When the company that sells Oreo cookies spends $23 million in just nine months promoting a product you already know and love, it can be hard to imagine a visual marketing campaign that's actually within your budget, especially if you work for a small business or startup. Custom visual content communicates your brand's unique offerings and commitment to quality in a way that stock imagery never can. But how can you afford it? Producing key visual assets that can be repurposed across a campaign--or even multiple campaigns--can make all the difference. 

Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends, suggests that having a tight budget actually encourages creativity and innovation, which is good news for those who want to share visual content that packs a punch. But just as essential to a successful visual campaign is smart planning. Having a strong, documented content strategy can make all the difference, yet just 37 percent of B2B marketers had one at all in 2017, according to the Content Marketing Institute. 

How could such a strategy bring quality visual content within the scope of your budget? It's simple: If you plan how and when you're going to use your visual assets ahead of time, you can design those assets to get the maximum traction out of each. Here are a few ways to get the most bang for your buck on custom visual assets. 

Supercharged icons 

A brand logo not only becomes instantly recognizable through regular reuse over time, it also communicates a company's values. The Apple logo communicates clean, sophisticated, and innovative design--something it definitely wouldn't achieve if it were red and shiny with a worm popping out of it. 

The same is true of icons. Icons can be incredibly powerful--when they're optimized for a specific purpose. Sure, you can pick the closest approximation from a list of stock icons on the Web that don't match your brand style or color palette. But if you want to explain your ingenious new software-as-a-service application, a stock icon of a computer is just not going to cut it. It doesn't explain what makes your brand new and different, because the icon isn't new and different. What's more, it probably clashes with your other marketing materials, giving the impression that your content was hurriedly tossed together--and no company wants to be known for doing that kind of work. 

Custom icons don't just make your brand more appealing--they can also be used again and again. They can live on your website where you explain your core services, but they can also liven up e-books and white papers, inhabit mini infographics for social media, even announce who you are in a conference booth. In fact, a consistent look and messaging across marketing materials boosts brand recognition and makes your company seem more reliable and confident in the work that you do. 

Your story, illustrated

Motion graphics and video are dominating Web traffic, and consumers have come to expect home page and explainer videos from every brand. But a motion graphic is just one part of a larger visual campaign, and if you've got a small budget, one motion graphic could use up a large percentage of it. The thing is, when you produce a motion graphic, you're also paying for an extensive workbench of illustrations, icons, data visualization, and more--all recyclable. 

Most motion graphics tell a story. Some feature a character who travels from problem to solution with the help of a company's services; others highlight a product's many applications. These illustrations can be used to deliver the same message in static form on your website, in an e-book, or on social media. If you've created a character to whom you feel your customers can relate, you might even develop that character as a kind of spokesperson for your product--a recognizable and reassuring presence, always there to tell your brand story. 

Data, data, everywhere 

If you've released a gorgeously designed white paper complete with shareable industry statistics and elegant data visualization, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't repurpose some of that content. Entice people to read the whole e-book with a single, compelling graph on your Twitter or Facebook page. Repost the data on your website in smaller, bite-sized chunks--either to explain your product, or to illustrate blog posts. 

Strong data that proves the ROI of your product or service is essential for convincing potential customers that your brand rises above the rest, so use the graphs in PowerPoint presentations to prospective clients, in email blasts, and in mailers. 

All the while, you'll be improving your own ROI--using quality, custom assets to build visually compelling campaigns.