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Will Your Business Be Left Behind By The Revolution of Visual Marketing?

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.

How Can A Glue Manufacturer Help You With Your Marketing?

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.

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    Hatastic

 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…

How Four Wheels Gained 3,500 Pinterest Followers

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!

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  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?

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About Ann Leslie

"Creative-friendly" support for entrepreneurs & small biz. Effective tips, strategy & online marketing to help you grow your business.

14 comments

  1. I’m considering the use of video in my e-mails to newsletter subscribers. Something short, like a brief Q & A. I wonder if you have any opinion on this, or experience with it. I’d love to hear input from Ann as well as anyone who has perhaps had experience with this.

    And incidentally, I’m planning on re-doing my logo after almost four years on the web. It will be something more in line with the name of my site. What I had was fine, but I’m going to be branching out into consulting and publishing e-books so I want something that really brands the site better. This post tells me I’m heading in the right direction!

    1. Ann Leslie says:

      Hi Anne,

      Many thanks for your question.

      I think including a Q&A video in your email newsletters is a great idea, especially because the answers will showcase your knowledge.

      As far as actually inserting video into email goes, I am unsure of the technical aspects but Mailchimp supplies a piece of code which will insert a screenshot from the video into your newsletter.

      When readers then click through the image they will be taken to your video which you have previously uploaded to Youtube.

      I’m sure other email providers will do similar and can advise you on how to do this.

      Hope that helps, and good luck.

      A 🙂

  2. Ann, visual marketing makes a ton of sense to me. I understand how to use it for physical products (as in your gorgeous fashion examples) but am not sure how to apply it to more conceptual and service products, like say leadership or conflict management or entrepreneurship. Could you elucidate? Thanks.
    Jagoda

    1. Ann Leslie says:

      Hi Jagoda,
      Great question, thank you….and for the kind comments.

      It does seem more difficult to apply the principles of visual marketing to a seemingly non-visual service industry, but companies find ways of doing so by thinking creatively, (for example the ‘Peapod’ delivery service mentioned in the blog post). You yourself do this effectively on your conflict-resolution service website with the Tango analogy and some lovely dance visuals. There could be a lot of mileage in that.

      Also those photos would be very striking posted onto a Pinterest board, with perhaps a text ‘flash’ across the photo drawing attention to your ‘A-Z’ blog challenge. The free tool http://www.picmonkey.com is good for adding a banner to a photograph.

      A ‘visual’ doesn’t always have to be a photo or video – you could try creating a pdf checklist for potential clients to download, perhaps to help them assess their conflict-resolution needs? To give wider exposure the pdf could be uploaded to Pinterest too (as an image) with a link to your blog. I did something similar with a ’20-day Creativity Challenge’ blog post for businesses, and an accompanying downloadable checklist which I posted to my Pinterest board for viewers to follow along with. http://www.pinprofitpro.com/creativity-in-business-act-2/

      Don’t forget to add the url of your blog to the image once posted onto a Pinboard, to drive viewers back to your blog.

      Other suggestions for the types of services you mention: Client testimonials on video, video snippets of live conflict resolution sessions (with participants’ permission of course), ‘behind the scenes’ at your office – showing yourself planning or delivering the service, staff involvement in community events…and so on.

      I hope that the reply I have just written to Alan’s question (above) might help to shed some light too. Good luck

      1. Jagoda says:

        Thank you so much, Ann, for this comprehensive and helpful answer to my question. I haven’t understood before how to make use of Pinterest and you’ve definitely given me some great ideas. Some of the video snippets you suggest might work too.
        Jagoda

  3. Mandy says:

    After reading this, I’ve seen that I am lacking in visuals in my posts and will endeavor to add more in the future. Thanks 🙂

    1. Ann Leslie says:

      Hi Mandy, thank you for your comment. Yes I think it is a good idea to add a variety of visuals around your subject, which can only make a website more informative and appealing to keep your audience coming back for more.
      Good luck 🙂

  4. Sam Korn says:

    Being in the print and graphics industry, I couldn’t agree any more. We always try to advise clients to add visual elements where ever possible. Thanks for the info and the extra ammunition I can use to give them a third party view about the importance of visual communication.

    1. Ann Leslie says:

      Hi Sam,

      Many thanks for your comment.
      Yes, yours is a particularly visual industry, and it’s great to hear that the post may help you persuade your clients of the need for visual communication. Good luck 🙂

  5. Hi Ann,

    I get it & it makes me think of the old expression “A picture paints a thousand words” – but are you saying use visuals even if your message doesn’t necessarily warrant visuals? E.g. if someone is writing a professional article on planning (stop yawning) then would you advise a catchy visual even if it’s hard to link it in to the article or something like a picture of a plan (boring).

    Also beyond visuals, what do you think of the increasing use of video? Storage being less of a problem these days I thought that was more the way things were going (which I guess you could argue is just moving visuals anyway)…

    1. Ann Leslie says:

      Hi Alan,
      I agree, it is a little trickier to find visual content for seemingly ‘dry’ service businesses, but I believe it’s possible, and yes I would always try to make the psychological link between the visual and your service.

      For example, I know a Lawyer who helps small businesses with website ‘Terms & Conditions’, ‘Privacy Policies’ and Contracts. That could be seen as the least visual thing imaginable, but she brands herself as the ‘Mary Poppins’ of the legal world, with friendly but professional cartoon graphics on her website. A video shows her clients explaining what a difference she has made to their business and how reassuring, approachable, fun and jargon-free she is.

      I suppose what I am saying is that if you place yourself in your clients’ shoes and figure out what they are looking for in your service, it should then be possible to find an ‘angle’ and a visual way of conveying that you can supply what they need.

      Yes video is becoming very important. I think both pics and video appeal to customers in different ways, and certainly the new platforms such as Pinterest seem to be encouraging both equally, although at present photos still have the edge in terms of numbers on that site.

      Hope that helps. Good luck. 🙂

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