Confession time: As a B2B inbound marketer, I sometimes get jealous of our B2C inbound marketing brethren. It feels like they have it so easy, particularly when it comes to visual content. For them, creating visual content can sometimes be as simple and effective as snapping a photo of their product and adding an Instagram filter.
For us B2B folks, on the other hand, visual content can pose much more of a challenge. B2B products don't tend to be inherently visual, so in order to ride the wave of visual content popularity, we usually have to go the extra mile and think outside the box. And when you already have a product that's difficult to market (and a boss to impress), it’s easy to sweep visual content creation under the rug and focus on pushing your metrics in some other way. And while it may be easy to ignore visual content creation, it’s been proven that compelling visual content increases engagement online, and that's not something you should ignore.
Lucky for you, there a ton of ways you can get visual without taking screenshot after screenshot of your "boring" product. In fact, you already have the resources and know-how you need to create visual content right on your computer (or how to hire someone to help you out). Now all you need is a little dose of inspiration and creativity. So to help you get out of that non-visual rut and feel inspired to create awesome visual content of your own, we’ve compiled several noteworthy visual content examples from some B2B companies that have it right.
Just keep in mind that effective visual content may not always make you gasp, “Wow!” Remember that intricacy of design and professional photography skills aren’t always necessary in order to create outstanding visual content that brings in new visitors, leads, and customers to your business.
Dropbox already made it onto our list of companies to admire for consistent, stellar branding, but what makes this company's visual content so awesome is more than just its consistency. The cloud software file storage and sharing business uses colored-pencil drawings to showcase its playful personality. Just take a look at the email and Facebook post examples pictured below:
While the actual designs themselves aren’t particularly special, it’s the style of the visuals that makes them brilliant. Bright colors and visible stroke lines that wobble -- these playful, down-to-earth design elements make you think a real human is behind Dropbox. Furthermore, associating these images with Dropbox increases brand recognition whenever someone sees a similarly styled image online. And since Dropbox is trying to compete with internet giants like Google, it definitely helps to have extra compelling, recognizable content to set them apart. These visuals make Dropbox seem more humanized and user-friendly than its competitors, all without making use of a single screenshot of the product itself.
Help Scout, a company that makes help desk software, is no stranger to visual content creation. Unlike some of the other examples featured here, Help Scout’s visual content doesn’t hit you over the head right off the bat, but that doesn't mean it hasn't contributed to the company's success. So what is it about Help Scout's visual content that makes it so compelling?
In general, Help Scout uses stellar typography and bold color choices that always grab your attention. In the email example above, Help Scout uses a large image that’s a fairly simple design -- a “Please Do Not Disturb” sign. The simple yet bold font, combined with the yellow-orange color of the sign (which complements the blue of the blog post title and the call-to-action) makes this email pop. In fact, switching to these image-heavy and design-centric emails from a simple RSS email roundup of the company's latest blog posts contributed to a double-digit percentage increase in clicks on Help Scout's emails.
Help Scout also has a library of beautifully -- and purposefully -- designed ebooks. Its ebook designs are consistent with its email designs: They both feature bold colors and fonts to grab your attention, following many of our DIY design commandments, especially hierarchy in design. Notice below how Help Scout features numbers much more prominently than the rest of the titles on its ebook covers through sizing and font choice. Help Scout also uses vector images and icons -- not stock photos -- to draw readers in. The best part about Help Scout’s visual content is that almost all of it could be replicated in PowerPoint, which is great news for our fellow DIY designers.
Unlike our first two company examples, GE relies primarily on photos instead of graphic designs. And if you think GE’s photos would get boring quickly, think again. GE’s Instagram account is chock-full of gorgeous pictures of its products in action -- but not in the way you might think. Instead, it shows off its products by sharing photos of other products it powers, such as huge engines and powerful machines.
GE’s pictures are also perfect for Instagram’s audience because they are awe-inspiring, educational, behind-the-scenes photos. After all, how often do you get to see a jet engine up close? GE has the unique opportunity to bring those experiences to its followers, and showcase itself as the brand that delivers on it.
GE also has an incredible presence on Pinterest. While GE does have some consumer-facing boards, its most popular Pinterest boards are B2B focused. In fact, one of its most engaging boards is Badass Machines, where GE posts a lot of the same content it does on Instagram -- epic pictures of huge, powerful machines. But what sets this board apart from GE's Instagram photos is how the company uses Pinterest’s user experience to its advantage.
For example, given the nature of Pinterest, images posted to Pinterest can easily get repinned and shared by other users. Knowing this, GE purposely adds a logo to each photo it pins in order to keep branding consistent and recognizable no matter where the photo is shared from Pinterest. GE also smartly takes advantage of Pinterest’s layout by featuring a lot of long, vertically aligned content, such as vertical crossword puzzles and infographics. Because Pinterest's layout only sets parameters for the width of content that gets pinned, GE’s long, vertical images stay within Pinterest's layout guidelines, yet reap the benefits of a more prominent display to catch the attention of Pinterest users as they scroll through their feed.
Ultimately, GE knows its audience on Pinterest and Instagram. Its products may not always be inherently visual like food or fashion, but how they're used is. It just goes to show that the combination of knowing your buyer personas and a little out-of-the-box thinking can really take your company's visual content to the next level.
Featured on the Intuit blog, this infographic has been shared and embedded in websites all over the world. Although it has a nice look and feel, the infographic design isn’t something that would immediately jump out at you. That being said, the reason we included it in this roundup is because it obeyed one of the most important of the DIY design tenets: “Thou Shalt Understand Thy Content’s Purpose.”
This piece of content was perfectly optimized to appeal to the company’s buyer persona -- small business owners who don’t have much time on their hands to evaluate new social networks. The infographic, which helps them decide if Pinterest is right for their business, is direct, simple and concise -- a much better option for a time-strapped small business owner than a 2,000-word blog post about the benefits and drawbacks of using Pinterest.
We especially love that Intuit is embracing the tenets of inbound marketing while also leveraging the effectiveness of visual content. This educational infographic is definitely something that would make Intuit top of mind for potential customers without being blatantly self-promotional.
We've all heard the old saying, “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” and Square is certainly no exception. The company uses simple yet stunning photography on its website's homepage to explain its product -- a credit card reader for mobile devices -- without little supporting copy. This photograph immediately grabs visitors' attention and describes the product and its value proposition much better than any words could. While the Square product isn’t very difficult to describe, the picture of the product in action is perfect for the website's homepage, which likely attracts a lot of new visitors who are just learning about what Square is and would appreciate a quick, easy-to-digest explanation.
From a layout standpoint, we love how the homepage positions the photo of the product right next to the short form so website visitors immediately know what their next action should be. Visitors know what the product is and how it works, and then are in a prime location to convert into leads -- straight from the homepage! The actual design elements of the page are also clean and simple, echoing the ease of use of the product. The takeaway here is that design, layout, and positioning can all help you convey your product's message and drive lead conversions without the complexity of a lot of copy.
Kinvey is not just a software company serving developers with cloud infrastructure for mobile apps; it's also an expert visual content creator. Although Kinvey produces a variety of visual content, we especially loved its recent SlideShare, "13 Tips For Getting the Most Out of a Hackathon," because of its friendly, cartoonish design and the SlideShare form integration driving lead generation.
Like Dropbox’s drawings, Kinvey’s doodles and “handwritten” fonts humanize the fairly complex and high-tech company -- no awkward stock photos necessary. We also love the color choices used that help convey (hehe ... get it?) a warmer and more human tone. The doodles, font choice, and colors all work together to drive home the point that there are real, engaging people behind the Kinvey brand, which is exactly how well-designed content should work.
Although the design component is planned and executed superbly, what really makes us love this SlideShare is the subscribe form that appears when you click through the presentation (pictured below). Having a form directly within the presentation is a great way to use your visual content to drive conversions. Again, this is a perfect example of using the technology at hand to increase the effectiveness of your visual content. Slideshare’s forms, Instagram’s hashtags, or Pinterest’s vertical space, for example, can contribute as much to the visual content’s success as the design itself.
In a recent campaign to increase membership, the American Marketing Association (AMA) used outstanding visual content in a launch email and dedicated landing page. Like Dropbox, AMA uses cartoon drawings to humanize the brand -- a great strategy, especially since the company doesn’t sell a tangible product.
While the drawings and design elements look cute, that’s not why we chose the AMA for this roundup. We love this campaign because it’s very clear that the organization uses these drawings to target specific buyer personas. All of these personas have different demands in their jobs and, thus, would respond to different language appealing to their specific needs in order to find value in AMA membership. So instead of bombarding all of these different personas with a one-size-fits-all message, the AMA gives the people who fall into each persona the choice to self-select which message they receive. This choice ultimately makes the marketing more relevant and engaging to visitors -- a major step toward creating marketing people love.
What other companies use awesome visuals in their marketing? Share your favorites with us below!