How to use graphic design effectively in the B2B IT industry
In the B2B information technology world, it’s important to use the right graphic design tactics for the nuances of the company, product(s) or service(s) and audience you’re marketing. You might think that general graphic design practices apply universally, but there are specific considerations you’ll want to keep in mind when you’re creating marketing content to appeal to a buyer persona specific to the industry.
The below tips cover a few different areas of graphic design for tech companies that marketing might assume aren’t important but can be extremely effective tactics for differentiating your business in the IT and security space.
1. Learn to love diagrams.
Design for the audience.
When it comes to graphic design, B2B technology companies face a different set of problems than consumer facing technology companies. For example, an IT managed service provider will offer a complex solution set to solve complex, abstract problems. Distilling the message down to its most basic terms is critical, and it’s often best accomplished using visuals. In most marketing material, it’s more helpful to provide a high-level overview of technology in a visual format as opposed to a lengthy written description.
Pro tip: Always use technical diagrams as they’re intended to be used – not to take up space. A diagram should demonstrate how a given solution actually works, so be sure to work directly with technical experts to verify accuracy.
“Go straight to the engineers and get their advice. Do not go through marketing.”
-Colleen Van Dalen, CEO, Van Dalen
Now, technology architecture diagrams are another monster entirely. A technology architecture diagram maps a technical solution, and when done correctly, can convey complex, abstract processes in a digestible manner. Knowledge of the audience is critical. For instance, is the product a network security tool with highly technical network engineers as the primary customers? Or is it a data analysis tool with a primary audience made up of business intelligence users with limited technical acumen?
Pro tip: Technology architecture diagrams are detailed and better suited for technical content. Don’t put technology architecture diagrams in handouts for trade shows or PowerPoints; they’re for a prospect who’s already participating in a deeper conversation.
2. Embrace PowerPoint.
Design for the user.
The usability of PowerPoint, especially in the B2B IT and security space, is highly underrated. It allows you to hand off presentable, changeable content to a sales engineer or another individual who doesn’t have the tools or skillset to use a program like Adobe Illustrator.
There are other solutions such as Apple Keynote and Google Slides, but in our humble opinion, Microsoft PowerPoint takes the cake for the highest level of functionality and shared editability. When it comes to sales decks, such content is proliferated across the organization, but most of the time the sales rep who uses it will want to change it to fit their style of presenting, which is what makes PowerPoint so great.
While designing for the audience may seem obvious in this scenario, designing for the sales engineer (the user) is equally important. Every speaker is different, and design should be applied to turn their natural talk track into a visual story. Most companies design a one-size-fits-all corporate sales deck, but reps are more empowered to deliver an engaging presentation with their own tailored versions.
PowerPoint remains the primary source for dispersing information to a large audience, especially in the enterprise B2B tech space.
3. Recognize the power of trade show booths.
Design for the industry.
We all know trade shows are a huge part of the IT and security space, and they require far more marketing collateral than most marketing teams prepare for. What kind of materials are you distributing at your booth? Stickers? White papers? Branded swag? All these assets require design. Not to mention the actual booth, which is the first thing people see in a crowded expo full of other booths trying to catch attendee attention. The key to an awesome booth is knowing the industry and context of the event.
Pro tip: Emphasize use case-focused marketing assets. They’re your engineers’ way of telling the story a specific buyer persona wants to hear.
Don’t forget that every trade show is different. If you attend AWS: reInvent, you can’t use the same booth you took to a Microsoft event. Tailor your messaging to the space you’re in.
It’s also super important to design for a 3D space and know exactly what your booth will look like in advance. Where is it located? How many people can fit in it? Plan for logistics!
4. Remember: typography is a graphic design tactic.
Design for the asset type.
White papers, brochures and line cards are industry standards but don’t usually leave much room for visual design. Large amounts of content have to be crammed into a defined amount of space and there’s no finagling with dimensions when it comes to print.
Typography is key to effectively presenting content while maintaining design hierarchy and adequate white space. Not all typefaces are created equal and not all typefaces can work on every medium. For example, Sans-Serif typefaces with wide, evenly space kerning work well as website headers, but aren’t as successful when space is an issue. Using color is another way to differentiate hierarchy when white space is hard to come by.
Pro tip: When you’re speaking to a technical audience, excessive eye-catching graphics can actually degrade the clarity of the information you’re trying to convey. Make it professional and readable but remember that you don’t have to dress it up every time. You can use typography as a design tactic for maintaining the essence of technical content.
5. Use infographics intentionally and strategically.
Design for the objective of the content.
Here’s the thing about infographics: They’re an awesome tool, but a lot of marketers like to put things in infographic format that don’t involve any data. In many cases, the “infographic” design isn’t applicable to the content.
Pro tip: Know when it’s a good idea to use an infographic. If you have lots of numbers and data points that tell a story, it’s a great option. If you don’t have data to back up the point, don’t use an infographic.