Despite the undeniable power of the Fortune 500, America’s 23 million small businesses certainly do their share to keep to keep the economy going, accounting for 54 percent of all U.S. sales and 55 percent of all jobs. One thing small businesses don’t usually have is big marketing budgets, but as we recently pointed out, online video marketing levels the playing field as barriers to entry fall. With a meaningful message, a decent smartphone camera, and a social media presence, small businesses can showcase their expertise to plenty of potential customers.
There’s every reason to at least give it a try. “If you look at the way people learn nowadays, there are definitely more visual than written or auditory learners,” says George Thomas, inbound marketing and brand Strategist at The Sales Lion. The average internet user spends 88 percent more time on a web site with video, and embedded video also helps a web page rise in Google’s search result listings. So how should a small business get started with online video marketing?
Find Your Voice
It begins with a coherent vision of who you are and what you have to offer. The idea is not to imagine a 30-second TV pitch. Think instead about informing, educating, and starting a conversation with potential customers.
“Give customers an opportunity to see who you are through thought leadership pieces,” says Thomas. “Don’t make them fill out a form or respond. Just give it away. Let them watch and learn.” Establish yourself as a trusted expert — with solid products or services — by using some of these approaches:
- The Documentary Video: You and your employees can star in the kind of behind-the-scenes video that gives a confident sense of what you’re about, how you work, and how you stand out from the competition. “Let’s take a look at how our team installs our unique garage doors.” It’s a quick way to engage potential customers on a quasi face-to-face basis without having to make as many sales calls.
- The Explainer Video: Put your product or service in context. Start with a current event or news hook and describe how your product relates in a real-world way. “Our weatherproof garage doors are made from the kinds of materials designed to stand up to storms like the hurricane we had last month.” You could write a blog post or press release, but video is much more engaging. (Include some hurricane footage, of course!)
- The Demo Video: A solid demo of your product, service, or skill can prove extremely valuable for future leads. Here’s your chance to show off your product or your expertise and establish yourself as a go-to solution. Writer and web designer Mari Pfeiffer used this approach, producing well rehearsed demos of RapidWeaver. “I tried to show people the befores and afters and do it in as professional way as possible,” she says. “I didn’t think it would lead to much, but my first video generated new business within two months and ultimately delivered three new clients. They told me I shared the information carefully and clearly, answered their follow-up e-mails, and proved that I would be the right person for the job.” Three years later, Pfeiffer says, 50 percent of her business comes from people who have seen her videos.
- The Testimonial Video: Potential new customers don’t know you, but your current customers may be willing to vouch for you. How did you solve their problems? The challenge is getting people to say things comfortably in front of the camera. Not everyone can do it.
- The Promotional Video: Build up excitement around a particular sale or event by offering some kind of bonus to anyone who has watched the video.
Remember Your Call to Action
How will customers follow up? Your video can include an on-screen URL or embedded link or even a direct pitch. “Give us a call.” The video can be placed on a web page with additional contact information and offers. It can go straight to Facebook, Twitter, or — if it’s under 15 seconds — to Instagram with a call-to-action caption. When you want to do true lead generation, consider e-mailing it along with a helpful paragraph to your entire customer list.
Get Some Help
You needn’t be a video editor to make a compelling video. You may not even need to shoot video. Several products and services are waiting to help you get the job done. Some examples:
- Animoto: This online video creation service helps you upload your pictures and video clips, choose a style, and add text or music. Then it massages those elements into a usable video. Pricing starts around $14.99 per month.
- Moovd: This service takes a short marketing message — just 400 characters max — and turns it into animated text. You can choose music, logos, and themes and include a call to action, but you’ll have to think like a poet. Pricing starts as low as $10. Two similar services, Powtoon, at around $19 per month and GoAnimate, at around $39 per month, let you create explainer or demo-style videos through animation. GoAnimate even includes characters that can lip sync the dialogue. But don’t rely on such techniques alone. “If I’m trying to make the most impact, customers need to see my face and start to know who I am and that I’m honest and transparent,” says Thomas. “People buy from people. It’s human-to-human marketing.”
- Cameo: This free iPhone app from video site Vimeo is one of the easiest tools to splice short video clips into longer ones. You may not get TV-quality results, but it’s a no-brainer way to try your first video experiments.
- Sightly: If you have a little marketing money set aside, this service, a partner of Google and YouTube, helps you create videos, encode them for viewing on multiple platforms and devices, and deliver them to the geographic areas you most want to target.
Sweat the Details
A few final tips:
- Make sure you have a good logo, and use it in all your video efforts.
- “If you’re on a budget, don’t spend a lot on the camera, but find ways to make sure the audio is great — like with a cheap lapel mike — and make sure the lighting is good,” says Thomas. “People will watch a mediocre-looking video if the lighting and audio are good.”
- Give your video a title that will work well in search engines. The same goes for tagging and the description if you post it on sites like YouTube. “Remember that Google owns YouTube,” Pfeiffer says. “Use the correct terms and keywords, and it’ll do a lot of the work for you.”
- Your call to action should also appear in your video description.