Monday, 30 March 2015

Why do some Business Videos just not cut the mustard?

Why do some business videos just not cut the mustard? 

Online video is a hugely powerful marketing tool and works at its best when used to its full potential  as a story telling medium. Long, short, extravagant or as simple as some animated graphics it offers anyone in business the perfect opportunity to “show and tell” who they are and what they do.

Video production is however a labour intensive business that arguably requires visually skilled and creative people to deliver something worth watching. 

It is therefore relatively expensive to produce compared to other forms of marketing collateral and, in any cost driven market, the price will always be a key aspect of the decision making process as to what or how much one does with the medium.

In my view there are three key aspects to using video as a marketing communications tool.

 The Hook. -

The end result may be considerably more subtle in its approach than the term suggests but the purpose of any “Hook” is to catch the unknown visitor passing through your site or social media feed, en route elsewhere and entice them into engaging with you. 

Humour has proven to be your best bet here as evidenced by the success of the likes of Dollar Shave Club - Christmas 2014 - Poo Pourri Video or Dumb Ways to Die.  

Each is a piece of pure entertainment with a purpose, and a clear message, told as a short story.

The Dwell. -  

This can be anything you like so long as it is likely to resonate and engage your visitor / target customer. 

The sole objective being to encourage them to stay on your website. Entices them into taking the time to engage with you and what you have to offer. 

It’s always a good idea not to over sell. So telling stories at this level should be more to do with educating your visitor in an entertaining manner than trying to get them to buy something from you. 

Giving the viewer something that has some value for them will always be gratefully received. 

Even if this, where appropriate, is just a piece of pure entertainment.

The Convert. - 

As the name suggests, I categorise this level of content as anything and everything that supports your offer in sufficient detail to reduce or eliminate any perception of risk on the part of the prospect. 

These should be videos which help convert the curious visitor into a future customer. 

Detailed product descriptions, customer testimonials, case studies, reviews and how-to s are all possibilities. 

They are an investment in a resource that can be built over time and which should have value to your business for many years to come. We have videos still being viewed by new potential customers every day that were produced for clients over 5 years ago and which are just as relevant today as when they were when first posted.

So why then do some business videos, in my view, not cut the mustard? 

When the production simply doesn’t give the viewer anything that rewards them for the time they have taken to watch it. 

It’s “lazy video” produced and sold on the grounds that it will provide the client with a benefit or an effect but which singularly fails to use the medium to its best effect. 

It is often content based on an old pre Penguin assumption, that anything that has a video file name attached to it is guaranteed to get you a ranking hike. This is no longer the case.

Hot video should be visually rich, entertaining, engaging, informative and ultimately be rewarding for the viewer who has invested their increasingly precious time in watching it.

I’ve also written a related blog on why most “Talking Head Videos” don’t work and why, in many instances, animation is a more cost effective way of meeting the above goals.

Blog at …..

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Colouring in for Business Success. OR - How to make your video really count.

Colouring in for Business Success.

OR - How to make your video really count.

If you market a service in today’s content driven environment then video is something you should seriously consider.  It’s too good an opportunity to miss.  And yet there is a huge pitfall for the unwary.  If your only visual resources are your staff and your premises, then you are going to encounter some big challenges.  

You’re not Jeremy Paxman – but then who is?

This was the theme of a seminar I gave early last year to members of the Business Networking SW group in Bristol.  The point being that even the most knowledgeable and experienced people can come across as horribly wooden and boring on screen.  It’s not surprising really – few of us are natural Evan Davies or Robert Pestons (and even they needed a bit of practice).

Am I bovvered?

The problem is that we live in a fast paced business environment – only slick presenters, supported by rich content, delivered with speed, variety and dynamism, will successfully engage viewers whose attention spans seldom stretch beyond a few seconds. 

In my talk I suggested that talking heads, presenter or discursive based videos are just too ponderous and dull for today’s audience.  What’s more, they don’t use the medium to maximum effect.  

They are relatively easy and cheap to produce – but what’s the point if nobody watches them?!  Their only value is the mild SEO boost you’ll get from embedding video into your website.  

What worked back then may not work now

Having said that, they’re very popular with the ex-broadcast community for whom the style is not only tried and tested but comfortably familiar.  That explains why they are so often recommended as the default approach.  But the truth is it’s a dated one.

I’m not suggesting that one should never use people talking to camera when you produce videos for your website or your social media marketing. Far from it – satisfied customers delivering credible and natural testimonials are hugely powerful as pre-sale qualifiers for the risk averse or the nervous prospect. 

But PLEASE .....don’t use talking head videos as a core element within your content marketing strategy.  The only people who really watch them are those who already know the speaker.

Don’t watch my lips – there’s more exciting stuff for you to see

There is real value in what knowledgeable, experienced, people have to say about the work they do.  But the best way to leverage the full value from their words is to avoid sticking a camera on their face for minutes at a time.  A much more engaging approach is to fill the screen with dynamic visual content which reinforces the audio information being conveyed.

Think about it – how many TV commercials do you see with the client talking to camera for 30-60 seconds?  Not many!  How many do you see with lots of exciting and highly watchable visual activity and a voiceover running in the background?  Lots!  Why do big advertisers do this?  Because it works!

Video offers the power of pictures – use it!

If you fill the screen with visuals that grab and hold the attention you get twice the bang for your buck.
If the words and the visual are the same (ie you are just watching someone talking to camera) then half of the power of the medium is wasted – you might as well just have the sound alone!  

But if you have visuals that demonstrate the service in action, that help people visualize the features and benefits, that dramatise the value being delivered, then you double the effect (actually, it’s more than double, as the sum is greater than the parts and the way they combine can increase the power by a factor of three, four or five times).

Seeing is believing 

The use of video is more than just a marketing opportunity. It is the "must have" component in your content marketing tool box. Particularly for technically rich or complex information first consumed on a mobile device.

Here's a short summary of the seminar content.

Friday, 30 January 2015

If Only I Could Draw ..! Here's How-To.

I'm a huge fan of helping people communicate effectively through video and gave a short, free, seminar to a small group of people in November of 2014, for which I produced a very simple animated video as a seminar tool based around Seam Humby, the host.
As someone who thinks in pictures, I can see that one of the major constraints for anyone wishing to add a bit of supporting illustrative content to a blog or public presentation is the ability to create some original visual interest or artwork.
There is a growing raft of animation tools now available online and all of which generally come with a library of "stock" images that are free to use with each of these apps. This may be a great way to help get you started but after a while you may begin to notice that your animation looks quite like a number of other animations and that any impact you might have hoped to gain as a result of your endeavors has been sadly diminished.
The answer of course would be to create your own artwork, in your own style which says more about you than any stock image or piece of clip art ever can but not everyone can draw.
Well, perhaps you don't have to and if you have a laptop, some thin paper and a couple of black felt tip pens, you might like to create your own artwork by simply tracing it. This method is by no means a perfect solution to your drawing limitations but it might help in the short term. 
The methods described are the same ones that were used to create the animation for the seminar and which I have also embedded underneath the How-To for your further edification.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Should Buying Video be More like Buying a Suit?

If you were to ask a tailor where you should buy your new suit he’s likely to tell you that you will only get something wearable if you have your suit made bespoke and preferably purchased from him.

He’ll no doubt point out that quality doesn’t come cheap. That a suit from him will be comfortable to wear, prove to be a sound investment that will last and that being made to measure it will be a true reflection of your persona that others will respect.

I would be the first to acknowledge that there are suits and there are “Suits” and that there is a multiplicity of “grades” or variations in both the quality of the material, the skill of the producer or the time taken to create the garment yet each of these has a place in the market. Which supplier one ultimately chooses to use will be dictated by both the purpose of the suit and your budget.

So why should buying a video for your website or social media marketing campaign be any different?

It must be quite ego boosting to have something bespoke produced when it has been made from the best materials, is beautifully crafted and admired by everyone but is it appropriate to your real needs?

If you just need a work a day suit, because everyone is telling you that you need one, would the first thing you thought of be to make it yourself?

The suit manufacturing industry is mature and has over time settled into a well established order of supply based on quality and price with bespoke at the top and various grades of “off the peg” at the bottom.

The vast majority of established film / video suppliers come from backgrounds based on creating high cost, bespoke content for broadcast or corporate clients with large viewing audiences that justify the expense.

The market for website video is however quite different to that of mass audience media production and in my view therefore requires a different approach.

In order that businesses might benefit from using video it first needs to be affordable and one way of achieving this is to make it more akin to buying an “off the peg” suit than commissioning something bespoke.

M&S sells over 250,000 mens suits a year and yet everyone that wears one is an individual. The suit itself is really no more than a piece of visual communication and in this respect is similar to internet based video which is also simply a combined audio / visual communications tool.

Like bespoke tailoring, video production is a creative process and as with all things creative it’s the thinking and client interaction time which makes it potentially expensive. If one can take a good portion of each of these out of the production cycle then this inevitably allows one to take costs out of the whole process.

A more systematic or methodical approach to video production which is based on experience also allows one to keep costs down. However, this approach can only be financially viable for the producer if the buyer accepts that they are purchasing something “off the peg” rather than bespoke.

Provided one has confidence in the supplier based on their previous experience, reputation in the market, evidence of similar work, testimonial endorsements and declared guarantees then buying a video should be as simple as selecting a suitable type, paying a fee and waiting for it to be delivered.

Or does the thought of having to trust your supplier without being able to micro manage the end result fill you with dread?

There really are only a couple of other ways that allow the cost of video production to be reduced.

  • Take out the cost of the cameraman by shooting the raw content yourself. On the face of it this sounds like a plan but fails to take account of the things you are not paying for when you use a professional camera person. Your time, the cost of the equipment, sound quality, the potential need for light, video / film production experience and a visual perspective.
  • Just use some photographs, a half decent recorded script, some free online software and do it yourself. Feel free to fill your boots if this is your kind of thing. This isn’t to say that it’s not a viable option for the production of a half decent video, just one that you will have to invest some time exploring yourself to discover its limitations.

I favour an “off the peg” approach because I’ve been producing website videos for long enough to know that many people think they need a tuxedo, a luxury they can’t afford, when all they really need is a good looking boiler suit.

Image source Flicker by Louis Vest

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Is There a Difference Between B2B Videos and B2C Videos?

The straight answer is yes and no.


It’s a valid enough question but too open ended for a succinct answer because it first needs to be qualified by asking what do you want to achieve with said video?

Look, it’s not complicated. Just think it through from a marketing perspective because that is what you are asking, isn’t it? This is all part of your marketing strategy, yes?

The benefits and precedents are well documented for anyone that cares to look. Online video on your website can help you get a higher page ranking on Google. An engaging video will keep visitors on your site for longer than an equivalent site without video while if you use it to describe your product or service with a clear call to action then you should expect to see an distinct uplift in your online response rate.

Fantastic!!!!.....  BUT!!

All of this means very little if no one is actually visiting your website in the first place, you’re not getting much traffic. Website visitors, by the way, are called traffic.

If your marketing objective is to use video as a means of getting more traffic or your need is to build brand awareness then what you decide to produce as a business selling to consumers is likely to be different from what you may want to first show prospective customers if they are a business and you’d like to do business with them.


Social Media.

You might argue that producing a video which shows consumers how impressive your resources or facilities are, or what great guys / gals you all are, will have them queueing at your door, but that’s probably unlikely with this kind of content. 

Yet, this type of content still has real value and should have a place in your video marketing strategy. Just don’t place it “front of house” for a business to consumer offer where your primary objective should be to create content that says something about you that will be shared.

For example, customer testimonial videos are relatively cheap to acquire and have huge value as proof that you can and do supply what you say you do.

Yet it is unlikely that anyone will watch them until they are at the tipping point of conversion and just need that last little nudge of reassurance before committing to you in some way. Some final confirmation that they aren’t wasting their money or that you’re not a rogue trader.

If your plan is to use video to help get you found via social media channels then you need a video that will resonate with your target market and this may have very little to do with your product other than an association with something good, clever, informative or much enjoyed.

More Confused?

Think engagement and levels of interest rather than promotion. 

The very first question anyone thinking of producing a B2C video should ask is. What can I produce that my target audience will watch but more importantly want to share?

This could well be a great video about your products but you are more likely to have something shared if that isn’t immediately obvious in the video you have produced. Think entertaining, enlightening, funny, tongue in cheek, irreverent, anecdotal, helpful, story telling that’s engaging yet informative.

Quite often the really memorable promotional campaigns are those that leave the core message out and so allow the viewer to make the connection.

Businesses selling to other businesses are however more likely to be better served through the production of information based video content that cuts straight to the point in showing prospective customers exactly what can be done and how this is achieved.

Still confused?

In my opinion online video has three levels of engagement. Each level needs to be considered individually according to what you do, who you sell to and what you want to get from your video investment. 

The nature of the video may be the same for B2B and B2C purposes but the execution and distribution is likely to differ.

1) Entice - The first of these is the most difficult to judge and get right. Its success relies heavily in not only knowing who your prospects are and where they are likely to be found but in also tailoring the video you produce so that it resonates with them. 

It must have value for them and ideally be of such high value that they then wish to share it with other people. This will differ from product to product and business to business.

2) Enlighten - Once someone is on your website your goal should be to keep them there and turn them into interested prospects. Your videos should be entertaining and informative. It should expand on what you do, how you do it and why you’re good at it.

3) Convert - Prospective customers are more likely to buy into your product or service if they feel there is little or no risk to them and that you have provided all the information or reassurance they could possibly need. How-To or Explain-it videos and animations, customer testimonial or case study videos and detailed product descriptions with clear calls to action will all help in this respect.

Yet any and all of these can and should be considered as content that will also help get your website found.

So why then is social media so important?


You can have the best videos in the world but with 100 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute don’t imagine that yours is going to be found without doing a range of things that will help prospective viewers find it.

Having a distribution strategy is something that you should think about implementing before you invest in a video that very few people may see and we would be happy to advise you on how to go about doing this before we produced anything for you.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Animation is a Business Marketing Tool

So why animate?

Every business has a story to tell and some business stories are easier to tell than others.

Businesses such as manufacturers or suppliers of physical goods or services are generally “visually rich” in what they do and so have the happy opportunity to simply show prospective customers how or where they provide these goods to help explain what they do or how they add value for their customers. For example, the building of a house will provide multiple opportunities for every trade or profession concerned in the build to show and describe something of what they do, their contribution, using video. 

Many modern businesses are however not so fortunate. 

Those that deliver a product or service that is predominately the outcome of an intellectual or professional process find that their only immediate visual resource is the people within the business or their place of work. They struggle to describe what they do or the contribution they make because they deliver something that has no obvious or tangible physicality. 

So here is a teaser. Describe Carbon Off-Setting or Capital Gains Tax as a series of photographs.

The real power behind video is the use of visual content in support of and in synergy with an audio description being delivered simultaneously. It is the combination of the two that makes this communication media five times more memorable than using images and text alone.

The beauty and core strength behind animation is that anything that can be imagined can be drawn. It is therefore the only marketing tool available that allows one to communicate both complex intellectually theory or processes in a way that allows for a visual representation to be shown in support of an audio recording.

What animation styles work best?

Video or animated content produced for delivery via the web is quite different to that produced for a set presentation delivered to a captive audience. 

Video content consumed on the internet is done with the permission of the viewer. When they “opt in” to view your content they do so knowing that they can “opt out” at any time should what they see or hear not be to their liking. 

Unlike an auditorium or presentation to the room your online audience will be hyper critical and vote with a click elsewhere. You therefore need to play by some very simple rules if you want an enquirer to finish the course and watch your video all the way to the call to action.

A well constructed PowerPoint, Prezi or Camtasia presentation recorded in time to a supporting audio track is an animation. The power behind any animation is in the strength of the story, the relevancy and memorability of the images used and the clarity of the message being delivered but the principal rule for most online video or animated content is to keep it short.

If necessary, break long complex explanations down into chapters or even paragraphs and deliver these as individual videos to improve viewer engagement and reduce your click off rate.

Any presentation style or technique that holds the viewer's attention, delivers your message and tells your story in a memorable way will be suitable. The decision as to which style you use is more likely to be based on your market, the complexity of your message and your budget.

What do we do?

We use hand drawn animated videos, often called “Whiteboard” or Scribble” animations, to tell complex business stories in an engaging and informative way. We use VideoScribe from Sparkol to create these cost effectively using custom line drawings / illustrations produced to suit each brief.

We also use motion graphics, photographs or short video clips within these if it helps clarify or reinforce the core message we have been asked to deliver.

A well constructed hand drawn animation is incredibly powerful and difficult not to watch to the end. 

There is a direct connection between the curiosity that encouraged a viewer to “opt in” to watch an animation and the same curiosity that keeps them watching right to the end when the final frame is revealed.

The goal of every business should be to create video or animated video content that tells their story in a way that keeps every visitor engaged to the end, is memorable and evokes a response from the viewer.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Video SEO Benefits - Good Sense or Nonsense?

First things first. A short background to my perspective.

I don't come from a media or film production background but rather from a 3D furniture / product / exhibition design education with a career in helping retailers and brands sell goods in high street stores. The bulk of that time has been spent creating visual content to sell a concept to the client for how it would look, function or be produced.

Video for me is therefore a sales and marketing communications tool.

It is a relatively new phenomenon created by the growth of the internet and fuelled by Google's preference for websites that have invested in it. The market for web video is so large that an army of suppliers has blossomed to meet the potential demand from happy DIYers on their GoPros or Smart phones to sophisticated film production companies more used to making content for TV.

Google's preference for video and its effect on your page ranking has however absolutely nothing to do with how good your video is. It's an algorithm formulated to a logic that calculates and ranks the value of your video based on how well it meets those logic-based Google tick boxes which have absolutely nothing to do with how beautiful or even relevant your video might be.

However, your audience is only interested in whether your website video is relevant to them. The more entertaining and informative it is the more likely they will be to watch it to the end. The more engaging it is the more likely that your visitor will dwell on your website and take some form of positive action as a result.

Having good quality video content is important but it's not going to help you get a high page rank on Google if this is all you do and this is why I'm writing this.

Who is making sure that you are getting the maximum SEO benefit from your web video?

Do you know what boxes Google likes to see ticked? Does your website designer / web master understand and are they happy to undertake this work as a part of their brief? Perhaps you have opted to engage a Search Engine Optimisation specialist for this task and is online video SEO something they understand?

If you believe that your web video producer is providing this then think again. My experience is that few appear to understand that the inclusion of a few basic elements in the service they offer will make a significant difference to your potential page ranking.

  • Stick it on YouTube with a title that reflects the title of your web page.
  • Your YouTube video description should be preceded with your full URL.
  • The YouTube description should also contain all the keywords you are using on your web page.
  • The TAGs should be completed to match the keywords in your title and description.

The above list is a bare minimum and will provide some effect but if you "go the whole hog" and max out using your video to help get a high Google page rank then the results can be startling as we found when we checked the progress of an experiment we recorded last year.

A progress check last week showed that our Video SEO Benefits exercise titled Googling Gecco is producing a double page one listing for the key words "Somerset Builder" despite our belief that it may have been penalised by Google's latest changes to its search criteria. Yes two page one references!!!

So we know that web video is an incredibly powerful online marketing tool but that its success in this respect has more to do with what you do with it after it has been produced than the video itself.

If you feel that you're not getting the value you were led to believe you would get from investing in a video for your website then perhaps it's time to take a closer look at your supplier and question whether they just make nice videos rather than one that provides a service that aims to achieve an effect for your investment.