Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Beautiful design in a B2B world

I find myself much more intrigued and inspired by design and behavioral responses to design than I was a year or two ago. Thumbing through a book by the fine folks at IDEO (like this), clicking through the innovation section of or (of all things) walking through the washer and dryer section at Home Depot can distract me for days as I think about the power of design in everyday objects. I find it very odd that I can (and do!) consider a dryer beautiful or ask myself why I never thought of a washer that can hold six months of detergent (I hate handling detergent; I tend to spill it all over the place!).

This may seem like old news to those of you that work in the B2C world, but many of us in the B2B world usually don’t hear phrases like “beauty” or “elegant interface” or “I love it!” when we talk about proposed products, services or business models. Instead we talk about things like “reduced total cost”, “improved workflows”, “integration” and “value added”. Because we sell to a business, we tend to ignore the fact it is the people within the client organization that actually select, use and benefit from our offering.

Would beautiful industrial products and elegant business services drive an emotional response in our corporate customers’ employees? Would that ultimately allow my company to sell more… or sell at a higher margin… to justify the investment in design? Would I even be able to sell the concept to my internal stakeholders? Would our organizational culture accept it? I don’t know.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on “beautiful” design in the B2B universe or your stories of driving a design ethos into your company culture. Cheers!


Kewist1 said...

I think good design is appreciated wherever it is found. While the more subtle products of B2B are as tangible as, say, an iPhone, they can be as exciting if they are positioned with the same kind of flare. I think that's where B2B providers fall down... not promoting their product, service, model the same way an Apple, Logitech, or LG does. I think the closest examples I've seen are things like Service Oriented Architecture in the IT world or Lean Sigma in the business world. Both models have driven the "I gotta have" buying pattern that iPhones have even if the companies buying them aren't really sure why. Certainly brilliant design of services takes more effort and time to promote but I think, in the end, should be as important a goal as in the packaged goods or electronics markets.

Roberto Nagel said...

You cannot imagine how much I do agree with your comment. What can you learn from consumer design and apply it to B2C?

I am in the software arena and I think good presentations and good demos can trigger the 'gotta have it' effect.

I try to use PowerPoint less in favor of white boards or flip charts. Especially in small groups. If you know you story well, you can be so much more interactive with the audience.

In order to give a good demo you should ask yourself where is my audience now, where do I want to get them and how do I do this. It helps if the software has a sexy user interface. But you can get away with weaker ones, when you first explain what the user is about to see, then actually do it and then recap and emphasise the benefits etc. This usually creates the "it's so easy that I could work with it"-effect.

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