By Alex Ford
In today’s online world, video is as ubiquitous as email and blogs. And with that ubiquity comes tremendous opportunity for savvy marketers to reach customers with a powerful message in a meaningful way. When done correctly, few – if any – forms of advertising can match online video in terms of ROI and effectiveness. This article will provide you with the fundamentals to do online video right.
We are now far removed from the days of dial up when loading anything but a basic web page was an arduous and time consuming task. Internet use is at the point where most people have access to high-speed Internet connections that enable the download of large files and the streaming of video content.
Public safety is no exception, and in fact first responders have been some of the first to gravitate toward online video. In some cases, they’ve been forced, as many departments are increasingly using online video for training purposes. But many are drawn by their own personal interest in training and products, not to mention the entertainment of watching firefighter sock puppets make fun of police officers.
Our company has witnessed firsthand the growing importance of online video for public safety. Within the last year, we’ve launched a trio of online video communities – BLUtube.com, FlashoverTV.com and ParamedicTV.com – all of which were met with immediate success and have grown rapidly. Between them, the sites receive 260,000 unique visitors a month, with 755,000 video views and almost 4,000 total videos posted.
We have found that online video has the ability to target users in a way that traditional TV can’t by dramatically shortening the distance between viewer impulse and purchase. It has the capability to drive users from a video clip directly to a product destination via strategically placed ads or links.
For companies targeting the fire service, online video can be a valuable tool that is well suited to the dramatic, highly technical and tactile-oriented types of products used by firefighters. Fire products are often designed for dramatic action, and as such they lend themselves well to video demonstrations. Giving potential customers the ability to watch – rather than read about – your products solving real-world problems can be very impactful. Well-produced product clips can deliver a significant number of views from firefighters interested in learning more about the product and its benefits.
Chances are, you’ve either experimented with video in a DVD or online format, or at least considered it. But before going headfirst into a video campaign, it’s important to have a firm grasp on the basic types of product videos and best practices for choosing a video partner, filming and using your videos as part of your marketing mix. This article is intended to give you that foundation.
Step 1: Choose your type of video
Below are the primary types of videos you’ll want to consider when exploring creating your own promotional videos. For samples of each, including the specific examples referenced below, go to http://flashovertv.firerescue1.com/groups/productvideos
1. Product Promotion
These are slick, glossy clips that mimic TV commercials in the way they employ video effects, music and a rapid pace to grab a viewer’s attention. They’re fun to watch and they create a high level of excitement with the viewer. They tend to work best when highlighting a single brand or message or when they focus on a key differentiator of your product.
2. Product Demo or Virtual Trade Show
We’d all agree that the most effective sales environment is face-to-face, where you can deliver your message to a captive audience and build a relationship with your customer. Online video comes the closest of any advertising medium to replicating that experience.
By creating a professional video that features a demonstration of your product’s use and attributes, you have the potential to simulate the in-person sales pitch for a much wider audience. And with dollars tight and travel budgets increasingly thin, many departments are relying on alternative methods for researching and evaluating potential product purchases.
More and more companies, including the more forward thinking of your fire service media partners, are offering “virtual trade show” filming services in which they’ll film you at a trade show giving a product demo at your booth. This is a great, cost-effective way to extend your trade show experience to a much wider audience and generate product content that you can use in a variety of ways.
3. Viral Marketing Videos
You’ve no doubt received an email from a colleague or friend with a link to a humorous or interesting video. And there’s probably a pretty good chance you were curious enough to click on it and maybe even forwarded it to a friend or posted it on YouTube or a blog. That’s the power of a viral video. They are immensely successful at reaching large audiences and generating buzz. Viral videos comes in all types, shapes and sizes, but many companies have effectively capitalized on this phenomenon by coming up with quirky or compelling clips.
One example of a viral video in the public safety realm is a clip that originally appeared on our law enforcement video site, BLUtube.com. FLIR, a leading manufacturer of thermal imaging products, released a video of a K9 foot pursuit filmed with the company’s equipment. Submitted as part of FLIR’s Vision Awards contest for best video, the clip is not only a vivid demonstration of the product in action, but also entertaining. It is the second most watched video of all time on BLUtube with close to 100,000 views. When was the last time 100,000 people watched your product in action?
One of my favorite examples from outside the public safety arena is WillItBlend.com, a viral video series from blender manufacturer Blendtec. The series includes various clips of the blender chopping up all types of items, from iPhones to Barbies. By cleverly playing up the product’s strength in an irreverent fashion, Blendtec was able to boost its sales a staggering 700% on the strength of more than 100 million video views. How many fire service marketers have brainstormed similar ideas? Why not a “Will it Cut” series from an extrication equipment manufacturer? A “Will it Burn” series, anyone?
You can talk about the virtues of your products until you’re blue in the face, but they’ll ultimately never rise above biased communication. As we all know, an endorsement from an existing customer carries far more weight in the eyes of your prospects.
Video is a great medium in which to provide a short case study with details about a successful customer relationship. By featuring your customer talking about you in glowing tones, you can generate an impartial validation of your product’s value that can connect with potential customers on a completely different level than the standard company talking head.
Step 2: Choose a partner
Just as a well-executed video can be extremely effective at reaching your customers in a meaningful way, a poorly done, amateurish video can damage your brand and negatively represent your company. Online video is no longer novel, and people won’t just watch a video just because it’s there.
Although most of us could film our own product video on our cell phone or digital camera, it’s probably not a good idea to create videos in house. Find the right partner. Here are a few points to consider when evaluating vendors:
• Make sure you’re getting a copy. It sounds absurd, but some companies sell the video placement, not the video. Regardless of how valuable that placement is, if you’re paying for the video, you should always get a copy. Make sure you get both the raw footage and a version that has been produced for online viewing.
• Make sure to ask about hosting options. Some vendors will even host the video on their site and give you a short piece of code to add to your site that streams in the video. Unless you have a good IT team and available bandwidth, I don’t recommend messing around with hosting your own video. Alternatively, you can always post your video to a site like YouTube or FlashoverTV and use the automatically generated code they provide to embed the video on your company site.
• If exposure is a vendor’s selling point, make sure there is actual exposure to be had. Some vendors will factor the video’s placement on their site into their pricing. That’s fine – as long as they’re not throwing your video into a desolate dumping ground of product clips, the likes of which I have seen many times. Having your video on your vendor’s site is worth little if no one goes there to watch videos. If you’re paying for video placement, get the traffic stats up front so you’ll know what to expect. Also, ask for featured placement like homepage and newsletter exposure.
A good rule of thumb to use in evaluating video placements is to check when the last couple of videos were posted. If they are more than a month old, chances are that few people are going to that section of the site.
• Always view samples of previous work prior to engaging with a vendor. Make sure you’re comfortable with the style of their work and that it fits well with your product.
• Make sure you’re getting a finished product – not just raw footage – and that you have final approval of the video before it is posted. There is far more to video production than merely filming your spokesperson talking about the product. Your final video should be intelligently assembled, with quality graphics, audio and editing. Be aggressive in asking for changes or improvements on the first draft you receive.
• Weigh your options. There is a lot of variation in pricing for product videos. And more expensive isn’t always better. You can shoot a very effective 5-15 minute, professionally produced product demo video for between $1,000 and $2,000. So if someone is asking for $5,000, make sure they have a good reason.
Step 3: Film and produce your video
Your responsibility for producing a quality video doesn’t end once you’ve selected a vendor. As an active participant in the process, there are some key principles you need to follow and make sure your vendor is following.
Here are some quick tips and best practices for filming and editing a straightforward product promotional or demo video:
• Keep it short – people’s attention span on the Internet is even shorter than watching TV, so keep it brief and to the point.
• Start with a script in the form of bullet point prompts, which will keep your spokesperson on point and prevent you from sounding like you’re reading.
• Ideally, you should pick a spokesperson who is charismatic, comfortable on camera and knowledgeable. They should wear a dark colored shirt without stripes and contacts if they wear glasses.
• Talk as you would to a customer. A good best practice is to envision talking directly with the cameraperson and not the camera.
• Good lighting and good audio quality are critical but often overlooked. Think proactively about these two items. We recommend extra lights if needed and using a separate mic for voice recording rather than the mic on the camera.
• Make sure any on-screen text is concise and readable.
• The video should be well edited, meaning fast paced and smooth.
• Focus on a maximum of 1-2 products per video segment; any more than that is just too much. If you have several products worth featuring, you may want to consider shooting a series of individual segments.
• End your video with a call to action, such as contact information, a web site address or another prompt.
• There is a lot of confusion out there around what file types are best for online viewing – Windows Media Player, Quicktime or Flash. We recommend a Flash format because the player is automatically included in Internet Explorer and other browsers. We’ve also found if you use Flash, it isn’t necessary to offer multiple formats.
Step 4: Start marketing and distributing your video
Once you’ve got the video in the can, it’s time to start using it and maximizing its value. If you do steps 1 through 3 well but don’t get this right, you’ve wasted some money and a lot of time. Here are the primary methods and locations for getting the most out of your video.
• Your web site
This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many companies go through the trouble of producing videos and either don’t have them on their own site or make it difficult for users to find them. Video adds an interactive element to your site and greatly enhances “stickiness” and the user experience.
You can incorporate video in a number of ways, from Flash animations that play the video automatically to using embedded code pulled from a site like FlashoverTV.com or simply hosting the video files on your server for download and linking to them. If you decide to go the latter route, consider those with slower connections and provide two versions – one at high-resolution (large file) and one low-resolution (smaller file).
Also, it’s important not to neglect the many off-line applications for your video. It is a good idea to provide your sales force with DVDs of any and all videos for distribution to prospects. In fact, why not have them include a link to the video in their email footer or signature?
• Online video communities
From mass market sites like YouTube to fire-specific sites like FlashoverTV.com, you have a number of free options for getting your video out to the masses. There is significant value just in having it out there where a large community of users can access it. Some video sites allow HTML in the text video descriptions, which means you can include a live hyperlink back to your site or another call to action. This offers value both in terms of traffic and supports search engine optimization as it increases your number of inbound links.
Here are some of the fire service-focused video sites where you can post your video for free:
• Strategic placement on media partner sites
The good news is that studies have shown that clickthrough rates on content-specific sites are significantly higher than videos that are placed on general, mass media sites. That means getting your product videos in front of an engaged, firefighting-specific audience greatly improves the chance that the videos will be watched and action taken.
Currently, few firefighting web sites have the ability to position your videos alongside relevant product content. But that will be changing as more sites embrace the significance of online video in delivering product information, and there are some good existing options that allow you to place your video alongside relevant product content, including FireRescue1.com.
Many of your media partners will post your video on their site for free, particularly if you are spending money with them in print. I recommend asking all of your media and association partners.
The time is now to add online video to your marketing plan. The barriers to producing product videos have largely disappeared and we are witnessing a time when the Internet and television are converging in interesting ways. As technology has improved, production costs have decreased, meaning the ability to generate high quality product videos is within reach for companies of all sizes. This is an exciting time and for marketers and it has created some unique opportunities for you to get your company’s message out. With the growing number of applications for online video, as well as the enormous potential for ROI, now is a great time to start rolling film.
View product video samples at http://flashovertv.firerescue1.com/groups/productvideos