One of the most powerful yet underutilized means of communicating with Web site visitors is images.
“What?” you ask. “All of our Web sites have images. Background images, foreground images, images of this and that… What do you mean, ‘underutilized’?”
Glad you asked. I’ve written about Priming the Conversion Pump with Images and using images to get visitors to take action, and both columns were well received (my thanks). I often talk about images with clients and in presentations because images — even static images — have a communicative power that people know about yet never seem to use.
Nobody’s Creating Relationships?
I’ve spoken at three conferences in the past two months. At each conference, I asked what companies used their Web sites for. The answers were expected and understandable: sales, providing information, gathering prospect info. Nobody — and I mean nobody — said that their site was for creating or building a relationship with their visitors.
But how can you conduct sales, expect your information to be accepted and acted upon, or get prospects to tell you the truth if you don’t have a good relationship with them?
My suggestion for relationship-building is a simple one, and it comes in three parts. Use images to:
- Show visitors who should be on your site
- emonstrate your value proposition in easily understandable and recognizable terms (Towards)
- Demonstrate an unfavorable current state that visitors desire to get away from
Regular readers will recognize my old friends, Towards and Away From, in the above list. I’ll explain them briefly and provide links to more information at the end of this post.
Social neuroscience, psycholinguistics and similar disciplines discover simple ways to classify what motivates and drives people. One of those motivations and drivers is what’s known as the “Towards vs. Away From” axis. Simply put, people either work towards a goal or away from an undesirable situation. Knowing which part of the axis your audience is on influences all your marketing efforts.
Show Visitors Who Should Be on Your Site
People are fascinated by mirrors, or, more specifically, by reflections of themselves. It’s part of human nature, a little bit of our neural wiring that is constantly seeking to affirm our belief in who we are and our place in the world. Good marketing and Web designers make use of this neural wiring by using images of people that look like the material’s target audience. If your audience is 19-to-25-year-old Hispanic males, you’d better have images of successful 19-to-25-year-old Hispanic males on your site. If your audience is 54-to-65-year-old women, you’d better have images of successful 54-to-65-year-old women on your site.
This is often called “mirroring,” and the research behind it is extensive. Basically, the quickest way for someone to know if they’re on the right site for a product or service is to see an image of someone in their age group, their ethnicity, their gender, etc., on the Web site. A simple image does this quickly and well.
Demonstrate Your Value Proposition
Your value proposition can be thought of as a goal that people want to achieve. For example, your value proposition might be “good cars on low budgets.” This could be demonstrated by an image of someone from your target audience sitting in the driver’s seat of a good, clean car, the window down, waving to the site visitor.
Clean, simple and neat, you’ve got items one and two of the list covered.
Demonstrate Getting Away From the Negative
This is where knowing if your target audience is more Towards or Away From is important. The example above makes use of Towards behaviors. The same example of selling good cars on low budgets to an Away From audience requires a little bit more to take place in the image.
First, the visitor’s current, negative situation needs to be in the foreground, while the desired situation needs to be in the background. (The reasons for this are many and beyond the scope of this post). An image of an older, used-up car with someone from the target audience standing beside it is the foreground element. In the rear and to the upper right of the foreground image is the good, clean car. The target audience surrogate is looking towards the good, clean car background image so that his or her profile can be seen. The face conveys interest, possibly excitement.
The meaning and impact of visual imagery are well studied and documented in psychophysics. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend years studying to get easily understandable and actionable guidelines:
- Show your target audience on your site.
- Demonstrate your value proposition,
- Demonstrate getting away from negative situations.
Please contact NextStage for information regarding presentations and trainings on this and other topics.
Links for this post:
- AllBusiness.com’s Chris Bjorklund interviews viral marketing expert Joseph Carrabis, founder of NextStage Evolution, Part 4a
- Making Good on Past Promises – Music Use on the Web
- Using Sound and Music on Websites
- The Importance of Viral Marketing Podcast
- Society for New Communications Research Annual Research Symposium & Awards Gala on 5-6 Dec 07 in Boston.
Come on by and say hello.