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Monday, 16 January 2012

The Importance of Professional Images to Promote Your Business DNA

Your photos and imagery are an extension of your business brand. Whether it’s a Facebook snap of you on a night out, a photo of your latest product taken on your smartphone or a professional profile picture on your website, the images you choose to place in the public domain say a lot about you and your brand.

As the saying goes a picture says a thousand words. Well, nothing could be truer when it comes to business. Research suggests that people look at a smiling face for longer than one that isn’t, so why then do so many people still insist on using inappropriate photographs in a business setting? If you’re an entrepreneur, you want to be keeping costs low, so an obvious winner is ensuring the thousand words that an image evokes are positive ones.

Whether you’re selling a product or a service, getting your imagery right is a key to their success. An image needs to reflect the quality, the value, the importance, and make people want to part with their hard earned cash. We use images in many different areas, whether they are for websites, marketing materials, or brochures, all of these different areas need to flow together, and by using your own set of professional images you can start to collate these areas and begin to build your brand identity.

Cutting Cost May Be Entrepreneurial But Cutting Corners Isn’t

Technology is cheaper today than ever before. The number of people who own a high end digital camera has soared and so has the number of people who feel they no longer need to use a professional photographer for their business needs.

If you can pick up a professional quality camera for less than £500 on the high street, why spend cash on a photographer. Well simply, a professional camera that doesn’t mean your images are going to be of a professional quality. Photography is an art, a skill, a talent even. Whilst we can all take a ‘lucky’ holiday snap, it’s not just down to the equipment you own, you need to be able to know what to do with it. Just because you own a professional camera, doesn’t make you a professional photographer. I own a scalpel but that doesn’t mean I would save a few quid and perform my own plastic surgery. It takes years of experience to be able to take high quality images. Being able to work with light, composing the image correctly, controlling what we want the viewer to focus on, and making sure the image fits with what we are attempting to achieve and portray.

Sharing is Fine But It’s Not Very Unique

I often get asked why not just use stock images? The number of companies that use stock images on websites is growing- as for that matter are the number of dull and uninspiring unoriginal websites. The dilemma is, you tend to see the same style of images time and time again. You’re promoting your business, your brand, but will quite happily use stock images that have no meaning or personality to yourself or your business that strives and promotes to be different from your competitors.

Remember that any imagery you buy or borrow comes with licensing restrictions. Make sure if you are opting for stock imagery you are using it appropriately, even if this means the not very attractive thought of attributing each individual image.

Where Do Your Clients Hang Out?

Wherever your clients hangout, you are technically at work. Your Facebook account may be your ‘private’ space- but social media is a giant fish tank, which everyone can look in on. Now this article isn’t about social media and managing your profile settings but being part of the digital age, social media is another huge part of any businesses success. Research shows that in some businesses, social media marketing is providing more traction than that of their own website. It is therefore vitally important that we apply the same branding and quality imagery to these as we do other parts of our business.

A Good Image Portfoilio Can Get You Free Marketing and ‘Friends’

Editors love image portfolios. It saves them money and it makes any publication more visually attractive. It amazes me how many people, including some high profile entrepreneurs, are still using what I would refer to as a 'Facebook' profile picture for use on Linkedin, blogs, and for publications. If you are pitching for free column inches then a great image portfolio can be a massive step in the door.

Blurry photo’s taken on a night out in the pub, on your last holiday or the effort, standing in front of that white wall in your office, (the one with that big dark shadow around you), just don’t cut the mustard. They look amateur and make people wander why you have chosen to use such a picture- do you simply not care about how you are perceived or do you not have the money, time or inclination get the portfolio done properly?

I recently attended Entrepreneur Country magazine's workshop on profiting through social media and Linda Cheung CEO of CubeSocial summed it up in a way that really made sense: “you need to watch your online dress code- you wouldn't go to a business networking meeting in shorts and flip flops why would it be so when you are networking online? “

You Should Make Selling Easier Not Tougher
Imagery goes far further than just publicity shots of you or your management team. Your product is ultimately the most critical part of your business and images are a critical tool in selling that concept. Your company website needs to promote your business environment to it's full potential, products need to look their best, offices need to look inviting, clean, spacious and ultimately support the idea of ‘the place where the magic happens’. Ask yourself, how much of your business comes from your online presence? Your ‘online shop window’ needs to show your products or services to their full potential. A striking image on your home page will engage people, increasing dwell time and the likelihood that they explore your site. Selling is an art and you need every tool to catch prospective customers attention and make them want to look around.

Brands built around people and stories are more engaging and more receptive to trust. With many business also taking online payments, a website with a personal touch stands out. Having photos of you and your team is a tool to building trust.

Ask yourself the following questions,

*What does my corporate profile picture really say about me? Does it give a true representation of me and the way I like to do business?

*When you look at the images on your website, do they help to promote your brand, your business, your team?

*Does your website have a personal feel to it?

*If the answer to any of these is no, then you should seriously consider getting in touch myself to discuss how I can help set your business apart from the rest.

James Neale

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