As a design agency, Fort Hartley endeavours to work with companies that place value in design. From pixels to print, we believe in the unique value we bring to a client company using all elements of design.
Upon opening a discussion to work with a new brand, we are not simply digging into marketing budgets to create colourful images, we believe in linking with the enterprise. The overall goal of our business is to create a worthwhile impact on branding strategies in a way that maximises the returns for our client.
In the area of branding, small and medium sized companies can seldom afford to employ in-house designers. Due to these constraints, the job is often passed to someone who is wearing a few hats already but almost certainly to someone who is thought to have some basic knowledge of the subject. Owners may also fall victim to cheap options via internet sites that offer 100 designs in 24 hours. These sites are mostly automated to pump out the same or slightly tweaked designs to all users. More importantly they do not grasp the full intent of a business looking for something that will make them stand out amongst the noise. What we are about, is cleverly encapsulating the essence of your business. Doing so in a way that your prospective client easily identifies who you are….and with minimal extra effort can determine what you do and most importantly that you do in fact stand out from the crowd.
If you feel you are in this or a similar situation….contact us or read on.
Graphic design is a skillset that is refined through experience. It is an integral skill which when applied effectively in conjunction with coherent marketing strategies results in the building of a brand to which target clients can relate, interact and ultimately trust. Too many good efforts are spoiled by both poorly designed imaging and incoherent links to phones, websites or as is seen all too often, unreadable fonts allied to disjointed background colouring.
Really inspirational design work is notoriously undervalued in small businesses. When the purse strings get tight, a creative budget is one of the first things cut. Graphic design is not high on the list of budgetary items to many companies. We understand that, we at Fort Hartley are also entrepreneurs, so our solutions carry that spirit into the work we do for you.
Our first task in evaluating the needs of a prospective client is, quite simply, to understand your business, your current position and your aspiration. That in itself does not allow us to start generating ideas. Our first step is to take a look at the market you are in, your competitors and surprisingly, very important, the type of client you are wishing to draw .One firstly needs to understand that targeting your main opposition is not what this is about. Having a web site, a logo and general communication better than your main opposition is only a very small part of the story.
Once in the market these days and assuming you have made a decision to have an electronic footprint….YOU ARE UP AGAINST EVERYBODY IN EVERY INDUSTRY ON EARTH….. HOW SO? We are a global market. Anything that takes your customers attention away from your brand is competition.
The professionalism and intent of an enterprise can be read in seconds. It matters not whether your prospective client is looking for your type product or service alone, because he will also be looking for that gas braai, flight to Cape Town, garden shears or new car. Without thinking, your prospective client is rating all sites and branding on visual appeal, clarity and ease of use and just how pleasant the interaction was.
A question to ask yourself with a potential design agency is this; “Can my agency deliver that kind of experience to my client, make it affordable and within that affordable envelope keep your site/branding fresh, competitive and able to grow with your business?? “
Fort Hartly’s approach is to create tangible value through your companies brand appearance. Ask yourself these questions.
- Is your website making or losing your business money? Is it converting users into leads via your contact form?
- Is your social media professional in its appearance and strategy? Why should you not appear as professional as the big corporate brands? You take your work just as seriously as they do.
- Are you making an impact via SEO so that Google can let potential customers know you exist? Or are you sitting on page 5 not able to find your own website at times?
- Did you feed the dogs today? Still paying attention? Good, keep reading.
Small business owners run on limited resources, so although they each want a clever and unique logo coupled with compelling marketing collateral akin to large brands, they’re not always willing to pay professional rates to attain that level in design. Because as a business owner with little experience in dealing with designers, what is a professional design rate? Doctor’s rates are well known, as are lawyers, unavoidable professional services that you don’t balk at the pricing of, because there is a known value to them.
Work with agencies that are upfront about their rates. The larger an agency, the more overheads they have. Large agencies hourly rate most often go towards paying for that second Nespresso machine in the kitchen, because big boss Jimmy doesn’t like mixing his Ristretto’s with his Capriccios.
Smaller agencies are able to reduce the cost to client by keeping their own finances well managed. Remember that, it doesn’t make smaller agencies less talented, it just makes them more street wise and in touch with current global financial realities.
So just how do designers bring value to your brand? We present to you ..
The Values Designers Bring to Your Brand
First impressions matter
There is but one chance to make a first impression. Your website, your email signature, and your social media pages all make first impressions. Potential customers will judge a brand in a few seconds purely based on visual appeal alone, it’s a proven science. Graphic design provides a business credibility. Great products and services have fallen victim to negative first impressions, and it is a stupid time to lose the opportunity of converting an impression into a customer, all because of a slow or badly designed website or a business card that is generically lost in the pile of corporate white.
Design tells a story
In order for the general public to get a feel for what a business does, especially when they’ve never heard of it before, quality design evokes the right image in customers’ minds. The concept for a craft brewery is entirely different to that of a financial institution or lawfirm. We research our client’s entire business sphere, competition, industry standards and couple that with their mission statement to create a unique brand. That’s why you meet with designers and encourage them to understand how your business works, it helps them tell the story of your brand.
Differentiate with design
Competition is everywhere, use the internet to compare yourself to those around the globe not just around the corner, because customers and investors will. To set yourself apart there are a handful of differentiators. Pricing, quality, customer service and creativity. Quality design agencies act as an outsourced business development sector by bringing ideas to the table via the design paradigm. Creativity ensures you stand out. A company’s visual communication plan serves many purposes, it is the base of your marketing both print and digital. Outsource that creativity and reap the benefit of experience that your small business doesn’t have access to.
Consistency is memorable
Consistency is key across every visual, customer-facing aspect of a business. Brand guidelines provide colour palates, Fonts/typeface, imagery, and tone for everything that a company does. Uniform experience in visiting a company’s website and reading a marketing brochure breeds that consistency. Consistency signifies professionalism, and professionalism breeds trust.
Good design converts
Design is not about one thing, it is about bringing everything together to draw users, clients and customers where you want them. It must be “effectively pretty”. Enticing them, persuading them to contact you or use your product and/or service. User experience and User Interface design guide users to convert them into customers, “UX” and “UI” are about simplicity at their core. Print design such as pamphlets are no different, and must be page turners. Results must be measured and improved upon as design is an ever evolving facet to every company.
Spending more up front saves time and money in the long run
In South Africa we have an Afrikaans saying “goedkoop is duurkoop” which means if you pay cheaply, you end up spending more in the long run. You buy cheap you buy twice.
Taking design seriously in the beginning will save any business from that shock cost that is inevitable with growth. Websites become outdated if not maintained to operational standards. Print material becomes obsolete quickly if not reworked. Having legal ownership of your logo (ask your designer about that) and a brand identity that is built to franchise/scale, is not only important to saving costs but to finding lucrative investment deals.
Quality design has longevity. Paying for great graphic design and a professional team is cheaper in both monetary costs and opportunity costs (emails titled “RE: RE: RE: RE: RE: Design brief clarification!!!!” should be a chargeable line item)
As any good business management read will tell you, be open to the advice from others. Especially those that are professional in their fields. Respect that the job of a designer is to take what you want and what they know works, and why, and find that sweat spot that brings the desired result.
Contact Fort Hartley for a free “sweet-spot” quotation on all print and digital design work as well as social media management. We look forward to aiding you with your business growth.