Eric Wendt

Graphic design is essential to effective content marketing. Full stop.

Just ask our clients. There’s the company that broke its lead generation record with a custom infographic that was responsible for 34 percent of website conversions. Then there’s the business that doubled its conversion rates with graphics, in addition to seeing 181 percent more inbound links.

The question is no longer whether design provides return on investment. It’s not even a question of how much.

Today, it’s a matter of what you stand to lose without it.

Bad graphic design drives people away from your website.

Gauging the value of graphic design

According to Jeff Baker, Director of Digital Marketing Strategy at Brafton, trying to create content marketing without solid graphic design is akin to advertising your business by screaming into the cold, endless void of space.

“Investing in some type of graphics program is mandatory,” he said. “Without graphics, you’re not going to grab attention. Worse, you’re going to look obsolete. If you don’t have a visually appealing website, you automatically lose trust. If you can’t keep up with your own website, how can people trust you to keep up with your products and services?”

Of course, the ROI of design goes well beyond presenting an eye-catching digital storefront.

“You can measure the impact of design like any other type of content marketing,” Jeff said. “How you measure it will depend on the asset. If we’re talking infographics, which should not be gated, you won’t be measuring direct macro conversions, they just aren’t meant to do that. You can, however, expect some micro conversions which you can track through various goal flow metrics. With something like an eBook or white paper, you can directly measure downloads and lead generation.”

By assigning value to each lead based on your existing sales data, you can easily calculate the commercial value of design.

Getting people to click on your gated assets is its own battle, one helped along by, you guessed it, graphic design. Visual calls to action make it easy to track who’s clicking and how often. They’re also more likely to inspire interest than a line of text.

“By using an appealing visual CTA, you can feel the ROI impact immediately, because you can directly measure it in your analytics tool, especially with eCommerce,” Jeff said. “Without a graphics program, being asked to generate on-site conversions is like trying to juggle with your hand tied behind your back. No, it’s more like trying to juggle while getting punched in the face while hog tied with a bag over your head.”

As far as how long it takes to see ROI, it depends on the content in question. Your content marketing strategy dictates when you’ll see results.

“By using an appealing visual CTA, you can feel the ROI impact immediately.”

Designing an engaging experience

While graphic design is an inherently artistic endeavor, it also serves an integral practical function for your website.

“User experience is huge,” Jeff said. “And if you’re not willing to invest in graphic designers once your website is built, you better hope it’s perfect, because you won’t be able to change anything without a design team.”

Data shows:

38% of consumers will stop engaging with a website due to unattractive content and layout.

39% of consumers will stop engaging with a website due to images that don’t load or take too long to load.

UX is even more important in today’s mobile age. Sixty-seven percent of mobile users are more likely to make a purchase from a mobile-friendly website. Meanwhile, 79 percent of people will abandon a website and use another if they don’t like what they find.

Putting design to the test

As with any other kind of content, testing is key for visual marketing. Experimenting with design and UX opens the door to fine-tuning your strategy for specific buyer personas.

“Measure your conversions,” Jeff said. “Use A/B testing to see what works. Of course, you need designers to create multiple versions of content to do that. From there, you can definitively say, this got a certain number of clicks, and of those, this amount of people converted into a lead or paying customer. The truth is, you can’t realize the full potential of your marketing and website without designers.”

If you want your sales numbers to paint a pretty picture, you better make sure you have the right artists on staff. And no, your flair for Microsoft Paint doesn’t count.