To succeed in any given industry, every business needs to connect with their customers.
For some businesses, this is relatively easy – businesses that have customer-facing staff, for example, will train and develop these members of staff to provide the best quality customer interaction and experience as possible.
For those businesses where there are no customer-facing staff – such as those online – it can be a little more difficult.
Using websites and blogs as an example, the simple way to get around this lack of in-person customer interaction is to use images. Photographs. Pictures. Anything that a customer can latch onto visually.
The problem for a lot of small businesses is that they don’t have the facility to produce a new image from scratch every time they produce a new blog post, for example. Similarly, they don’t have the funds available to be constantly purchasing an image with the necessary rights.
There is a really simple way to get around this problem, however and that’s to use images that are completely free – in the financial sense – to use.
And there are two ways to find these types of images.
1. Use dedicated stock photo websites
If you’ve used – or tried to use – images on your website or blog before, you’ll no doubt have come across stock photo websites.
These are websites where professionally taken photos are available to use after a fee has been paid, depending on the image and how you want to use it.
Whilst these websites are great and you’ll no doubt be able to find the exact image that you’re looking for, it can be costly.
Take a look around these websites, however and you’re more than likely to come across a ‘free section’ that offers a limited number of images with no cost to the customer.
This process does work in the opposite way as well – stock.xchng, for example, provides free stock photos, but with every search returns a selection of photos (generally ones that are of a higher quality) from its sister site, iStockPhoto, where payment is required.
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2. Use Google Images
Chances are you’ve used Google Images in the past – you put a phrase into Google, click ‘Images’ and you’re presented with a number of images that are related to the words you entered.
Whilst this will no doubt present thousands of images, not all of them will be free to use and the simple way to differentiate between the two is once you’ve typed in your chosen keyword(s) in the ‘Images’ section of Google, click on ‘Advanced Search’.
From here, scroll down to the section that says ‘Usage Rights’ and where the default option is ‘not filtered by license’, change it to ‘labeled for reuse’.
Hit ‘Google Search’ and you’ll be presented with images that are available to use for no fee and that won’t see you face any legal troubles for incorrect use (this is as long as you ensure that you give the proper credit, such as giving a link back on your website to the author’s profile, making sure that you don’t pass off the image as your own and that you don’t amend it in any way).
N.B. – occasionally, an image will get through this search method that isn’t suitable for use on your small business website or blog and so it’s just worth having a quick look around the website that the image is from to see if there is any information relating to the reuse of the image.
How you interact with your customers is entirely up to you and if you’ve been running a business for a while, it’s highly likely that you already understand and implement the best ways to interact with your customers.
If you’re new to business – online business in particular – or you simply want to make sure that you’re doing everything that you can to please your customers, a good basis for online customer interaction is by having a visual connection – use images wisely and in the correct sense and you should be able to see a notable difference in the way that your business develops and how content your customers are.