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5 Tips on how to stock your photo library for success
Buying a new home is not quite like anything else, especially in America where ownership is not only an aspirational goal, but (mostly) an attainable dream. It’s part of our cultural heritage. Our history. And it’s in our DNA. It’s so much more than buying a collection of well-organized nails, lumber and bricks.
It’s no wonder, then, that appealing to the emotions of potential home buyers is paramount. And, in today’s world of cluttered marketing messages in every form of media, your brand’s visual image has to be picture perfect to break through.
Think of it this way. Your messaging should offer potential buyers more than a peek through the windows. They need to feel your brand in connection with their dream.
Here are five tips to help you take stock of your image library to make sure it’s on point.
1. It’s All About the Lifestyle
Product images can be beautiful but tend to be very cold. So, as wonderful and necessary as they are further in the sales funnel, product images lack sufficient emotional pull to stand alone. In short: if your images don’t include people enjoying the space, you’re just showcasing unoccupied houses.
Instead, focus first on showing the emotional aspect by including people looking happy in the space. Remember, you are trying to sell an experience, so don’t focus too much on the physical aspects. Think of it as a vessel for what goes on inside.
Here’s why infusing emotion matters. Few choices have the potential for greater impact on a person or family than buying a new home—both personally and financially. Traditionally, home builders have used multiple product images showing off numerous features to help buyers overcome the fear of making an expensive mistake.
We found it’s better to skip all that and build consumer confidence by showing somebody barbecuing in the back yard. Buyers will see they are happy, and associate the same positive vibe with buying in your community.
Effective image libraries, then, must take into account the cost of the homes being featured, the value for the price, the prestige of the community (or hometown feel) and the lifestyle of the intended buyer. Marketers for family-centered communities, for example, should have image options which include minivans, children playing, or even a dog.
2. Product, Product, Product?
Photos of your homes do belong in your marketing image library. Images showing off what’s special about your homes can be beautiful and enticing. Most home builders lean heavily on product images of alluring front elevations and inviting kitchen or living areas.
We understand why.
Who doesn’t love an image of a bright, open kitchen with beautiful appliances and plenty of cabinet space? We might love to picture ourselves in a new home featuring a dramatic entrance or we might be more concerned with how many vehicles will fit in that gorgeous garage.
Outdoor views featuring a refreshing pool or spa with just the right light can make a property feel resort-ready or welcoming to young families, depending on how it is staged.wel
Just don’t depend on them to be your heroes. They won’t cut it on their own.
3. Stock Images are Tricky
When you’re starting out or on a tight budget, it might seem like relying on stock images makes the most sense. The truth is, using stock can be just as expensive as a doing a live shoot.
Subtle details in images can give away whether they were taken on location, or borrowed from somewhere else. Regional differences in roof styles, whether corners are rounded, and the landscape imagery might give away that an image you want to use in Houston was actually taken in Chicago.
Finding just the right image can be expensive because of the time involved to sort for such things.
Once you’ve eliminated the ones with obvious issues, choices can become limited fast. You can easily wind up with an image which meets all of the specified requirements, except for being a good photo.
For those times when an image is close, yet still not quite right, a little cropping or other digital editing can sometimes help. It takes time, again making it more expensive than the misleadingly low pricing you might expect based on what it costs to shop from your favorite stock photo catalog.
Even so, photo editing has its limits. Let’s say you want to show off a premium lot which includes a scenic mountain view and a firepit. You can’t fake that.
By the time you’ve paid to find the best stock image and to make the necessary edits, it can cost as much as if you shot the image you wanted. We can put our time into shooting with film or into retouching. The cost per billable hour is the same.
Finally, unless you buy all rights to your stock photos, someone else can use the same image. When they do, you have lost your voice.
4. Lights, Camera, Custom
When you own your images, you own how they impact your brand—and your brand only. They can be shot on location with fine attention to details to send the messages your brand represents.
It also allows you to pay attention to trends. Image collections can get stale after a while, so subscribing to a shared photo library is no guarantee you’ll have something up-to-date unless you shoot your own content.
When planning your shoot, think four years ahead. That’s the average shelf life before you’ll need to update your library. Begin with the hero images for your needs as they stand, and build in a few additional options you’ll need for future growth. Otherwise, you will wind up with missing images and need to do a second custom photo shoot—which might not be able to exactly replicate the original.
Also, ask yourself what will still be on-trend within that time period and what is most likely to change. Then plan the must-have shots well enough to explain them to the photographer, and then allow him or her to include a few crazy ones to give yourself options down the road. Remember, your photographer should be on top of trends and your consultation should include related advice. When it comes to how to specifically create images that pop, hire professionals, have the conversation on what you are trying to achieve, and then get out of the way and let them do their jobs.
5. Build in Flexibility
Yes, your image library is designed to move buyers to act. To do so, in 2018 and beyond, it better have the flexibility—as needed—to move on its own. If you can afford it, include a mix of video and static images during your custom shoot which can be optimized for websites, email, and social media campaigns. You’ll want the original high-resolution files, but make sure they are delivered in a file format compatible with compression. If you’re not sure, ask.
You’ll also need plenty of high-resolution images for everything printable, from billboards to table tents. As media and technology continue to evolve, make sure to take advantage of all of your options during your shoot so you have choices when it comes to what’s available for future campaigns.
While you’re at it, consider including a drone flyover or some 3-D, Augmented Reality (AR) or Virtual Reality (VR) footage. When used well, these can keep your community’s image current with growing uses of technology.
Finally, until you are ready to go custom all the way, consider transitioning by doing a limited photo shoot and backfilling with stock. Be strategic in making sure your custom shots count, and save the stock images for images which don’t require the same level of personalization.
In time, you’ll be able to ditch (at least most of) the stock.
We know. It’s a lot to take in. Not sure where to start? You’re not alone. LAVIDGE can help. To learn how, give us a call at 480.998.2600 or send email to [email protected].
2018 Southwest Residential Development Marketing Report
This article is a brief abstract of our exclusive study about home buyers and their preferences for advertising and marketing tactics used by new home builders.