Some months ago I told the story of the small business client who inadvertently ruined their branding by using amateurish food snaps on their Facebook page.
After spending considerable sums on creating great photography and copywriting, they brought it all unstuck by posting some pretty unpalatable food shots.
Well, unfortunately they were at it again just last night!
There on my feed was an ugly image of staff in their kitchen surrounded by less than sparkling pots and pans, plastic containers and other kitchen uglies.
The pic was so bad that, given I’m an ‘admin’, I immediately removed the image from their Facebook page.
I then sent the following message to my client:
“Hi ‘Jane’. I know I haven’t been doing much social networking work for you recently but if I see something good or bad I will respond. Unfortunately the photo you posted earlier is really not a great look for your restaurant.
“The innards of a kitchen just doesn’t look good at all and will create a bad image for you. You have lots of great professional images there so perhaps stick to them? Have deleted for now because of this. Let me know if any questions at all”.
And this was the diplomatic version. Because in reality I was quite disappointed that all the good work we had done to collect Likes and followers could quickly become unstuck with some poor quality images.
Unfortunately this restaurant owner is no Robinson Crusoe.
Across industry boundaries
Yesterday, I came across another small business, this time in fashion retail. This time it was the photography on their website that was the culprit.
They had gone to the trouble of stocking high quality garments and finding an attractive model. But that was the end of their quality control.
The ensuing images just failed to cut it. Poorly lit and composed images that just didn’t do justice to their high quality products.
What this retailer isn’t understanding is that they are competing with multinational labels and retailers who spend good money on getting their photography to the best possible standard.
Yes it’s painful to the pocket to compete at this level, but it’s also a reality of competition today.
Coming to terms with professional presentation
As we often explore in this blog, one of the greatest challenges for smaller business is understanding the importance of professional ‘creative’ when it comes to representing their business online.
Despite being the audience of professional presentation in their everyday lives as they encounter the representations of business in both traditional and newer media, few understand just how critical professional presentation is or how to achieve it – particularly on a budget.
Most default to their experience not as business owners but as consumers, mistakenly thinking that poorly composed and lit smartphone snapshots or ‘Wordart’ (the built in font effects in MS Word) graphics are good enough to represent their business to the world.
Adequate as these may seem to internal documents or student projects, the reality is that these just don’t cut it among customers accustomed to the quality of ‘creative’ that large corporations they encounter in print, radio, television and now online.
And simply excusing yourself by reminding them of your modest size and budget falls on deaf ears.
Meeting customer expectations
Consumer and business customers have simply become accustomed to highly professional presentation and will harshly judge businesses who don’t deliver on this – regardless of their size and budgets.
Unfortunately for many businesses, the first time they come to realise this is when they discover how high their ‘bounce rate’ (number of website pages browsed before leaving the site) is.
Yes, all those bounces are the digital corpses of departed prospects, most of whom will never return.
Depressing isn’t it?
The moral of the story is to spend as much as you can on the creative aspects of your website and online marketing.
Pay the going rate for professional designers and photographers – more affordable now than ever before due to pro-sourcing sites like Design Crowd or alternatively source the best stock imagery you can.
A sympathetic designer will come up with ways of trimming costs to the bone in the hope that they will be rewarded with your future business as the results of their work come to fruition.
Alternatively, a designer who has recently opened their business will be keen to build their clientele, so may well cut you an attractive deal.
Any experienced and reasonably successful business operator will concur – the Return on Investment of professional presentation is higher than you might imagine.
So next time you are embarking on a creative project – not just online but any medium, make sure you source the best quality photography and creative elements you can possibly afford.
Providing you don’t go overboard, you will never regret it.
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team, which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.