A friend of mine is a freelance marketing writer in the financial services industry. He tells a great story about one of his projects that didn’t go as well as it could have (and really should have, but more on this later). As a result, a potentially great piece fell short of expectations.

In this example, he was hired to write a promotional campaign to showcase the client’s newest product. He came up with an especially strong concept and slaved over every word, everything from devising clever headlines to finding compelling third-party research to developing clear and effective calls to action. He describes it as one of those rare creative bursts where everything came together perfectly. He was thrilled with the final draft, and it sailed through the client-approval process.

Next up: Design. Unfortunately, the client assigned the project to a junior designer who either didn’t have the experience or skill (or both) to give the design the same amount of attention. Not surprisingly, the first design was, shall we say, less than ideal, and sadly, it never got much better. My friend tried to provide suggestions to make it better, and even went so far as to politely suggest that the piece would be improved if another designer could help, but it all fell on deaf ears.

The result: A “finished” piece that was so poorly designed that it didn’t perform well and was ultimately considered a failure by the client. To this day, my friend doesn’t even use it as a sample in his portfolio, even though he still thinks it’s some of the best writing he’s ever done.

The takeaway: Design matters. And maybe more than you think.

Make your content shine

This experience is one that probably resonates with all of us. For example, have you ever received a poorly written/designed piece of content and immediately made a negative judgment about the company that sent it to you? You probably do this every day, and may not even be aware you’re doing it.

In today’s fast-paced, visual-first world, your content must go the extra mile to stand apart. Effective design can help invite the reader in, present information in a compelling way, and make it clear what you would like them to do next. If your content doesn’t do this, your prospect may find it too intimidating and simply cast it aside – along with all of your hard work that went into it.

Great design can make all the difference between success and failure. It’s not enough to simply “hand in” your final copy and hope for the best. Instead, you need to do all you can to work with great designers to make the content look as good as possible. This can include collaborating on graphics and imagery, tightening copy, and creating sidebars, call-outs, and other visuals. It may seem like more work, but the extra effort is usually worth it.

One more lesson. My friend now sums up his story by saying, “Life is too short to work with bad designers.” We agree, and encourage you to do as much as possible to make your content shine.

Interested in other ways to improve your content? Please download our whitepaper Seven Habits for Highly Effective Sales Content, to get a closer look at seven proven strategies for developing highly effective content.