The point of marketing is to differentiate your products and services from those of your rivals, yet thousands of companies are happy to sue stock photography. But by sourcing the wrong image, you are shooting yourself in the foot.
Whichever marketing channels you are using, at some time in the process you are going to need some pictures. For pictures to be effective in supporting your marketing message, they must be representative, beliveable and unique.
Many pictures are simply ignored as users realise they will not help them in looking for what they want on a website.
Images must work as hard to convey information as the rest of your content – purely decorative images don’t add real content to your site, while images that are seen as being genuinely useful are treated as important and attention is paid to them.
Images that are merely on your website to ‘break up the text’ or as decoration or as fillers are actively working against your marketing efforts; they get in the way of potential customers learning about your products.
Years ago early internet guru Jakob Neilsen (look him up, he’s good) ran tests tracking what the eyes of website visitors actually looked at.
His research compared viewers of product listing sites and found that on pages with detailed information about individual products, users paid more attention to the product photos.
“Product photos help users understand your products and differentiate between similar items”
However, pages which used large images with the intention of promoting warm and fuzzy feelings or of promoting a lifestyle were comparatively ignored.
Think about the pictures you’re using. Your site visitors users, your customers, want to see pictures of your products or your products in use or projects you have worked on.
Certainly in a product-driven site, product photos help users understand your products and differentiate between similar items.
Allied to this, users like to be able to access alternate views, so it would be wise to allow people to click and see different, preferably enlarged, photographs.
Depending on your company, you may or may not want to show portraits of your board of directors or key sales personnel.
Often this is interpreted as incorporating plenty of images of people so as to give the company a ‘human face’.
“Such images are readily recognised as being what they are: fakes. Do you really want your company to be associated with fakery?”
However, the perceived cost of commissioning photography has meant far too many industry websites still use stock images of smiling, generic, usually beautiful, ethnically diverse people artfully arranged around a table so that they can all smile at the camera at the same time.
Such images are readily recognised as being what they are: fakes. Do you really want your company to be associated with fakery?
If you want to show images of your products, you would never consider using picture of similar products from elswhere!
And the same applies to your use of people: they should be unique images of the people who work in your company.
Use pictures of real people in genuine situations that are relevant to your company and which help specifiers understand what it is you do and how you can make their jobs and lives easier.
There is no longer a place for stock images; like clip art, they do not help to differentiate your brand and will actually cause you and your products and services to be either misunderstood or ignored.
A worthwhile investment
What is often forgotten, or not even considered, is that investment in your own photography is almost always worthwhile.
Half-decent stock photography can be surprisingly expensive and using poor stock photography will prove costly in the loss of effectiveness of your marketing material.
Far better to invest in professional photography to create your own images – ones you can use whenever you want. Only proper images will give you real benefits.
Rick Osman is a partner in Highwire Design, a design agency that specialises in the construction industry, and one of the team that created www.hotel-standards.com as well as being a CIMCIG committee member and a judge for the Construction Marketing Awards. You can find out about marketing in construction and upcoming events at www.cimcig.org