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Best Practices for B2B Visual Strategy Success

A visual and brand strategy is not just for B2C sites and marketing channels. Users expectations have been heightened due to the general consumerism of all digital experiences - whether that be shopping, banking or streaming. B2B focused companies can save significant dollars with a successful visual strategy implemented through standardizing assets across multiple channels.

This means cost savings in three different ways:

  1. Reduction in content creation;
  2. Less custom development and one-off projects;
  3. Sales previously lost due to poor usability;

Users see how experiences responsively work on different device types - and now naturally assume they should work as efficiently for their own company's ecosystem of apps, tools and websites. Essentially, there is no need to reinvent the wheel…ONCE the wheel has been created. Below, Echidna offers best practices when it comes to successfully creating a B2B Experience Visual Strategy.

What Does A Visual Strategy Guide Give Your Company?

• Ensuring that a clear unified message is delivered
• Helping to provide a shared consistent experience
• Better retention of information
• Increased brand perception and value

Too many B2B companies aren’t taking advantage of a basic foundational design adherence for digital creation. Internal constituents creating one-off visual assets takes time and effort, and often results in poor design style, disparate tone and voice to the user/customer, and usability issues.A UX expert should not be needed to authorize, review and redesign every asset introduced into your digital experience - instead, a digital visual strategy guide can be utilized for standardization and best-in-class experiences.

Visual Strategy Guide Defined

This important document identifies how the brand, voice and visual elements will be utilized in the digital ecosystem. It is critical that the company identify how the brand is being used in traditional channels (print, media), as well as consumer facing digital channels (social). A digital visual strategy for B2B must balance the consumerism style of B2C and offline, but integrate patterns that can be adapted for multiple viewports and sizing, and rely on standardized elements for usability. The goal is visual cohesion across online channels by creating assets that meet standards of usability, meet the demands of an adaptive/responsive environment, all while satisfying basic brand requirements.

Client Spotlight: Improved Team Communication, Decreased & Development Re-Work

A great example of introducing Visual Strategy is with of one of our clients, a leading manufacturer of commemorative gifts. This B2B company had large, disparate teams working on different channels and sub brands. Echidna came in and was able to help them establish what assets should go into their standards and design pattern libraries. They were able to reduce the unknowns between the technology teams and their internal marketing & design teams, customer service teams, and inside and outside sales teams - respective to fonts, colors, graphical assets, copy style, etc. The initial exercise (to create and approve online style guide) brought together teams that normally tried to stay away from each other. From a substantive perspective, it reduced the time and effort needed to go through steering approval - as there was established guidelines already in place. In addition, technology teams saw less development rework, as there was a more established routine and guideline to follow.

Visual Strategy Offers Internal Group Alignment

As shown in the client example above, digital visual strategy guides are an effective method to bring different internal groups to alignment. It answers what assets are best suited and will most easily be used and re-used by internal constituents that may have varying degrees of understanding of UX basics like balance, unity, and hierarchy. Every online visual strategy guide we produce demonstrates how assets should be used, and for what purpose. For example, it is critical to show how and where primary calls to action should be used in the tool/app/site, relative to any navigation, content slot, supporting graphic or body copy. No page or module should ever be built without a driving action or next step - either to further engage, initiate purchase or request assistance - therefore, consistency around how primary calls to action are designed and located reduces the need for retesting from page to page or from app to tool. Ultimately, it improves the user’s ability to learn the ecosystem, and that is the largest payoff.

“Online visual strategy guides also provide basic context for developers, reducing back and forth discussions on pixel pushing events - such as font use, primary and tertiary color use, imagery style, and of course - basic tone and voice. Often, content in B2B experiences need to be more direct - ensuring key tasks and journeys can be understood and implemented without distraction. The guide gives peace to your brand evangelists that random styling, off-putting lifestyle graphics or crazy fonts won’t show up in the middle of critical user tasks.” -Michael Braun, Echidna CXO

Visual strategy guides should also show what NOT to do. This is critical in many aspects the visual strategy, as many internal stakeholders don’t know they shouldn’t be doing. It is always effective to comparatively illustrate what is best practice, and what doesn’t hit the mark.

What 5 Elements Does An Online Visual Strategy Guide Contain?

  1. Key messaging & personality; Tone and voice
  2. Core audience; behaviors, impact, size and needs
  3. Key visual elements; Color & font palette, weightage and usage
  4. Graphic & Imagery usage;
    • Logo usage, iconography standards & button styling,
    • Hover actions, tabs, drawers & workflow standards,
    • Background elements and color/texture usage,
    • A-spot (content slot) usage,
    • Photography - color, lifestyle & environmental standards,
    • Product/Item styling
  5. Do's & Don'ts

Roadmap: Mature from a Visual Strategy Guide to a Design Pattern Library

Many companies create a design pattern library from their visual strategy guide. These assets allow internal constituents to select from pre-built designs or themes where content and calls to action can be edited for particular content. It further supports the notion that a range of internal users can adhere to the brand and maintain the usability of the experience.

Having internal designers or content creators utilize a system of assets that meet the visual strategy criteria inherently means there will be less rework, faster time to production, and adherence to usability.

Client Spotlight: Reputable DTC and B2B Brand Unifies Their Image Across Channels

One of the largest floral and garden centers in the midwest came to us for an e-Commerce re-platform and found additional value in using our expertise to unify their digital presentation. Being known for their superior customer services and infinite botanical knowledge, we helped them offer a unified front no matter where a person entered; the commercial site, their wholesaler site, internal tools, as well as their in-store point of sale interfaces. By understanding the essence of their brand and how it is best represented in the market, we were able to combine best of breed assets and assimilate those across multiple channels. With a nimble, but efficient digital team, they were able to cross reference and evangelize the digital strategy guide across multiple internal groups with ease. In addition, they were able to quickly ramp up 3rd party digital partners who had visual responsibilities.

Final Thoughts

Ask yourself and team these questions: What does your visual strategy guide consist of? Do you feel it helps your organization save time by relaying messages quicker, ensuring unified messaging, and provides a consistent experience that results in better information retention?

Remember, the goal is not to water down your brand, but to provide guide rails and tools that will ensure multi-channel effectiveness (while engaging your users in a manner personalized to your brand). If your company needs guidance to align your ecosystem around your unique brand and the specific needs of your audience contact us to start a conversation.

Contact Us to Discuss Your Visual Strategy.

© 2017 Echidna