Living in a remote section of Northern Maine, Jennifer Spokes is an active online consumer.
“I’ll get online before I’ll take the 40 minute drive to the nearest big city,” says Spokes, who has used the Internet to purchase everything from living room curtains, to a test prep tutor for her teenagers, to a portable dog groomer.
“One thing I’ve come to depend on are visual aids. If I can see the product, hear from the owners, I feel more comfortable,” says Spokes.
If you’re a microbusiness owner selling goods or services online, you probably know that using video can build your brand and greatly expand your reach. But like any marketing effort, your approach can make or break your success. Today’s technology and the popularity of YouTube and Vimeo make video production look easy, but there’s a lot of planning required before you let the camera roll.
Like any aspect of social media, a video is one more outlet for getting your business’ message before your audience. Deciding just what that message should be is your first step. If you’re just getting started, there’s a wealth of possible topics, such as:
- An ‘about us’ video, describing the experience of you and staff.
- Focusing on what’s unique about your business.
- A showcase of some of your past successes.
- The vigorous selection process behind your products and your guarantee.
- Current specials and delivery options.
- Detailed descriptions of products, installation, or features.
- Educational topics to help your customers make informed decisions.
- At home care of products, or upgrade information.
- How-to sessions that educate your audience.
- Seasonal information that focuses on current themes.
As you’re thinking, avoid falling into the trap of putting a serious, professional spin on every topic. If you have an unusual background, or a fun way to show off your products, work with that.
“A video is a great way to make an emotional connection with your audience,” says Omar Zenhom, Founder of Business Republic. “Be honest with people about where you are, and what you can do. Don’t be afraid to relax and be comfortable.”
Avoid pretending and be yourself on camera. Be professional, but natural and authentic with your delivery.
2. Break Down Your Message
Step one should have left you with plenty of ideas. Your next step is to decide where to begin, and your best approach is to deliver a short, focused message.
“If you’ve got a long topic, break it into sub topics. Equate your video to another version of a blog post,” says Zenhom. “Under five minutes is about right for people to think: 'okay, I’ve got time to watch this.' ”
For example, you might be eager to introduce your company and knowledgeable staff, explain your environmentally friendly products, and educate viewers on recent regulations that make your company stand out. But rather than jamming all that into one video — running the risk of your audience clicking away, or forgetting most of what they saw — break it into three, short videos instead, such as:
- An “About us” video to highlight your company’s experience and background. You’ll introduce yourself and your business partners and share your background.
- A “Product introduction” video to share information about each product, such as your vigorous selection process, customer testimonials, or quality ingredients.
- An “Educational” video where you’ll share news of recent environmental standards, and how your company is a leader in compliance.
You’ll choose more interesting names for each video later, right now, you’re just mapping out a plan.
Remember that a simple, personal message will stand out more than something dry or lengthy. In this video, Blendtec delivers a simple but memorable message about their products:
Plan to engage your audience: entertain, enlighten, inspire, or awe. This is what makes for viral videos.
3. Write Out Your Content
Just like back in high school, the best way to prepare a presentation is by making an outline. Start by jotting down the points you want to make. Don’t flesh out an actual script; just list thoughts you want to cover.
This is a good way to fine tune your topic. If you find that you’re going in too many different directions, go back and break it into shorter segments. If your topic is a little too short, then review your original list of topics to see what you can merge together.
Once you’re happy with your outline, it’s time to flesh it out.
Even if you’re one of those lucky people who can talk smoothly off the top of their head, a script will help you keep to your goal of delivering a short, engaging video. Now elaborate on the notes you made. Write out a more complete script. Read it several times so it sounds natural; practice it until you can recite it with minimal cues.
4. Plan Eye Appeal
A video is highly visual, so in addition to your message, invest some time thinking about the setting. The obvious might be your office or work area, but why not use a more unique location?
“Think about how the setting of your video would help your audience connect to you and your message. Consider shooting on a loading dock, a customer service center, on your rooftop or in your warehouse,” says Marcie Giannattasio, producer at WeBoMedia.
“If you are talking about something personal or want to convey a relaxed environment, outside may work for you,” she suggests.
Some additional ideas:
- Before a backdrop: stand in front of a local university, shopping mall, or bustling city street.
- Amid nature: head for a beach, mountain, or grassy background.
- On the road: have your cameraman tag along while you’re on a buying expedition or previewing out a potential job.
- On the move: stroll down a garden path, or start outdoors and conclude inside.
Take a critical look at the space you choose. “Make sure the space is appealing. It doesn’t have to be beautiful — it just can’t be unattractive,” says Giannattasio. Straighten up your office or warehouse. If you’re outside, pick up stray trash or clutter, and find greenery or flowers to serve as a backdrop.
“Stay in one place if your message is quick and simple,” says Giannattasio. “If you are talking about a few facets of your business, it’s okay to move around.” But avoid overloading your audience, she warns: “You don’t want people paying more attention to where you are, and less attention to your message.”
Also think about props that might appear in the background: your products, ingredients, equipment, or tools. If it’s unrealistic to have an actual item, then use a high-quality still photo.
5. Locate a Quality Cameraman
You may be thinking of asking your spouse or friend to be your cameraman. But before you do, think back to a tacky web site that you might have once stumbled upon: neon colors, different fonts, things blinking and flashing. How quickly did you deem the site unprofessional, and run away?
Consider hiring a professional. Their knowledge and equipment will eliminate issues that will slap unprofessional on your hard work: poor sound quality, unwanted shadows, shaky transitions. A pro will also be able to edit the video to smooth out glitches, making the filming process more efficient. It may cost more, but you’ll be left with a better result.
This is a great time to hire a fellow freelancer, or turn to a local university for a media student looking for side work.
6. Be Open to Feedback
You want your videos to be polished and professional, but at the same time, recognize that your first few attempts will be learning experiences. Welcoming feedback is a great way to find out where you need to improve, and to make one more connection with your audience.
“Why be in a bubble, when you’ve got a captive audience out there?” says Zenhom. “Go ahead and ask people what they think. You don’t have to be a superstar from day one.”
Ask your viewers for comments, or for other areas they’d like to see covered. You can do this at the end of your video, or in a corresponding blog or social media post. For more immediate feedback, share the link to your video with some trusted friends or colleagues and ask for their critique. Then, head back to the drawing board and work any viable ideas into your next releases.
Promoting Your Business with Video Long Term
With the explosion of social media, small business owners are under pressure to make a presence on all the popular outlets. It can be tempting to scramble to get a video out there. But like any marketing effort, a planned approach, released over time, will yield a result that promotes your brand and makes positive connections with your customers.
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