Focus on Corporate Images
Small business owners need to advertise and promote their business despite little experience in advertising. They fight for attention in a crowded marketplace and battle larger companies with coordinated promotional campaigns, multidimensional advertising campaigns, in-house art buyers, and ad agencies.
A first step in battling these larger companies is to realize that art matters.
By "art" I mean the images that promote your business, product, or service. If you look at the ad campaigns of major corporations (Coke, Ford, Merrill-Lynch, Chase Bank), you will notice that these giants believe that a picture is worth two or three million words.
Do What the Big Boys Do
Yet when many small businesses produce an advertisement to carry their battle for attention, they fail to use quality art.
While they spend money on paper, printing, distribution, and advertising space, business owners cripple their message by settling for their own snapshots or for photographs shot by "a friend of a friend."
If this were a good idea, then the CEO's snapshots would illustrate Coca-Cola ads and the TV spots would depend on employees' home movies. Consider that the big guys spend money only when they must. They simply realize they cannot do without good art. Yet they don't understand photography any more than you do.
If you are a small business owner, you need a good concept to sell your business and images to express that concept to your customers.
Answer the Nagging Questions
Remember that effective advertising, like effective photography, must answer these nagging questions:
  • What are you trying to say?
  • Who are you saying it to?
  • What do you want them to do (or feel)?
So brainstorm with your staff, your family, your friends. Hire a marketing consultant, preferably one who understands the power of images.
Don't worry about how to illustrate your concept. I can do that. Worry about finding that winning concept. You need that concept for me to illustrate. Otherwise, I may create perfectly beautiful images that fail to move your audience.
Why do you need images? Because you must first grab your audience's attention before they can consider your concept. Also, because your competitors are trying to grab your audience's attention, you must be better at grabbing that attention. A powerful image is your best tool. (You probably need more than one, because people are different and most of the time one image won't grab everyone in your audience.)
Think about the products you use every day. What brought that product to your attention? Something planted an image of that product in your mind.
You Are a Business Expert
How do you find the expert guidance to select that image? Well, how about you? You may not know about photography or advertising, but you are an expert on your business and clients.
We live in a visual world and you are constantly responding to images, so you're not as ignorant as you might feel. What moves you to buy? What do you like? It's your business-the images that represent it should probably be images that move you. Trust yourself.
Select a Professional
Now you need someone to express your concept visually. Hire a professional photographer. These are people who have studied photography for years. Why assume they wasted their time?
Effective photography—photography that attracts and moves audiences—requires very precise and detailed knowledge of lighting and optics and color and design.
Once you have your photographer, brainstorm with him or her. Bat ideas around until you find the concept that you believe in, the one that feels right. Write it down, draw it, review it. Explain why each of the concept's specific elements contribute to the concept's success.
If these images are part of a campaign, talk until you and your photographer understand the relationship of the various images to the cumulative effect on the audience. Make sure that you and the photographer understand specifically:
  • What will the image look like?
  • What is the image meant to accomplish?
  • How will the image fit into the overall promotion of your business?
Creating effective images can mean considerable work but also considerable rewards. Hiring a good photographer will be a huge help. It's a partnership. That is part of what you are paying for. You can stop worrying about where to find effective images and concentrate on honing your concept. And you just might have some fun.
You just might see your business in an entirely new way.
Feel free to contact me with any questions.