We've all heard the cliché; a picture's worth a thousand words. But on your small business website, that same photo—when used properly—could be worth a thousand new customers. So why aren't more small business owners using photos and videos to good advantage? Leveraging visual content doesn't need to be difficult or expensive, and it can translate into better customer engagement and increased sales.
Start with Prime Real Estate: Product Pages
Placing pictures and videos on product pages is a highly common—and highly successful—strategy, according to Ranvir Gujral, co-founder and CEO of Chute, a visual brand engagement platform. He says the more visual content you have on a product page, "the more time people will spend on the site and the more likely they are to convert."
Clothing retailers, for example, often display product pictures with multiple views, so potential buyers can see exactly what they're getting. "People want to see it in a context that's similar to their own situation," Gujral explains. Many businesses use models in their photos, but Gujral says, "It's another thing to have dozens and dozens of images of real people wearing that clothing." Customers are more likely to buy when they can visualize how your product fits into their life.
Get Creative with Small Business Marketing
With a little ingenuity, visual content can be surprisingly effective in less traditional places, too. Nathan Misirian, president and chief idea officer at Autumn Consulting, tells of a chain of family-owned convenience stores that found tremendous success using photos in unconventional ways. "The family built many of the stores from scratch, and they wanted to find a way to connect with people visually," he says.
Misirian's company and the chain's owners identified the unique selling characteristics of each store: some have unique architecture, others offer homemade fried chicken, and others feature a beer cave. They photographed each characteristic and combined those images with photos from the client's archive. All of the images were designed to tie back to previous generations of this family-owned business.
The company's close community ties were central to its mission, and the team decided to approach their visual content with that in mind. They created a series of videos and photos capturing the people angle of the business and then posted them on a Facebook site designed to connect with customers on a visual level.
"In the first 30 days, they had more than 100 people like them," Misirian recalls. The response was stunning, and Misirian says, "They have regular customers now posting content, sharing stories and competing for free gifts, which they had never seen before." A gas station may not be the small business people typically think of when they envision marketing with photos or videos, but a bit of creativity can give nearly any business a new way to connect with customers.
Sourcing Images Inside Your Business and Out
Finding the time or budget to hire a photographer, stage products, and get everything ready to post online can be a real challenge. Fortunately, you can find ready sources of content out there if you're willing to look. The reality, Gujral says, is that people are snapping photos and shooting videos all around us.
"You may own a small or medium-sized business that can't afford to create or buy content about your brand in particular," he explains. "But let's say you're a travel agent. There is a ton of content being created about every destination your clients may be interested in."
People regularly post cruise photos, pictures of restaurant meals, and videos of themselves enjoying their latest toy. Engage those consumers on social media or through your website, and they may be willing to let you share their ready-made content.
Create a Visual Marketing Plan to Maximize Your Budget
Misirian believes the biggest online marketing mistake is to do nothing, but he says another misstep many SMB owners make is charging forward without a clear goal in mind. "Posting a picture of your building on your website doesn't connect to anything about your brand or your message," he explains.
If you aren't sure what to photograph, Misirian suggests posting a picture of your most recent new hire. "Talk about how you're investing in the next generation of employees," he says. "That starts to tell a story that you can brand. It's unique and relatable to your audience."
With a simple plan, you can get more material out of a very small visual marketing budget. An all-day photo shoot, complete with editing and related services, might run several thousand dollars. But before you succumb to sticker shock, Misirian says it's best to view that expense over the long term.
"You might get two or three months' worth of social media content or fresh updates to your website as a result," he explains. And because you own those photos exclusively, you can used (and reuse) them in any sales literature or presentations to prospective customers down the road.
"A bit of planning up front—and a content calendar on the back end—helps you maximize your investment," says Misirian.
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.