pretty doesn’t always sell: the esthetics of moolah

A friend referred me to a sales page for reference. The business that owns the pages makes millions of dollars, so they gotta be doing something right, right? I wanted to check it out.

I was startled. The page was…ugly.

Several different fonts, offensive color combinations, cheesy graphics. I was horrified. All of my sensibilities as an artist had been violated.

I also kinda wanted to buy the thing they were selling.

Hence, major epiphany: pretty doesn’t always sell.

Oh, what?! Say it ain’t so! As creatives, esthetics are a huge part of what we do. It’s inherent in our branding. It’s what we stand for. But when it comes to sales, (deep breath) it’s not enough.

The million dollar sales page? Their market is not creatives. They’re offering something for the business people, so it may be that the esthetics of the page resonates with that community.

And that’s the big lesson here: you’ve got to find a message and style of delivery that excites your market to buy.

I’ll use Tara as an example. Let’s say she created a digital guide for the Scoutie Girl community. How do you think readers would respond if she threw up a sales page with capital red letters, lots of exclamation points, and 1980s style clip art? It’s absurd. It doesn’t match her brand, and it doesn’t suit her audience.

But I’ll guarantee that her successful promotional pages have included some similar elements to the million dollar page. Stuff like a compelling headline, testimonials, the benefits of the offer, and a prominent buy button. I’ll also guarantee that she did these things in her style, and in a way that connected with her specific audience.

So. Check out the millionaires; there’s much to be learned from them. But you’ve got to translate and speak to your people, your market.

Pretty is good, but pretty that sells is better.

In your creative biz, how will you reconcile pretty and profitable? Tell us in the comments.

Gathering light,

8 thoughts on “pretty doesn’t always sell: the esthetics of moolah

  1. Great article and I think it points out that having the ONE thing isn’t enough to sell. So if you go for the pretty only, it’s not enough. If you go for the best xyz, it still might not be enough. In fact, it always seems like an equation you have to balance…to come up with the right recipe that pulls people to your product.

  2. Great article! I think I always try to focus on the pretty… and not on pretty that sells… I should really review some of my things because you’re so right… there are tons of company that are aesthetics and still sells, a lot! So pretty isn’t everything…

  3. This may certainly be true — crappy aesthetics don’t necessarily mean a terrible product — but there’s also a great deal to be said about first impressions.

    If I were to go to that page, and see such an old-fashioned, cheesy website, my first inclination would be to click elsewhere, as, to me, that would signal a lack of professionalism which I think would be reflected in their product.

    My thought is that a website or a webpage doesn’t need to be completely tricked out; however, it should be as professional as possible within one’s budget.

    When offering on-line based services or products, your website is YOU — it’s your store front, it’s your handshake, it’s your face presented to the world 24/7.

    I’m working on several freelance projects this week, but next week my website (in construction) will be completed to the best of my abilities, but it will not be a static site.

    I’m most definitely not a professional web designer, and I can’t afford one at this point in the game…but I learn and use friend’s knowledge.

    After all, my product is what really matters…but if I metaphorically go out with my virtual hair in rats and dirty fingernails (i.e., a website that looks like it’s stuck in 1998), then who would trust that my work would be professional?

    1. Erin, you’re right–the product does matter. But so does the message and the style of the message. Clip art works for some audiences, but probably not yours. If the millionaire’s market clicked on a creative’s product page, they might click away because it doesn’t look professional to them. The design has to speak to the audience.

  4. I guess it depends how important first impressions are (very?) and whether you can ignore visuals you dislike to get to the ‘meat’ of the page or whatever. Like you say, balance…but personally, if something is unbearably naff visually, I’d find it difficult to stay, same as poor english and bad spelling puts me off.

  5. I agree, Laura — different things work for different markets!

    Since I don’t know what particular site it is, I can’t point at something and say “Unprofessional!”

    But I do find myself wondering what kind of feedback would be garnered from their customer base. Obviously, they do sell a lot of product…but I wonder what kind of different market demo’s they could hit if they made it more modern.

    I also wonder how many sales they have LOST because of the look of their site.

    As a teacher, I would have my classes fill out a survey on teaching and learning, so I could assess if I was being as effective as possible — I think it’s a good idea for businesses to ask for feedback from their customers on everything from product to website appearance and navigability to requested services.

  6. Great points, Laura! I was horrified at the beginning, but you’re totally right. Pretty is awesome, but you have to pay attention to your wording, your content, and the positioning of all the elements for maximum results within your market. Maybe that’s why my conversions are low in one of my shops…. I’m bringing in the people attracted to my “pretty” but none of them are my market. I need to switch gears!

  7. I am a very good example of pretty not selling. The people that come to my site LOVE my work, but they don’t buy it. I know a woman that creates similar work and has in my opinion an ugly site but she sells like crazy.

    That is why I am spending my summer renovating my brand and site with the help of some “experts”. There is nothing wrong with my product. My delivery sucks.

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