Content marketing is essential for anyone who is looking to take his or her business to the next level. What you likely already know is that an image can say more than 1000 words of text. Visual content are gaining increasing popularity across almost every major social network, including Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

They receive much more response than texts and have thus become powerful tools for brands looking to engage their readers and attract new ones. Content with relevant images receive 94% more views than content that's just a piece of texts. Nevertheless, sourcing great images is a tricky business. Many marketers do not have a process in place to source, organize and manage the visual assets they need to effectively execute their marketing plans.

To do visual content marketing right, you have to not only find the right image, but you also have to secure permission so you can't be taken to court over unauthorized use of content later on. So many companies have lost thousands of dollars because they used content without permission.

Use Relatable Images

The sad thing about the most popular images is they contain actors striking obviously fake or exaggerated poses. Instead of opting for corporate perfection, you need images that your target audience can relate to.

One of the startups doing something about this is Visual Hunt. "With over 350 million photos in our database, we're out to serve as a gathering point for royalty free photos from all over the world," stated the startup's CEO, Andrzej Stawarz. "Many users report that dealing with Flickr is difficult because it's hard to differentiate between images with a license and images without a license, as well as sifting through low-quality images. We wanted to help marketers get past that by acting as a quality control mechanism, providing over 55,000 free public domain photos with a creative commons license--all fully tagged and searchable in our monster database."

Tools like this can help you find images that will make your customers believe that the images relate to them. This is how you get people to think that you can relate to their problems.If they know, you are aware of their problems they know that you have the solution, thus making them more receptive to what you're selling.

Offering Visual Guidance

Infographics may tell you the whole story, but visual content marketing isn't all about centering everything around an image. Sometimes you can get more out of visuals by simply using them as guidance.

This includes using the psychology of color to draw the reader's eyes through the experience you are providing. Remember, each page represents an experience not just an area of your site.

Say Things in Fewer Words

One of the issues brought on by the mobile revolution is a shorter attention span. People are no longer paying attention to long reams of text. They want the point and they want it now. Unfortunately, complex concepts require some explaining.

With effective images, including diagrams, you can make people see exactly what you mean in a matter of seconds. When everything is about the how quickly you deliver information, this is crucial.

Simply embedding a relevant image onto your website will decrease the amount of text on-screen and improve customer retention rates.

Show, Don't Tell

This is a concept that most commonly applies to fiction writers rather than marketers, but it's just as important. Let's use an example to illustrate this point.

Someone is telling you about their vacation to Hawaii. They tell you all about the sun and the sand, but you can't really go beyond the stereotypical. It doesn't paint an effective picture.

However, if they showed you photographs, you would instantly know what they are referring to, as well as being able to understand the context of anything they say.

This is why relevant and imposing images are so effective. They don't just tell your customers what they're going to get from you. They show them.

Creating a Unique Look

The best public domain images are used repeatedly. Ordinary Internet users notice when they encounter the same image repeatedly. It damages the reputation of your business and limits your ability to capture someone's attention. I asked Andrzej Stawarz if that's a problem marketers can overcome anytime soon.

"We're doing something about that. We've built a popularity index into our system so anyone can see how many other websites already use a photo before they decided to use it too. This offers the ability to be unique without taking the photographs yourself."

In addition, that's a big practical advantage for small and medium-sized businesses. If you can't spare the resources to either purchase a unique image or produce the image yourself, there are now vital alternatives that will save your business a lot of time and effort.Better images equal better content and this can translate to more traffic, more customers, and more conversions, thus increasing your bottom line and creating a bright future for your company.

Last Word

To continue to win the content marketing game, companies must welcome tools that make it easier than before to source the images they want quickly and efficiently--photos that fit in with the needs and expectations of their customers.

Published on: Jan 15, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.