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AI and the Future of Design: Is There Still a Future in Graphic Design?

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AI and the Future of Design: Is There Still a Future in Graphic Design?

From $5 logo designs to websites like Canva to artificial intelligence is there still a future in graphic design?

Is Artificial Intelligence Taking Over the Design Industry? 

Artificial Intelligence is rapidly changing the landscape of the design industry as we know it. Many creatives believe that it’s just the beginning of the end for designers, and that mindset of resistance to this technology will leave you in the dust if you are slow to adapt. 

For over a decade stock websites have been giving creatives a shortcut to the creative process, eliminating hours and hours of creating basic design elements like photos, videos, and illustrations from scratch.

Yet you never hear anyone talking about how stock websites are ruining the design industry, so why is that? 

The truth many of us hate to admit is that time is the most valuable thing that we possess as human beings; it’s a finite and limited resource that we can’t create more of.

Here’s a great example: Imagine if you had to create every font, photo, or illustration from scratch- would you charge your client more money and would the quality of your design improve?

The answer is clearly no, based on the fact that millions of dollars are being generated by creatives just in the stock graphics niche alone. So, why should AI be any different? 

I’m not here to debate the morals and ethics of AI- I want to talk about facts and how we can use AI as a tool to streamline the design process, save ourselves time, and give our clients the best end result possible.

The people that adopt this technology first and use it properly will become “pioneers” in the design industry, using a technology that will only continue to grow and evolve in good and bad ways whether we like it or not. 

Those of you who stay rooted in your limiting beliefs about AI being bad for the design industry will stay exactly where you are now or even worse, move backwards.

Like the famous quote by William S. Burroughs says “When you stop growing you start dying.” I’m not saying that it’s not going to be uncomfortable but change never is and you either adapt and evolve or you resist and regress. 

Breaking the Time Barrier 

When I started my career as a rookie graphic designer in 2005 we did not have stock graphics like we have access to now.

In fact, the only thing we did have was clip art and it was terrible! I was designing on MS paint because there was no way I was going to be able to afford an iMac. Everything I designed was from scratch and my idea of stock images was Google Images which at the time I had no clue was unethical. 

It wasn’t until I learned about Photoshop, thanks to my brother, that I stopped using paint to design flyers and logos. I spent thousands of hours of my life downloading countless images from Google and photoshopping all types of designs and graphics, mostly for print, like business cards, flyers, and brochures.

I did it out of necessity because the image I had envisioned didn’t exist to just download so I had to create it. 

I learned to essentially paint with images in photoshop which helped me dramatically when it came to learning how to design for the web. 17 years later and after 9 of those now using stock graphics I can tell you first hand that I would not have the financial success I have today without it. It’s made me hundreds of thousands of dollars and helped build a creative business that’s generated over 100 million dollars in revenue.

AI will be an exponentially larger opportunity, mark my words, and it will be a daily reality of life.

Ideas that come to your mind will come to life instantaneously and your creative flair will create things even better than what you imagined in seconds. One of the most valuable pieces I see is the speed of implementation of information. 

Streamlining the design process will be about taking existing designs and making them better, faster.

If I want to create a line of t-shirts for my Motocross Brand and I creatine original design of a guy on a dirtbike shooting a rooster tail from the back tire, then I can upload that art to MidJourney and have 4 different and better designs in a matter of seconds with just the click of a mouse! Think of the hours saved!!! 

AI and the Future of Design Is There Still a

From an Idea to Real World Application in Seconds 

The speed of ideas being brought to life will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen, almost like thinking something into existence.

Be careful though, like Stock images the AI design tools will be just that, a tool, and if it is overused and abused, it will blend into the noise, and I promise you there will be more noise than ever.

If you’re only using Stock graphics in your designs and never using your creative flair or heart, then you will look and feel unoriginal and be overlooked. 

I was recently on a phone call with a fellow creative Wes Frick, a renowned outdoor billboard advertising designer who’s been sharing some incredible AI art recently. I asked him what his take on AI was and he enthusiastically shared with me:

“AI art is a powerful tool that both clients and artists should use to formulate their ideas and bring them to life easily.”

In just a few minutes, while on the call, Wes made at least 16 different designs for me. 

So let’s hypothesize here for a moment…

If I charge a flat rate of $250 for a design, let’s say it’s a t-shirt design, and the client wants 12 designs, that project would typically take a minimum of 2-4 hours of my time. So, at the bare minimum that’s 12 hours of work for $3k. If you divide that per hour that’s $125 hour minimum. Not bad right? 

Now let’s say I use an AI design tool like Midjourney. I can make just one unique design and get 12 unique images that are just as good, in under 10 seconds. How much does that now make you per hour? Could you lower your prices, reduce turnaround time, or improve profitability?

The good news is you can do both if you use AI technology as a tool- it now becomes a win-win win for everyone. 

At the end of the day the most valuable thing to the client is that the design problem they have is being solved at the highest level and quality possible, regardless if it was designed with AI or without it. 

A Question Well Asked is a Problem Half Solved 

How you communicate your vision to AI design tools is the skill you will need to improve on. The better the question you ask- the better the answer (design) these tools will return. If you ask for a banana this tool will just create a basic image of a banana by itself. 

If you ask it to make a large green banana on a sunny tropical beach that’s in the hand of a monkey who is handing it to his monkey girlfriend that looks like an oil painting from the 1920’s that’s exactly what it will give you.

Can AI replace graphic designers? Here's an image created from Midjourney
First image draft of the inquiry above input into Midjourney.

The biggest limitation to the design is in how you communicate it to the tool you are using. This will be the creative flair needed to make something truly unique and memorable. 

The biggest limitation to the design is in how you communicate it to the tool you are using. This will be the creative flair needed to make something truly unique and memorable. 

The other part that is so unique is that it learns as you go along, taking information from your previous questions and solving the problem even better each time.

As you get your first design back you will notice things that you wish you would have added or that are missing entirely and you will be able to make iterations to that design simply by rewording or better communicating what it is that you want. 

It’s this continued clarity of vision that will power the growth engine for AI. As it produces more it learns more, and that puts us in the driver’s seat for how this technology can be used to improve the creative process. You will have to identify the problem, diagnose it, then be able to effectively communicate the solution you are looking for to the AI in order for it to solve the problem. 

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AI Will Replace Some Designers 

Yes, people will lose their jobs to AI. Companies will cut their expenses and implement cost effective tools to save themselves money.

In my opinion this is going to shine a light on the designers that have been hiding in the shadows who were in it for the wrong reasons. Essentially shaking out the loose hands and exposing the people who are doing it for just the money instead of creative impact. 

I believe it will reward the truly passionate designers that love creating the best design possible for their clients, regardless of the tools that are being used to do it. Their initial investment into the creative process will become better and the designs will stand out from everyone else.

Ever heard of a “Happy Accident” this is what I refer to as Creative Flair. Some of my favorite designs came to life from me accidentally hitting the wrong key on my keyboard, and altering my design in a way that actually makes it look better unintentionally. AI can’t replicate human creativity and flawed nature, it runs on rules! 

Communication is everything when it comes to AI.

In order to connect with people we have to possess empathy. To be a great communicator you need to understand human psychology, emotions, and culture.

An AI can’t have a heart to converse, be vulnerable, or understand what it’s like to grow up in a broken home experiencing trauma, and hurts that influence the way you think about life or how we make decisions. 

The only people that will be replaced are the ones that dig their feet in and bury their heads in the sand as this becomes more of a way of life and business. They will pass up on opportunities, and opportunities won’t even come their way because of their close mindedness.

All for what, our ego, or some “greater good” virtue we let ourselves believe is more important than us having success? 

AI Will Help Good Designers Become Great Designers 

The people that will benefit the most from this unstoppable force that is AI are those who go all in, learn the platforms, and implement it in a way that is most authentic to their wants and needs.

Designers will spend more time making their main designs better so they can produce multiple unique designs that are just as good as the original or better and that will be hard to compete with! 

Creative flair, out of the box thinking, problem solving, and communication skills are going to become more valuable than ever. I believe that this will push us to be more innovative, and break the rules of what we think good design looks like in all disciplines.

My advice to you: Focus on stacking skills that will improve your creativity, help build stronger relationships, become a better problem solver, and become your best and most authentic you possible. 

Key Takeaways from The Future of Design 

Up to this point the design industry has seen countless changes, websites like fiverr have made the design industry and many industries for that matter more competitive, AI will be yet another innovation that challenges and changes the landscape of graphic design in various ways.

Designers will need to become more creative, and learn better problem solving skills by asking better and better questions.

If you overuse, get lazy, and don’t use ai properly you will blend into the noise of everyone else trying to make a quick buck. This is your chance to do your best work ever and then use AI to enhance your art beyond what you thought was possible.

Lastly, it’s unavoidable that AI will become mainstream in design and people that resist it will regret it. Ai will only be used more frequently as time goes on and it will be a part of our daily life as designers in the future..


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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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