As part of our blog series When Is It Time for a Business Makeover? where we interview and spotlight branders / designers on tips for keeping a business image fresh, we interviewed Sunni Chapman, founder and owner of Efflorescence.
In the below interview, Sunni shares her tips for projecting an accurate brand image through up-to-date website design and marketing materials.
1. What do you think is the biggest mistake business owners make when it comes to having their website, logo, or marketing materials redesigned? How can they prevent these mistakes?
I believe that two of the biggest obstacles that arise for business owners when redesigning their website or marketing materials are attachment and hesitation.
Attachment presents itself in two ways: as an attachment to an old idea of what their business had looked like in the past, or as an attachment to what they think businesses of their arena “should” look like in general. Both of these attachments are hang-ups that can stunt the business’ potential for growth and change. As in all other areas of the world, change is inevitable and should be embraced, not avoided. If you look at all the examples of the inspired and highly successful companies out there, you will notice that fearlessness in breaking new ground is a common thread.
I encourage business owners to reassess their original vision for their endeavor and commit to opening up the possibility for a fresh perspective that will help foster that vision into the eyes and ears of their target audience.
On the other hand, hesitation presents itself in two ways as well. First, and most often, as a hesitation to spend the money to redesign their materials when they “already have materials that work fine,” or “it is just hard to justify the expense.” To this, I would simply offer the age-old obvious question: If you don’t want to invest in your company, why would anyone else?
Now this does not mean that I am advocating reckless abandonment with regards to marketing budgets, for I know that those need to be honored and respected as well—but I would encourage business owners to investigate what companies, products, or services inspire and attract them and then ask themselves if those attributes could better serve them and their own business ideals. And if so, find a designer or design firm that you feel is in line with those ideals and that translates that message effectively through their work. I believe once you’ve made that decision, it’s hard to justify the expense of NOT helping that vision to reach its highest potential.
The second form of hesitation in this field ties into the first, in that business owners are afraid to move forward with potentially expensive marketing investments for the fear of failure after having made such a big leap. And to that, I would simply offer that fear of failure is the biggest supporter and contributor of failure itself. If you believe in your product or service whole-heartedly, then get behind your actions and invest in the face of your company and how it “speaks” to the world, no matter how small the steps need to be to get there. Even small steps are steps in the right direction.
2. In your opinion, when is it time for a business to invest in website redesign? And how often should a company update their logo, marketing materials, and website?
In my opinion, it is time to invest in a website redesign when you no longer feel that your website truly reflects the quality, essence, or integrity of your service or product. If it does not do that, it is not doing you justice and it is in fact doing much worse than just not serving you—it’s hurting you.
People will unfortunately not read between the lines when it comes to web presence; they will either be attracted to the image that you are presenting, or they will navigate away in an instant. Many companies will post testimonies from customers stating that “Your website simply does not do your product / service justice.” And while that comment is meant as a kind review, what it really means is . . . it’s time to redesign. Invest in a website that does do your product or service justice, so that people can sense the treat they are in for when they make a purchase with you.
In regards to how often a company should update their website and / or marketing materials, I have found that a website usually needs to be redesigned every 3 – 4 years depending on the type of business, industry, and level and effectiveness of the current website. Aesthetics in the world around us change frequently, so even a beautifully designed website becomes dated after 3 or 4 years. I feel that this is a good thing rather than a drawback, as it is an opportunity to breathe new life into your company on a periodic basis and keep embracing that inevitable change, reinventing yourself, and growing with the world and with your market.
Again, look to the companies that inspire you. Does their image or website continuously stay exactly the same? I also find that the process of redesigning reinvigorates the owners and staff of the companies and often reignites their passion for what they do. And I know that all business owners will attest to the fact that that alone has a powerful impact on a business’ success.
3. What would you say to business owners who are looking to save an extra buck with redesigning their marketing materials—even if that means lower quality of work?
I would first suggest that they sit down and ask themselves if they are truly willing to settle for a lower quality of work—even if it means saving an extra buck. To me, it seems that any dollars invested in an image that is not in line with what you want or envision for your company, are wasted dollars. So, why not find the designer you want to work with, one that has your highest potential image in mind? Find out what the costs will be, and make a plan to save for those costs, even if it means deferring the project.
I will be the first to attest to the fact that money is all too often an object. But if the face that your company presents to the world is of utmost importance to you, then find a way to achieve that vision, take small steps if need be, make a plan, but don’t settle for something that doesn’t thrill you. You should feel the same pride and joy about your website that you do about your company, and if you don’t—well, you know the rest! (Who will?) Plus, if you don’t feel that pride and joy, then it’s not in line with your vision for your company, and so, in the end, it is doing you a great disservice.
4. In your personal experience, what benefits have business owners seen after having their website redesigned? Please be specific.
I have had the great pleasure of witnessing so many business owners launch their websites and receive email after email raving about how much people love their new design and have already passed it on to all their friends and family members. I’ve also received emails from people who are purely writing to tell me how much they love my sites. That is, of course, very validating and rewarding, but we have to stay in business also, right?
Which brings me to the even better part: most business owners, after a successful redesign, have seen on average a 20% – 50% increase in inquiries and sales. And sometimes more, depending on how much of a “disservice” their previous site had been to them. This, of course, also varies greatly on the level of time and investment they put into their copy, SEO and other marketing efforts. But a redesign has always seen vast improvements in follow-through and customer loyalty in EVERY CASE.
I have had multiple cases where a customer was interested in a particular vendor, having seen the place or product in person and loving it, but did not want to forward the website link to their family or friends because the old website did not do the vendor justice (FYI—that’s just a kinder, gentler way of saying that the previous web design was pretty awful). And, because of this, the client had lost many potential leads.
When your website looks stunning, you are proud of it, and your customers will be proud of it too—which greatly increases your website’s chances for organic circulation and exposure to business owners who know the value of word-of-mouth customers!
My best advice to business owners is to sit down and reflect on their original vision for their company and what they want that company to look like, how they want it to function, and ultimately, what they want to achieve. Once you have done that, you will be well armed with the clarity of your intention for your company, and you will then be able to find and secure the services you need to take your company to that level without the struggle or doubt that comes with hesitation. If you don’t absolutely love your website and marketing materials, find a designer or firm that resonates with the feel you would like to achieve, and make a plan to bring your materials in line with your vision. When you are empowered with the confidence that comes with extraordinary website and collateral design, the rewards will ensue!
Sunni is pronounced “Sunn-e,” but don’t worry, I get “soon-e” all the time. It’s my fault for spelling it that way! It’s short for Sunshine—which you can blame my dear mother for. But even though for the majority of my young adult life I despised the name and its chipper implications, I have come to discover that I do indeed love to shine a little light in this world, in any way I can. So I guess she was on to something. Thanks, Mom.
Having always had a creative spirit and a love of art in all its forms, I serendipitously stumbled into this wonderful field of design while taking fine art classes at a not-name-dropping-worthy, but perfectly located community college. It was here that I fell in love with design, counted my blessings that I had found something productive I could do with my creative aspirations, and earned my degree in Applied Art & Design. After three years as a senior designer for a local design firm, I struck out on my own and opened Bella Fiore Art & Design in the hopes of creating a design firm that is driven by art, rather than functionality alone, and that provides a level of service to its clients that is hard to come by in the web design field.
Fast forward eight years, and I am proud to say that Bella Fiore was and continues to be a remarkable success, and the wonderful people that I have worked for have made that possible. I could not be more grateful for everything that has transpired (and I mean everything), and I look forward to the continuing success of Efflorescence under the same belief and principles.
~ Sunni (& Kita — lapdog designer extraordinaire)