Finding great photos for the marketing content that your business puts up online can be hard.

While you might want to simply Google search and snag the first image that pops up in the results, that’s not a good idea. Why? If the image you want to use isn’t yours, you need to have the rights to use it. And that usually means spending a lot of time digging through stock photo sites.

But that’s not even the real problem. Not only do we need images that we are allowed to use legally, we need great images that will capture our audience’s attention and we aren’t sure where or how to start looking.

Knowing which stock photo sites to browse through is only part of the solution. Before you even touch your keyboard, your business needs to identify your audience, as well as your business’ culture and style. Then you need to share that knowledge with the whole company.

So let’s start with the people you’re trying to attract…

1. Know Your Audience

When it comes to defining the photos you want to see in your marketing, you need to start by getting to know your audience. What kind of company do they work for, and what is their job title? What are their likes and dislikes? Where do they go to get information?

Already have your audience personas sketched out? Great! You already know the type of people you are looking to target with your marketing.

The question you really want to answer, however, is what images will appeal to your audience?

Remember: your audience is not yourself. Don’t just pick images because you like them.

Pick images that will resonate with your audience’s pain points. Help them to feel like you are personally reaching out to them. Show them that you will be able to address and help with their problems.

Think you can’t convey all that with a single image? Think again.

As explained in B2B Marketing Insider, “Articles with images get more views than those without. And posts with videos attract 3x more inbound links than plain text posts. A study by 3M showed that 90 percent of the information sent to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text.”We’re all visual learners, to some degree. Graphics and diagrams can help your audience to comprehend complex concepts, and photos can convey certain feelings and indescribable emotions without the need of words.

And, of course, you can always add text to support the image, whether overlaid or underneath as a caption.

So think about it. What images will engage your target audience?

2. Understand Your Business

Okay, so you know your audience. I would hope you know your business really well, too, but often businesses struggle to define who they are to other people – even their own employees!

Depending on your own role, you may be able to figure out what kind of images work well for your company’s style on your own. Or, you may need to have a brainstorming session with others to make sure you are on the right path, and that you are all in agreement. (Also, sometimes it’s nice to get feedback that call upon different perspectives.)

This step is so important because the last thing you want is for anyone – especially an employee or your marketing team – to be unsure what kind of “look” your company is going for.

Every business is different, so you need to figure out what truly makes your company unique and how you want to present yourself to the world.

One of my favorite examples of defining a business’ style is Quintain’s own culture code where we lay out who we are and what makes us Quintain.

But that’s just us overall. When it comes to choosing photography, Quintain wants to show that we are professional, but have fun doing the work we do. We don’t want to use the most generic stock images that put people to sleep. We want photos that look more natural and relatable.

3. Set Your Standards

Now that you have a better sense of the images that would work well for your marketing, you are on your way to developing a more formal brand style guide.

As I mentioned before, you always need to be sure that everyone in your company – and anyone who might need to work with your logo and other brand artwork –  is aware of your brand style guides.

Skype, for instance, provides their designers with a full set of style guidelines that includes descriptions of the type of images they expect, as well as examples. Being a communications company, they require the use of photos in which people are engaging with one another and working together.

Overall, of course, they want photography that looks natural.

Whether it’s the designers or the bloggers, everyone needs to know what images they should be looking for when they are submitting their own work. The more they know about your expectations regarding graphics, the less you will have to babysit them and make sure they are doing a good job finding the right images for their work.

Also, be sure to articulate how your company handles stock images and licenses. Usage rights can be tricky, so it’s often a good idea to have a reliable means to purchasing stock images.

Or, if possible, hire a photographer to take one-of-a-kind photography for your company’s own use. It will look more natural and will give your audience a better feel for who your company is.

For example, I absolutely love how HubSpot had professional photographers create whole collections of original, HubSpot-centric photography for their own marketing – photos that are in use all over their site. But they didn’t stop there; many of these great photos are available, for free, as perfect gated content for their audience. It’s a brilliant marketing tactic, and it’s such a wonderful resource to boot!

Take The First Step

To reiterate, make sure you – and everyone involved in the content creating process for your company – is 100 percent confident in knowing who your audience is, and who you all are as a business.

Take the time to write down your style guides, and then share the knowledge. Have a lunchtime brainstorm session to really get into the nitty-gritty of your company’s culture.

When the whole company is on the same page concerning your brand, everyone will be more able to create content that will wow and attract your best clients.

Don’t let anything hold you back; take that first step towards a more meaningful marketing campaign and client relationship.