Using Online Video to Market Your Business

Use online video to market your business. Here’s to hoping  you don’t have a face only a mother could love.

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A tidal wave of converging trends stands to change the face of commercial  video forever.

First, there’s technology: the prevalence of high-speed Internet access and  dramatically improved streaming technology. Then there’s supply and demand (and  more technology): the low-cost and ever-improving quality of video recording  equipment.

And then there’s the irrepressible social media surge: the rise of YouTube  and other online video distribution services driving demand for business videos  of all stripes.

The result is an effective and inexpensive marketing opportunity for your  business.

Market and technological forces have driven down production and distribution  costs significantly, even for the smallest companies. Long gone are the days of  pricey training videos and big-production commercials, says Jeff Watts, owner of  video production house Watts Communications in Waukesha, Wis. Instead,  businesses want their videos fast and cheap.

Lights, Camera–No Action

The potential for costly miscues abounds when hiring a video production company  for your project. Here are our tips for making the most of your video  budget.
Ask for a reel: Companies should run away  screaming from any production company that doesn’t have an example reel of  videos.
Make sure video is right for you: Remember that  video is only one component of a broad communications  strategy.
Look for a company seeking to understand your business:  Video is meant to serve your communications strategy–not the other way  around.
Know your audience and objective: Lay out these  guidelines before you start working on a project to ensure you meet your goals  and save money.
Do it right the first time: Countless  companies waste money and time doing video production in-house, only to end up  going to the pros for a second round of production.
Work through  a liaison: Your video may need internal approval by several people in  the food chain, so simplify the process by naming a single liaison between your  business and the production company.
Don’t forget the  entertainment: If YouTube and Funny or Die have taught us anything,  it’s that only the most entertaining videos go viral.

“Before, when we would pitch a corporate video, they would put all their eggs  in one basket for that presentation–that one big-budget item,” Watts says. “We  would get it onto VHS tape and get a nice case for it and send it all over the  United States as their ‘electronic brochure.’ Now with the Internet and all  these other avenues of advertising, the big expensive corporate video is not at  the top of the list.”

Social media has reduced customer demand for high-cost, high-margin  productions–but it also has warped business customers’ perception of  quality.

“One of the challenges we face in this industry is what I call the  YouTube-ification of video,” says Brent Altomore, owner of Groovy Like a Movie,  a San Diego production house. “People are getting very comfortable with ‘good  enough’–and that’s a direct result of how much video we watch online that is  just not of great quality.”

Altomore, a 10-year veteran of the video production industry, says this  satisfaction with “good enough,” along with the wide array of high-quality  recording equipment available in the consumer market have ratcheted up the  competition.

“The barriers to entry are so low that all you need is a credit card and you  can call yourself a production company,” he says.

To deal with the new market demands, Altomore, Watts and their competitors  have adjusted their strategies. Matt Krzycki, founder of GoodSide Studio in  Seattle, shoots with smaller crews and uses a more efficient production process,  which helps his studio sit in the middle ground between the two extreme types of  video production company models operating today.

“On one hand, we have ‘Gigantor Studio and Production,’ who always thinks  bigger is better and are really not adapted to the smaller crews, smaller  budgets and simpler work flows that the new tech allows,” Krzycki says. “And  then you have this guy who I call the ‘Craigslist Kid,’ who thinks video is free  now. He’s often a hobbyist or enthusiast and sometimes might do a good job, or  he might be using your project to discover that he really doesn’t like doing  video.”

When choosing your production company, focus on the two biggest  differentiators: technical competence and business acumen. Great camera  equipment is available for cheap these days, but Watts contends you can’t buy  knowledge about lighting and composition off the shelf.

“One thing that can separate you from everybody down the street is the  experience that you have in lighting, framing correctly and adding motion to  your camera movement,” Watts says. “There’s one thing that doesn’t change when  you get down to it and that’s the art of the craft.”

Even more important, Altomore says, is understanding the whole point of  developing a video. “The hardest thing about my job is not making the pretty  pictures,” he says. “What is hard is understanding the clients’ communications  goals, understanding who their audience is, understanding what the objectives  are and making sure that the pretty pictures we make match those goals.”

Altomore warns businesses about the end product they may get if they opt to  hire a college kid with lots of creativity but limited business experience.

“They don’t always understand that just because something is a creative idea  doesn’t mean that it is a good idea to solve the problem the client is trying to  solve,” he says. “And in the end, they may not have the maturity or experience  to say, ‘Wow, this would be really beautiful or interesting or funny to do, but  it doesn’t actually benefit the client.'”

Read more stories about:    Video tips,    YouTube

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This article was originally  published in the February  2011 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Are You  Ready for Your Close Up?.

Self-described tech geek Ericka Chickowski also writes  for Consumers Digest, the Los Angeles Times and  the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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