Customers often don’t buy your product, they buy your brand; so a strong brand can become a significant advantage for an early stage company.
Scott Thomas is the cofounder of Creatively Squared - helping brands with authentic, engaging visual content by matching them with talented creatives. He shares with us why visual content is so important for startups and lists (at the bottom) the tools you can use for free to create better looking content.
You may be thinking that truly innovative companies solving problems in unique ways are less reliant on good branding. Your brand, however, is more than your name or logo. It is what your customer thinks of when they see or hear something about your company - and one of the most important aspects of your brand is your visual content. With attention spans shortening, ensuring your website images, social media content, email campaigns, videos and presentations stand out is more important than ever.
The old adages that a picture tells a thousand words and you only get one first impression still hold true today. With many aspects that contribute to this initial perception, why is visual content so important?
- A Google User Experience research publication showed that consumers form their initial judgement within 50s of visiting your website, so your goal should be to provide a positive impression within this timeframe
- The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text
- Total views increase by 94% if content has a relevant image compared with content with no images
With only a split second to capture someone's attention, every startup should consider their visual content strategy to maximise their opportunity to engage customers.
Test your brand
In the early days of a startup, everything is somewhat of a facade. The website is often a landing page with little backend, customer service is when the founders happen to check their email, and your product may be at a very early stage.
It’s at this point that you should include experiments with your visuals to learn what works, using the same testing approach used to validate other elements of your business. If your competitors are high quality and have a serious tone, try something fun and playful. Test different styles early and often while it’s relatively easy to change.
Establish credibility with quality visuals
When we first visit a website we immediately, subconsciously, form an opinion based on the visual content that informs our perception about the brand’s quality, price and trustworthiness.
As a startup the ability to compete in the early days is built not only on developing a value proposition that solves a problem, but communicating that value in a way that builds trust and confidence with customers.
In order to establish credibility your company must have an appearance your customers can trust, which is where having a quality visual content is crucial. Even if you’re starting out with just a website and social media presence, people will judge your company not by what you’ve hacked together behind the scenes, but by what they can see, what they can read and the emotions you create. Use eye-catching photographs, data visualisations, infographics and videos to attract and engage your target customers. While stock images remain the most used form of visual content, be wary of where you use them as overused images will do nothing to differentiate you from competitors.
Quality visual content doesn’t necessarily mean expensive
User-generated content - aka content created by your customers, such as an image of a meal in your restaurant or someone enjoying your product - is a fantastic option to create engagement with customers. Authentic user generated content can:
Hiring a professional photographer for events is well worth the investment and can create visual content that can be reused across many channels. Infographics are another source of low cost, high quality visual content that can not only add credibility to your brand but are highly shareable on social media.
Where to start?
If you’re a startup looking to test and improve your visual content, look at services like:
- Canva and 99 Designs for graphic design
- Google Fonts for typography
- 500px, Imagebrief and Pixabay for stock images
- Visual.ly and Snapwire for professional photography
- Infogram for Infographics
- Creatively Squared for custom creative photography
When planning your next tests, remember to include your branding and visual content. It may improve your customer engagement, conversions and save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
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