In the modern digital marketing landscape, it's impossible ignore the significance of visual content, and the relative impact it can have in the success, or indeed failure, of your campaigns.
You only need to look at the rise of video, or Instagram, or the Stories format - users gravitate towards visuals, and if you're not utilizing visual elements in your process, you're likely falling behind in the battle for audience attention.
In essence, you need at least some form of visual to make your content stand out - but hiring a professional graphic designer to give you high-quality images is beyond the financial reach of many.
So how does every other marketer create standout visuals? The solution is to DIY it.
And fortunately, on this front, there are now some truly magical image editing tools, designed specifically for the technically challenged. Many of them are even free to use, or have low-cost plans.
Here are five options to help improve your digital visual efforts:
Piktochart enables you to create graphics, presentations and even infographics.
Piktochart's mantra to "take your visual communication to the next level without hiring a graphic designer" is true to its nature, and they've helped a lot of marketers in create outstanding infographics over the years.
With Piktochart, all you need to do is to enter your data and choose a template, and the app will automatically do the work for you.
MakeaMeme - or MAM - is a completely free online tool which you can use, as it says, to make your own meme.
The app includes a library of images which you can simply slap a caption on and download, after registering. The only thing you need to be careful of is that the site doesn't specify if the images are under copyright, so using them may land you in legal trouble if you use it for your business (especially if your post goes viral). It's far safer to use the meme generator, where you can upload your own image or a stock photo for commercial use.
Here's one using an image from Pixabay, an equally useful site for free stock photos, illustrations, and videos:
Stencil is an online tool for easy image creation. The app has its own library of thousands of royalty-free images which you can simply drag and drop to the work space, then manipulate, filter, and a host of other stuff. The tool also provides social media icons, quotes, and templates.
You can't simply copy and paste the image you've made, however. You have to save it on Stencil and download it, which takes a while. At any rate, it's easy to use, and the free version allows you to create up to ten images a month, so it's all good.
A blog is a useful marketing tool, and even more so if you can actively promote your brand through your visual content. A great tool for brand placement is PlaceIt, which lets you drag and drop your website's URL, or any landing page for a product, onto any of the stock photos or videos it has in its library.
It is free to use if you only need a small image (400x300 px), but if you want high-res images, you have to pay per piece (from $8 up). You can also get 9 images a month for $29, or 31 images for $99.
You can also make demo videos, but there is no free version of this functionality - you either pay per video ($29 or so) or $199 a month for unlimited videos and nine images.
Canva is a nifty image-editing tool, which makes it easy to create professional-looking graphics without having any graphic design chops.
You can choose from pre-set templates, or create your own, and aside from photos, you can also create infographics. All you have to do is choose among the many design options and start playing.
Some photos and layouts carry a small price tag, but there's a wide range of free options as well. Canva has over a million pre-existing images and graphics to choose from.
And there you have it - five places to DIY your images.
While these tools don't really replace a good graphic designer, it's nice to consider that there are amazing alternatives to help you kickstart your visual content strategy. Play around with these tools and decide which ones best suit your image creation needs.
A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.