Has your website traffic been diminishing recently? Are you struggling to gain visitors, subscribers and sales?
It’s natural that in a tough economic climate customers will be looking to buy less ‘stuff” overall, and time-starved consumers are torn in all directions, so more businesses are competing for less customers.
Of course it is not the ‘metrics’ per se which are important, but the opportunity to get interested prospects to visit our website, woo them with great content and regular contact, and have the chance to stun them with our brilliance so that they can’t help but buy from us or sign up for our services.
How do you persuade your prospects to ‘know me, like me, trust me, buy from me’? This is still the most important aspect of marketing online, not least because customers haven’t met us face-to-face.
So the way we present our ‘online face’ to the world is vitally important, and becoming even more so. Great, high quality visuals are the way to do this.
We have already entered the ‘visual marketing’ age, and our appetite for attractive visual content will continue to skyrocket.
Why is that? What makes pictures and videos *so* appealing? Research gives us a clue.
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3M Corporation (the creators of sticky notes) found that information is processed from visual images at 60,000 times the rate of reading pure text. 60,000 times! Hence the cliché that a picture paints a thousand words. In this ‘attention deficit’ age we can’t get enough of them. Our prospective customers are tuning out the text and zooming in on video.
Studies show that social media sites based on visual content engage customers more than other kinds of social platforms (source: Hubspot). Facebook ads with photos get more ‘likes’.
Mashable reports that Facebook will partner with Shutterstock to give users easy access to free images for their ads.
Twitter has made it possible for users to share photos directly on the platform.
And who hasn’t taken a sneaky half-hour to watch cute cat videos before starting work in the morning – and emailed the link to 10 people? Go on, own up. I won’t tell anyone.
How can this help us with our marketing strategy?
Well, photos and videos affect emotions and encourage sharing, so we can pass the ‘experience’ we have gained from them on to someone else.
Ever since Christiaan Huygens invented the Magic Lantern and George Eastman brought cameras to the masses, the habit of gathering to look at pictures of ourselves, each other, enticing locations and desirable objects has been an integral part of being human.
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Another reason for using visuals is that customers buy from people, not businesses. They like to see the ‘human’ face behind the brand, make connections with the staff and understand the company’s values. Photos and videos enable the sneak peek behind the scenes which customers crave.
Social media sites such as Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Slideshare and the new Vine for videos are leading the way in giving businesses a platform for displaying our visual content and, most importantly, a perfect vehicle for creatively marketing a business.
This is all very well if you are a creative business such as an architect, interior designer or wedding planner. You will already have a readily-available supply of attractive visuals from photographing your beautiful daily creations and projects. But you still have to *use* them effectively.
And what if you run an accountancy practice? Or a delivery service? How can you turn your content into something enticing which you can post on the visual social media networks and cause a furore?
Let me illustrate with a couple of examples.
I recently came across the website of a bespoke gentleman’s outfitter, a stylist. Let’s call them ‘A’.
The homepage was showcasing a unique jacket-lining which featured the work of an up-and-coming artist. It was a stunning piece of art, and, I’m sure, a beautiful jacket lining. A creative, imaginative idea.
But the first thing to meet the eye when viewing the website was a mish-mash of bright blues, reds and yellows overlain with abstract images in a tangled mess. It didn’t make sense to me, and it was difficult to see what the website was actually about.
Hardly the image of style, quality and sophistication which I knew the stylists were trying to project.
Then ‘A’ had a website redesign and rebrand. The resulting homepage was a sultry, moody, masculine, monochrome portrayal of their suits, worn by groups of beautiful people in natural, glamorous vignettes. Think ‘Great Gatsby’, ‘Casablanca’ and so on.
It was enough to make me want to buy a suit! Well, at least to find a husband to buy a suit for! Almost. But you get the point – the visuals were evocative. It was visceral. I wanted to be one of those beautiful people, I wanted the experience.
So did hundreds of new Twitter followers. Within hours of the redesign the company had gained a 250% increase in followers and their site went ‘viral’.
I said before that traffic and follower numbers are not the whole point – in isolation – but attracting prospective customers to you and using the opportunity for hooking them in is. Good visuals can grab the attention immediately. If ‘A’ had photographed a series of flat, two-dimensional pictures of unworn suits on a white background and uploaded them, the effect would not have been the same at all.
Ok so I’ve convinced you (I hope) and you want to know how to use visuals in your marketing.
Firstly, keep it simple. Simple doesn’t mean boring – in the words of Leonardo da Vinci “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. He knew a thing or two about visuals.
Consistency is vital too. This isn’t about a logo. It can be about colour – colour psychology is very powerful in creating a mood – but it’s more about creating an overall, cohesive ‘look’. Give an impression of your company that fits with who you are and what you’re about.
That impression ripples through all your marketing materials and every contact you have with your prospects and customers.
Not just business cards and website but social media accounts, email communications to your list, giveaways, free downloads or reports. Everything.
Give your prospects a good experience at every step.
It’s all about quality of course, and having the right type of visuals to fit your brand, but…
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Even the most unexpected brands can be imaginative and cause a visual stir and a ravenous following on social media. Take the example of ‘Peapod’, a U.S. delivery company. I hadn’t heard of them until I found their Pinterest account. I’m a Londoner, sorry. Don’t hold it against me.
You wouldn’t think it possible to get excited about a grocery delivery truck would you?
But you’d be surprised.
A Peapod driver started haphazardly taking photos of his truck (fairly amateur-looking ones at that) whilst pottering around town making routine deliveries of groceries to neighbourhood customers. The pics were posted to their new Pinterest account.
Peapod’s customers saw it and began uploading their snaps too. Before long the whole of East Coast USA was on the lookout for the pea-green vans which had taken on a personality of their own.
The “Where In The World Is That Peapod Truck?” Pinterest board grew to include:
Peapod delivering comfort parcels to ‘Hurricane Sandy’ families in New York.
A Peapod truck posing with school pupils outside their classroom
A Peapod truck ‘on location’ in Chicago at the ‘Transformers 3′ set
A Peapod truck in the background as George Clooney was arrested for protesting in Washington D.C.
And they had 1600 Pinterest followers before the drivers could say “bacon butty” (that’s a ham sandwich to non-U.K. readers).
The little green trucks (and the white ones) became the darlings of small town and back street U.S.A.
Other boards in Peapod’s Pinterest account contain photos of recipes using the types of groceries they deliver. Fairly run-of-the-mill you might think. But what about profiles of individual Peapod shoppers, vintage food packaging, and babies in pea costumes (reminiscent of Anne Geddes’ baby portraits. Cute).
Then there are the photos of foods containing natural fabric dyes, pea-shaped jewellery, and a designer gown made from head-to-toe artichoke hearts. The model apparently posed for 6 hours whilst the vegetables were sewn together around her. Don’t ask.
Peapod’s Pinterest account now has nearly 3,500 followers – for which read ‘raving fans’…
..and all from one photograph of a delivery truck. Who’d have thought it?
How’s that for one aspect of a marketing strategy!
Artichoke Gown Creator: Photographer Ted Sabarese
with designers Daniel Feld and Wesley Nault. www.pinterest.com/peapoddelivers
So has the above given you some inspiration for making luscious, ‘outside the box’ visual content for your business?
Whether you are a gentleman’s stylist, a delivery company, a Solicitor, Coach, retailer or anything in between – in this overcrowded marketing space we’re all inhabiting it makes sense to stand out as much as possible.
Over To You
Will you get on board with the visual revolution? What visual experience can you give your prospects for them to share?
The chances are they’ll want to “see it before they believe it” so what type of new visual content can you think of creating for your business?