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In the Beginning, There Is Design

First we see. Then we understand.

I’ll warn you right now — I’m going to contradict myself in today’s post.

It’s all for a good cause.

Follow along, and you’ll understand something important about how to market your business, how to build a memorable brand, and where design fits into the process.

For Prospects, In the Beginning, There is Design

The first impression your marketing makes is visual.

Before a single word is read, before your headline can have an impact, before any content can be consumed — your reader sees your page.

Whether it’s in print or on the web, it’s perceived visually first.

This is the premise of Big Brand System: that strategic marketing, paired with polished design, will give your business an edge.

It’s how you stand out from the crowd. It’s how you get your prospects to see your business as the best solution. It’s how you build a big brand.

For Business Owners, In the Beginning, There Should be Marketing

Here comes the contradiction.

When you’re creating your marketing, the worst thing you can do is lead with design.

Because design that’s created without a firm marketing foundation underneath it — no matter how polished or precious it might look — is fluff.

Before you put a pixel on a web page or a drop of ink on paper, you must do the work of laying a firm marketing foundation under your design.

A firm marketing foundation consists of:

  • Deep understanding of your ideal customer: who they are, what motivates them, what problem or challenge they have that your business solves.
  • A carefully-selected business name and tagline. Your name and tagline should clearly explain who you help and what you offer.
  • Your brand promise. Otherwise known as your unique selling proposition, or (as Seth Godin says), your Purple Cow.

If your marketing isn’t working, it usually means that one of these pieces isn’t quite right.

Either you haven’t done the behind-the-scenes marketing work to establish who you’re aiming for, and what you plan to say to them.

Or your design isn’t polished.

It’s turning people off before they’ve read the first word on your website. You hand them a business card and they shove it in their pocket and forget all about it.

You’re reading Big Brand System to polish up your marketing, your design, or both.

Which One Is It For You?

I’d love to know what you’re working on. Will you tell me in just a few words in the comment section?

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is an online educator, author, keynote speaker, and the founder of BIG Brand System.

Pamela Wilson

I want to help you take the next step. Pick your free workshop topic and let’s do this!

11 thoughts on “In the Beginning, There Is Design”

  1. I’m just starting to develop a second ecomm store for a natural oil that helps many skin problems. Planning to nail down my marketing foundation before building the website this time.

  2. Truth, Pamela! Developing your web strategy and mapping your marketing plan are absolutely crucial first steps before designing your website. Too few web development shops take the time (or lack the expertise) to talk strategic marketing goals. Too many online marketing programs emphasize “how to set up your WordPress and start blogging in 20 minutes” over any strategic thinking. The first thing I learned in book publishing is that design elevates content, and spreads the message by making it accessible, inviting, and easy to understand. It gets out of the way. Design can interfere or overpower a message. But design can’t create a message that doesn’t exist in the first place. Thank you for sharing this wisdom with the world.

    • “But design can’t create a message that doesn’t exist in the first place.”

      Exactly! It’s a weird thing: you need to create the message first, then figure out how to present it.

      Once it’s out in the world, it’s design first, then message.

      People often want to go straight to design because they think that will help their message get attention. But if they haven’t figured out who their talking to and what they want to say first, they’re wasting their time.

      Thanks for this insightful comment, Linda!

  3. I totally agree Pam… first impressions are so important. For example, when I first started my business, I worked with a designer friend of mine to create my logo and business cards. (He owed me a favor or two because I helped his with his LinkedIn branding needs. :)) And, I also paid extra for a high dollar, laminated business card. This extra attention to creativity and look and feel (and investment cost) has really paid off. Just as you pointed out, my clients make a first impression right off the bat with this, and it say… Terry sells quality products and services. I’m so glad I did this!

    Great advice, Pam… I so appreciate you and the Big Brand System Team!

  4. Both of them are important (although if I had to chose one, I would go for marketing…then again, first impression – how we present ourselves and our blog – is also part of marketing).

    Right now, I am focused on building my blog…so, design is important. But, marketing as a whole is more important (I need people to visit my blog, right? :D).

    I am also playing around with design (and I will be continuing with it…I believe that we can constantly improve our blogs, our designs to provide a better experience for our readers).

    Anyways, thank you for sharing this Pamela 🙂 Have a great weekend!

    • Hi Jeevan,

      The idea here is that as the person who’s creating your marketing materials, you should work on the marketing foundation first, before design.

      But your prospects/readers will see your design first. That’s just the way it is. If they can’t get past the way your page looks, they won’t read it.

      But … design that’s not based on solid knowledge about your customers and a strategy about how you’d like to reach them won’t hit the target.

      So, marketing first on your end, so that when your prospects see your design, it smacks them right between the eyes and keeps them there!

  5. I stumbled across Big Brand Systems a couple months ago. There are a lot of useful posts and really relevant information. I have a shop on etsy, I make and have been attempting to sell handmade chainmaille jewelry. I have been working on expanding my products, getting a marketing plan together, and trying to keep my sanity. I am looking to open my own website, which will be where my “brand” will really shine I believe, I have kept older emails from BBS because I can see where I will be referencing them in the future. I also work full time as an independent contractor selling voluntary insurance. Due to a house fire last summer that resulted in a complete and total loss, I have been rebuilding my handmade business from scratch. Big Brand Systems gives me faith and guidance that I can and will build a successful business.

    • I’m so glad to hear you’ve found help here, Jennifer. Thanks for taking the time to let me know!

      Not sure if you’ve found it yet, but I have a free course for people who want to create their own websites. It’s written for beginners, and it sounds like it might help you. You can find it here:

      Thanks for leaving a first comment. Hopefully it’s the first of many. 🙂

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