A visual content marketing strategy is crucial for being successful, but strategy is the biggest challenge companies face in this arena.

Almost 40 percent of marketers think they should be spending more on visual content, but budget is not actually the reason why some have fallen behind in this arena. A CMO Council survey of senior marketing executives found strategy -not budget – is the biggest challenge they face.

A full 42 percent say their biggest struggle is getting stakeholders to participate in strategic conversations about visual media.no visual content strategies

Why your visual content needs strategy

This is something we’ve seen before. In the early days of content marketing, adoption was high but few companies had real strategies to steer their efforts in a valuable direction. The result was that many fast-moving businesses produced a lot of content that wasn’t tied to their marketing goals. Because it was being pulled in so many directions, it often failed to move any one needle in a remarkable way.

content marketing 2010

Since then, marketers’ approach to content has matured. In 2015, 83 percent have strategies and 62 percent say the content they produce and publish closely aligns with what they set out to achieve.

Creating a plan makes it easier to quantify exactly what you need to produce, what you want it to achieve, where you plan to distribute and how you plan to measure the impact. A strategy provides much-needed structure for burgeoning web marketing formats.

Putting the horse before the cart with visual content

As visuals assume a more integral role in brands’ web presences, the need for a REAL strategy is apparent:

  • No visibility into value: 11% admit they don’t know how much the company is spending on visual assets (or how much they’re getting in return) because another team owns the visual content.
  • No quality control: 32% say individual teams create visual content on an as-needed basis, meaning it may not meet the brand’s style guidelines or support business-wide goals.
  • No asset management: 36% say they don’t have the technology they need to organize and manage their visual content, distribute it to other departments as needed or collaborate on projects.

A company with a visual content strategy saves time and money while building a cohesive brand identity. A business without a unified strategy risks overlap, inconsistencies and wasted resources as individual departments acquire visual content for their own needs – licensing a photo for a blog post, creating an illustration for a user manual, filming video footage for a corporate promo – all at the whim of the individuals producing them, who are unaware of assets other departments have.

Don’t just invest more in visuals, invest SMARTER

Marketers need to resist the urge to throw money at visual content, producing as much as they can to fill the needs of every department as fast as possible.

Instead, they need to start by creating a documented strategy that benefits the business as a whole, including:

  • A style guide that dictates what can and cannot be published
  • An organized platform where all visual assets can be saved and accessed when needed
  • An outline of goals for what the visuals should achieve
  • A system for measuring the impact
  • A budget for how much money can be spent on different assets for varying purposes

It’s good that marketers are asking for bigger budgets so they can create visual content. The overwhelming majority agree visuals make their collateral at least twice as effective as they would with text alone.

visuals are more effective

Visuals build a brand people recognize online & off

People associate companies with their visual brand identities, and it used to be relatively simple to control these. A company creates ads that look and feel like the brand – and distributes those to customers and prospects. A business posts signage with its logo and colors at its brick-and-mortar locations. A corporation has a single team choose images to include in printed brochures, handouts and user manuals to give customers.

But because branded content is now distributed across channels – online and off – by multiple teams, marketers need to tighten the reigns to ensure their target audiences get the same impression no matter where they engage.

Want to learn more about the power of visuals in online marketing? Check out these related resources:

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.