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There’s so many opinions about this out there.  The most common are:

1) The video should be short

2) The video should be fast

3) Put a call-to-action at the end of the video

4) It should tell as much about the product/company as possible in as short a time as possible

I have some issues with these practices though, learned through my own video production experience, lots of reading, and lots of conversations with clients and advising them on how best to produce their video.  Unfortunately, a lot of clients have their own ideas about how to produce THEIR marketing video – so often my hands are tied between managing the demands of the client, and trying to produce something that meets their needs.

Windmills near Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

Video Still from “About the Sault” Marketing Video, produced for the City of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.

Note how I’ve separated what they WANT from what they NEED.  And here’s why.

Most businesses – especially smaller to medium sized businesses who are trying to maximize their ROI with as little investment as possible – believe they are the single best spokesperson for their product (whether that product be a product or their company or their image).  This is often not the case.  Most times, the owner who runs the business may have the greatest understanding of how his business runs, but he’s either not good on camera, or she’s got a squeaky, small little voice.  But they WANT to be front and centre, or at least control the wording of the voiceover text to get as much info in there as possible (they think that maximizing their ROI means getting as much info out there as possible in as little time as possible, remember?)

Marketing Video ROI - Quotes about how video helps businesses

This graphic tells the story of several adherents to the idea that videos maximize ROI for businesses – especially e-commerce sites. Adding video to your marketing mix is essential in today’s competitive international marketplace. These are some quotes from others who believe in the power of video for selling their products. I got this from Treepodia’s blog site – thanks guys!

Yes – they know their product the best.  That’s why it’s their job to explain that product to you in such detail that you could have created it yourself.  But now comes the hard part.  Also, they need to tell you who their ideal client it, and why is this their targeted clientele.

Now comes the hard part.

YOU must figure out what message they need to send.

Look for their story.  That’s my best advice.  Every product – from a business to a widget to an idea – has a story to tell.  Either it’s a story of how it was developed and why it’s so revolutionary.  Or it’s the history of the company and how they came through a management crisis.  Or it’s a story about the timing of the product and why there are consumers who need it.  Or it’s a story about a client WHO USES the product, and how it has improved their performance, their endurance, their health, their productivity, their leisure time, their children’s lives, their reputation, their social standing.  Whatever the story – it’s YOUR job to discover it.

The classic story arc for creating good stories that captivate your viewers.

The classic story arc for creating great stories. This is the basic structure of a written story – but it can be deployed in service of your video productions, easily. Use it as a guide to make sure that you are including all the elements of a classic story in your video story – the arc should look similar, even though you have less time in which to build it. A book, of course, builds the arc over a lot of pages. You have 30 seconds to 4 minutes to build your story arc. Get moving.

And THAT’S the story to tell in your marketing video.

Now, remember that with a medium as powerful as video, you have many controls at your command to develop the story.  You have music, voiceover recordings, text, imagery, video footage, logos, interviews, etc.  It’s your job to use these elements to craft the most compelling story you can.  Because the only reason anyone will watch your video is because it has a story to tell.

Now, let me refute the above best practice guidelines:

1) The video should be short.  Wrong.  Yes, it’s okay to make a short video that bursts onto the viewers screen and disappears right away.  Statistics prove that viewers fall of at a surprising rate after the first minute.  So get you most important elements of the story out in the first 10 seconds.  Then validate your thesis with 3 value statements in the next 15 seconds.  And use the rest of the minute to fill in the details.  But you don’t have to stop there.  Because if you’ve caught your viewer’s attention – and really caught it – then they’ll stay to view more.  And so you use this extra time to present your thesis and validate it again – but also to add more context for the really interested viewer who you are now building a relationship with.  A relationship that is developing over more time than simply one minute.  And the longer you can develop that relationship – within reason – is worth it’s weight in gold!  And if you’re going to offer a call-to-action (and you NEED to present one), then state it clearly within the first 20 – 30 seconds.  And then repeat your call-to-action (in stronger, different language) again at the end of the video – for the truly engaged viewer who has been interested enough to wait for the context of your thesis.

An example:  For one of my current clients, they wanted to produce two videos, woven together as one.  They wanted a longer, in-depth “About Us” video, and they wanted a call-to-action video that would help this non-profit with their goal of raising $3 Million next year.  And so we designed the two videos differently – to set them apart from each other.  The font colours for the two videos were the same, but the chosen fonts were different, and the opening animated text was designed differently for each video.  Then, for their regular site, they’ve uploaded just the longer, in-depth “About Us” video, but on their fundraising site, we’ve combined the two videos with the call-to-action video coming up first immediately followed by the other one.  This was a perfect solution for this non-profit client where we got the important stuff out of the way, and then provided context for those really engaged viewers.

ARCH Marketing Video, by Molly Media Studios Corporate Video Productions in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

This video still is the arresting opening image for the Algoma Residential Community Hospice (ARCH) Marketing Video that we produced for them. It’s over 7 minutes long – and over 40% of viewers watch 100% of it. Remarkable. Really remarkable.

2) The video should be fast. Wrong.  Sometimes, the subject matter and the client and the story you need to tell MUST be told calmly, quietly, peacefully.  Not every video is meant to be a MuchMusic phenomenon.

This video still is from a marketing video contracted by the City of Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, to market living in the Sault to potential foreign immigrants.

This marketing video – and the rest in the 12-part series we produced for the City of Sault Ste Marie’s Immigration Web Portal – was designed and crafted as a rather slowly moving series of videos – because of the target audience. Not all of them would be native English speakers, and so we needed to make these marketing videos capable of being understood by a target audience with limited English language skills. A great reason to slow down your video!

An example:  When we produced the video for the Algoma Residential Community Hospice (ARCH), we decided that the nature of the subject matter required a quiet touch.  And so the camera moves slowly.  And the voiceover is relaxing and calming.  And the music is gentle.  And at over 7 minutes, I still have over 40% of my viewers who watch it all the way until the end.  100% of it.  Surprised?  See the point above, then.

3) Put a call-to-action at the end of every video.  Wrong.  And right.  Yes, put your call-to-action at the end of the video.  But place it near the beginning of the video, too.  Tell the viewer immediately where you are going.  But be gentle with this first call-to-action.  It’s not supposed to be a hard sell.  It’s more like you are suggesting what is to come.  And then you can contextualize why it is so important that your viewer act on your call-to-action, so that when you get to the end and include your second call-to-action, the viewer is ready for a harder sell.  Make your point.  Don’t be afraid.  If you’ve set it up properly, then your viewer will accept it.  Really.

Couple sitting on swing at the Ontario Finnish Resthome Association (OFRA), in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.

This video still was taken from footage captured for development of the Ontario Finnish Resthome Association’s Marketing Video. We crafted this video with a call-to-action right at the beginning of the video, as well as one at the end of the first minute: funding needed for a non-profit Seniors Housing Facility.

4) It should tell as much about the product/company as possible in as short a time as possible.  Wrong.  Nope, you should be crafting a story to tell about the product, not trying to include everything your client wants to tell about themselves and their product.  Be selective.  Target your audience.  Craft your story FOR your target audience.  What do they care about?  What can you help them with?  What tips can you give them?  What ways can you help them?  These are your stories.  Not the crap the CEO of the company wants you to tell to make him look like a better leader of the company.  It’s not about his ego.  It’s about his product – and the story.

Treetop Adventures Marketing Video, by Molly Media Studios (Marketing Director, CEO = Darren M Jorgensen), woman in trees

This video still is taken from the Marketing Video we produced for Treetop Adventures, near the beginning of the opening of their activity park set high in the trees. They wanted to highlight the exciting aspects of the park, and how much fun their clients could have working through the treetop course. But we advised them that many people would be afraid to come to the park because they would be afraid of accidents and injuries. We then crafted a story for them that not only illustrated the exciting aspects of the park, but with an emphasis on the safety measures in place. In her testimonial she sent us, Cindy Joseph, President of Treetop Adventures, explained that it was this video that brought many of their clients in – who cited that it was the safety features highlighted front and centre in the video that convinced them to come. By telling a different story than the one the President of the company originally envisioned, and incorporating her wishes into the story, we were able to effectively market her adventure park to a huge number of potential clients who otherwise wouldn’t have even considered participating in the course without knowing about the safety features. The power of storytelling, at its best!

Take these few short lessons to heart, and you will get results.  I’m sure of it.

And if you have any other good advice that goes against what everyone is saying, then post a comment.  I’d love to hear what you have to say!

And when the second video for the above-mentioned non-profit is done, I’ll be posting a link to it on the blog – so check back!

And until then, have a great marketing day!