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If a freelance designer is re-branding, is it bad to use a minimalist approach to providing contact detail - email, phone etc?

Example:

I hardly ever do phone calls unless it's for a conference and at best use a phone for a webinar. That said I really see no purpose to give out my number and since my main means of communication is by email or IM I would think an approach with a logo and site address sufficient.

  • That said is it bad to assume in re-branding that people would go to the site to fill out a contact form?
  • Would it be good to counter the phone number with an email address on the stationery?
  • Does the exclusion of classic elements in brand design effect marketing to an older audience?
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Are you asking if it's OK to have minimal content rather than a necessarily minimalist design? –  DA01 Jan 18 at 2:06
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Personally, I don't trust website contact forms, and I think I'm not alone. I expect them to not work. When it's the only available mode of contacting someone, I'll (in order) 1) put these people to the back of the list, expecting them to be out of business or not serious, 2) use google trickery to see if they have an email address or phone number listed anywhere e.g. on directory or social network sites, 3) ask myself if I really want to contact these people, 4) write a very short message in the contact form and forget about them, expecting to never hear from them. –  user568458 Jan 20 at 16:34
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I do not mind contact forms all that much; but what is extremely annoying about them is that most of them do not give me a copy to my inbox. I like to have an email-thread with all info. Not all answers I get via contact forms will contain my original content. I will do as @user568458 and try to find an email address. –  Random O'Reilly Jan 21 at 10:58
    
I think the simple answer to the question of where's the right balance between nice minimalism and functionality is that old Einstein (?) quote: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler" –  user568458 Jan 21 at 11:01

2 Answers 2

That said is it bad to assume in re-branding that people would go to the site to fill out a contact form?

Yes. I have found it a mistake to assume the preferred method of communication from any client. I have clients that I've never personally spoken to and everything is handled via email. I have clients who will send an email then call to see if I got the email and explain. I have other clients that only call with new work. They are fine with email chains about existing projects, but for new projects, they always call first.

Would it be good to counter the phone number with an email address on the stationary?

Both is preferred. Playing of your first question, it's a good idea to provide both. Most new clients who discover me call, they don't email. They want to gage my reactions and attitude (which can't be done in email). It's all about personal removal. A phone call is one step away from a face to face meeting. An email is two steps. Some clients want the closer connections and won't really consider anyone forcing them into more detached communication. I have gained a few decent clients who started by sending me an email. The initial email was more to see if I was still working and available, then they wanted to call. Most new clients who strictly email me, and are not interested in a phone conversation, are simply price shopping and not interested in actually proceeding with work, at least in my experience.

Does the exclusion of classic elements in brand design effect marketing to an older audience?

Yes. Absolutely. People in business are busy. Always. What can often be conveyed in a 10 minute phone call can take 3 days of emails back and forth to sort out. Often the quickest form of communication is desired by clients (at least the ones I deal with).

You don't want to put hurdles in front of clients. If a client prefers to call, they should clearly see a number to call. If a client prefers to email, they should clearly see an email address.

I have never gained any client via the contact form on my web site. Ever. It's there, easy to use, and functions, but clients don't bother with it. Of course, I don't really market my site as a form of client acquisition. The contact form on my site is there because it's "expected" as a part of any web site. I rely heavily on word-of-mouth referrals for business. Knock wood, so far that's worked better than any web site.

All that being posted, I do not use Skype or any instant messenger. That is to say I have them installed and can launch them at a clients request, but I don't just let the process run in the background allowing anyone to ping me at any time. I know many like to include a Skype or IM number for branding. I've always found any IM to be more troublesome and only used by clients that I'm not very interested in acquiring. Busy business owners, with money to spend, are not using Skype and IM applications to vet contractors/freelancers in my experience.

I've always felt there are 4 mandatory things for stationary...

  • Name
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Address (if you wish to get paid)

None of that should be excluded. Add more if you like, but if you want to deal business to business, you should have those items as a minimum. If you just want to throw business cards around that look cool, then do whatever you want and include whatever you want but realize without those 4 items above, stable, repeat business, clients are far more likely to brush off a "cool but lacking" card/stationary. Just ask yourself this... are you more likely to hire someone if you only know their email address? Or only know their phone number? Or do you feel more confident with someone if they share all the items above?

If you don't what to put your physical address on stationary, get a PO box (they are only ~$20 a year - less than web hosting) and use that address.

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I've got little relevant to add to this answer, other than without a phone number, you won't have to worry about getting paid. You need to be worried about getting work. –  Ray Mitchell Jan 23 at 0:42

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Is it bad to assume in branding that people would go to the site to fill out a contact form?

Well in general assumptions are always bad. We have to do them though. In general I'll tell you that I almost never fill out online forms and I'm hardly old. To me online form gets submitted to who knows where for spam and junk. If you don't give me a human contact I don't consider your company its really that simple.

In Marketing there's an idea of 3 sides:

Product Leadership / Differentiation <--> Customer Intimacy <--> Operational Excellence (Cost). It's not really linear like this but usually viewed more like so:

Value Discipline

Source: Treacy & Wiersema, The Discipline of Market leaders

You need to excel at 1 of these and be average at the other 2 compared to your competition. By not providing some contact information you are lowering your customer intimacy. Are you saving enough on phone bills to increase your operational excellence?

At this stage in the game I'd say probably not. But thats gotta be something you analyze and decide what you want to excel at and what you want to be average at. What are your competitors doing.

Physical address or even cities these days are superfluous but phone number, email and website I feel are still essential pieces of information to remain intimate.

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I would also tell you to consider this the same you might think about User Experience not just for your clients but for yourself. The process might look like:

  • Card with just web -> Some go to website -> Some fill out form on website -> Now you can pitch

  • Card with web and email -> Some go to website -> Some fill out form on website -> Now you can pitch

  • Card with web and email -> Some go to email -> Now you can pitch

Same thing with phone number. Some will call and you can immediately pitch. You're reducing the number of steps it takes for potential customers to get in touch with you. The question again is do you want to weed out more potential buyers so only those most interested contact - then maybe the website to web form is the method to do that. If you want every opportunity even if many don't pan out then you're probably better represented including that information.

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