Good design = word of mouth

Design is important from day one.

Numerous articles circulating advocate in favour of processes focusing on spotting the pain (preferably an unbearable one) then build and sell the painkiller. In order to learn and iterate based on clients feedback, we must ship fast and ship often. We build a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and iterate from there.
We've also read a lot of great posts about building an audience by producing content, called content marketing nowadays, before, during and after launch.
While building my new product, I decided to give a preponderant place to design with the hope to use it as a marketing advantage. Here are a few reasons why design should have a central place when elaborating your new product or starting a company.

Prior building

If you've been building softwares before, or any other IT project for that matter, you know this fact: we tend to underestimate the time it'll take to be ready to ship. Even if you're good at estimating. Even if you have a limited scope.
When you build something innovative, things get clearer when brought to life. There's a huge difference between a sketch on a white board or a wireframe design, and actually seeing the interface. When we see it, we suddenly "get" the product we want to create. It becomes easier to spot the flaws or missing parts.
Since building an interface right away requires quite a lot of time, especially if you are at an early stage, investing time in the design of a few prototypes appears to be a good middle ground. It gives us the advantage of having something that looks real while conserving the flexibility of having no code.
The other upside is to have something decent to show your potential clients. Do they see anything that requires changes? Do they "get" what you want to build? Having something that looks real to show, makes the appropriation and the engagement process easier.

Raise attention

All companies want to be heard! The content marketing strategy we discussed in the introduction is getting popular and while we need to follow this trend and produce great content, it becomes imperative to invent other ways to differentiate and raise attention when addressing pretty crowded markets.
Every application we build or service offer we send to clients, obey some constraints. We comply to a minimum features set expected by clients, or to the request for a proposal we received from the prospect. And so are our competitors.
I strongly believe design is still one of the best ways to stand out. Let me give you two examples.

Design marketing applied to business offers

For a few years, I've been co-running an IT consulting company in France. We retained our first client's attention by investing time into designing a beautiful proposal.
We had no references whatsoever and the offer we sent followed a pretty clear mission plan given by the client. But when other, established, companies probably just sent a keynote file exported as PDF, we invested time into creating a beautiful document with colors, icons and a thought through page layout. When others sent their offer by email, we had it printed and delivered by courier. We used design to show our dedication and to differentiate from big players.

Design marketing applied to a new product

As you might know, I launched a SaaS named Story CRM a few weeks ago. From day one, I focused a lot on design, trying to make it a simple but beautiful application. Something people would be happy to use.
Based on the feedback we got from launching publicly, I can affirm the time we spent designing paid off in attention. The opinionated design drove curiosity.
A bonus benefit is, I think, that people tend to talk more easily about something they find good looking. A beautiful design encourages word of mouth, probably because we want our name and reputation to be associated with a useful product that looks polished.

What about you?

Do you have any other examples of design as a marketing advantage ? Let's discuss it on twitter!