We all know the “common wisdom.” Your banner ads and webpages are the cornerstone of your program. They’re what ultimately sells your customer, so having them be outstanding is vital. And the only way, so the theory goes, to make them outstanding is to get them done by someone who is a design expert.
But there are a few key problems with this theory. First, if you’ve worked extensively with designers, you know that what they come up with is never exactly what you were looking for. They don’t understand your audience and the products you promote like you do, so the designs they create are frequently off-tone, focus on the wrong things, or otherwise fail to hit the mark. In addition, hiring is expensive, even if you freelance. Design isn’t easy, and these people often fetch very handsome compensation for their time. Finally, the hiring process can be painful at best, even if you know exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll need to spend a lot of time vetting candidates and even then you’re taking a risk by bringing someone on board. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone you know who has hired employees – not just within our field. It’s always a rough process.
What If I Told You You Could Do It…And Have It Be Great?
Would you believe me? If you’re like most of us, you think you’re a “marketing person” and “just not good” at the design end of things. But in fact, there are few people more qualified to do what you’re looking for. Design isn’t about being a creative genius. It’s about being inspired, having a vision, and most importantly knowing how to speak to your target audience. Are designers better at inspiration and vision? Maybe. But are they better at speaking to your target audience, the most important part of the whole equation? Never.
The hardest part of the design process is getting started. You’ll need to overcome your initial fears, hesitations and doubts. The best way to do that is by getting inspired. For some people, inspiration will come out of their own head (how about trying that design that you came up with a few months ago?) but for most of us, it’s something that comes from looking at the work of others. Here is a great list of resources that can help inspire you. There are resources for everything from textures and brushes for use during the actual design process to sample UIs and designs that you can use to give yourself ideas for your own campaign.
Take A Step Back And Observe
Finally, it’s time to sit down and do some research on how things look in your own market. Start by searching your main keywords on Google. Who is advertising? What are they doing? How does their advertising look? What are some common trends you observe in your industry? Make sure you know whether the competitor you’re looking at is an affiliate or not. Dig around in the search results until you’ve got a good sampling of affiliates. Do the same thing with Yahoo.
Finally, use a powerful tool called Moat (http://www.moat.com/). This tool will let you see exactly what your competitors are doing by tracking their ads wherever they may be. It’s not perfect, but if you’re looking for inspiration, it’s a great tool.
Don’t Rush It
You might not create a perfect design right out of the box. That’s okay! Design is a process, and there is a little bit of a learning curve. Just keep at it, keep working, and keep perfecting your techniques, your ideas, and your final product. With a little bit of persistence, you can eliminate the need for a designer from your work – and your budget! – completely.
Have you tried DIY design? How did it work out?