The past year was a tumultuous one for everyone–but particularly for SMBs. A Yelp report from September states that more than 160,000 small businesses have permanently closed since the onset of the pandemic, with that rate increasing in the latter half of the year. Despite increased optimism about the shift to a post-pandemic life, there is still plenty of economic and public health uncertainty on the horizon. But many SMB’s are accepting that challenge head up adapting and uncovering new ways to engage with their customers and provide value.

Even with all the change the last year has brought on, the overall goal for SMB marketers remains the same: identifying customer needs and reaching those customers with clear, impactful messaging, so that there is less friction between the customer and the product or service being offered. That not only means having a clear value proposition and offering for the customer, but it means communicating in a way that resonates in today’s world.

At iStock, we understand the nuances of this landscape and want to help small business find the best visual content, with the most comprehensive legal protection and at the best price. While it may seem counterintuitive to leaders who are looking to save money where they can, there are impactful ways to invest in marketing without breaking the bank. The pandemic has accelerated and permanently altered the consumption of visual content. Consumers today want to see imagery that accurately and authentically depicts what is currently going on in the world, both from a subject matter standpoint (i.e. what “work from home” or “social distancing” looks like) and media type standpoint (i.e. images, videos, illustrations and vectors).

As the pandemic turns a more hopeful corner in fits and starts, here is what small businesses, entrepreneurs, and freelance marketers need to focus on to ensure their product or service, as represented by their brand, is showing up in the most meaningful ways:

1. Embrace video to tell complete stories

While imagery is and always will be an impactful medium for visual storytelling, video is no longer a nice-to-have — it’s a necessity. Whether it’s for b-roll, commercials or advertisements, “how-to” explanations on websites, or backgrounds for virtual events or meetings, video allows for more experiential, tangible levels of engagement when showcasing a product, service, or experience. Now, I know what you’re thinking: shooting fresh video content continues to be difficult due to safety measures during the pandemic, and the expense of equipment and editing software make it completely out of budget. A more efficient and cost-effective solution to this? High quality stock video, or customer video by providers that safely and efficiently create custom projects. There are several sites, like that offer free stock video options, and editors like Promo, that offer easy DIY editing. For the highest quality, greatest breadth stock video options for every need, at a great value including worry-free licensing and indemnity coverage, be sure to seek out iStock.


2. Prioritize representation

The past year has shined a long-overdue spotlight on authentic representation and inclusion of folks from diverse backgrounds, abilities and body types. Today, consumers can see right through buzzwords and performative attempts to address diversity and inclusion — it’s up to companies to commit and truly elevate the world and their customers in the most accurate, representative way possible. According to iStock’s Visual GPS report, which surveyed 10,000 people around the world, people want to see realness in the visuals that surround them, with 68% of respondents saying it’s important to them that the companies they buy from celebrate diversity of all kinds. Additionally, nearly 80% of global consumers expect that brands are committed to inclusivity and diversity in their advertising. It’s not enough to have people of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and appearances in imagery — companies need to actually capture people’s true lifestyles and cultures. Aside from being the right thing to do, using richer, more representative content is the most intelligent, impactful way for a business to communicate to its customers.

3. Flexible, adaptable and ready for change

Small-business owners have immediate challenges, from making payroll, to improving cash flow. In this environment, it’s hard for these businesses to focus on all of the immediate term pressure that they are dealing with, while maintaining a view towards how their marketplace might be changing. Marketing trends are often short-lived and less valuable for the long haul; instead, SMBs should look for longer-term insight around how to use visual content to communicate effectively. Things like changing their marketing content to reflect changes in business: remote work, events, panels and seminars being delivered via webinar and Zoom; increased use of multiple devices to access product, services, and content; and a continued use of data to better target and personalize for customer needs.

It’s why we invest in ongoing research studies like Visual GPS. We stay ahead of change, so that we can provide SMBs with all that they need in visual content.

When the immediate crisis of the pandemic is over, some of the business world will get back to what we once considered “normal,” whether it be travel and events or work habits in the office, but just like everything we’ve experienced over the past year, the only certainty is that the world will continue to change. When it does, be sure your marketing strategy is ready to change with it.

As Chief Marketing Officer, iStock, Gene Foca sits on the company’s executive team and is responsible for the global marketing organization, overseeing iStock’s brand portfolio, as well as all marketing channels and functional disciplines from digital to communications.

Customers photo provided by iStock.