To remain competitive, strengthen relationships with customers, and acquire new ones, companies will need to shift much more of their pre-sales communication from text to video. Marketers who invest the next year in developing teams to efficiently and creatively produce 90-second experiences for YouTube, the second largest search engine, will position their companies to either further their advantage or unseat one of the current leaders.
Here are five tips to get your video strategy ready:
1. Respect the category
On YouTube, the “Always Be Closing” approach will earn you a set of steak knives. Different categories of videos are required to provide a rich customer experience online, and keep your viewers coming back. A product demo might include a pop-up call to action, but interrupting a video designed to build loyalty, connect emotionally, or gain awareness by going viral would be completely counterproductive. Each category should have a separate set of metrics based on its specific objective.
2. Write for the star products
If we learned anything from Volvo Trucks’ “Live Test” campaign, a key success factor for a YouTube video is spectacle. If your company’s approved vendor list doesn’t include John Claude Van Damme, there are other options. As you plan your production list, focus on the products that lend themselves to a visually-compelling application.
Drugstore.com may not have been able to create a cliffhanger around Q-Tips or Epsom salts, but they created a fine action flick starring the marshmallow cross bow. I wasn’t able to watch this without ordering one for each of my kids. And I won’t be able to watch The Hunger Games: Catching Fire without daydreaming about s’mores.
3. Take a low budget approach
Jay Baer, author of The New York Times bestseller Youtility, writes about this brilliant “how to” Vine series, Lowes Fix in Six. This set of 10 videos was filmed in a single day on an iPhone. Granted, a big ad agency and a gifted designer were behind the production, but what’s most important about the videos is that they provide customers with creative, simple solutions.
Any retailer could create a low-budget, six-second video series by recruiting a talented college art major and box of crayons. Build relationships with local colleges, film schools, or artist communities to expand your team with project-based interns. Take a professor to lunch and ask for an introduction to the best storytellers in the class.
Or, invest in a few $10-$20 accessories that can dramatically increase the audio and video quality of your smartphone. This way you’ll always be ready to capture the opportunistic interview.
4. Get Inspired by Macy’s
Productions by the iconic department store are stellar examples of how to use videos to build the audience and strengthen loyalty. Here are a few exmaples:
“The Great American Road Trip.” Combining food, travel and music to engage the younger crowd, the Austin episode includes a visit to one of my favorite spots, the Salt Lick BBQ. Out of gratitude, I’m going to Macy’s now to buy some expensive luggage.
“Macy’s Presents American Icons.” A mini-documentary series that features fashion pioneers as well as some history, as in this episode on Mount Rushmore. Audiences love history. If they can spend a few minutes enjoying a video and feel smarter at the end, you’ve gained a subscriber to your channel.
“Help Me Clinton.” The “What Not to Wear” star hosts this fun fashion how-to series. If I hadn’t found this, I would have had no idea that Denim-on-Denim was back in vogue. Hopefully, before the company holiday party, I can locate my Toughskins vest.
With a little creativity, you can create low-budget versions of these concepts.
5. Try and Test
While a little market research upfront is always a good idea, I’ve seen many projects get needlessly delayed due to analysis paralysis. And keep in mind, market research gave us New Coke and almost canceled Seinfeld. I’d rather shift some of the research budget into production and see what actually works by testing it with our own audience.
Our team at Cisco is experimenting by adding a little humor to our “B2B Voice of the Customer” videos. It’s amazing how dramatically the process and investment can be improved with some simple test results. More importantly, this helps an organization become more comfortable with risk-taking, which is critical to building a culture of innovation.
As you draft your 2014 New Year’s resolutions, commit to experimenting with a few of these approaches. Set a goal of publishing (even as “unlisted”) 10 videos to your personal YouTube channel.
Tim Washer is a Webby-nominated producer, comedy writer, and conference speaker, including last year’s Monetate Summit. He’s contributed to SNL, Conan, and The Onion Sports Network. In his corporate life, he led social video production for IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign, and is now senior marketing manager at Cisco. His video work has been featured in AdAge, ADWEEK, and The New York Times.