Your customers are buying ‘you’ – using lifestyle photography to build your brand

 

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with a number of local small business entrepreneurs and I’ve come to realise just how much this new breed of business owners, can benefit from sharing their lives as well as their products online.  The rise of social media marketing as an accessible, free way for new businesses to reach their customers is well documented, as are the many an various reasons why some businesses are more successful than others.  Jasmine Star has a lot of great content on this over on her blog, so I won’t repeat it here, except to say that using social media successfully to build a brand and attract loyal customers takes a lot of work!

One the key things I noticed about those I’ve recently worked with, is that they share a lot online and it’s not always directly related to their products.  They do share products, great pictures showing the lovely things they offer, but they also share their lifestyle – and that’s where great photography comes in.  I think this comes down to a couple of things.  Firstly – we are more likely to buy something we need from someone we identify with, someone who we feel ‘gets us’ and who we trust to provide the product we need.  If there’s a choice between a faceless organisation with whom we feel no connection, and someone we know and trust – all other things being equal we’ll go with the person we know.

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Secondly, for many people, the desire to support and help local businesses, especially smaller, newer ones is strong.  Certainly here in Surrey there’s a big movement against big chain stores and in favour of supporting more niche, local businesses who provide different products, better quality or simply a better customer experience.  So telling people about who you are, what you do and what you offer that’s special can tap into this instinct to support and help.  Sharing how your customers’ support makes a difference to you, helps you grow, helps you improve or simply helps you put food on the table – can be a powerful motivator.

The kinds of imagery you need to achieve good results in this area is a little different to the standard corporate headshot. I’ve blogged before about how great imagery makes a massive difference to your business website (see here) and in many ways this is similar.  The images should reflect your brand, be excellent quality of course and communicate about who you are.  However, with these kinds of images we are looking for something else as well – we are looking for ‘soul’.  It’s a tricky thing to put your finger on, but essentially it’s honest, fun, sometimes quirky images that capture both the person and the business and draw people in by engaging with them on a human level – it’s about selling you and your story, much more than selling your product or service.

 

Many thanks to Juliette Phipps of Flowers By Juliette and Sally Hurman of Getting Stuff Done in Heels for allowing me to share some of the images from their recent shoots!

Check out my website at www.siantphoto.com and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @siantphoto

 

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What a good ‘About Us’ section with awesome photos adds to your small business website

In helping out some friends and photography clients with their websites recently, I’ve been thinking about the obligatory ‘About Us’ section and how that’s developed over time and how it can make a big difference to the feel and appeal of a site.  In the early days of the business website, and still on many long running and large corporate sites, the ‘About Us’ section is a turgid, often buried page required by web designers but neglected by site owners.  The section typically states when your business started, where it’s based and necessary but dull information such as opening times and service statements.  In today’s social internet however, there is an opportunity to use this section to engage with potential customers and really sell what makes your business the place they should go.  Particularly for small business owners, it’s a place to build your brand and sell your personality, tell people about why you’re special and what you can do for them.

Of course you need to have the practical information on your site, where you are, what you do and when you’re open but I’d suggest labelling those pages clearly with what it is “opening hours” “how to find us” and so on.  It’ll make it easier for people (and search engines) to find those details when they want them.

Here are my suggestions for things you might try with your About Us section to make it work harder for your business.

1. Use images of yourself and your staff

If people are coming to you for a personal service (particularly if they’re inviting you into their home or it involves their body or wellbeing) they want to know who to expect and may feel more confident if they can ‘make eye contact’ before they meet you.  In the same way as a good, open, friendly profile picture can make or break your online dating profile, so it can with your business.  If people feel they’re coming to a real person, not a faceless corporation they will be more likely to engage and build long term brand loyalty.  I see a lot of websites with images of the store, or generic stock images representing the service – but I just don’t think they are as engaging as those with pictures of the real people you’ll meet if you go there.

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2. Sell yourselves as well as your product

There’s quite a movement out there now supporting the use of smaller, local businesses so don’t be afraid to get personal and talk about who you are and why you’re running this business.  People want to know that you’re passionate about what you do, what your vision is and why you’re the best option for them.  Talk about your training, ongoing professional development and interests as well as about the services you offer. Don’t be afraid to say you’re a small, local business – it can work in your favour if people feel they’re going to get a more personal service, someone they can ring up and talk to and someone who has an interest in making sure they’re really satisfied with the service or product.

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3. Use images that fit your brand

Having professional images made for use on your website is often seen as a luxury, but it is money well spent.  If the images of your staff are just holiday snaps you’ve got them to submit, or worse  – passport style mugshots –  it shows!  Your images should be in keeping with your brand, fitting with your brand colour scheme, style and the profession you’re working in.  Action shots are great, show yourself and/or your staff at work doing their thing, but make sure these images are well lit, consistent and good quality or it will look a mess.  Combine this with some great headshots of the people you work with and you’ve got a comprehensive image library showing your business at its best.

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4. Create an inspiring statement

I’ve found that small business are often reluctant to shout about themselves on their website.  They’re wary of overstating how good they are for fear that they won’t live up to expectations.  However, there’s a balance here.  Obviously you need to be totally truthful about your business, but in the same way as a good CV focuses on the positive and achievements, so your About Us description should sing about what you can do.  Your description of your business needs to reflect your passion for it, your vision for the business and the persona you want people to see.  Keep it short, but use emotive language to draw people in.  For example here are 2 descriptions I found in the about us section on  two different sites for plumbers (anonymised of course)

X Plumbers is a local company headed by Joe Bloggs, an award winning engineer with over 20 years’ experience. Quality workmanship and customer satisfaction are paramount to our ethos”

“We offer domestic plumbing and heating services of all aspects in Timbuktu and the surrounding areas. We specialise in central heating systems, boiler servicing and gas safety checks, energy efficient controls and solar water heating systems”

The first one is what I’d like to see, it’s warmer and more personal.  The second one is factual, and there’s a place for that information on the website – but not in the About Us section!

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5. Think about navigation

Now that you’ve invested time and effort in your About Us section make sure that people can find it.  Make the link prominent on your site so that people will click it, again use of a gorgeous image will help here.  Many pre-made website templates put the link to this section just at the footer of the homepage but very few people are going to look for it there.

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Find out more about me at www.siantphoto.com