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June 25, 2018

Sales and Marketing Advice

Be provocative with your marketing

Ron Stein | 10/5/2012

Have we become a symbol --  instead of words -- culture? Video clips, images, and even cartoons now tell us stories and convey information. Young people say they want to watch, not read. Sentences of compelling copy seem to be a relic of the past.

Well, not exactly.

Like most of us, you tend to instantly judge a website or advertising by the visual impact that’s felt, but it is rare that images alone are enough. For your message and story to come through loud and clear, you’ll need to have some word too.

There’s a reason for that. Our brains are designed to recognize patterns and effectively process visual information. But that’s usually not good enough to get your message across in a clear, concise, and compelling way -- particularly if you don’t have a gifted graphics artist on staff.

Words still have power and do matter in marketing and sales. When written down, words are actually a type of visual. During a presentation or video, spoken words can enhance the image on the screen and multiply the power of its meaning. The same goes for an ad or brochure.

In some ways visual content is easy. You can of course use a graphics designer, but it is very cost-effective to download high quality digital images from a stock photography website at incredibly low prices.

In today’s world, short works. Twitter knows this, allowing only 160 characters. And new services such as Tout understand this with their 15 second video posting application. The trick then is to use the right words in tandem with your images.

Visuals grab attention -- a few words help to cement the idea. A photo that captures your interest and suggests a certain idea can’t tell your prospect what the next step is. Even when you hit the mark with a visual that brings the correct emotional response, it will hardly ever deliver the exact results you’d like -- until you add a few words. A call-to-action sells and you need words for that. Try asking a question relevant to the visual. Also, use small words and short sentences.

What the viewer perceives is the listener's reality. Your prospects are in their own world, thinking about their problems. Plus they’re a skeptical bunch. The visual impact of your photo or video will be instantly perceived based on that world and reality. Ensure success with linkage. The right visual sets the tone -- now add the right word or phrase to help the viewer easily decode your message. For instance, if you’re using an image that is unusual, even shocking, to get their attention, that’s OK. But only if it fits their situation, otherwise they’ll turn off to what your words have to offer. Don’t make your prospects work too hard. Help them by linking the visual and your words. Just don’t over explain!

Provoke emotions, create surprise, be provocative. Photos and images are great ways to arouse pleasant and unpleasant reactions in people. That’s how you grab the viewer’s attention. Imagery that goes against what is expected, yet points to the concerns people have, will always create a response. If you really understand your target audience, the chosen graphic has given their brains enough information to leap in the direction wanted. Your job is to immediately be there for them with a safety net of winning words.

Clearly, we have quickly become a society captivated by videos and images. But words still matter in selling. Keep your visuals short and relevant. Once a visual gets the brain to pay more attention, use words that help your prospects to think about the concept your image was meant to convey. Just keep it short.

Read earlier columns from Florida Trend's business coach, Ron Stein
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Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing ( He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or


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