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AMiable Solution #483: Nice shot! Tips for Picking the Perfect Picture

Before you print your next promotion, make sure the image is as picture-perfect as your text.

Great direct mail promotions need three things: an on-point list, a killer offer, and an eye-catching layout.

Picking your best list depends on a number of factors, including the goal of your promotion, your offer, and your budget. Your best offer also depends on your goal and your budget. They’re largely driven by numbers.

Layouts, however, are less numbers-driven and more image-driven. Effective layouts need a strong heading, a clear reading order, white space, and color. But a good layout also needs a strong visual component. But just one.

The point of using images is to capture a customer’s attention. Images create curiosity. They generate interest. They increase the odds of a reader engaging in your marketing. One well-chosen image will do that. Two or more images, however, will compete for your customers’ attention, reducing the impact and your chances of engaging them.

Before you send your next promotion to the printer, ask yourself the following questions about its primary image:

Does it set the right mood? Images can do something with one look more effectively than text: convey emotion. The more of an emotional response you can invoke in a customer, the greater your odds of engaging them in your message and triggering the desired response. The right image can do that. It sets the tone for the promotion, but that tone must match the tone of your text. Otherwise, the conflicting messages will either make your company look like it’s trying to bait-and-switch folks, or it will simply make your company look unprofessional.

Does it represent your brand? You can’t always judge a book by its cover, but you can judge a company by the images it promotes. Do the scenes in your image demonstrate the benefits or the value of your product or service? Do the people in the photo represent your customers? Readers need to see themselves—or the beneficiaries of their purchase—to care about what’s going on in the picture. If they don’t, your headlines and text must quickly and succinctly explain and justify the difference. Points can be made with unexpected images, but just make sure they maintain the integrity and image you typically project and support the message you’re trying to convey.

Does it complement the text? In other words, does it make sense? Does it support the message and the offer? Does it lead your readers’ eyes to important text? If it doesn’t, you risk confusing customers. Furthermore, make sure that the photo is meaningful—that it has a specific purpose—and is not just a generic image that fits the general theme.

Before you give your image the green light, keep these final tips in mind, too:

  • Images with people in them draw more attention than products or things alone do.

  • Don’t forget the value of testing. A simple A/B split on your primary image can help you better understand what motivates your customers.

  • Watch your size. If the image is too large or overwhelms the copy, readers may glance at it and move on. You want customers to read and respond to your copy. The image is the vehicle to get them there.

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