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Caught on video: Why ‘show, don’t tell’ must be part of your marketing strategy

guy with camcorderHave you launched a new product line, introduced a new bedding component or adopted a unique manufacturing technique? Don’t just tell your customers about it. This is the video age—you need to show them.

“In an era of instant gratification—where people would rather watch than read—it’s easier to get your point across and sell more product by showing rather than telling,” says Catharine Fennell, chief executive officer of videoBIO, a Toronto-based technology company that offers video creation and video distribution solutions.

Today, people watch (and shoot their own) videos everywhere they go—on smartphones, tablets and pocket camcorders. Video is so commonplace it’s become expected, even in business communications.

“Video is such an effective communication tool,” says Boston-based Steve Garfield, a speaker, teacher, Internet TV host, video blogging pioneer and author of Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business. “Video really helps you tell a story, making your company and brand stand out online and rank higher in search engines.”

With video, you can add an engaging, compelling new element to your company website, blog, and Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Incorporating video into your business communications will make it that much easier for customers to connect with your company, your people, your products and your brand.

Now is the time for your company to get video savvy. It’s far easier than you may think. Here’s how:

The ‘business casual’ video

You don’t have to spend $50,000, or even $20,000, to make the ultimate, glossy company video with high production values, say the experts BedTimes interviewed. It’s more important to incorporate video widely into your marketing efforts and develop an ongoing strategy for using video in every aspect of your company’s communications.

You need to look no further than your employees, manufacturing plants and customers when deciding what to show and tell in your first videos.

Aim for what marketing and leadership strategist David Meerman Scott has labeled the “business casual video,” says Cliff Pollan, founder and CEO of Visible Gains, an interactive and video solutions provider in Waltham, Mass. The “business casual video” has low production values, is authentic and, therefore, is seen as more trustworthy. It’s a video that doesn’t feel like a commercial.

“There are tremendous opportunities to create these kinds of videos using your own customers and your own employees,” Pollan says. “Get testimonials at the next industry conference you attend, offer your employees the opportunity to talk, give people a glimpse into your company and its manufacturing processes, or answer the most common questions about your latest new product introduction.

“If you’re introducing a new coil, interview the product manager—don’t hire talent. Viewers will know it’s an actor.”

What messages translate well into video? Just about anything. Companies are even sending video emails and video proposals as part of business development.

Some videos are easy to make; some are more difficult.

If you’re just starting out, “choose the easiest subject with the biggest payoff—perhaps it’s a low-production customer success story,” Pollan says. “Don’t start out by thinking you’re going to make a viral video, but do try to have some fun.”

Probably the most difficult and costly video to produce may be the first one that comes to mind—the company overview, or the video equivalent of an “identity brochure.” Don’t start there, experts say.

Think more simply, Pollan cautions. Have the person at your company who is most knowledgeable and passionate about your newest product discuss and demonstrate it. Or post a series of videos in which employees talk about products or industry trends.

When shooting video, it makes sense to produce “variations on a theme and test reaction to the different versions of your video to see what resonates most with the audience,” Pollan says. “Don’t expect to get it right all the time—always plan on throwing the first one away.”

Mattress manufacturers may want to impress retailers and reach right through to consumers with videos that show real people using, testing and enjoying their products, Fennell says.

Post those consumer-centered videos on your company website, alongside detailed information about the products the consumers are testing, and offer retailers video loops to play in their stores.

“Companies like Zappos and other large online retailers are using more and more video of real people testing products on their websites,” Fennell says. “Zappos shows people trying on and wearing their shoes, testing their products and talking about them. It’s a wonderful opportunity for your company to connect and communicate with other consumers, and it’s becoming a standard tool online.”

Are you ready for your close-up?

One of the easiest ways to launch a video strategy is to shoot a simple, short (under 90 seconds) video of yourself.

guy shooting himself with webcamDigital marketer John Jantsch, author of the Duct Tape Marketing blog, suggests starting your company’s video strategy right now, while you’re seated at your desk, using the webcam in your computer or tablet.

If you’re the company owner or CEO, you can shoot a welcome video for posting on your company’s Facebook page, just be sure to leave off the sales pitch. Facebook makes it easy: Click “Add Video,” then “Use Webcam” and begin talking.

If you keep the message simple and the length short, you won’t need to concern yourself with learning sophisticated editing software just yet.

“Try to capture a video in a single shot,” Jantsch says. “Make it personal. Talk directly to the camera and keep the camera at eye level.”

YouTube also makes it easy to record yourself and share short videos.

First, create a YouTube account, then click “Upload” on your account home page and select “Record from Webcam.” Start talking and when you’re finished, use YouTube’s basic editing tools to finish the video and publish it. Embed your completed video on your company’s website and share it through social media.

If you blog regularly, you can add a dynamic new element by regularly posting videos.

Next, tape an interview

Your next assignment is to shoot an interview. Subjects to consider: a customer offering a testimonial, a marketing department staffer discussing a new ad campaign, a plant manager explaining the quality assurance process or an industry expert talking about a key consumer trend.

Limit it—and all your video projects—to less than two minutes.

When interviewing people, keep the focus on the interviewee and keep yourself off-camera.

“Ask the interviewee one question at a time to make them less nervous. Have them rephrase the question before they answer and edit yourself out of the video,” Pollan says.

Upload the finished video to YouTube, embed it on your company’s Facebook page and website home page, and link to it through other social media and your correspondence.

Experiment with multimedia

As you or the staff member you’ve designated as the official company videographer become more comfortable with the medium, remember that you don’t always need to shoot full-motion videos.

Many good “videos” are actually a combination of video and still photographs. Basic editing software, such as Apple’s iMovie, makes this type of production easy to assemble.

Incorporating still images with video adds visual interest and can help you smooth over rough spots in your production. As Pollan cautions, remember that you’re shooting real people—not actors—“and most of us are not that great on camera or we’d be in Hollywood or Washington.”

And, he suggests, “you can combine a voice-over with still photos and just a little bit of video, perhaps as an introduction.”

Equip yourself

The equipment you need to shoot a good quality video is surprisingly affordable. A pocket camcorder, lapel microphone (good sound is critical) and small external light typically are all you need to get started.

In his introduction to videography course, Garfield recommends that beginning videographers purchase the following (prices quoted are from

  • A high-definition pocket video recorder, such as the Kodak PlayTouch ($100), Creative Labs Vado HD ($150), Sony Bloggie Touch HD ($80) or the compact Sony HDR-CX160 High-Definition Handycam ($390).
  • Lavaliere external lapel microphone ($25); Sony ECM-AW3 wireless lapel microphone ($159).
  • Monopod—a portable, single-pole “tripod” to steady your shot ($15).
  • Small LED video light and mounting bracket ($40).

For more on equipment, as well as essential shooting and editing tips, read Steve Stockman’s book How to Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck: Advice to Make Any Amateur Look Like a Pro.

Basic video editing software, such as Microsoft Windows’ Movie Maker and Apple’s iMovie, comes bundled with most new computers. For more advanced editing, the three most popular programs are Adobe Premiere, Avid and Final Cut Pro X.

Publishing your video

For do-it-yourselfers, posting videos on YouTube and linking to them around the Web is the easiest way to go.

Google ranks video highly—especially videos on YouTube, which it owns. (In 2011, YouTube surpassed Yahoo as the second-largest search engine, after Google.)

“But be sure to optimize your video for search. Remember to use a descriptive title and write a ‘descriptive’ description,” Garfield says. “Put the URL of your website in the first line of your description, making sure to include http:// so the URL is clickable. You’d be surprised how many people don’t do that.”

When posting a video to your website or including it in an email, use a call to action in the headline, such as “Click to Watch” or “Watch Video Now” to get more views. Place videos “above the fold” on your website to encourage more clicks.

Getting professional help

Although the experts BedTimes spoke with recommend bringing everyday video production in-house, there are a wide range of video professionals—from recent college graduates with excellent technical skills to high-priced production houses—available to handle larger projects. Find someone you can work closely with and who fits your needs.

“But realize that once you make the decision to hire someone on the outside, everything is going to slow down,” Garfield says. “You’ll start asking to edit and make revisions and create scripts. Try doing it on your own or delegate the responsibility to someone on staff. Give them complete authority and autonomy in creating the video.”

Tips for video interviews

Pollan offers several tips for video interviews on his Visible Gains blog:

1. Prepare questions. “Think about what you want to communicate, so you ask questions that get you the right content,” he says. “Write down your questions and make sure you have a few open-ended ones.”

2. Have interviewees identify themselves. They should give their name, company and title or role. “This is always a good lead-in to your video,” Pollan says.

3. Start slowly. Ask just one question at a time, Pollan says. Start with easier questions to help the interviewee relax and feel comfortable.

4. Be quiet. “When the interviewee is talking, remain silent,” he says. “It’s OK to nod, but you want to record only their voice, so all the content is usable.”

5. Use a microphone. “It often helps to put a microphone on your subject.” Pollan says. “Good sound is very important to making an engaging video.”

6. Get permission. Even when interviewing an employee, make sure to ask the person on camera if it’s OK to post the interview online and otherwise distribute it.

A new way to share video

Video files are notoriously large, which is why they need to be hosted somewhere in order to be shared via email.

Visible Gains recently launched an easy-to-use sharing tool called Postwire, which allows you to create individual landing pages where you can privately share video and other file types.

If your company has created a series of customer testimonials or new product videos, you can drop the thumbnails onto a Postwire board and share them with business prospects. Postwire offers an attractive grid layout with the look of Pinterest, but with greater versatility. There are three levels of service, signing up for a basic account is free.
woman with camcorder

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