Your business success can in part depend upon the images you choose to represent you and your business. Learn how to make the best choices.
A key aspect of being successful in business is understanding the importance of your business image and in what way it effects how your potential customers view your business and make subconscious judgements about you and your business as a result.
I am talking in particular about the images that you use to promote your business (and yourself) to the outside world. Large businesses have marketing and PR departments to handle this, but for most of us, this role usually falls to the small business owner who has little or no knowledge or training in this area.
Our main goal as a business is to communicate with our client. This communication can be either direct communication or indirect communication. When you set up your website, your Facebook and Instagram page, when you post to these social media platforms, when you produce a business card, flyer, brochure, online advert or the like you are communicating with your client. You are sending them a message about you, your business and your products or services even if you and/or your client are not aware of the depth and subtleties of this communication.
You may be aware of the direct message that you are sending your customer – “we have a sale for the month of June”. This is easy to see; you have used a large bold red font after all. But what about the indirect messages you are sending? This indirect message will usually have a more powerful effect on potential customers. It speaks to such factors as professionalism, quality, reliability, trustworthiness and the like.
If you are selling a standardised product, and your competitors also sell this same standardised product the most important message to communicate to a potential customer is perhaps the price message. Most businesses though don’t offer a standardised product in the strict Economics 101 sense. A lot of what we offer is a service or product/service hybrid. So the successful communication of these indirect messages can differentiate us from our competitors (professionalism, experience, reliability, quality, trustworthiness etc).
But how do you communicate these messages to your customer base? One way, and the least effective way, is to simply say it - “I am Perth’s most reliable and trustworthy mechanic”. That doesn’t really work though does it in 2019? Referrals and recommendations work better. When we hear it from other people it has increased weight and influence. The area that most businesses neglect though is the correct promotion of our visual business image. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so true. We are programmed to make split second judgements based on what we see. It is a successful evolutionary adaption that is hard wired into us. We choose, for example, which way to swipe on Tinder in a few seconds based on usually a single image. We do the same when we review someone’s LinkedIn profile, website, social media page etc. We choose if we are going to swipe left or right on a business based upon the images they present to us even if we don’t understand the process or communication mechanisms that are driving these decisions.
Let me outline several practical examples and tips that may help your business improve its visual communication and thereby increase its sales base and profitability.
Tip 1: ABSOLUTELY NO SELFIES FOR PROFILE HEADSHOTS! It says that your business isn’t successful enough to afford a proper profile picture. It also shows that you are not professional.
Tip 2: CHOOSE AN IMAGE OF YOU AS A PROFILE PIC. People don’t want to see a picture of your dog or cat, your kids, a sunset or a blank avatar as a representation of you or your business. They want to see you and they want to connect with you. If you can get a potential customer to connect with you then you are half way to securing them as a client.
Tip 3: KNOW THE MESSAGE YOU WANT YOUR HEADSHOT TO CONVEY ABOUT YOU. By using lighting, camera angles, posing etc. I can allow my clients to convey messages about themselves. You need to ask yourself what is the message I want to convey to a customer through my profile image? Is it confidence and experience (an accountant or mortgage broker)? Are you warm and easily approachable (a natural therapist, counsellor, real estate)? Are you strong, safe and dependable (an alarm and security installer)? See for yourself. Make a list of your competitors and visit their websites (if you haven’t already). Make a note of the adjectives that come to your mind that describe their business when you look at the images they use on their website. Then look at your website and do the same exercise. What did you find?
Tip 4: HAVE A CLEAR BRAND AND MESSAGE. The large, established, successful companies have a professional branding structure – GM, Coke, Google, Apple etc. The closer your business can replicate this degree of consistency and professionalism the more customers will perceive your business as professional and therefor trustworthy, reliable etc.
Tip 5: DOES YOUR LOGO INSTANTLY TELL PEOPLE WHAT YOU DO OR WHAT YOUR BUSINESS IS ABOUT? If it does not, then it is just taking up valuable space and clouding your message transmission.
Tip 6: IF YOU SELL ONLINE, DO NOT SKIMP ON QUALITY PRODUCT IMAGES. I see this one a lot. These days anyone can effectively sell online. You don’t need to even have stock on hand. Distribution centres in China will store and ship your product for you to the individual customer. The old selling model was based around a customer entering a physical store and looking at a physical product. With virtual stores this selling model breaks down. It has been replaced by online images. This creates opportunities for sellers so long as you realise the importance of great professional images of the product. The security a customer felt by physically assessing the quality and suitability of the product (along with the professionalism of the seller) is no longer there. There is a direct connection in the mind of the customer between a professional image and a professional product/seller.
Tip 7: WHAT IS YOUR STORY? Understand that video is designed to tell a story. Businesses are beginning to use video on their websites and in their social media feeds more regularly. A lot of them because of the belief that increased bandwidth equates to increased google rankings etc. However, they are missing the real reason for using video: it is a great story telling medium.
I was at a social media workshop recently and I got talking to a landscaper who had who had posted a video about his business onto social media. It was basically a simple slideshow of before and after work, which is perfectly fine, but it really missed out on effectiveness. He didn’t know what was the message or story he wanted to tell and what is the most effective way to get it across. A more effective video would have explored who he was, why he was passionate about landscaping or some of the challenges he faced in these before and after jobs and how he overcame these obstacles.
Tip 8: VIDEO ALLOWS YOU TO TELL YOUR STORY AND CONNECT WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS. Use it to its full potential. Many businesses simply set footage to a soundtrack and wonder why their video is not increasing sales and customers. The reason is because they are not telling a story. They are missing customers telling how great their experience was, why the business owner is so passionate about the business or addressing important FAQs.
Tip 9: MAKE YOUR AFTER PHOTOS BRIGHTER AND BETTER PHOTOGRAPHED THAN YOUR BEFORE PHOTOS. My favourite example here are bathroom tile re-grouters. They do an amazing job to and old bathroom and shower but let themselves down with before and after photos. B&A’s are a great marketing tool for these types of trades so emphasise how good your work is by lightening the after photos slightly and darken the before photos a bit. The bathroom looks much better after the work is done so make sure the after photos are also better to visually emphasise this too. Even better take the before photos on your smartphone and get a pro in to take the after photos. I shoot the after photos with the right lens and the right angle to make the space look lighter, brighter and larger.
Tip 10: HAVE CLEAN AND CRISP BUSINESS CARDS. Often people try to fit too much on their business cards. Less is more. On the front have your logo and business name and/or what you do. On the back just name, contacts, website and social media links.
Tip 11: YOUR SMART PHONE DOES NOT TAKE PHOTOS LIKE A PROFESSIONAL. No matter what the smart phone manufacturers say, smart phones do not take photos like a professional photographer, plain and simple. Understand that while they are good for what they are, they have limitations.
Tip 12: IF YOU TAKE VIDEO, FLIP YOUR PHONE. If you are capturing video on your phone to promote your business, don’t hold the phone in portrait orientation. – the way your phone is naturally orientated, higher than wider. When we watch a movie or TV we watch it in landscape mode – wider than higher. You get a better appreciation of space and framing. No professional videographer shoots in portrait mode so why should you? It also conveys a clear message that your business has set up shop on amateur street.
Tip 13: INTRODUCE YOUR TEAM. If your business has a team, let your customers meet and connect with your team on your website. Provide a fun profile for each team member so that they come across as human. You are communication the message of connection. By showing your team you are showing customers that your business is real, it is made up of real people and that they can trust you. You don’t tell people they can trust you, you show them in a way that they are not consciously aware of.
TIP 14: HIRE A PROFESSIONAL FOR YOUR IMAGING NEEDS. This is a no brainer for me. If you need surgery do you buy a scalpel and a few Band-Aids and do the operation yourself? No of course not, although my dad would give it a go perhaps. You have a business. What ever that business is you do a better job than a customer trying to do it themselves, well I hope that is the case otherwise you should probably be doing something else. So why try to do the most critical part of your customer communication yourself, on your smart phone, or using a family member that has just bought a new camera and likes photography as a hobby? If you want to maximise your sales and present, the best image to your clients then
Tip 15: YOU TAKE A PHOTO WHILE I CREATE A WORLD THOUGH AN IMAGE. It is important to understand that anyone with a camera can take a photo (as anyone can throw a ball, hit a ball with a bat or racquet or apply paint to a canvas), but it takes a truly talented professional to create the right image with the right tools.
About me: I am a professional photographer and videographer who has been shooting professionally for well over a decade. I have a Bachelor of Arts (Mass Communication) majoring in Film & Television + Photography. I also have a Bachelor of Business from a past corporate life.