Strategic Use of Video Helps Move The Needle

Moving pictures have been moving people to buy, to think and to love for more than a century. Today, excitement around video marketing is palpable. For the first time, small businesses are able to afford high quality video campaigns that can serve as pillars of their websites, social media pages and email marketing campaigns.

With a world of potential to unlock via video marketing, our hope here is to equip you with working knowledge about how best to proceed. It’s easy enough to point-and-shoot, but successful video marketing is made up of several interlocking components, the foundation of which is the strategic framework that guides all decisions throughout the video-making and video-sharing process. If you want a successful video marketing campaign, an insightful strategy is essential. Such strategies help you uncover truths about the audience, and truths about your brand. These truths in combination are then weighed by the creative team while developing winning “concepts” for your campaign, and used by you to judge whether or not the idea presented is “on strategy.”

What is marketing strategy and why do I need one?

Marketing strategy is often considered an esoteric art practiced by agency types, consultants and other suit-wearing shaman. Be assured, it’s nothing of the sort. Marketing strategy in its simplest terms is the right set of answers to the right set of questions.

Sample questions you’ll find in a strategy document:

    1. What problems can video marketing solve?
    2. Who are we speaking to?
    3. How is your company’s product or service unique?
    4. Will prospects believe your claims?

As you can see, strategy cuts to the bone. There’s no room for faking and fluff. Clients and their marketing partners must begin from an honest assessment of what is possible, and a well-conceived strategy is the path to this desired end.

Imagine a flight without a flight plan. Do you want to be a passenger on board that plane? That’s what video marketing is without a bedrock strategic vision in place to guide your hand. Like a flight plan, your video marketing strategy will chart the coordinates from departure to destination. If the goal is to use video to drive customers to retail, put it in the plan. Likewise, if the goal is to create consumer-generate content as part of a promotional offer and help create a sense of ownership in participants, put it in the plan.

Now is a good time to pause and consider what kind of video your company needs to move the needle.

  • Do you need instructional videos that explain technical things to customers, like how to drive a new John Deere tractor?
  • Do you need direct response videos that to help prompt a monetary reaction on the part of the viewer?
  • Do you need brand videos to help build and sustain long-term relationships with customers?
  • Do you need HR videos made for internal audiences, and/or recruitment videos to help attract workers?

Chances are your company will employ a combination of the above. By understanding your objectives and clearly communicating them to all partners and team members, you’re on your way to video marketing success.

Lean on the classic story arc to deepen viewer engagement

Think about your favorite movies for a minute. No matter the storyline, they all share something in common—the ability to “hook” a viewer. Viewers are not hooked by chance. Hooks are part of a well-worn formula that screenwriters learn early in their development. The hook is the nucleus of the story, and if a reader or viewer isn’t hooked in the first five to ten minutes of action, they’re off to something better. So, set your hooks or risk being invisible to your intended audience.

Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg said, “People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.” Spielberg is a great artist, and his insight works particularly well for marketers. Marketers must stay perpetually in front of their audience, without boring people to tears. But how? Please consider the way you describe your company now. Do you employ any elements of the classic story arc in your ads, your videos or company literature?

Classic-Story-Arc

Maybe you’re wondering what kind of “rising tension” exists inside your company that will drive your brand narrative forward. Look to your people, your history and your ambitions. Your company didn’t just appear out of thin air one day. Companies are stitched together by people who dream and struggle every day for the greater good. Wherever you find your story mine, when you’re ready to start packaging things up in video it pays to understand the fundamentals of hooks, rising tension, climax and denouement.

Video can open hearts, eyes and minds. The challenge is to get people to care. To do this you’ll need to dig deep to find the truly meaningful stories that are actually worth producing, and then be ready to apply time-tested techniques to hook your audience and keep them with you as your brand narrative rises and falls over time.

Know, study and adapt to your audience’s viewing habits

The traditional top-down method of reaching a mass audience meant creating TV commercials, which were expensive to make and expensive to run. But today, Gen X is calling up their favorite shows on Netflix. Gen Y is subscribing to programs on YouTube. If you’re under 30 years old today, your whole world lives inside your mobile device. Marketers with youthful demographics can’t adopt the mobile-first future fast enough. Configuring video campaigns to accommodate for mobile’s vertical screen is a good start.

If you’ve ever read a novel or even a newspaper article on your mobile phone, you know it’s not the ideal device for reading long-form text. Text messages, sure. But a story of 1000 or more words is tough to digest on a phone. Video, on the other hand, doesn’t require resizing, scrolling and the like. Video is easy to say “yes” to, and when you’re presenting branded content to busy people with a million other things on their minds, you want to be easy to say yes to.

Mobile users are religious about their phones and a good video marketer respects every screen. The content must look great on a small screen, a tablet, laptop, desktop, wide screen TV or cinema display.

Signal versus frequency: the debate continues…

How often should you upload new video to your website and social channels? It’s a great question, followed by another: How much video is too much video?

Entire vaults of video are being created and loaded to YouTube today and every day—vaults that would have taken 20th century filmmakers decades to shoot edit and run. According to YouTube, 300 hours of video are uploaded to its site every minute of every day.

Clearly, there’s a ton of junk being made that no one wants to see, and very few will ever see. Nevertheless, consider that every new video uploaded today is in a direct contest against all the other content on the web. That’s all the bad video, the good video and everything in between. The odds are stacked against you. That’s why we’re outlining a path here to video marketing success, which starts with strategy. Remember, strategy is your set of best answers to appropriately difficult questions. And “how often to produce and share video?” is one of these appropriately difficult questions. The answer lies in the audience’s media habits.

YouTube reports that half of all videos on its site are viewed via a mobile device. This is a good indication that people are watching while commuting, while eating lunch and while otherwise pre-occupied. The video in this scenario is a brief interlude, a jolt of two-minute video pleasure that puts a smile on people’s faces and a bounce in their step. Clearly, there is room for longer format videos that can appeal to business-to-business buyers watching in a desktop setting. Whatever the choice, let the format (plus other factors like budget and depth of customer interest) help drive the decisions about video frequency.

To help you chart this path forward, use an editorial calendar. Your editorial calendar can be as simple as a spreadsheet, or you can employ one of several software-as-a-service tools available for free or by subscription online. Which tool you choose isn’t as important as the need to plan ahead and exercise patience during the production—captivating videos are the result of many hours of concentrated and coordinated efforts.

Video flows through distributed networks

Have you heard the term “sharing economy”? It refers to the use of information technology to empower people to use the excess capacity in a system. Uber recognized the excess capacity in safe drivers who would otherwise only be driving themselves. Can this framework be applied to your video marketing? In a time of dwindling attention spans and an excess of content, how can your company tap the excess capacity in your customer’s brains? How can you get anyone to listen? The answer is: Make video worth sharing and then optimize it for social media users who will volunteer to distribute your branded videos for free. People freely share when the material being shared reflects well on them. If someone is intent on appearing stylish and conveying trendsetter status, that someone’s Facebook updates will likely support an idealized creation of self. If someone wants to be considered helpful or particularly knowledgeable about a topic, his or her social media updates, and the video they decide to share, will help support this end. The question to ask is what can brands do to facilitate video sharing?

All websites are not created equal. A company’s website can feature video—in fact it must feature video, preferably on the home page—but company websites by their nature are not all that share-friendly. Yes, you can add the social share buttons to each update, but the point is people are more likely to share in a native environment for sharing video content like Facebook or Twitter. When a user navigates through a Facebook or Twitter newsfeed, it’s easy and natural to share content. Note that many companies choose to use YouTube or Vimeo as a home base for their video stockpile, as these native video sharing environments generously provide embed code, which can in turn by used to place the videos on the corporate site. Think of it as a virtuous loop for your company’s video.

Be forever searchable

YouTube.com is the world’s second largest search engine after Google.com. Go to YouTube.com right now and enter your company’s name in the search box. If there are no results, you’ve just identified a major problem with your video marketing strategy—no videos means no chance to “hook” people with your compelling brand story and guide them through the sales funnel with a series of carefully orchestrated videos.

Here’s another easy-to-overlook detail…when you do load your new videos to YouTube, Vimeo or another social site, be sure to use a generous portion of text to describe the contents of each video. Each video needs an informative (versus creative) title for search engine marketing purposes. Like the title of a blog post, the title of a video is what gets picked up by search engines and shown as a result. If someone is looking for an instructional video on replacing spark plugs, for instance, a video from an auto parts retailer will need the right title to be part of the consideration set on the search results page. The right title is highly specific and full of nouns.

Adjust your video package and roll

Video marketing, like all marketing today, relies on data and more importantly, your ability to parse the right data sets into meaningful insights. By employing Google Analytics or a more robust analytics package, you can begin to dig in to the details of who is watching, when they are watching, how many times your video is shared, and so on. As you glean a clear picture of your real (not imagined) audience, you can then begin to tweak your video content and distribution plans to better match up with the needs of your audience.

By paying close attention to the details in your analytics reports, you may also stumble upon a serendipitous find. Marketers want to be firm in their convictions, based on the hard work that goes in to developing insights that lead to a working strategy, but also flexible enough to learn and to change course when necessary. Take the National Football League…On the surface, you’d be tempted to think the core customer is male and American. In reality, women make up an estimated 45 percent of the NFL’s more than 150 million American fans. Female fans, a group beloved by advertisers, represent the league’s biggest opportunity for growth. Motivating women to spend has become a chief goal of the NFL, which has funded research, expanded merchandising and sponsored spreads in women’s magazines.

The lesson is it’s easy to make faulty assumptions, but such missteps can be costly errors when your company is investing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in video content. Let the insights culled from the data guide you, while remembering to always connect with people on a human level.

Summary

Video is the marketing spotlight right now. According to ComScore’s Video Metrix for online video, engagement with brand videos grew 186% in Q2 (2015) – more than three times faster than the growth rate of engagement with brand content overall. This data point is a good indication of the immense nature of the opportunity to connect with your customers and prospects by producing genuinely helpful or entertaining videos. People are actively seeking out branded videos over still images, and text. Are you giving your audience the chance it needs to embrace your video offerings, share your videos and develop a keen interest in your company’s content?

Please don’t be fooled into thinking that you can simply make videos and get them up on your home page or distributed through digital networks, and that’s that. Video is one channel for your brand storytelling—arguably the best channel. But if it’s going to build your brand and drive people to purchase, your videos must be well worth watching, from both a storytelling and production-values standpoint.

Telling people all about your products or services is advertising, not content marketing. The two approaches can compliment one another and offer people a refreshing alternative, because content marketing flips the script. A content marketer asks not “What do I want to say?” but rather, “What does the audience want to hear?” Your upfront investment in developing a comprehensive video strategy will help you answer this riddle and find a way to add unique value via video.

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