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Much-maligned stock images are effective if they have high quality.

Small-business owners want their companies to stand out. One of the best ways is through visual marketing. That also sets off the cautionary sounds of cash registers for entrepreneurs tight on funds.

Promotional company Poster My Wall believes it has a solution. The business “empowers individuals and businesses to create their own professional graphics and videos.”

Representative Zuraiz Niazi talked with Ivana Taylor and Iva Ignjatovic about visual marketing for small business. Ignjatovic is a marketing, strategy, leadership and business consultant. She works closely with Taylor, who owns DIY Marketers, a company “committed to helping small business owners get out of overwhelm.”

When consuming visual marketing, bright colors or out-of-place images catch attention. It’s the “What?” factor.

“Images not loaded with text — that use negative space intelligently — are easy on the eyes and mind with visually appealing color combinations,” Niazi said, citing minimalist design of an artistic poster template.

“A smart approach to social media marketing is customizing your content for each platform to maximize engagement,” he said. “For instance, the Instagram audience is a little hesitant in engaging with the posts that have any infographics or too many vectors in them.”

Recognize as well that just OK is not OK.

“Images that are personalized to your brand identity are more attention-grabbing than generic imagery,” Niazi said. “Customizing and branding your visuals lets people know they’re interacting with a real person, not an impersonal marketing bot.

“Images should break down information into easy-to-consume chunks,” he said. “These include infographics that summarize key takeaways, quote images that highlight individual important tips and takeaways, and more.”

Ignjatovic loves a good GIF that combines movements with an image.

“With me, it’s something interesting about the image,” Taylor said. “It could be a headline or the image itself. Each platform has its personality. It’s important to speak the language of each platform, and images do that well.”

Closer ties

Visual marketing helps messages and businesses jump out from the clutter.

“Using visual content leads to greater engagement from our audience,” Niazi said. “Research shows that posts that include images produce 650 percent higher engagement than text-only posts.

“Visual content also helps our audience retain more information,” he said. “If a relevant image is paired with the information you want to convey, people retain 65 percent of the information three days later, as compared to only 10 percent if no image is used.”

In an analysis of over 1 million articles, it was found that articles with an image once every 75 to 100 words received double the social media shares compared to articles with fewer images.

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Taylor believes visual content triggers emotions in the audience.

“Good visual content communicates information about the product or service,” Ignjatovic said. “The visual marketing materials you use are the first impression potential customers have of your business.”

DIY Marketers has posted Visual Marketing Ideas: 6 Ways to Stand Out.

While visual marketing should be attention-grabbing, it has to suit the context of the business.

“I’m not a designer,” Taylor said. “While I can appreciate a beautiful image, I can’t create one — sometimes even with a template.

“Color selection is critical,” she said. “This is why I love using pre-designed templates. They’ve already created the color palette.”

Doing it yourself can be intimidating.

“For businesses, a lack of design skills can be a big problem,” Niazi said. “Hiring external designers means you do not have as much control over your design process and aesthetic as you would ideally like.

“Not to mention, it is a huge drain on your budget,” he said. “Going through constant iterations with your designer to get the outcome you want means a lot of your valuable time is wasted. Time is money for every small business owner.”

This need not be the case.

“As a small business owner, you already have a lot on your plate,” Niazi said. “You’re managing a product on your own. Trying to create marketing content for it on top of that can get overwhelming. Besides, marketing skills may not be your area of expertise.”

Memory power

Visual appearance is important for retention. According to Search Engine People, 80 percent of people remember what they see, compared to 10 percent who retain what they hear, while 20 percent recall what they read.

“It’s about the headlines and calls to action,” Ignjatovic said. “Those have to work with your image. Sixty-three percent of consumers said good images are more important than product descriptions, according to CrowdRiff,”

Small businesses face challenges when creating visual content simply because owners are entrepreneurs, not visual experts. However, they might not have the budget to hire experts.

“It’s all about having the resources, time and money,” Taylor said. “Visual content requires resources, and small-business owners are already juggling. So, it doesn’t get done.

“Expertise is critical,” she said. “I’ve spent time and money and created something hideous. It makes sense to invest in someone with experience.”

Niazi has come across similar instances.

“Most small-business owners don’t have the right skill set to create professional-looking visual content on their own,” he said. “They cannot afford expensive graphic designers to do it for them, given the scarce resources.

“Small businesses can only allocate so much of their budget to marketing,” Niazi said. “Getting visual content created professionally means a huge chunk of your resources — time and money — is gone. There is not enough left to cover your other expenses.”

There is also a level of detail unfamiliar to startups.

“A solid visual content strategy requires a process,” Ignjatovic said. “Small-business owners tend not to have complicated processes and guidelines.”

She recommended the Poster My Wall webpage, How to Create a Marketing Plan: Getting Sales.

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With tight budgets a prime concern, check out the sites that offer free or low-cost visual-creation tools. They can give content that professional touch.

“I also suggest photoshop, but it takes time to learn the basics,” Ignjatovic said. “Poster My Wall has really cool stuff, templates and suggestions.”

One-stop answer

Niazi naturally agreed.

“Poster My Wall is an online graphic design tool that can become your one-stop solution for creating and distributing stunning promotional images and videos quickly, easily and affordably,” he said. “It lets you create and share stunning social media graphics for free. You can also design any other type of marketing graphic with the easy-to-use editor.

“Using the tool, you can resize a visual for as many different platforms as you want for free and save a ton of money on replicating designs,” Niazi said.

Above all, if using visual — or any other content — not of your own creation, be sure to give proper attribution even if from a free source.

“Yes, I sat next to a guy on the plane today who told me his wife — a photographer — spends a ton of time making sure her images aren’t stolen,” Taylor said.

Do create a simple guideline or strategy for the type of content that you will post,” she said. “Don’t post inconsistent branding images. For example, choose either illustrations or photos, but not both.”

Content used once can be used again.

“Repurpose, repurpose and repurpose,” Niazi said. “Let content reach its full potential by sharing it on all platforms. Make sure your message is repeated enough times for your audience to retain it.

“Plan your posts months before the actual event,” he said. “Have your Christmas sales posts ready to go early. Never forget to add a personal touch such as an emoji or a GIF that shows your audience they are hearing from real people.”

Niazi advised not to add too much information to graphics. Keep the content simple and easy to understand.

“Don’t post the wrong image sizes on your social media,” he said. “Use an image size of 1200px x 675px for Twitter and a square image for Instagram. Using the wrong size can reduce impact by only showing parts of the image as a preview.”

To that, IvaIgnjatovic said do not communicate too many messages in a single chart. Also use consistent branding across all visuals.

Pause to refresh

Take a break every few months to look back on content. See if you’re getting into a rut. Repetition to you is boring to consumers.

“You’ve got to focus on where most of your assets are — online or marketing materials,” Taylor said. “Focus on the 20 percent that has 80 percent of people’s attention.

“This is where having a style guideline might be helpful,” she said. “This makes it so much easier to create templates you can reuse.”

IvaIgnjatovic advocates having a plan such as using daily hashtags to drive content.

“Businesses should define their branding guidelines and follow them for all marketing graphics to maintain consistency,” Niazi said. “This way, whatever the content of the post, overall marketing efforts will look unified.

“Pick your brand colors, font styles and even font sizes, and use them consistently in all imagery,” he said. “For similar posts, use the same layout and add your logo to all marketing materials.”

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Marketers can take a hint from scientists.

“Diversifying and experimenting with different techniques is good, but you should always track what is or isn’t working for you and glean meaningful insights from experiments,” Niazi said.

“Talk about how it is important that all marketing graphics are distinct and are personalized for the campaign at hand while remaining on brand,” he said. “Then mention how this is easy to achieve with Poster My Wall.”

Stock images are OK as long as they don’t look too stock — people overly giddy after a dose of laughing gas. Also aim for a diversity of people within images.

“Stock images let you add a professional — and sometimes, human — element to your posts especially if you haven’t built your own brand portfolio,” Niazi said. “However, only using stock images or using them with no context can come across as lazy and unprofessional.

“You can use high-quality stock images as part of customized and branded marketing graphics, not as standalone images,” he said. “This shows your audience you have put in the effort and establishes you as a more dependable brand.”

Connection is reality

Niazi ranks engaging content as the №1 priority of 73 percent of business-to-consumer content creators.

“Creating content that sparks engagement means your audience is not just viewing you as an impersonal business entity,” he said. “They feel they’re connecting with someone real. Try different things to create and uphold this connection.

“We know videos are difficult and expensive to create, but we can help you,” Niazi said. “You can use the thousands of customizable video templates on Poster My Wall to fill this gap in your content marketing.”

He noted that videos are “a sure winner.” Forty-three percent of B2C content creators think pre-produced video is the most successful type of content for marketing.

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“In a 2018 HubSpot survey, 54 percent of consumers wanted to see more video content from a brand or business they support,” Niazi said. “What’s stopping you from capitalizing on this trend?

“One way to engage your audience is to create more personalized content,” he said. “Make your business’ tone and content unique. With our highly customizable templates, you can make your graphics look exactly as you want them with unbelievable ease.”

Several go-to ways will spark engagement.

“Asking your audience for their opinions is highly effective,” Niazi said. “For this, use Twitter and Facebook polls, Instagram story polls and so much more. Your limit is your creativity.”

Taylor believes stock images have gotten much better.

“Free images can work,” she said. “Some stock images are as cheesy as clip art. I look for ones that are visually interesting and natural looking.

“I would never use a stock image as an element of my brand,” Taylor said. “However, I live on stock images that look do-it-yourself and natural as images for the site.”

IvaIgnjatovic favors organic images: “Photos you take or that your customers or audience contribute.”

Seasonal temptations

The plus of holiday visual marketing is that it connects with seasonal festivities. The drawback is that “evergreen” content is not evergreen in July.

Taylor tends not to stray too much from what she does throughout the year. Niazi dips his toes deeper into the water.

“If you don’t use holiday content, you should,” he said. “Capitalizing on seasonal traffic allows you to capture an ever-changing wave of holiday shoppers, maximizing sales and increasing footfall.”

Niazi cited strategies for effective holiday marketing.

“Tweets with images receive 150 percent more retweets than tweets without images,” he said. “Facebook posts with images receive 2.3 times more engagement than those without. What’s more, Facebook posts with videos get 1.5 times more organic reach than text-only posts.

“Once you have created the right visual content, you should try to maximize your reach on all social media platforms, be it Facebook, Twitter or Instagram,” Niazi said. “Resize your designs for free for any platform with just one click.”

Special posts strengthen ties with customers.

Customizing your website, Instagram feed or blog for special holidays and seasons lets your existing customers connect with you as someone real and on their wavelength,” Niazi said.

“Social media is the most important tool in a small-business marketer’s kit,” he said. “Not only is it free, it also has tremendous reach — but only if you use it right. Your posts hold the most power when paired with relevant and engaging imagery.”

Plethora of selections

Poster My Wall has thousands of customizable social media templates.

“Create the perfect imagery for your business quickly and easily,” Niazi said. “Then download all social media graphics for free.

“If you don’t know how to keep your audience engaged in the holiday season, we’ve got you covered,” he said. “There are Halloween and Christmas calendars for social media.”

Business owners should be sure to include images of their workforce in action. That gives consumers views behind the scenes and prompts workers to promote their business. The result is motivated free advertisement, which is the ultimate in economy. Your workers are a company’s greatest cheerleaders.

“Work smart, not hard,” Niazi said. “Use Poster My Wall to boost your visual content marketing by creating professional content quickly, easily and affordably.

“Use visual types that are more attention-grabbing such as videos, infographics, quote templates and others,” he said. “This is easy to do with Poster My Wall’s thousands of professionally designed templates.”

Taylor is a fan of brainstorming visual content ideas and creating a checklist.

“That makes it easier to create content or assign or outsource instead of thinking of everything for yourself,” she said.

About The Author

Jim Katzaman is a manager at Largo Financial Services and worked in public affairs for the Air Force and federal government. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Helping Americans shave years off of debt, cut thousands of dollars in interest, increase lifestyles and save for secure #retirement. largofinancialservices.com

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