How to select images that will really enhance your sales message.

By Elaina Hundley

Whether you are putting together a marketing email for your organization or sharing an update on your website, your copy will need the support of a compelling image to create tone and grab the attention of your audience quickly. In fact, research compiled by 3M showed that visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. But too often the strength of your written content is actually impeded by poor images.

We’ve got some key tips to help strengthen the visual appeal of your sales and marketing deliverables. We’ve also included some helpful resources to use when you inevitably need to select a stock photo.

Plan Ahead

A pretty major photo issue—particularly in industries as event-heavy as the association space—is not getting quality images at the event you spent all year planning, promoting and selling. You’ll want and need event images for many different purposes, including future marketing emails to members as well as sponsors/exhibitors down the road. So it literally pays to plan ahead.

Be sure to make photography at the event a major priority. It might even be worth hiring a professional photographer if your organization doesn’t do this already. Whether you’re outsourcing or assigning an internal staff member to photo duty, remember to create a detailed list of the types of shots you’d like to have—exhibit hall with people, exhibit hall before people arrive, images of people in sessions, etc. to ensure that you have plenty to choose from.

If you didn’t plan ahead or just need different types of images, there’s a whole world of stock photos waiting for you and we have advice on how to select those too.

Be Specific And Creative

Stock image sites offer users a multitude of images to choose from and it can be easy to get overwhelmed. If you’re feeling inundated, you might be looking for images too broadly. See if you can narrow your search terms. Focus on your subject line and the key takeaway you want the readers to get. Are you prompting them to sign up for something early to save money? A stylish piggy bank might be in order. Photos are often more effective when they’re unexpected or bold, but still clearly tied to the message the audience is about to read. Ideally, the shot should help the reader remember that message even after they’ve closed the email.

Focus On Audience

Just like when you are crafting copy, knowing your audience is important. People from different age groups and backgrounds will find different images appealing and you should also be aware of what your audience will and will not understand. This article shares trends in stock images from the past years. Being aware of the trends will not only help you stay on target even as tastes change over time, it can also help you steer clear of any overused stock photos.

While a message to the board might need to be accompanied by a more formal image, a marketing email to potential exhibitors, most of which are from tech start-ups, can be more casual, playful and less traditional. Even if your industry is super serious, when you’re trying to get someone to loosen their wallet, you often need to connect with them on an emotional or aspirational level.

When in doubt, another good rule of thumb is to match the tone of the marketing email to the tone and style of the meeting or event. Yes, it’s likely a trade show, but will it have an “out west” theme or be held somewhere tropical? Go with that—just be careful to keep it tasteful and subtle, not tacky.

Use Images To Create A Cohesive Feeling

Color and style are important. Just because an image depicts the object or scene that you think best represents the event, product or service you’re marketing, that doesn’t mean it’s the right one. Be consistent on whether or not you use illustrations or actual photographs. Try not to use images with color schemes that clash with that of your company’s logo. If you can pull in a shade or coordinate images with your brand’s color palette and overall style, it will help the email feel cohesive and fit into the larger campaign. This is useful not only because it looks nice, but because it helps recipients immediately recognize that the email is from your company and about your event.

Be Real And Inclusive

A few years back, Aerie, a lingerie company geared toward young adult women, started featuring images with models of all shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds. With limited touch-ups, the images displayed scars, blemishes and birthmarks. And it worked! Not only was the campaign successful in generating revenue, but it also created positive press for the brand.

While most of you reading this are probably not looking to market lingerie, there’s a lesson to be learned here. Images, maybe even more than the copy, impact how a person feels about themselves and about your brand. Using images that feel authentic and portray a diverse array of potential attendees will make your audience feel like they’ll be welcome in your association. People like to see images of other people and situations that feel relatable to them. Aspirational and visually appealing images that also still feel attainable and familiar are likely to be attractive to more people.

Choosing an image can be challenging—using the wrong image can turn off readers or cause your overall message to feel bland (even if it isn’t). When selecting a photo to include in any type of message, it’s important to be aware of what unintended associations your audience might bring to a picture. Remember to always have your audience and their needs top of mind and think about how the image clarifies your message. Ask yourself: what image will best represent or complement my message while also being most inviting and memorable for my audience?

Note: Stock image sites often offer free options where artists contribute their images at no cost to you, in hopes of receiving recognition. You can always reference your source for stocks and the artists that made them, but you’re not required to do so. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite free stock images resources below (and there are so many more).

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