Why do local small businesses need graphic design?


By: Barry Dyke

Some businesses naturally lend themselves to sharp design. Walk down any street in a hip neighborhood and you'll see fashion boutiques, cafes and gastropubs displaying beautiful branding. Stylish typography, trendy color palettes—the kind of design that creates an enviable brand image.

Related: Building a local brand—5 essential things to know

When it comes to the service brands of the world—your plumbers, HVAC, pest control, any "man-in-a-van" type of business—design and branding are often an afterthought. The service comes first.

After all, there's nothing cool about getting your drains snaked or having rat traps set up. Service brands don't cater to a specific set of people the way a bar or boutique does. They sell a skill that everyone needs, not another form of self-expression. Beyond providing the best service possible, it's hard to find ways to differentiate yourself from all the other service brands out there.

The result? Barebones websites, a lack of stand-out branding, and an endless supply of boring marketing materials. But it doesn't have to be this way. In fact, investing in some simple branding & design can help your business stand out from the pack.

Why: The market is crowded

Service businesses, particularly in major urban areas, are incredibly competitive. A search for "plumber" on Yelp in Chicago will yield more than 2,000 results. In New York, that same search turns up over 6,000 results. Local plumbing businesses, nationwide franchise networks, and general service companies are all competing for the same work.

In a market that's so incredibly competitive, you need a way to stand out from the crowd. When you ask a service brand what makes them unique, and how they're different from competitors, you tend to get answers like "We're really knowledgeable and honest with our customers." Which is probably true. For them and just about everyone else.

That's a great business model, but it doesn't captivate the imagination. Before you can display your expertise, you have to get someone's attention—and tradesmen, not being particularly design-focused, often overlook that the path to new revenue starts with awareness.

If your business has a bland website with sparse information, and you're driving a white van in a city full of service vans, trucks and dispatch cars... how are you standing out? If you're mailing brochures to potential clients, what saves that brochure from ending up in the trash?

In order to thrive in these competitive markets, you need to capture that initial attention. Marketing alone isn't enough—you can drive visits to your website all day, and you can mail a flyer to every homeowner in town. On average, you have 8.25 seconds of their attention. Do you really think someone is going to look at a white-and-blue website that says "We're trustworthy!" for more than 8 seconds?

Probably not. But then, how do you do it?

How: Color, design & user intent

So now, let's welcome design back into the picture. We need it to capture the attention of potential customers, to stand out from the 2,000 other plumbing businesses in Chicago. But service brands don't always have graphic designers—or even the budget to hire one. It's tough to even know where to start.


  • A good starting point for service brands is color. Color has the power to influence user behavior. Often, service brands default to black & blues: simple, safe color choices that don't stand out. That gives you an opportunity to choose something different.
     * Color increases brand recognition by 80%. Some of the most notable service brands employ unique colors as part of their brand. Take Mosquito Joe as an example—the fastest-growing service franchise in the United States. Their bold green & yellow branding extends from their trucks to their uniforms. These eye-catching colors no doubt play a huge role in attracting new customers and franchisees.


  • Give your colors the chance to shine with some great design. Aim for a professional appearance, from the website to the trucks to the polo shirts your technicians wear. Every piece of your business should align with your branding to give your customers a consistent experience every time.
     * This can sound like a daunting task to a non-designer, but it's definitely achievable with the right tools. For example, Lucidpress was designed with non-designers in mind, so anyone can quickly create attractive, on-brand content. You can create templates (or use pre-made ones) to publish and print

    • flyers

    • brochures

    • business cards

    • newsletters

    • banners

    • social media graphics

    • and much more.

User intent

  • Finally, consider user intent. Who is your customer base, and what do they care about? What information do they need to make a purchase decision?

  • Web accessibility: How easy is it to find the information they need on your website?

  • Social proof: Do you provide ratings, testimonials, accreditations?

  • Call-to-action: What can you say that persuades them to contact you?

When: Right now

It's easy to put off projects like updating a website, improving flyers or repainting trucks. But, the sooner you can develop strong branding, the better off you'll be down the road.

For many service businesses, winter represents downtime, which offers the perfect chance to brush up on your design skills and revamp your brand's image. Imagine starting the next busy season with the right collateral in place to drive more sales. It's within your grasp, and easier than you think.

See how Lucidpress makes it easy to create attractive, professional marketing materials—no expert design skills required.

Learn more about franchise marketing software

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Barry Dyke

Barry Dyke drives the marketing strategy at ServiceBridge, a company that makes field service tools for franchise service businesses grow their revenue and delight their customers.

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