Lamborghini or Hyundai? 99Designs vs Designers

lamborghiniA-list blogger and successful social media consultant Chris Brogan posted a logo design project on 99Designs a few days ago. Then, he tweeted about it.

All hell broke loose.

If you don’t know, 99Designs is a design contest site. Businesses post a project, with a budget, and entrants submit work. If they win, they get paid. If not, they worked for free.

The small business reaction to 99Designs

Judging from the comments, small businesses love it. It’s cheap! It’s fast! There are lots of options! They think, “Hey I can get something that looks nice and I don’t need a second mortgage on my house!”

99Designs vs Designers

Experienced designers hate it. It’s spec work! It devalues my art! It looks like crap! Would you ask 50 contractors to build a new den on spec?  Or trust your operation to an amateur brain surgeon?  What about the story of your company? Or how the colors and fonts express your philosophy?

They insist that you can’t just get a logo in one format. You need different versions for larger/smaller or print/web uses.

All true.

However, railing and ranting (while immediately satisfying) won’t change anything.

How to charge more for your work

If you want to get higher prices for your work, you need to better communicate and to better educate your clients:

  • why you are worth
  • who your market is (and isn’t)
  • why buy from you
  • what  you offer that cheap designers can’t (in business terms)

Specialize – pick a specific market (a niche, more on this coming later). Focus on them. Ignore everyone else.

Brand – use some of those branding skills on yourself. Are you the Ferrari of designers? Or the Smart Car? Why do people choose you? What do you bring to the job that other designers (or that cheap designers) don’t have? How are you remarkable?

Extra value – why knowing the difference between EPS and and RGB matters. And why one logo format doesn’t work for all media (web, trade show banners, brochures, faxes). A logo that looks OK online might look like a mud pie printed out in black and white.

Copyright /Due Diligence – a designer logo is the client’s alone – not ripped off from someone else’s site or work (legal fights are scary and expensive).

Skip the “I’m a professional, I have years of experience.” You are, and you do. That’s not what matters to the client. What matters to the client is whether you give her what she wants – to feel better, look better, earn more, be more successful.  What are you really selling?

Here’s the thing. Lamborghini doesn’t really sell cars. They sell status, luxury, sex appeal, and VROOOOM.

Hyundai sells cheap, reliable, and super guarantee.

Are you Lamborghini or Hyundai? Does Hyundai care about Lamborghini’s buyers? No. Nor vice versa. They ignore each other.

Show them why a real designer is worth it. And try to understand when they want to make the logo bigger!

Share your thoughts

What do you think about this debate?   Does cheap or spec  work hurt designers?  Does it matter what the “cheap” people do? What other ways can you approach the problem?

Image thanks to omniNate

How to Get More Business With Fewer Leads

platinum bar

Bodo has a client that manufacturers platinum laboratory crucibles. They’re small pots used to melt and analyze samples. They had a trade show coming up and he wanted to get noticed, without a big budget. He asked the members of “triiibes” (Seth Godin’s social network) and the consensus was skip the flashing lights and fancy displays. Instead, develop a story that matches the views of the people at the show and earn permission to contact them.

Bodo realized he didn’t know enough about what his client’s customers were thinking. So, he decided to use the trade show to find out.

His plan was to raffle a small bar of platinum to people who filled out a short questionnaire about their concerns and needs when buying platinum crucibles. This frequently led to a discussion, drawing out more information. He learned that price wasn’t the primary issue, durability and knowing how to use the products were.

Forget the Gimmicks

There were booths with long lines of people waiting to get digital cartoons of their faces or play Guitar Hero. Lots of people yes, but not people likely to buy.

He found that companies that have you on their list to see will see you no matter what. They don’t care about gimmicks or fancy booths. Your job is not to attract them, but to engage them, which he did with the questionnaire.

On the other hand, people who are browsing will give your booth a quick glance. You have only a few seconds to get their attention. You’ve got to draw them in with a brief, relevant message (in this case, “long-life platinum” since durability is an important consideration).

Fewer, But More Qualified Leads

The booth had significantly fewer visitors than the previous year, but many more of them were useful leads. The questionnaire pre-qualified people who were truly interested in his product, allowed visitors to interact with the company, and gave the company permission to contact them again. It also provided valuable information about what his clients’ customers really want and need and how they make purchasing decisions.

The customers saw that the company cared about their concerns and wanted to listen. They also got the opportunity to win something remarkable that they could talk about to colleagues and co-workers. How many people have bars of platinum at home?

And, now Bodo’s client knows how to focus and present future promotions, advertising, and trade show appearances. He now knows how to approach his market, because his market told him, and he has their permission to do so.

Less was more.

Are Your Ads in the Right Place?


Seth Godin’s blog post today tells the story of his cross-country drive from California to Boston to reach a summer job at Spinnaker Software. While passing through Chicago, he saw a large billboard for the company and thought, “Incredible! This little start-up already had billboards across the entire country.”

It turned out they had exactly one billboard, located between the airport and the convention center that housed the Consumer Electronics Show. They put it precisely where buyers flying in for the show would see it.

It worked because it was in the right place, at the right time (before a big electronics show), and was seen by the right people.

Where are you putting your ad? Is it where the right people will see it? Or, where anyone will see it?

Photo: otakuchick

Should You Specialize or Sell to Everyone

Several months ago, a new business owner on Marketing Profs Exchange (posted 5/23/08 by Raqueld) asked whether she should specialize or not. She wanted to start an event planning business to plan family events (parties, anniversaries, etc.). So far so good. Then she also wanted to use the same company name to host networking and singles events. She said that’s what she really wanted to focus on, but felt she needed to cast as wide a net as possible. She asked, “should I focus on one particular area & will I regret making my focus too broad or too narrow?”

Why You Should Specialize

Yes!!! (I said, jumping up and down). Focus on ONE thing. A company looking for an event planner will be turned off (or at least, very confused) if they come to your site and see singles events. She had five different, and unrelated markets, meaning she’d need five sets of brochures, mailing lists, keywords, and five sections on her web site (more to maintain), etc. It would be very messy, and very expensive.

Stick Out and Be Remembered

Focusing on one thing will make you stick out in people’s minds, make you more credible, and make you more money (Would you rather be a purple cow or a brown one?).

Turn a Struggling Company Into a Profitable One

A small moving company in the northeast US was fighting to compete against the big guys. They had less money for advertising, fewer trucks, and a tiny profit margin. So, they switched to shipping emergency medical supplies overnight. Now, they can charge more money, focus on pharmaceutical and medical equipment companies, and stand out instead of being overwhelmed by larger rivals. They’re now thriving.

A French woman came to the US and had to learn a whole new system, try to get credit with no record here, and fill out unfamiliar paperwork. She then wanted to help other new small business owners do the same thing. At first, she offered her services for $99 (and struggled to find customers).

Then, she decided to focus on other French (and French-speaking) people who wanted to come to the US and start businesses. She helps them with the paperwork, gets them lawyers, accountants, tells them about the US system, etc. She now charges $1,000 for the same service.

Focus Equals Money

Figure out who your ideal customer is, and concentrate on what will appeal to them, where to find them, and the best ways to reach them. Selling to everybody means selling to nobody.