If you’re looking for an easy way to generate website traffic, inbound links, and instant conversions, a well-produced video is a great investment. I’ve witnessed firsthand how a short, informative clip or two can describe a product or service more effectively than pages of content and spur a visitor to action in a very short time.
I know, your first reaction is probably “Video is expensive, I can’t afford that.” Patience, my friend. Keep reading and I’ll offer you some guidelines for creating a great video on a tight budget.
I’d like to offer this clip as an example, built for the online retail business I use as a lab for online marketing experiments. After a year, it continues to generates sales, month after month. Since this video went online a year ago, it has generated sales three times over our previous mark for this product. That’s especially impressive considering the economic headwinds working against it.
Why It Works
I think there are three primary reasons why this video is effective. It’s not perfect, but it does do one thing very well. It SELLS. Here’s why.
The video is narrowly focused. If I were to produce a complete tutorial on how to tow a trailer with a motorcycle, I could spend an hour or more. In addition to adding a hitch, I could have discussed how to wire the bike to run the trailer lights, how to hook up a trailer and tow it safely, etc. However, my goal was to offer a specific insight into how this particular hitch installs, so I limited the discussion to that specific topic.
The tone of the video matches the medium and the audience. No one expects a lavish, slick production for a how-to video like this, so it made no sense to invest that kind of money. On the other hand, in looking at other user-generated how-to’s, I felt like a few simple steps could elevate the quality of this video at no real cost (I’ll discuss those later.)
Finally, the video clearly demonstrates value. It addresses the most specific concerns my customers have for this type of product. 1) How will this product look on my bike when it’s installed and 2) How easy is it to install? By the end of the video you have no doubt about either question.
Finding A Style
Every video I now produce for Open Road has a similar self-narrated format. Like any artistic expression, this particular approach took some time to evolve.
When I first started shooting these videos, I tried the standard “This Old House” approach, wearing a clip-on wireless mic and offering commentary as I did the demonstration. This method was, to put it plainly, frustrating as hell. I had to not only think about what I was doing, but also how to explain it at the same time. In order to sound even marginally credible, I’d reshoot a particular step a couple of times until I got the audio just right. Working in a noisy environment often spoiled my takes. I was about ready to ditch the whole thing.
I came back to the project a few weeks later with a fresh approach. I cut the video down, including shots that only included actual installation steps. I then recorded a narrated audio track to replace the audio shot during the demonstration.
This offered many benefits. When I performed an installation, I had only to concern myself with one thing: getting clear video shots. I didn’t have to explain and work at the same time. I didn’t have to worry about extraneous noise. I could just focus on filming the steps and take care of the rest later.
This format works for product demos and other instances where it’s not critical to hear directly from the person who’s being filmed. The fact that you never fully see the installer’s face for more than a second or two injects just the slightest bit of mystery into the video. Who is that guy doing that install? Is he a candidate for The Bachelor, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame? (For the video above, it’s clearly the latter.)
Time and Equipment Notes
Overall, this video required about eight hours to produce. It required one hour to shoot the raw footage. It took about an hour to digitize and log the clips into Adobe Premiere. I spent about two hours developing and recording the narration. I then spent a final four hours editing the results into a final product with very simple titles (reusable) and only ONE video transition effect, the classic “dissolve.”
My equipment consisted of a Canon Optura 20 consumer grade DV format camera and an Audio Technica AT-822 stereo microphone. Neither is expensive, nor exotic. I used the microphone with Adobe Audition to lay down the audio tracks, but any sound editing software would have done just as well. The music tracks from the Fresh Music library added a nice professional finishing touch. Fresh Music tracks are royalty-free, sound great, and inexpensive.
Making It Better
Over time, I’ve continued to evolve this format to make it better. In particular, I continue to look for ways to make these videos more effective at motivating viewers to take action. For example, I’ve added marquees to some videos to encourage viewers to mention the video when they order. I’ll try other techniques as I built out the complete library. I’m sure my videos will never equal that of a professional video production company, but I’m not looking to win an Oscar. I just want them to be good at one thing: closing the sale.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video, even a simple one, can be worth a million bucks.
Have you self-produced a video for your company that has been really effective? Post it here and share what you think makes it successful!
Naturally, I’m available to help your organization create lead-generating, cost-effective videos. Just give me a shout!