Right-brain versus left-brain or designers versus accountants, both refer to two different ways of viewing the world. I call them Crunchers (as in ‘number crunchers’) and Creatives and there’s a healthy tension among these two camps in almost all organizations, but what about the influence they each have on the growth of a company?
We’ve seen companies like 37signals burst onto the scene in the last few years with a great appreciation for design and user experience. Both supported by their preachings of simplicity which has launched a mentality of “less is more” in designing apps and has made a convincing argument that design is key to growing your business. We’ve also seen Apple’s focus on design skyrocket the company into a leader in technology. We see this happening around us but for some reason there are companies that continue to downplay design and its importance in impacting the bottom line. The companies that are ignoring this haven’t built a culture that understands the power of design and realizes its real impact on business and my guess would be that these companies are filled with Crunchers.
So let’s look at Crunchers and Creatives. Both understand the importance of revenue but approach its generation a bit differently. Crunchers tend to develop a laser-like focus on the goal of acquiring revenue and make a b-line for it without paying close enough attention to user experience. Examples of this would include aggressive sales tactics in order to “close the sale”, bending the truth in their messaging in order to attract more customers, or selling customers products or services they don’t need. They can get a little too aggressive with closing the deal. I believe that this effort is needed to makeup for a lack of clear differentiation of their product in the marketplace which could be achieved due in large part through great design and a focus on user experience.
When strong design and focus on user experience is non-existent or weak, marketing must work that much harder to compensate for these shortcomings. When design and user experience are strong it removes a burden from marketing by making the benefits of using the product clearer and empowers users to share their experience via word-of-mouth and through social media. In short, if your product is easy to use and empowers users, they will share their experience with others. When this happens marketing can simply play a supporting role and doesn’t need to work twice as hard in convincing prospective customers on why they should use your product over a competitor’s.
The Big Picture and How These Elements Work Together
The diagram below illustrates Design & User Experience, Marketing, and a solid Business/Revenue Model working together to generate revenue and growth for your company. You can also see what happens when you have two out of the three working for you.
Marketing Must Overcompensate for a Lack of Quality and Focus on Design & User Experience
We can see what generally happens when there’s a lack of quality and focus on design and user experience. Marketing must work harder to tout the benefits and competitive edge over similar products.
A Greater Focus on Design & User Experience can Relieve the Burden Placed on Marketing
By focusing on the quality of design and user experience and improving it, marketing dollars can be spent much more efficiently and work to support a product that has a clear competitive edge through ease of use and quality of design. In addition, making the product easier to use can reduce the amount of effort and resources needed to support it, which can lower costs and increase your return on investment.
Creatives tend to do a great job of focusing on the customer’s experience and also attracting the right customers. If they can do these things well there can be a clear differentiation among their competitors and customers will be easier to support. Creatives also realize that by focusing on the customer and their experience customers will trust you, pay you (and perhaps even pay a premium), and continue using your product leading to a higher lifetime value.
However, there needs to be a balance between these two approaches. Creatives must remember that there’s a difference between building a product and building a business. An extreme example of this is Twitter. I love Twitter, but they have yet to develop a business and revenue model around their product. That’s not to say that it won’t become a revenue generating machine, but it’s currently lacking the model. Building a product will serve your customers, but you must develop a business model around the product in order for it to be sustainable and serve your customers, you and your team, and thrive. If Creatives can do that successfully and team it with great design and user experience, and support it with targeted marketing, the sky is the limit for their business.
Crunchers on the other hand must realize that not everything can be individually and directly tied to a return on investment and it’s the small things that collectively contribute to a customer’s experience with your product and brand. In addition, don’t treat design as an afterthought. Design is king. Design is the reason Apple is a success, design is the reason you chose your car over others, design is the reason you chose the clothes you are wearing, design is the reason you chose one app over another- you get the idea. My point is that EVERY SINGLE THING YOU TOUCH WAS DESIGNED. Do not downplay its importance in generating revenue and growth for your business and its impact on customer retention.
On that note, one of the greatest things we’re witnessing are creative agencies building businesses. They are taking the talents they have provided clients and developing apps for the rest of us that solve the problems they, and/or their clients, are experiencing. I love seeing this. Who better to launch an app than a company who has all the tools to build it and an in-depth understanding of what users are looking for based on their experience working with clients. As a result, we’re seeing well-designed apps that solve real problems all while inspiring us to better serve our users through great design.
Whether a company is lead by a Cruncher or Creative a culture should exist that emphasizes design and user experience and a realization that without them, innovation, differentiation among competitors, and solid growth cannot and will not happen. If you’re a Creative and leading a company be sure to include a Cruncher on the team for balance and healthy tension and leverage what they do well like financials, forecasting and planning and if you’re a Cruncher leading an organization it’s time to embrace design and user experience, spread it through your organization and realize that nothing can have a greater impact on your bottom line.