I have a question to ask you: Do you like skinny jeans?
Yes? No? Did you wear them and they looked great? Or maybe you wore them even though you didn’t like them, one little bit.
Frankly, I could never wear them happily. They’re cute, they were in style—and they did NOT work for my taste and body type.
You still with me?
Online marketing and web design, like fashion, have trends that come and go.
Here’s one: big imagery (like Squarespace).
It’s not exactly a puzzle. Those big pictures look, well, kinda sexy (like those skinny jeans!).
And for some businesses, they’re perfect.
If you’re a manufacturer or a reseller or resort owners, it would be easy to understand what to feature on your home page. A big, beautiful shot of the handcrafted shoe you’ve designed and produced in Italy, for instance. That’s pretty easy to depict gorgeously, isn’t it?
Same with your beautiful resort in Costa Rica or your candy store or frame shop or … well, you get the idea.
But those big images aren’t right for every kind of website, and especially not for businesses that sell services. Photos can’t easily capture what professional services deliver.
(And by the way, when you’re casting about for what you CAN use, let me add that a big picture of YOU is not always the best idea, either. Here’s why: Because most of the time, your business is not about you, it’s about your client. It’s about the pain your client has, which you’re uniquely qualified to fix.)
Designers try to force an abstract, conceptual and often confusing image onto a home page to look on-trend, but that isn’t going to help you close a sale. And after all, a website is first and foremost a marketing tool, not a personal portfolio nor a reflection of YOU.
In fact, a big image often obscures what you do, if what you do mostly is coach, consult or otherwise bring your IP to the table in an engagement that involves mostly talking, computing and/or report writing. With a big image, a would-be prospect has to overcome the image, scroll down to the relevant content, and try to understand why you have a big tree, or a stock photo, or a big picture of you on your home page. Unless you are a world-class speaker or some other kind of rock star, find another design approach for your home page — not a huge picture of yourself.
So what images can you use?
Some professional service firms have portfolios, like architects, interior designers, and stagers. These firms build credibility by showing their portfolio on their home page. Medical practices do and should show team pictures: After all, healthcare is very personal. Health coaches do and should show quality, healthy food and strong healthy bodies (but not necessarily their own). If you are selling a kickball league, it makes sense to show a kickball game.
The same is NOT true for management consultants, leadership coaches, web hosting companies, IT consultants, lawyers, and accountants.
So what can they put on their homepage?
In the case of a client that’s a PR firm, I recommended a custom photo shoot. Get some professional shots of your team at work. It gives prospects a glimpse into your corporate culture and shows that you’re serious about doing business. Add a statement about how you deliver value, whom you serve, or your outcomes, and now you’ve got a good image that supports your marketing effort. (By the way, please make sure to avoid stock photos with young models smiling into the camera. They’re overused and look unprofessional.)
Here’s another approach for a professional services website:
a “process graphic”—a graphic that shows your process for delivering services. It shows (or implies) that you’ve delivered this service 100s of times, and that it works. That’s reassuring to potential clients.
Or how about a video?
Recently, we invested in a video that explains exactly what Mighty Little Web Shop does and whom we serve, and it’s been a game changer. It takes up a small amount of home page real estate and delivers such a rich message.
For some of my professional service firm clients, like Total Health Physical Therapy, I recommended images of practitioners working with patients (well, not actual patients). Now site visitors get a glimpse of what this company delivers.
Bottom line: Professionals selling these kinds of intangible services do best to downplay the imagery and highlight their value through narrative. Use skillful copywriting to let prospects get to know, like and trust you and clearly understand how you’ll help them when they hire you.
And leave the big images to the other guys.