As a small business owner, you already know how important your visual brand is. Whether it’s on a company blog, in an email newsletter or on social media, the visual content you use to reach your prospective customers defines your brand and can have a powerful effect on customers.?  

But for many small businesses, choosing the right visual content from a crowded online visual landscape can seem daunting, especially if you’re time poor and busy running other aspects of your business. Many of us revert to the same, uninspired stock images when using visuals for our small business marketing. 

If you really want your brand to resonate with consumers, it’s important to choose the visuals which are the most inspiring and engaging with today’s audiences.   

Choose lifestyle imagery to make a human connection 

People love lifestyle imagery that they can connect to. Visual content that delights with positivity can go a long way to increasing viewer engagement. At iStock, we are able to tap into the most recent Visual GPS insights provided by Getty Images, and we can clearly see that people want more visual content which depicts ‘realness’.

People want and expect imagery to be representative of themselves and the world they see around them. The integrity and realness of those images are up for debate and means that brands are having to go further to prove their images are real. Retouching, for example, is less popular and many brands are taking strong stances on the practice.  

In fact, 80% of those recently surveyed as part of the Visual GPS research say companies need to show people with all body shapes and types and 68% of people say it’s important to them that the companies they buy from celebrate diversity of all kinds. Lifestyle imagery showing a diverse cross-sector of people authentically living their lives creates a connection with your audience.  Finding high-quality lifestyle imagery means you stay clear of generic, uninspiring imagery and find content which relates to the ‘realness factor’ that lights people up.    

Leverage the power of abstract backgrounds 

Sometimes, when you have a diverse audience at different phases of life, it can be hard to find visuals that connect with everyone. In this situation, a bright, dramatic, abstract background can be most useful. Abstract backgrounds are evergreen in that they work with all seasons. They give a pop of colour to your content and are simple to crop and use across a variety of sizes and media.    

Use illustrations for greater transparency 

We are seeing many more brands now taking people “behind the scenes”, providing a 360-degree view into their business – indeed, 74% of consumers surveyed say they want to know how their products are produced. Whilst many businesses might want to show greater transparency, creating a continuous amount of ‘behind the scenes’ content can be time consuming and expensive to execute. Illustrations on the other hand, are an easy and effective way of communicating business practices. Perhaps you want to convey the lifecycle of your product – from conception of idea to creation and distribution - or a timeline showing the history of your business? Illustrations work across all demographics, come in a variety of formats to suit your branding and have a long-lasting appeal, meaning you won’t need to constantly update.   

Learn from the curators 

Finally, one of the best steps you can take to revive your company’s visuals is to follow curators online, drawing inspiration from the imagery they share. They’re great places to get the creative brainstorm going, even if you don’t have the subject matter decided on. Often, curators will have collections devoted to specific subject matters, colours, or concepts that can really help inspire you to choose the right ideas for your own visual branding. You can view daily updated boards from some of our contributors here.   

Owning and growing a small business is no easy feat. Thankfully, today small business owners have many opportunities to access high quality, inspiring visuals to help in building your brand identity. Choosing the right visual content can go a long way to building that emotional connection with consumers. And if you can do that, you’ve got a leg up on the competition.