A few weeks ago, I landed on David's Bridal's website while looking for a dress for my mom for my wedding. I smiled when I got to their page of real wedding stories from some of their customers, because of how inclusive the features were. There were same-sex couples, interracial couples, plus-sized couples, white couples, Asian-couples, Black-couples, and couples with disabilities.

It makes total sense why the brand would be intentional about being inclusive in the imagery they portray. There is a great diversity of people who get married each day. And those people need wedding dresses and wedding attire. And when those consumers arrive on a website that showcases imagery that reflects both who they are and who they aspire to be, it immediately sends a signal that "you belong here."

This is especially important because business is about belonging. And if your customers don't feel like they belong with you, they will go off in search of another option that does.

Why photography and other visuals are essential to attracting diverse customers.

As you think about the customer journey you deliver, for some, the photos and imagery you use will be your potential customers' initial introduction to your brand. As such, the visuals you use should be carefully curated and selected.

Visual imagery communicates volumes in an instant. And for your customers, those visuals often send a message that says either "you belong here" or "this isn't for you."

As society and customer bases grow more diverse, you'll need to become more intentional about using imagery for your brand that is adequately representative of the customers you want to serve. As more customers don't cleanly fit into what has historically been considered "mainstream" brands will have to work harder to connect with them. 

Last year I saw an Instagram post of an influencer I follow, where she had an ad for a brand of comfortable and stylish travel attire. I liked what I saw, and then clicked through to the Instagram account of the brand, credit card in hand, ready to make a purchase.

But as I perused through their photos, all their models looked similar, and none of them looked like me. Not one. It hurt my feelings, as I realized "Oh. This brand isn't for me." I put my credit card away. All that effort the brand invested to get me to their Instagram account worked, but it was gone instantly because the photography didn't communicate the right message.

Don't let non-representative photography be the reason customers end their journey with you prematurely. When your customers don't see themselves or who they aspire to be in your imagery, it provides unncecessary friction in the customer experience that can easily push those customers you've worked so hard to grab the attention of away.

But when your customers see themselves reflected in the imagery you produce, it paves the way them to take the next step forward in their journey with you.

I coached an entrepreneur recently who makes hand-made leather shoes for women. When she told me the demographic of her customer base falls into two clear age groups, I counseled her that it was important for her 40 and older crowd to see models that looked like them, not just younger millennial models she'd been featuring.

Be intentional about putting imagery up that is representative of the customers you are serving.

And if by chance you look at your customer base, and realize they are more homogenous than the makeup of the population that has the problem that your brand solves, consider that as a signal to you, that your brand may have some work to do on the inclusivity front.

It isn't enough to just say "you are welcome here," especially when it comes to diverse customers who have traditionally been marginalized or underserved. You've got to go the extra mile to demonstrate that you specifically want them to have a seat at your table so you can serve them.

You have to prove to your customers, through the experiences you deliver, that they do indeed belong with you.

When it comes to growing your business, the days of marketing to the masses are over. You'll have to work hard to win the attention, adoration, and loyalty of customers that many brands have long ignored, because they haven't neatly fit into the "mainstream."

Focusing on producing representative imagery is a great place to start.