Dither noun: A state of indecisive agitation: Company management was in a dither about the new round of graphic designs. Everybody had strong opinions on what they liked and didn't like.

Dilatory adjective: Tending to postpone or delay: The graphic-design process had a dilatory effect on our ability to do anything in marketing besides work on designs. Could this drag out any longer?

Delusion noun: A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness: The team seemed under the delusion that choosing between possible brochure trim colors of papaywhip, peachpuff, or peru would make any difference in marketing results.

(Three actual colors. Who knew?)

The Long and Winding Road

When many people think of marketing, they think of ads, logos, taglines, brochures and (nowadays) Web sites. It's understandable. Ads and brochures are what we see every day, and we all have opinions of what we like and don't like.

So when we build new Web sites, brochures and logos for our organizations, we scrutinize them with fanatical zeal. Everyone is going to see them and form an opinion about us based on them. They must look… they will look… perfect! (Even if the process of doing so kills us.)

As a result, when many businesses decide they're going to “really do some marketing,” everyone gets overly caught up in the graphic-design process.

Pathology of Design Monomania

The same pathology happens over and over. It goes something like this:

  • New design of something—branding, brochures or Web site—becomes a central component of the marketing effort.

  • Large group of stakeholders becomes part of the design review team.

  • The process takes forever.

  • People lose energy as process drags on.

  • Nobody focuses on the “let's get new customers” part of marketing with the same vigor they do when choosing Web site trim colors.

The purpose of marketing—the end prize—should never be anything but the following: attract and retain profitable customers.

All too often we see companies getting so caught up in the visible and sexy part of the marketing process (design, copy), they forget about the important but mundane part (lead and revenue generation).

Graphic-Design Advice That Could Save Your Life

Here are five pieces of advice that could save your marketing initiatives from the graphic-design pit of despair:

  1. Keep your eyes on the prize: Is it possible that you should disregard this article and pour over your designs and copy for months, all the way down to the last comma, pixel, and Pantone color? Sure—if you're about to spend tens of millions on an advertising campaign that will create hundreds of millions of impressions.

    You can be sure that companies executing campaigns this large are also doing the following: extensive market research, testing each ad for customer response, researching each market, and many other steps before the launch. And they're prepared to turn on a dime if they find new creative that will work better to help them win the prize: attracting and retaining profitable customers.

  2. Collaborate with care: Most design processes have too many people involved. In the name of collaboration, companies make the design process muddled and painful. Balance the benefits of collaboration with the knowledge that too many cooks make for bad soup.

  3. Apply Ockham's Razor: A 12th century philosopher, William of Ockham, is famous for a statement known as Ockham's Razor: “Plurality should not be posited without necessity.” In other words, unless proven otherwise, less is more. Apply this to your creative process by asking yourself questions like:

    —Do we need eight people here when, in the end, the design will be just as good (if not better) with three people involved—and we will get finished two months earlier?

    —Do we need another round of design edits in order to help us attract and retain profitable customers, or can we stop now and move on?

    —Do we need more design features such as Flash on our Web sites and a six-color process for our brochures when it won't make a difference to our customers?

    Applying Ockham's Razor to the design process will help you save time and money and prevent a good deal of heartache.

  4. Don't rewire the network yourself: Let's say you are a sales person and your company is re-planning its technology infrastructure. Would you tell the technologists where to put the wires? Whether to use fiber optics or something else? Whether version 6.3 of one software package is more robust than version 3.2 of another? You'd be laughed out of the room. If the technologists don't do a good job of listening to your business needs and implementing technology that will help serve those needs, get new technology people. Don't try to fix it yourself.

    If you are not a designer, ask questions like, “We're going to use this at a trade show. Will this help us attract attention and generate leads? How so?” Don't ask questions like, “Don't you think a hunter green would be better?” In the end, if you don't think your designers are doing a good job, get new designers. Don't try to be one of them.

  5. Stop the insanity: If you find yourself spiraling into design process despair, stand up and say—with Susan Powter vigor—”Stop the insanity!” Either that, or appropriately but clearly engage a discussion about what matters most: getting more revenue. If the current discussion is overkill or is distracting you from that goal, put an end to it. Do what you must to save yourself and your company from wasting time and energy on discussions that won't make a difference in results.

Dither noun: A state of indecisive agitation: We don't dither about design. We run the process well, have the right people and skill sets on the team and make decisions that help leverage graphic design to grow our revenue.

Dilatory adjective: Tending to postpone or delay: Others tried to slow us down by distracting us from our marketing goals and focusing too much on superfluous discussions. Their dilatory tactics won't work on us!

Delusion noun: A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness: I drank the punch and no longer operate under the delusion that marketing equals graphic design. Marketing equals growing our revenue. Graphic design is a great tool in the process, but not the process itself.

The definitions are the same, but you have the power to change how you use them in a sentence.

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image of Mike Schultz

Mike Schultz is president of RAIN Group, a global sales training and performance improvement company, and director of the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research. He is the bestselling author of Rainmaking Conversations and Insight Selling. He also writes for the RAIN Selling Blog.

LinkedIn: Mike Schultz

Twitter: @mike_schultz