Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Clients Aren't Buying? Add Graphics into Your Marketing Mix

Assuming you have a good solution, the issue is that the value of your solution is lost and fears were not allayed within your proposal and/or marketing materials. You want to sell the value or benefit of your solutions to your future client. What specific problem does your solution solve for your client? In what ways will your solution benefit your future client? How is your solution better than similar solutions? If you can answer these questions and quickly share this information with your future client, you are close to a sale.

Look at it from the buyer’s point of view. Why should the buyer care? (In America, we want sellers to get to the point.) A buyer wants a pitch focusing on their specific needs (not generalizations), and it must be compelling. Research your target audience. Is your solution tailored to them? For example, if you are selling new software, how will it save them money, time, or streamline their processes? In essence, how does it benefit them specifically?

This is where graphics come into play. Graphics communicate up to 60,000 faster than text, they are remembered (at least) 38% more, and are proven to increase the likelihood of a sale by 43%. If the benefits and discriminators are woven into a compelling visual, your likelihood of success increases dramatically. Developing customer-focused graphics for proposals, forces you to think about your solution from the client’s point of view and boil everything down into what matters to them. It also shows you are committed to their business. Because you have the resources to develop clear, communicative, compelling visuals you separate yourself from your competition. Your future client assumes that if you have the resources and commitment to develop effective graphics, then you probably have the resources to meet their needs. (For hundreds of graphic examples, go to

This brings us to the next issue: fear. Your future client’s fear of choosing the wrong solution must be allayed. Their organization’s and personal success is on the line. If they choose poorly, they will be reprimanded or worse. The old saying is that no one gets fired when buying IBM. Why? Because IBM was considered a reliable, stable company. Essentially, IBM was synonymous with low risk. You want to communicate that your solution has little to no risk involved. How you do it depends upon your market. For example, would fears dissolve if you demonstrate how your company’s solutions have helped others to succeed (assuming the benefits are applicable to your future client’s goals)?

Many proposals involve another layer. People buy people and people do not buy from people they do not trust. Trust is established through rapport and reputation. For example, if you take the time to get to know and understand your future client you have an advantage. They now know and trust you, and you have insight into their biggest needs and concerns. You can address those issues quickly with a graphic. Your future client can use that graphic to easily up-sell your solution to their boss.

Any way you look at it, using graphics to quickly communicate the value of your solution and discriminators while allaying the fear of failure is a recipe for success.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

How to Communicate with Aliens

In the early 1970s, astronomers Carl Sagan and Frank Drake were approached to create a message for the Pioneer 10 spacecraft on its journey to Jupiter.

A message for extraterrestrials.

Since this craft would be the first man-made object to leave our solar system, the scientists thought it might be possible for a technologically advanced society to detect Pioneer 10 in interstellar space. To otherworldly beings who found this craft, they wanted to communicate the location and appearance of the craft's creators and the time period it was launched.

So, how would Sagan and Drake communicate these messages to an alien race—a race no human had encountered before?


They designed graphics for the Pioneer plaque. How else would you communicate with an alien race that has no knowledge of our language or our appearance or even our planet?
What does this image say to you? Do you think it communicates clearly time, location, and appearance (their primary objectives)?

A lot of thought went into the details of this relatively simple image, which in closer inspection is a lot more complex than it looks:
  • At the top is the symbol for hydrogen, chosen because it is the most abundant element in the universe. The small vertical line below the hydrogen symbol represents binary digit 1. The transition of a hydrogen atom from the electron state spin up to electron state spin down can specify a unit of time and a unit of length, which are both used as a legend for measurement in the other images on this plaque. (Math is the universal language, though I believe graphics are a close second.)
  • To the right is obviously an image of a man and woman. But look closely at the details. The binary representation of the number 8 is shown between the brackets indicating the woman's height. Using the hydrogen legend, the viewers can calculate her height as 168 cm. Both figures are standing in front front of Pioneer 10 as point of reference to average human size. The man's hand is raised in a gesture of goodwill and to show how our limbs move and show off our handy opposable thumbs.
  • Fourteen of the lines radiating from the left image contain long binary numbers that represent periods of pulsars by using the hydrogen atom legend as a unit. The fifteenth line extends from the center behind the figures and depicts the sun's relative distance to the center of the galaxy.
  • A schematic diagram of the solar system is seen at the bottom. A small picture of Pioneer 10 is shown following a trajectory past Jupiter and exiting our solar system. Again, binary numbers were added next to each planet to detail their relative distance to the sun.

What would you change if designing it today? Wired UK is holding a contest for a redesign of the Pioneer plaque. Check their site in a few weeks to see what designers 40 years later would do differently.

One criticism of the plaque has to do with the designers making assumptions about their audience. (Of course, how do you know your audience, residing light years away?) Some critics have said they shouldn't have used an arrow to indicate the craft's trajectory.


Arrow graphics are a human, earthly icon, inspired by arrows used in hunter-gatherer societies. Odds are an alien species would not have used or ever seen an arrow.

Guess it really does help to know your audience.

Friday, March 2, 2012

When and Where to Use Graphics in a Page-limited Document

With travel this week, I've decided to keep this blog short and to the point (as some of your documents need to be).

When should you use a graphic when space is limited?
Here are three reasons to choose a visual representation in a page-limited proposal or marketing document:
  1. Your solution is complex. Often a graphic can communicate complex concepts more succinctly than text alone. Consider network diagrams, quantitative charts, dashboard graphics, Gantt charts, organizational charts, and process diagrams. All communicate complex information that is easily digested.
  2. You want to ensure your information stands out. Good graphics pull our eyes to them because, to simplify the explanation, they look different than the text around them. Visuals communicate faster than text because text is decoded linearly and graphics are absorbed all at once. Graphics are instantly stored in long-term memory whereas text must go through short-term memory before they are stored in long-term memory.
  3. You want to quickly communicate the professionalism and commitment to the project. Graphics show you care and speak to the quality of the service/product your company provides.
Where should you place graphics in a page-limited document?
Anywhere they are needed. The golden rule is a graphic per page, but I have found it unrealistic to shoehorn a graphic onto every page despite tight budgets and page limitations. Place your graphic as close as possible to the associated text for better clarification.