I was in an online networking group for small farmers and agritourism the other day, and one participant remarked that they are “super busy with the new pictures we just put on the web.” They have touched on something that for many small business owners can be one of the trickiest parts of building their digital marketing strategy — having a pleasing visual presence and a professional look on your website. It’s all about the perspective with which you are looking at your own business. Simply put, you have to place yourself firmly in your audience’s shoes… what would YOU need to see to want become a customer of yourself? Often we get so closely involved with our own work that we have a hard time looking at it objectively. When you are shopping for a good or service on the web, what is it about other business websites that make you feel good about what they’re offering? What are the visual aspects of a business’s online marketing that are attractive to you?
Get high quality pictures that help tell the story of the business
The thing that people most often forget when it comes to marketing their agritourism business (or any business really) is probably the cheapest and easiest one to take care of – take lots of pictures around your property! Well, it’s CHEAP anyway. These days, anyone with a relatively-new smartphone can take high-resolution, professional-quality photos that the phone’s photo app will often auto-sharpen and correct for color and light on the fly.
It may not EASY for some, though. My Dad has been a professional photographer his whole life, working at the old Seattle P-I for over 20 years and then running his own wedding photography business, before retiring a few years ago. People have often asked me if I inherited any of his skills. I may have gleaned a few of the aspects of a good photographer’s eye, such as framing the composition well and good cropping. But I definitely never developed the natural awareness of when a good shot is in front of me. It always hits me later on… “dang, I probably should’ve taken a picture of that.”
So usually I have to go out with the express purpose of taking pictures that I need for a particular project. This is always my suggestion for small business owners — set aside a few hours every couple of months to go around and get some snaps that would be visually appealing for the people you are targeting with your marketing. If you have regular events that help tell the story of your business, make sure to join in regularly with the sole goal of grabbing a few of the most enticing sights. For example, my clients at Smithshyre farm in Poulsbo have Goat Yoga classes that really have to be seen to be fully appreciated! Check out their terrific full gallery here.
Worst comes to worst, you can use stock photos. There are a number of sources of free stock photos available on the web, such as Unsplash and Pexels. However, these can quickly start to appear generic and spammy if overused. The trick to stock photos is finding ones that don’t LOOK like stock photos, that don’t appear to be posed with models or obviously taken in a place that has nothing to do with your business. You also have to find pictures that you actually have the rights to use. The image should have details about usage, for example whether you have to give credit to the photographer when you use it and whether you are free to use it for commercial purposes. Look for images marked as Creative Commons (CC) or Public Domain. I do use a few stock photos on my sites, but I try to do it carefully. Most of the photos on this website were taken by me, by my wife, by a client, or are ones I stole from my dad (with his permission, of course).
One thing I can tell you without a doubt, is If you are successful in gathering a fair number of photos of the action and sites around your property, you will make your web developer VERY happy… it will give them lots to work with!
More later on other visual aspects of your online marketing, such as video, graphics, and of course your logo!