Starting a business requires a lot of work. This is especially hard in the digital age — a time when most businesses need to adapt to new online norms or flounder and die. One factor that entrepreneurs need to get right from the beginning of the startup process is how they should deal with competitors. In a highly capitalistic society, businesses thrive when there is healthy competition. And, for one to be successful in this field, they need to master almost every business strategy available. Topping the list of those business strategies is the creation and use of a good design in developing any of your business projects. Good, intelligent design does not only have to apply to online projects, though. It can also be incorporated in the creation of any physical product, packaging, and presentation. When done in an excellent or even a satisfactory manner, it will not only help a business grow, but it will also deter or widen the gap between you and your competitors — with them trailing behind. But you may ask, “Can good design really increase our company profits compared to our biggest competitor? How can tweaks in a website design, for example, do that?” Well, a good and intelligent design does that and more. In fact, numerous business case studies and research surveys have proven that over the last few years. For a more detailed look at just how thoughtful designs help businesses outpace competitors, we have compiled the top seven ways on how a good design can effectively help your business. #1. Make a good first impression Nowadays, it is not uncommon for consumers to see a business’ website or social media profile for the first time and make assumptions about that brand or product solely based on that first interaction. The rise of the Internet and smartphones have made all these possible. That is why wizened entrepreneurs now insist on having a good website design and make sure that they also update their social media profiles. According to a 2007 Design Council report, design-conscious companies performed better than their competitors who did not engage in design-conscious activities for their web and social media presence. If you want any potential customers to form good and positive assumptions about your brand based on just your website banner design or Instagram profile, it pays to make these digital assets as beautiful and as eye-catching as possible. #2. Engage customers right off the bat New startup owners should also take a page out of the books of established businesses who have successfully driven their competitors to scale down with the help of effective copy and design. Companies like Nike and Apple have done this by making sure that they use highly engaging design elements in their products and services. For instance, Nike honed their lead in the footwear industry by pairing their unique brand logo design with inspiring and direct motivational quotes. Apple established their lead in the tech industry by making sure that a good aesthetic design melds well in their electronic products. In short, these two companies captured the attention of their potential customers and retained their attention by making use of functional design. #3. Target a specific audience or market To differentiate your business from your competitors, one thing that you may do is to make sure that your marketing plans are targeted specifically at your desired audience or market. To illustrate, if you are running a nouveau chic cafe offering affordable coffee to millennials, it may be best to incorporate design elements that appeal to this audience on your website, menu and banner designs. You may use trendy design elements like bold colors and comfortable furniture. And, if you are the owner of such an establishment, it may be best to incorporate the same design elements into your restaurant business card design. #4. Intelligently follow design trends Trends come and go. But, in the design industry, the trends that tend to stick are the ones that exude functionality and practicality. Startups can capitalize on this, for example, by making sure that they are among the first ones to take up a new trend on logo design. Conservative companies may find this daunting because they can threaten their brand’s recognizability. However, when done right, redesigning a company logo may help invigorate your brand and help increase your business lead against your competitors. Use this marketing technique cautiously and only after different split tests to determine if it really is the way to go for your brand. #5. As direct marketing tools Businesses can choose different ways to market themselves. For instance, they can use print ads, email ads, website ads, radio and TV ads, etc. And, in order for these marketing tools to work, you first need to create a good copy and design—only then can your marketing strategies begin to work. For startups, investing heavily in advertising may not be an option. That is why new entrepreneurs may rely on more subtle (and cost-effective) ways to market their business. A good way to do that is by using their own business cards to highlight their new businesses. Importance of business cards in a business As a side note on this article on business design, we have also listed a few reasons why business cards are still important and relevant for businesses today. Read on and you will realize why. As a talking point or ice-breaker. Business cards with good designs can help break the ice during business meetings and introductions. The more creative a business card design is, the more likely it is to catch another person’s attention. This is especially helpful if you want a callback or if you want to deepen your relationship with another business associate. To personalize your interaction. Let us admit it; business dealings can be too stiff and formal sometimes. So, when you have landed that much-coveted meeting with a potential investor, leverage yourself and your business by leaving behind a well-designed business card. Doing this will help put a face and a personality behind a business name. The recipient may even appreciate this gesture of authenticity. To show that you are serious. Giving away business cards to potential clients or investors is not a mandatory social gesture nowadays. But when you take your time in creating one, people will appreciate you more and realize how prepared and serious you are about the business deal. So, if you want to make sure that your business stands out, try your hand at creating different examples of business cards now. Then choose the one that will best express your brand and image. #6. Express your brand’s image and values In the digital world, it is often difficult to differentiate between what is real and what is fake. That is why authenticity plays an important role for consumers both online and offline. Business owners who want an edge over their competitors should seriously consider their brand’s image and values as a way to stay and appear authentic in the digital age. When done right, sticking to your own brand’s values will feel natural and normal, and your customers will appreciate you for this. Take a cue from companies like Apple, Unilever, and Facebook. They stuck to their own company and brand values, or have crafted a good business mission that highlights their different brands. Years later, they are still competitive and they continue to provide products and services to millions of loyal consumers. #7. Design for experiences There is a design principle that says that good design should be invisible. On websites and online properties, it means that a website layout design, for example, should be functional and intuitive enough for users not to take notice of it at all. In this sense, users should only realize how they are able to easily do the tasks that they want to do with that website’s interface. For companies offering a physical product, design invisibility may translate to how much a brand’s logo image can become so ingrained into the psyche of millions that they will readily recognize and identify the logo without the company name. When you keep your user’s experiences in mind when making a company website, a product instruction guide, or even a packaging design, you help create a positive and rewarding experience for your customers. People will remember how they felt while using your product and this will encourage them to become loyal to your brand. There are many ways to do this. But everything starts with good design. If you want to make sure that your business is set apart from your competitors, you should begin to brainstorm for ways you can apply all these principles to your own company. It does not matter whether you are operating a startup technology company or if you are starting a food cart business at your town mall. All these best practices in design and marketing will undoubtedly help you gain more customers and stand out from the rabble of your competitors. So, start now and begin to follow these actionable steps to help yourself and your own business.