Visual content is in higher demand than ever before.
Brands, startups and small businesses are all looking for ways to enrich their storytelling and market their products and services.
A recent Social Media Examiner report revealed that 74% of marketers use visual content in their social media marketing – even more than blogs and video. In fact, visual marketing is considered to be the second most important form of marketing content – second only to blogs.
With the endless demand for new, bigger, better content, it can feel impossible to keep up.
If you’re an experienced designer, you probably relish the challenge.
But if you’re a small business owner or marketer, you need to find smart ways to improve your company’s visual marketing without breaking your budget.
Fortunately, there are some terrific, affordable tools and services that can help you to improve your company’s visual marketing and help your company compete more effectively against established companies.
Whether you need to create daily Facebook posts, banner ads, graphs, or even memes… there’s a tool that can help you get it done.
Here are our picks for 12 awesome visual marketing tools that can help you grow your business.
Canva’s web app offers templates for infographics, reports, mood boards, graphs, flyers and posters and more.
You can edit and customize the templates by changing the copy, colors, and icons.
The templates look good, but all are generic.
Thousands of businesses could be using identical templates, so it will be tough for your business to stand out. As we cautioned in an earlier post about Canva:
Yes, those stock invitation designs might work now and then, but if you’re a startup looking to make a brand-centric splash, they’re not going to cut it. There is always going to be a role for design professionals in branding and marketing. It might take some brands time and mistakes to realize this, but most come around eventually.
The risks presented by generic design are amplified when it comes to more sophisticated designs like logos. Getting a generic logo design from Canva or a “logo store” that sells generic, pre-designed logos is a recipe for disaster and potential legal risk.
On the other hand, if you’re doing visual design with Microsoft Office, don’t mind that thousands of other businesses will have the same designs, and looking for simple designs, you can definitely improve on what you’re currently doing.
Canva is available for iPad, iPhone and (in a recent addition) Android.
Personal accounts are available for free. Small business accounts start at $12.95 per user/ per month.
If you’re more confident with graphic design, Snappa may be the choice for you.
Snappa is a more robust web-based graphic design program than Canva. You can build designs from scratch with Snappa or use templates. But, you have more minute control over those templates.
As we cautioned above when discussing Canva, be careful when using generic templates for visual design.
The point of visual design is to tell unique stories. Using generic templates is the opposite of unique.
Snappa offers a library of thousands of royalty-free photos, icons, and fonts to choose from. You can also easily upload your own images, resize your own images and upload new fonts (check out Font Squirrel below!).
One of Snappa’s strengths is shareability. Snappa supports team collaboration; making it easy to share brand assets or designs. And, it integrates directly with several social media platforms, allowing you to publish your creations straight from Snappa.
Snappa’s impressive Pro service starts at $10 per user/ per month, but you can give Snappa a test drive with their free version.
If you’re looking for affordable, custom, professional visual designs, you won’t go wrong with crowdspring.
Crowdsourced design platform crowdspring is an awesome resource for custom, professional graphic, web and product design at a price that fits every budget.
Over the past 10 years, crowdspring has helped tens of thousands of the world’s best entrepreneurs, small businesses, Brands, agencies, and non-profits with logo design, web design, product design, packaging design, and even naming businesses and products.
Crowdspring is perfect for business owners and people who are not designers but who demand high quality, affordable custom designs to help their businesses grow. You can get a finished design in as little as one day.
Here’s how crowdspring works:
Step 1: Select your package. With a variety of options, crowdspring’s design packages are perfect for businesses of any size, and upfront pricing means you’ll always know the cost. No hidden fees, no surprises.
Step 2: Create a project brief. Answer a few questions about your design needs in crowdspring’s simple project questionnaire. The more you share, the better the results.
Step 3: Crowdspring designers get to work creating dozens of designs. Crowdspring’s 210,000+ designers from Australia to Zimbabwe, and everywhere in between, are standing by to help you. They’ll share dozens of designs for you to review, and will tweak the designs based on your feedback.
Step 4: Pick the winning design and complete the project. When you find something you love, select it as the winner. You’ll review design proofs and make refinements. After you approve the final files, crowdspring will pay the designer and you’ll receive full intellectual property rights to the design through a custom, written legal agreement.
Custom design and naming projects on crowdspring start at $299 (including all fees) and there’s a 100% money-back guarantee.
Photos, Editing & Retouching
piZap is an easy to use online photo editor. It offers both Flash and HTML5 versions – a valuable asset on the now, largely, post-Flash internet.
piZap allows you to edit photos, create photo collages and build memes with photos and text.
The pro features include the ability to touch-up portrait photos with Photoshop-like effects. So, if you have an appearance-conscious CEO, you can touch up their pic before attaching it to the annual report or adding it to their “About” page on your company website.
piZap has one niche purpose – working with photos. And it does it well.
You can use piZap on your computer or your phone (iOS and Android). And, it offers free and paid versions – piZap Pro starts at just $2.99 per month.
PicMonkey is a tried and true photo editor. Like piZap, PicMonkey includes basic and advanced photo editing tools, filters and text options.
It also includes photo collage tools including social media collage templates and ad templates for both Pinterest and Facebook.
PicMonkey’s robust photo editing features are easy to use. And, it offers a helpful tutorial section to help you improve your editing and design skills.
Pic Monkey is available on both Android and iOS as well as your computer. And, their Premium plan is available starting at $5.99 per month.
At this time PicMonkey is only available in a Flash version, which may make it harder to access on your work computer. Flash is automatically disabled on most computers and you may need admin permissions to re-enable it before you can use PicMonkey. If you don’t want to deal with Flash, check out piZap (above) instead.
Visual marketers are always in need of images. And, stock photography is a cheap, convenient source for the images you need daily.
With that said, there is a caveat. Stock photography and stock art has no place in your branding visuals. To learn why, check out our previous article – 5 Ways Stock Art is Killing Your Brand.
Take a minute to read it… It’s okay. I’ll wait.
Okay, so we can agree – no stock art for your branding visuals, right?
Pexels.com is a fantastic resource for free stock photography. The site has thousands of images on a wide range of subject matter. And, all of the images are licensed for commercial use.
You can download high-res images in a range of standard sizes or your own custom sizes – which will save you the hassle of having to resize your images later.
So, the next time you need stock photography, give Pexels a try. We also love a similar service from Unsplash.
Graphs, Charts & Infographics
Datawrapper is a web app specializing in creating beautiful, interactive charts for your website, blog posts, or social media content.
If you’ve got compelling numbers that need to be shared, Datawrapper is a fantastic tool.
And, it’s easy to use. All you need to do is copy and paste your data from a spreadsheet into Datawrapper and you’re on your way.
Because Datawrapper’s sole focus is creating awesome charts and number infographics, it offers a wide variety of chart and plot types to choose from.
Datawrapper’s introductory plan includes 10,000 views per month at no cost. To unlock unlimited views and more features, you’ll need to step up to their flat monthly fee of $40.29 (based on the current pound to dollar conversion).
Plus, you’re covered by a no-questions-asked money back guarantee.
Piktochart is another template-based graphics design web app. But, it’s more limited in scope than, say, Canva or Snappa.
Where Piktochart really shines is in its ability to pull data straight from an Excel spreadsheet and into an eye-catching chart or graph. And, that is pretty darn useful.
You can get started with a (very limited) free membership or step up to the Lite version for $12.50 per user/ per month or the Pro plan at $24.17 per user/ per month.
Piktochart’s Pro subscription is where you really start to see the most value with the option of using brand-specific colors, HD exports and watermark removal.
Animated Video & Presentations
If you’re looking for dynamic visuals that are a little outside the box, consider PowToon.
PowToon is a web service that allows you to create animated cartoon videos or presentations.
At first, I was completed flummoxed as to how PowToon could create customized animated videos. But, it’s actually a really simple template interface.
You can work from existing storyboards, or create your own using pre-existing template animations in a variety of cartoon styles. And, you can even record your own voice-over narration.
So, if you want to create a playful tutorial for your new service or an entertaining animated video for social media, consider PowToon.
Their plans include a basic free model, a Pro plan at $17/ month and a business plan at $59 per month that includes even more bells and whistles.
Need to show off the new app that you just launched for Android products? Or maybe you want to let everyone know about your upcoming cyber-sale with an advert featuring your sale details on a Macbook.
If you need to create a mock-up of your product on a digital device, PlaceIt has got you covered. It’s also great for clothing mock-ups featuring your original designs or branded images.
It’s quick and easy to use, too. I created the mock-up above with the hipster chick and her kitten checking out a sassy boot in about 2 minutes.
PlaceIt also offers online design templates and a logo maker. But, you can do better than PlaceIt’s design templates (see Canva or Snappa), and I’d steer clear of their logo maker, entirely.
But, if you stick to PlaceIt as a mock-up generator, it can be a very useful tool. Subscriptions start at $29/month for a minimum 3-month commitment.
11. Font Squirrel
While pictures tend to dominate in visual marketing, you can’t afford to ignore the text. And, now you don’t have to.
Font Squirrel hoards fonts instead of nuts. And, its hoarding ways are a godsend for visual marketers everywhere.
All of the fonts in the Font Squirrel library are licensed for commercial use. And, those fonts are available to you completely free of charge.
So, now you can make your images stand out with the perfect font choices, legally and easily acquired.
And Font Squirrel makes it super easy to do. You can search fonts by classification or tags. And you can use their handy font identifier to find fonts similar to a font that you already like.
Honestly, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of this great resource.
You know that images capture the human eye more effectively than a block of text.
So, wouldn’t it be nice if you could build ads into images?
Imonomy can make it happen.
Imonomy is an image advertising platform for publishers and advertisers. Their service uses an algorithm to pair images with relevant advertisements.
The close thematic relationship between the image and the ad increases the likelihood of converting a glance to a sale. BloggingPro reviewed Imonomy’s service and had this to say:
This is the edge that Imonomy has over its peers in the niche: they make use of a visual semantic engine, which recognizes and understands text, making sure that ads displayed are relevant and timely; which in turn results in the ad being less intrusive.
So, now you can monetize your visual content like never before.
Your Visual Marketing Toolbox
Whether you need to create a meme, edit a product photo, translate a spreadsheet into an easy-to-understand infographic, mock-up a design or make your own custom cartoon, there’s a tool to help you get the job done.
Here’s a quick recap of your visual marketing tools:
Canva – A user-friendly, template-based graphic design web app. Great for novice designers.
Snappa – A robust, template-based, soup-to-nuts graphic design web app. Includes comprehensive design controls.
crowdspring – A powerful crowdsourced design platform for custom design and logos. Affordable, quick and easy to use.
piZap – A mobile and web app photo editor. Offers advanced re-touching, filters and meme-building. HTML5 & Flash!
PicMonkey – A Flash-based photo editor and collage maker. Includes basic retouching and filters.
Pexels – A royalty-free stock photography site. Thousands of images and flexible download options.
Datawrapper – A web app specializing in creating beautiful interactive charts and number-based infographics.
Piktochart -An easy-to-use web app that can pull data straight from Excel spreadsheets to create custom charts.
PowToon – A web app that creates customized animated videos for training, marketing or just for fun.
PlaceIt – A web app that allows you to create design mock-ups on photos of actual clothing or devices.
Font Squirrel – An online font archive featuring downloadable free-to-use fonts, licensed for commercial work.
Imonomy – An image advertising platform for publishers and advertisers that matches ads to relevant visual content.
If you want to set your business apart from the competition, leave the generic templates behind and choose custom design. Over 50,000 of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, business owners and agencies trust crowdspring’s team of over 210,000 designers. Click here to get started today or request a free, no obligation design consultation.
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