If you own a business or work in marketing or business development, you likely rounded out your 2019 and began 2020 perusing articles with such titles as:
- Your Marketing Strategy Guidelines for 2020
- How to Propel Your Brand to Success in 2020
- 18 Steps to Your Best Year of Visual Content Ever
— although these are made-up examples. I even wrote one such post for my own company — and for good reason! Preparing your organization for the year to come isn’t just smart business — it’s essential for survival. And not a single industry can simply sit still and ignore changing trends. You can’t expect success from inaction.
What your business chooses to do now could help you through the week, the month, and the remainder of the year.
As these articles populated your news feeds and inbox, December came and went. January crept in, beginning with around 40 reported cases of a new, as-yet-unidentified virus and ending with nearly 10,000 confirmed cases as the coronavirus emerged as a serious crisis on the world stage. By February, we learned that something truly unprecedented was here — and while the word “unprecedented” may now feel intensely overused, it remains an accurate descriptor of the times. The year’s shortest month brought a massive spread of the virus across continents. In March, some 1.5 billion lives were turned upside down by stay-at-home orders around the globe, while many workers who were deemed essential continued to risk their safety to provide us all with much-needed services.
And now we’re here. Whether we’re working remotely, laid off, healthy, an asymptomatic carrier, sick and waiting on tests, or confirmed COVID-19 positive, we’re all facing this crisis together.
And what, you undoubtedly ask, does this have anything to do with your company’s visual strategy in 2020? Why even talk about something like that right now?
Why Visual Content (Still) Matters
Giving any thought to your company’s visual strategy might feel like it’s beside the point right now. After all, this is a time when you may be pulling strings just to make your next payroll or pay the office rent. Around the world, businesses like yours are hurting. They’re cutting salaries. They’re laying off employees, temporarily or indefinitely. They’re closing their doors, for now or forever. And whatever situation they’re in, businesses are not possible without people. People like you. If your business is pulling through, how do you keep it all going, for yourself and the people who depend on you, in an uncertain world?
As you solve these urgent challenges, know that visual communication is one of the most powerful tools we have for sharing information quickly, capturing attention, helping viewers retain what they’ve learned, and making a lasting impression. So what your business chooses to do now could help you through the week, the month, and the remainder of the year, by simply connecting with your customers in a time when they’re just as uncertain as you may be.
But My Business Is Hurting. How Can I Produce New Content?
You may be on a strict content budget for the foreseeable future. You may have lost people who were vital to your team’s normal functions. How are you supposed to make an impact with diminished resources?
Here are 4 cost-effective ways you can invest just a little into your visual strategy right now to empower your future, and bolster your brand for brighter days.
1. Compile a Visual Asset Workbench
A solid workbench is an investment in agility.
You may already have a collection of icons you use throughout your website, pitch deck, brochures, business cards, or in other visual collateral. These may represent your product or service offerings, your key differentiators, your areas of expertise, or anything else that you need to communicate across a wide range of content. Or maybe you have ideas for what these could be, but haven’t yet built the assets. In either case, a cost-effective way to create content now and into the future is to create a visual workbench — a central repository of reusable assets.
This may mean partnering with a trusted team outside of your organization. On the other hand, if you’re on a spending freeze, you can start with your in-house graphic designer, and modify as needed when the budget is there. Your team can then build from those assets in a pinch to quickly create a social media asset, banner image, or something else that keeps your content calendar moving. If you do work with an outside team, they can also suggest efficient ways to make use of these assets without overextending your budget.
A solid workbench is an investment in agility, and thus is one of the most cost-effective visual content options with the longest-lasting potential for use and reuse.
2. Embrace Micro-Content
Audiences only take a few seconds to decide whether your content is worth paying attention to.
How can the quantity of content you release stay steady without sacrificing quality? Well, there’s good news. Audiences only take a few seconds to decide whether your content is worth paying attention to. That might sound like a negative, but in fact, it means they’re primed to review bite-sized content already!
Social-media micro-narratives are an ideal way to jump into the world of micro-content. You can get 3, 5, or even 10 or more high-quality micro-narratives out of a story that would produce only 1 full-length infographic or motion graphic, and potentially at a lower cost (depending on how you engage your resources).
The most inexpensive option is a series of static images, each with 1 stat or key point. If you have a little more to spend, consider producing a short-form video series. You might know ultra-short-form videos as GIFs, but they can be MP4s or other file formats too — the choice typically depends on your platform.
3. Remember the Humble Infographic
Go custom if at all possible.
Infographics had a heyday in the early 2010s, but they’re still an essential part of many brands’ content marketing strategies! Depending on a variety of factors, including the length (whether you’re doing a mini-infographic with just a handful of main points or a full-size web or print infographic with more to say) and who’s making it (a DIY tool, a freelancer, or an experienced agency), an infographic can cost less than half of what a motion graphic or interactive widget would.
Just be careful not to sacrifice quality while chasing a lower price tag. Even when budgets are tight, don’t forget that a slightly larger investment on a successful piece of content is well worth it in comparison to something less expensive that doesn’t connect with your audience. For example, an eyetracking study by the Nielsen Norman Group found that stock imagery might be completely ignored by your viewers — so go custom if at all possible.
4. Get a Consultation
Get advice on the specific challenges you’re facing now, then reserve the rest of your budget.
Want to use your in-house team or your own skills, but just need a bit of advice on how to move ahead? Consider hiring an industry expert or agency for visual communication information or skills training sessions. You can even just reach out for one-off consultations as you plan a specific project. You can get advice on the specific challenges you’re facing now, then reserve the rest of your budget for other needs while you weather the current economic landscape.
That way, when the time comes to partner up with an agency for more work in the future, you’ll have already built a rapport with someone you trust. You’ll know the types of feedback and input you can expect from that team, and will be primed to work efficiently and effectively with them to produce content for your brand.
If your resources are stretched to capacity, I hope this list gives you some ideas of where to make key impacts on your content strategy with minimal impact to your budget.
To learn more about visual content marketing strategies and best practices, visit the Killer Visual Strategies blog.