Have you ever been enthralled by a beautiful infographic on the web?
It was probably created by our guest today, Jess Bachman.
Jess is a self-taught multidisciplinary designer and creative director at Visual.ly.
He specializes in infographics and viral content and has a track record to prove it.
I managed to grab a little bit of his time last week to dive into the world of infographics.
We chat specifically about how marketers/business owners can leverage the advanced pieces of content to drive more traffic and gain tons of inbound links. Enjoy the show!
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Jess’s Monster cable infographic spoke to a specific pain point about something that is ridiculous and was spread like wildfire.
The infographic is continuing to become over-saturated on the web today but Jess maintains that the best content and best strategy behind the infographic will still rise to the top.
Many of the past infographics that Jess produced for Mint.com and other clients gain a bunch of notoriety through Digg.
The days of the Digg powerhouse are over and Jess uses many different channels now.
Fun fact: Leveraging Digg power users was a common strategy of getting on the front page of Digg.
Infographics vary in the time they taker to produce. That said, Jess mentions that a topical and timely infographic is one of the strategies he implements to make a big splash.
The shortest timescale Jess has spun up an infographic was 4 hours after the Instagram purchase by Facebook.
The instagram infographic is an example of that very timely relevant infographic.
Don’t pitch products in the graphics, target pain points and tie in a good story with your infographic.
Don’t rely on anyone channel.
Jess has built out a strong network of bloggers that he now has direct relationships with and when he is trying to do a big push he can leverage those bloggers.
AKA start building relationships with bloggers in your industry now.
Jess has a background in sales before he jumped into the design world.
He focuses on getting into the mindset of the visitors, not the business owners and goes through and audits the site accordingly.
You can see some of those sites audits here: http://byjess.net/posts/design/audit/
Jess provides design audits to hone his own skills. Impressive.
Jess goes against the single large call to action for people to buy now. He says it skips the sales cycle.
Photoshop isn’t rocket science. Learn it.
If you invest a little bit of time into learning the basics:
- you will be bettering yourself
- you will be killing bottlenecks in your workflow
- and make yourself a more valuable member of a team.
Jess says not to overthink the infographic and strive for the biggest and best data set. The story and how it touches the viewer is the most important piece.
David Wells: Hey everybody. This is David: Wells. Welcome to another episode of Inbound Now. I’m joined here with a very special guest today, Mr. Jesse Bachman. Jess is a graphic designer and creative director at Visual.ly, and he specializes in infographic and viral content creation. Welcome to the show, Jess.
Jess Bachman: Hey, how are you doing?
David:: Good, good. I’m glad to get you on here. I really like the stuff that you do with your infographics. You’ve created tons and tons over the years, and I really wanted to pick your brain on what are some of the best practices, what to think about when companies are trying to create infographics and stuff around that.
David:: Cool. So let’s dive into it. So, Jess is the creator of the very, very popular infographic Death and Taxes, which I’m sure you’ve sold tons and tons of posters. It’s gotten tons and tons of traction all over the web. He’s also created a number of infographics for Mint.com, which in my opinion, I think Mint.com was one of those companies that actually kind of pioneered the infographic as a marketing tool. Would you agree?
Jess: Yeah. They saw the value of it early on and really doubled and tripled down on that strategy for sure.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. Cool, cool. So, with the infographics that you’ve designed, how do you go about picking what the subject matter is, and can any data be made sexy with design?
Jess: It’s not really about the data. It’s about finding the angle or the story to what you’re doing. One of the most popular ones that I did was on HDMI cables and how they’re overpriced. If you tell someone that, it doesn’t seem like it would be that viral, but it just hit on a pain point that I guess a lot of people had. There wasn’t a lot of data associated with that, but I just told the story and showed how many monster cables cost versus other stuff and how ridiculous it was, and it just totally blew up. You’ve got to try and find pain points that people have and something that’s really going to resonate. It’s hard to go out there and look for a data set and be like, “This is what I’m going to work with.” You kind of have to have a story in mind or find the right angle on something.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. Cool. So, there’s a ton of infographics out there today. It seems like it’s been replicated across the web. Do you think the infographic market is becoming oversaturated?
Jess: Hell yeah, it’s becoming over saturated. You can get them now for like $100 from people in India doing them. The market is getting out of control. On the high end, there are Fortune 500 companies who want them now, because they’ve worked so well. So while there’s a lot of people doing them, the best content and the best strategies for promoting them will always rise to the top. Any time something is oversaturated, it’s definitely an opportunity for the best people doing it to succeed.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. So, with your infographics, you’ve been featured over, what is it, 50 times on the Digg’s homepage. They get a ton of traction all over the web. What’s the method to that madness? What’s your promotion strategy when you actually finish the infographic and push it out there?
Jess: The Digg strategy, when I was doing that was from like 2008 to 2010 or something. Digg has certainly gone downhill in terms of what it can provide. When we were doing that, I’d love to say that it was the content alone, but really it’s about power users and gaming the system, just making it work. The bottom line is it’s not going to work without content that people want to see. You can’t game up something that sucks, period. So you kind of have to have both arms there.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. How long does it typically take for you to create an infographic from start to finish?
Jess: Well, when I’m working with a client, a lot of times it depends on the client, and they can be really difficult or really easy. It’s funny, the best clients are the SEO driven ones, who want results. They don’t really care about the design or pushing pixels around. They want results. That’s great for me, because I can certainly provide results. The shortest I’ve done is probably four hours after Instagram was purchased. A great tactic is to do something that’s topical. If you can’t do something that’s really great, the shortcut is to do something topical, and people will just want to feature topical information regardless. They’ll make discounts on the design, based on that. We did something on Instagram, put it out in four hours. It went everywhere. Of course I did it, so it was good content to begin with. They can take a week to two weeks depending on how complicated it is.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. Cool. So you mentioned the clients that are focused really on the SEO side of things. What are some things that companies that are paying for an infographic to be created or are creating it in house, what are some things they can do to maximize the, I guess, link potential of that infographic?
Jess: Topical stuff is good. Hitting pain points. A lot of times, there’s a lot of financial companies. I do stuff for Mint, but also I did a lot of freelance and a lot of stuff for Aaron Wall at SEO Book, too. So, you’ll get companies who have something to do with credit cards or whatever. People don’t want to be pitched credit cards, but if you sort of turn it around and be like, “Credit card debt sucks,” or “Credit card companies suck,” then you’re going to get a lot more people to link to that, to share that, because they hate that kind of stuff. That stuff does really well on Reddit as well. Those types of communities are very conscious of being gamed, and that’s really difficult to do there, as opposed to Digg. So you want to take the anti-corporate angle or that type of thing.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. So with Digg dying, is it mostly pushing things toward Reddit and Pinterest and stuff like that? Do you have a specific channel you target in the social bookmarking realm, or is it really kind of random?
Jess: We try not to rely on stuff like Reddit, because even if you do something awesome and you think it’s perfect for the Reddit community, it may do nothing, and that just kind of how it works on Reddit. Or you may put it out and then someone caps it, puts it on a different image site, and then that does really well. So it’s really hard. What we do know is since we’ve build such a strong network with bloggers and other sites like that, we’re able to push that to them. Because we’re providing a constant stream of high-quality content, they’re most receptive to that. Because they get requests… from my own blog, I get requests, 10 the 20 a week, for people saying, “Here’s my infographic” or whatever. Because we’ve got a name of doing really great stuff, then we’re more receptive and we’ve built relationships. So that’s the foundation of our promotional strategy now.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. Cool, cool. Let’s see here. I just lost my train of thought. I had a follow-up question that was so good. What was it? Oh yeah. So, for businesses that are trying to get into the infographic game, trying to create that awesome piece of advanced content, where should they start?
Should they go and hire a designer? Can you explain to me a little bit more about what Visual.ly is, Visual.ly, and how that might be able to help businesses?
Jess: Sure. We’re trying to tackle the market in a few different ways. We have our site where you can upload infographics, and we’ll feature them and that’s a great way to get exposure. We’re also building a product where people can create infographics. That’s in various beta stages. But we also have a marketplace, and we have clients who come to us who are looking for infographics. We have designers, we have editors, we have content. So we certainly provide the full service there to do that.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. Cool, cool. I checked out the site a little bit. It looks pretty awesome. So, the tools are kind of in beta stage right now?
Jess: Yeah, for sure.
David:: Nice, nice. Cool. So let’s switch gears a little bit, branching off from infographics more into the broader design space. We’re both a member of the This Week in Startups’ Backchannel, which is an awesome show and an awesome backchannel. You learn all kinds of cool stuff, and you just see a lot of cool conversations happen there. One of the things you’ve been doing recently there is doing website design audits. So, can you walk through the process? When someone contacts you and says, “Hey Jess, can you take a look at my website and give me your feedback?” what are typical things that you look for?
Jess: In my own experience, I’ve run my own businesses, I’ve had to do my own marketing, my own sales and all that stuff. So I’m a designer, but I do have a background in sales, which a lot of designers don’t have. So, it seems kind of incongruous to go to a designer and have them design a website when your website is a sales move. It’s like hiring a salesman based on how it looks. It doesn’t really make sense. It needs to perform, and it really needs to tap into the customer, and you need to direct me to do what they want to do. So, I have a lot of opinions about what’s good and bad in website design, and I sort of apply those opinions to my design audits. It’s really fun, and it’s honing my skill in order to do that as well. I’m learning a lot.
David:: Yeah, definitely. You have a ton of those posts on your site. I’ll put those in the show notes. I read through a bunch of them. They’re actually pretty interesting, and I like how you’re kind of just like, “I don’t really like this piece of it. I would change this.” So, with a design, a lot of companies, like you said, try to get a website that just looks visually stunning. It is, but it’s not converting. So, what are some typical things that overly designed sites are missing?
Jess: I think there’s a general myth that a best practice is to get you call to action front and center and make it big and red and make sure someone can’t miss it, and you try to get the user to click it as soon as possible. But when they’re clicking that call to action, they’re basically skipping the sales process, and you’re dumping them into your ask, whether it’s form or credit card or whatever. I don’t know why you’d want to skip the sales process, because that’s where you sell the user. So generally, what I advise people to do, especially if it’s B2B, where it’s more than just an email address or something, is to have a lengthy sales process, even if it’s two pages or something, and put the call to action down near the bottom below the fold, where the interested people are. Rather than getting a whole bunch of clicks to something and then people bounce right out of that, because you haven’t sold them yet. That’s one thing that I suggest.
David:: Interesting, interesting. That kind of goes against the conventional wisdom. Getting people into that sales funnel. So you’re saying your “Buy Now” button isn’t going to perform as well. You really want that informational sales content. Have you done anything with content offers, like, “Download this free guide of” whatever it may be, as a secondary call to action for people that aren’t ready to click that “Buy Now” button?
Jess: No, I haven’t really looked at any of that. I’d love to audit a site that has that.
David:: Interesting. Yeah. Inbound Now has that stuff all over place. I designed it myself, too, so be gentle.
Jess: OK. I can take a look, for sure. I always try and put myself in the frame of mind of the visitor. A lot of people design their sites, and they think that the visitor gets there, and that’s where they want to be, and they’re really excited to be there, or whatever. Really, you’re going to have half their attention at best, and then they have their Gmail notifiers going off. They haven’t eaten, they missed lunch or whatever. You really have to distill it down to bullet points to get their attention. You can’t start immediately putting a whole bunch of sales copy or all this other stuff that distracts them or whatever, because they’re not going to be in an optimal state of mind, or at least what you think they are, to get into that process.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. So do you do AB testing on the design stuff that you do, or you just have applied the best practices you’ve learned throughout the years there?
Jess: I don’t do AB testing, but for the people I do design audit, I seriously suggest doing a lot of AB testing. Like with infographics, when you’re putting something on the web, you really don’t know what works. You think something will, and it won’t. A lot of that applies to design as well.
David:: Gotcha, gotcha. So, back to infographics for a second. Do you think there’s creating too many infographics, creating too much noise on your own site? Mint.com as an example, they create a ton. Does that cannibalize what they’re doing? People are like, “Oh, it’s another infographic from Mint,”
they’re not as excited about it. Should you use them sparingly, or does it not really matter?
Jess: It really depends on the quality of what you’re doing. People came to Mint for the infographics. It was on personal finance. A lot of that stuff was really interesting and usable and a lot of times funny. It was a destination site for that. But if you’re putting out low-quality content, obviously you can saturate that super quickly.
David:: Right, right. Do you refer to a bad infographic, I’ve heard the term infocrappic. So, cool. Where do you go online right now to keep tabs on what’s happening in the design and UX community?
Jess: That’s funny because I try and tend to go nowhere really. I try and keep a lot of the influence stuff out of my brain, and let my brain cultivate what I think is best. I have mentors and stuff that I consult with, like Seth Godin and some of the people, who I believe in and try and emulate some of the stuff that they do. I really try not to participate in design communities or stuff like that. It’s just sort of my philosophy. I was not trained in design. I did not go to school for design or marketing or anything like that. I’ve learned what I’ve been doing by doing it and by being successful at it.
David:: So on that point, I totally agree with you. I think a lot of business owners, a lot of marketers are afraid to learn Photoshop or something. It’s really not that hard, right? There are free tutorials online everywhere. As long as you just buckle down and do it, it’s not terribly difficult, right?
Jess: And even if you hire a designer, it depends where you hire them, but they may be marginally better at Photoshop than you, and you’re paying them. So, it might work to invest in yourself a little bit and get some basic skills going so you can touch stuff up or get something going.
David:: Definitely, definitely. Cool. So Jess, where can people find you online?
Jess: You can go to byJess.net, or you can Google Jess Bachman. I’m all over the place.
David:: Nice, nice. Yeah, I saw your appearance on the Martha Stewart show.
Jess: Yeah, that was a weird one. I was out of place there.
David:: That was an interesting interview, but cool. I appreciate your time. Thanks for coming on the show. I definitely learned a ton about infographics, and I’m going to throw my hat into the ring and say I’m going to create one. I don’t know what it’s going to be about yet. I need a good data set or something.
Jess: Find something that you’re interested in. A lot of the ideas I get, I’ll go to the store and I’m like, “That’s ridiculous,” or “That sucks” or something. An infographic doesn’t have to be really large or blown out. It can be something really sort of small, as long as it strikes a chord with people.