seen, but if it doesn't make the phone ring it isn't worth the paper that it is printed on.

By giving clients designs that are not only attractive but, more importantly, that get them the response they need to turn a profit, you are making it much more likely that they will be willing and able to come back to you for future services. In short, if the ad doesn't make your client any money, you don't make any money in the future.

The following text is a breakdown of the different actions to take and ways to make sure that your beautiful design is also a big time moneymaker for both you and your client.

Chapter 1

"BE" the Target Market

There is a monkey loose in your office and you can't seem to get any work done. The only solution is to catch the little distraction and FedEx him back to the jungle that he came from. Question: How do you catch a monkey? You have to get into his head, think like him. You have to "BE" the monkey to find out what is going to bring him close enough for you to catch him.

What does an annoying monkey have to do with Marketing Design? Keep reading.

Every potential customer is like the monkey. They are going to do whatever they want unless you can persuade them to listen to you. You have to get into their head, think like them, "BE" them. A monkey is a simple animal so you can probably get his attention with the stereotypical banana.

Human beings on the other hand are extremely complex. Then you add in the fact that the mailing list is targeted and it can get quite challenging. Following are a few examples:

  1. Product = Wrinkle Reducing Eye Cream.

    Who do you need to "BE?" Probably a woman over the age of 40. Try it. Pretend you are a woman over 40 with crows feet (wrinkles around the eyes, for all you guys) and they are getting worse and worse each day. Did you do it? Are you her? Good.

    Now, how bombarded with advertising is this woman over 40 that you're being? Just think about it. PLENTY! So how are you going to communicate to her in an ad to get her to respond?

    You may have a headline that pushes the button of how upset she is about those crows feet like, "Crow's Feet Getting Worse as You Age?" You may want to show a before and after shot.

  2. Product = New Golf Ball that goes farther and straighter than the competition.

    Your target market is Senior Citizen golf enthusiasts in the state of Florida. So what is the number one benefit of this particular product for that target market? To answer that question you should use three things:

    • Reasoning
    • Experience
    • Research

    In this golf case, in particular, I can tell you from others' stories that the older the guy, the straighter the ball goes. Practice makes perfect and older people have generally had much more practice. Also, as people get older they start to lose strength over all. This means that they will start to lose distance on their shot. It is relatively easy to tell that the distance factor is going to be the biggest benefit and therefore should be the focus of the ad.

    Sometimes it's really easy, most times it's not.

  3. Product (Service) = Refinancing.

    This example has you trying to determine the biggest benefit of refinancing a mortgage for families with a household income of $75k, revolving debt of $15k and 2+ children. Sound complicated? It can be. Maybe the benefit is getting cash to pay off their debt, maybe it's paying for college, or even lowering their monthly payments. There is no real way to tell just by looking at the situation. Now you are going to have to do some research.

Chapter 2

Research the Target Market

Research can be as in depth as actually phoning some of the people in the target market and conducting surveys, or it is often as simple as talking to your client about his experiences with past customers. Start with the easiest action and survey your client. Here are some good questions to ask:

  1. What do your top five customers have in common?

    By this I mean, what do your top five customers' orders have in common. Do they all purchase a certain add on? Is there a service that none of them take advantage of? This will help tell you what a "good customer" actually is to that client.

  2. What is the most-often-stated benefit of your service?

    Is it product? Is it service? Is it price? Ask them, they know and you need to know for obvious reasons.

  3. What do they think is the most beneficial part of their service to their customer?

    Many companies have already done the research, or have been doing it long enough to just give you the information out right.

    It is not always obvious what is going to be the benefit that is going to pull the most response. Use your three assets (Reasoning, Experience and Research) to get as close as possible. As time goes on you will build up your experience, but in the beginning you will need to rely more heavily on your Reasoning and Research. And the easiest and fastest thing you can do is to "BE" the target market.

Now back to the targeted family that we want to refinance their home. Pretend you are a family man or woman with a household income of the $75k with revolving debt of $15K and you've got two kids! Kids can be pretty expensive. So, why would you like to refinance?

Chapter 3

You Want the Customer to do WHAT?

Since you've now figured out what the customer needs to hear to be interested, next you need to figure out what it is you want from them. What are you trying to accomplish? Sometimes it is as simple as getting them to go to your website for more information. Other times you are looking for them to pick up the phone and actually place an order. Whatever it is that you want them to do you need to state it clearly on the promo piece.

For example, if you want them to call and talk to a representative, the card should very clearly say "Call today and speak to one of our representatives for more details." This simple statement tells the customer exactly what you want them to do. It even tells them when to call - "today". Believe it or not, people like to be told exactly what to do in advertising. You should make it easy as possible to make the requested action. The more your prospects have to think, the less likely they are to actually act.

Another key part of the call to action is supplying the proper accompanying information along with the request. In this case, the phone number should be prominent and be the closest element to your call to action. Common sense would seem to tell you that as long as the phone number is somewhere on the promo they will find it and give you a call. The reality is that if the number isn't right there for them to see, your response rate will drop considerably.

Make sure that the call to action is bold and easy to understand. And keep any important contact information in close proximity to the call to action.

These are the three most important steps that a graphic designer needs to take to make a piece that will be aesthetic and pull at the same time. Pull = a call, a walk-in, a buy, a response - all for more money in their door. Which, by the way, gets you remunerated for your services and is actually your exchange for a job well done. Their customers buying means your customers are pleased and wanting more of your services. And it's a happier, prospering world.


Joy Gendusa
Joy Gendusa founded PostcardMania in 1998 with a phone, computer and no capital investment. Since then, she has grown the company into one of the nation's most effective direct mail marketing firms, specializing in postcard marketing for small to large-sized businesses. Over the years, she expanded to offer mailing list acquisition, website development, email marketing–all while continuing to educate clients with free marketing advice.

She has been named Tampa Bay CEO of the Year, Business Woman of the Year in Tampa Bay and has been featured on MSNBC's "Your Business." PostcardMania is an Inc. 500 and 5000 company and has won awards for creativity, best business practices and leadership. Find Joy on Google+

If you would like to interview Joy or book her as a speaker, please email joyspeak@postcardmania.com or call 800-628-1804 ext. 281.