Why Images Matter When Marketing Small Businesses & How To Improve Yours

I'm sure it doesn't come as a surprise when I say...images are SO important when it comes to promoting your small business.

"A picture speaks a thousand words"

Whether you like it or not, often without even thinking, you will form a judgement when you see an image representing a business. You'll form opinions on things like; quality, professionalism, legitimacy, cost, value and more. Every time you do that, others do it too.


So think about it, what do your images say about you and your business?


Let's take an example...both of the images below are of soap. What does each image say about the product?Which do you think would be better quality? More expensive? Which do you prefer?


Put simply, if they were both for sale, which one would you buy and why?

Now I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most people are drawn to the image on the left. It sets the scene, implies luxury and gives you ideas about how you might use or display the soap. Perhaps it even makes you fancy having a nice hot bath, with candles and luxury soap?


Why does it matter?


Now imagine an Instagram feed full of pictures in the style of the left hand image and another one filled with images like the one on the right. Which one are you more likely to follow?


The one on the left?.............................I thought so.


Now I'm not saying there's no place for images like the one of the pink soap because there is. It's on your website in the product listing...but it's not necessarily on your Facebook page or Instagram profile.


Disclaimer: That is to say, unless you're a minimal, modern brand and that's your style. If that's the case and all your images are product shots on a white background, do it and do it well. Like the Helmut Lang example below, although they mix theirs with brand rep images on their Instagram feed & if you're not familiar with them, they're a very minimal brand.


How to improve your images


The fact is, lots of small businesses can't afford to spend lots of money having professional images shot of their products and when you're a service based business, that can be even more difficult.

The first step to improving your images is deciding what you want your images to say about your business. What are your values? Do you want to come across as professional and corporate? Maybe you want to be friendly and eco-conscious?

Once you've decided what you want to say about your products/services visually, you need to review your existing images. You can do this yourself as long as your brutally honest or ask friends and family to be completely honest with you about what they think your images say about your brand.


When you know what you want to say and what you're currently saying, then you can set about creating some new imagery. I've provided two sections below to help you get started. When it comes to WHAT images you need, I suggest running through what you need for your website and then taking a look at my '35 Content Ideas for Social Media' blog and seeing what images you might need to cover those.


Images for product based businesses


If you can't afford to invest in product photography I highly recommend investing your time in practising taking good product photos. There are lots of fantastic tutorials for how to take better product photos, like this one from Shopify.


If you can't afford an expensive camera, most modern smart phones have incredible cameras on them. Get creative and perhaps invest in a few props you can use in your pictures. Then experiment with different styles until you find the one that suits your brand and that you like. Keep consistent elements, maybe you always use a particular colour background, that suits or matches your brand colour palette. Perhaps you use a particular filter/preset when you edit your images. The main message is, keep things consistent.


Once you've decided on a style, stick to it. Not forever, there's nothing wrong with evolving and changing but ideally to create a cohesive brand you want to keep things looking similar. So if you go for flay lay style photographs, keep to that style for a while. Don't chop and change with every single image you post, that's when things start to look messy and haphazard.


If you like/want to try flat lay photography, Suzy Ellis Photography has created a great video tutorial on how to create flat lay photos at home using just a few props and your iPhone or Android phone.


Images for service based businesses


There's a reason why running an Instagram account for a service business can be harder than running one for a product based business...it's less obvious what images to use. If you're a one (wo)man band, using good photos of yourself is a great idea and worth investing in. If you want to know more about how head shots and branding photography can help your business, check out Nadja Litau's blog "Business Headshots and Branding Photography - How it can help to grow your business".


(p.s. I'm writing this in March 2020 when we're in social isolation/lock down but had we not been, I had a photo shoot planned with Nadja for Monday next week!)


Beyond photos of you, it can be a bit trickier. Depending on your set up and how much money you have to invest you might need to use stock images to support any images you've taken yourself. If you do, the same theory applies, as in the soap example above.


I've put two photos below, both are the result of a search for "meeting" in a stock image site. What impression would you get of the organisation using the one on the left, and the right? Would you expect them to both be on the same businesses website? Who looks more creative? What opinions do you form?

Despite the fact they both show a group of men and women grouped and looking at something in the centre, they both have a very different feel, don't they? You'd perhaps expect to see the one on the left on a solicitors website whereas the one on the right maybe looks more at home on a marketing agency website. These conclusions are likely all drawn from stereotypes but like it or not, most people's opinions will be based on the same factors.


So when you're choosing stock images, it's important to consider the overall look and feel of the image, not just type 'meeting' into a stock image site and pick the first one that comes up.


As with product photography, keep things consistent. Don't chop and change with each image, as this is what starts to make things look messy. Try and stick to your brand colours. For example, you're an accountant and your branding is blue, you want to post a picture of a calculator and a notebook. You should really look for a photo that has a blue calculator in it or a blue pen or something that suits your branding. Not just use a stock image of a pink calculator because that's the first one that came up.


Also, just because you're a service based business doesn't mean you can't take your own photos of relevant things to your business. Check out the section further up about product based businesses if you'd like some tips.


For more information and tips on sourcing FREE stock images for your business, check out my blog 'Tips for Sourcing Stock Images & 5 FREE Stock Image Sites'.


If you're still stuck and want to chat through your brand, images or marketing just give me a shout.






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