Make Your Business Shine with Before/After Tactics

Does your business in any way, shape or form offer “transformation” to your customers?  If you physically transform anything about your customer’s life – their body, their home, their car or whatever…then read on because this blog post is for you!

If you’re looking for a fresh approach in your advertising, whether it be in traditional or new media, consider this:  Before and After never goes out of style.  Think about it and you’ll quickly recall the type of advertising to which I’m referring.  Two photographs are featured in an ad:  on the left we see the old situation and on the right, the new, improved situation because of the wonders of a product or service being marketed in the ad.

The Before/After approach has remained prevalent for a long time for one compelling reason:  it works.  In fact, done well, it can change your business and help you raise your reputation and sales to new heights.

Why?  Simple psychology.  In his excellent book, Seducing Strangers – How to Get People to Buy What Your Sellingby Josh Weltman, the author expresses his belief that every advertisement needs to answer at least one of four questions for the customer before a sale can be made:

1) What is it?

2) Why do I need it now?

3) What makes it different from other things?

4) Who else thinks it’s good?

“Answering these questions intriguingly, economically, truthfully, and memorably is the art of advertising,” Weltman writes.

The Before/After approach doesn’t just answer one of these questions.  What makes it so powerful is that I believe, done correctly, it can actually answer all four in a compelling way:  with photographs.  It’s more than just the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” that makes this a smart strategy for an advertiser.  Images engage more of the population in a way nothing else can.   One study found that approximately 65% of people are visual learners.  (Mind Tools, 1998)  Still another, stated that the brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. (3M Corporation, 2001)  Simply put, for most of us images can create a powerful connection in ways that nothing else can.

With so much power packed into good images, it’s easy to see why the Before/After approach in advertising addresses each of Josh Weltman’s four fundamental questions.  With two, well-planned and compelling images the consumer knows within a few seconds what the product or service is (or more specifically, what it will accomplish), they immediately make a determination if they need it now or in the foreseeable future, they can begin to draw conclusions about how it compares to other similar offerings, and can see first hand who else might be excited about it – namely the consumer that is the benefactor of the photos.

A weight loss focused business is a natural example.  Before, large and unhappy.  After, slimmed down and in control.  But many other kinds of business can benefit as well.  A remodeler might want to show before and after photos, or even a longer progression of shots, of an extensive remodel.  A medical spa can demonstrate the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles.  A landscaper can show off the the transformation of a dull, barren backyard into a thriving, colorful oasis.  Even a business as simple as shoe repair can replace a headline or bullet of “Top Quality Service” with a photo of an old shoe, and a newly revitalized shoe that compels customers to visit the cobbler more than any cliché headline ever could.

True, not every business may be a candidate for putting this idea to use.  But I urge you to think hard about how your business might be able to do it.  There may be no better way to quickly communicate just how amazing your work is for your customers.

People buy benefits, not features.  The Before/After strategy is all about showcasing the benefits of your product or service.

Next Steps:

1) Determine what it is that might make your business shine in a Before/After advertisement.  If it’s unique, even better.  But don’t overthink this part – what is your bread and butter?  What do you do really, really well?

2) Figure out the photography.  A before picture of someone frowning, and an after picture of someone smiling doesn’t address Welman’s first question, “What is it?” …unless perhaps you’re an orthodontist of course.   This is one of those moments when it really pays to have some professional photography done.  Yes, your iPhone camera has some great features, but I strongly urge you to make an investment in your business and have some really great professional photos taken of your work.  Lighting is important and something that most amateur photographers often get wrong.

3) Make certain that your After image really captures the essence whatever it is that makes you stand out as a professional.  The consumer should see a dramatic difference from one photo to the next – and it’s even better if there is a smiling, satisfied customer – people love to look at other happy people.  (Be sure to get a photo release signed by your customers that gives you explicit permission to use their image in your marketing)