You've all seen —and envied—that viral video that gets millions of views seemingly overnight, the one everyone talks about for days. But does getting millions of views on YouTube translate into getting millions of dollars, or even thousands of dollars, in sales? And does adding video to your website or product pages really improve your search engine rankings and make people want to do business with you?
To find the answers to these questions, CIO.com interviewed dozens of video experts—from professional video makers and marketers to companies that have successfully used video to market their products or services—to find out who can benefit from video marketing and what it takes to successfully make and market a video.
Who Needs Video?
If you sell a visual, hard-to-explain, or needs-to-be-seen product or service—"anything you can't test drive or try on," says Roger Vaughn, marketing and technology problem solver at Swift Marketing—having a video can make a huge difference.
Take, for example, BluScenes by Scenic Labs, a provider of ambient Blu-ray products (i.e.,high-resolution videos of aquariums, fine art and fireplace scenes) for doctors' offices, wellness centers, spas and homes. "The first year we added video clips, our sales increased by about 400 percent," says Jason Rosenfeld, founder/producer, Scenic Labs, LLC. "They doubled again (in dollars) when we upgraded our videos to full-length HD versions."
In addition, since adding video to its product pages, Scenic Labs has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of returns—because customers know exactly what they are going to get.
And those BluScenes videos have not only benefited Scenic Labs, they've helped the company's partners. That's because "when partner sites include our videos, their sales typically double," says Rosenfeld.
ScanMyPhotos, a service that scans customers' photos, slides and negatives, is another good example of a service business that can benefit from video. "The best tool for explaining how to place orders and answer questions is video," says ScanMyPhotos CEO and President Mitch Goldstone. That's why the company features a number of how-to videos right on its home page, including this one on how to pack your photos for scanning with the ScanMyPhotos.com prepaid box:
How to Create a Video to Get People Talking and Clicking
A bad video—one that is poorly lit, that you can barely hear or is deafening, that rambles or doesn't make a point—is worse than not having any video on your website (or YouTube). So to help you create a video that will get customers talking and clicking are 12 helpful tips from the experts.
- Know who your target audience is. "Think how your video can help your end user, the customer," says John Sarkisian, CEO, SKLZ, a sports training product manufacturer. In SKLZ's case, its how-to videos, which showcase its sports training products, are geared to customer representatives at sporting goods retailers. That exposure—or brand awareness—led to SKLZ getting increased shelf space at national sporting goods retailers, such as Dick's Sporting Goods, which boosted sales.
- Script it. "A script for a video is like a blueprint when building a house," says Edward Schlesinger, script writer, OnlineVideoScriptwriting.com. "It will let you see what the finished product will look like before you start." In addition, "changes on paper are much easier and cheaper to do than once production starts."
- Have a clear call to action. "What do you want people to do after they've watched your video?" asks Schlesinger. No matter how short your video is, "make it clear what you want people to do—pick up the phone, sign up online, walk through your doors. Don't throw away this opportunity to convert potential customers." (For an example of how to get your message—or call to action—across in 1:34, see Dollar Shave Club's recent video below, which was viewed over 2 million times in just over 48 hours, and is prominently featured on Dollar Shave Club's home page:
- Shoot in a quiet place. "Always try to shoot in a quiet place away from machines, large crowds and traffic noise," says Rob Ciampa, vice president of Marketing at Pixability, a video marketing company and the authors of Video Marketing for Dummies. Also, keep in mind that "putting the right [or wrong] microphone on your subject can make a big difference."
- Light it well. "Make sure you are using all available light sources," advises Ciampa. Remember that right—or wrong—lighting "will shape the mood of your video."
- Choose the right music. "A widely ignored but great way to move the needle for brands through video marketing is to integrate music," says Bryan Boettger, chief creative officer at The Buddy Group, a digital engagement agency. Brands "should budget at least 5 percent of their video spend on professional music," he says.
That doesn't mean, though, that you need to feature The Who or One Direction; someone no one's ever heard of is fine—better even—if it's the right song to help get your message across. "By choosing the right music, brands have an opportunity to not only engage consumers, but they also come across surprisingly relevant if they break an artist who has yet to connect with a larger audience."
- Less is often more when it comes to effects. "Building a story is the editor's number one objective," says Ciampa. "Stay away from snazzy effects and [focus on delivering] a professional and polished story."
- Keep it short. Try to keep your videos to around a minute-and-a-half. Although if it takes 30 seconds or two minutes more to properly demonstrate your product, use the extra time. Just remember that many (if not most) of the people you are trying to reach are at work and have short attention spans.
- Use your customers—especially if they are well-known and/or social media influencers. Do your customers love your product or service? Ask them to star in a video for you. In order to reach its target demographic, young first-time home buyers, Oak Mortgage Group of Dallas, Texas, shot video testimonials of every loan it closed with clients who fit its target market.
The mortgage bank then inserted the video testimonials in its newsletter and posted them on its Facebook and Twitter pages (with the customers' permission). Clients loved it and shared the videos—and told their friends about Oak Mortgage Group. Indeed, because of the customer video testimonials, "word of mouth grew and Oak Mortgage Group became a leading mortgage bank in Texas," says Merrick Pickens, PR & Marketing director, Oak Mortgage Group.
D'Artagnan Foods, an international fine foods purveyor, also has enthusiastic customers, many of whom are well-known celebrity chefs. So in order to help promote D'Artagnan, its owner and founder, Ariane Daguin, a personality and chef herself, enlisted fellow chefs Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert and Marcus Samuelsson (among others) to star in a series of how-to videos with her—showing food lovers how to recreate some of their favorite dishes, using D'Artagnan products (see below). To date, the videos have been very successful, helping to increase brand awareness and sales for the company.
- Use humor—if or where appropriate. To advertise the fact that its food is fresh, not microwaved, Moe's Southwest Grill created an entertaining video titled "Microwaves Ruin Everything."
The video reached more than 1.5 million views on YouTube in only a few weeks, going viral faster than anyone anticipated. Soon after the video's release, sales jumped 8.5 percent. And while Moe's Southwest Grill cannot directly attribute that increase in sales to the video alone, the company believes it definitely contributed.
- You don't need to hire James Cameron. While it's a good idea to work with a professional videographer or video production agency that knows what it's doing, if you don't have someone on staff, don't go overboard.
"Too many organizations feel compelled to produce Hollywood-grade corporate videos," says Ciampa. "Unless you're a luxury brand, most prospects not only don't care," they may be turned off by over-produced, overly slick videos. "Focus on great content and clear presentation while ensuring the proper lighting, audio and camera techniques. With this approach, you'll be able shoot more video much more economically," he says.
- Include a video sitemap on your website. "Ensure videos are indexed by Google by submitting a video sitemap," says Melody King, vice president of marketing for Treepodia, a provider of e-commerce video solutions. (Instructions for how to do this are available on Google's Webmaster Tools' page.)
Why You Should Have YouTube Host Your Videos
Videos are meant to be shared. And the easiest way to share them is to post them on YouTube—and allow embedding. (YouTube, which is owned by Google, is also the number one place people go to watch videos, according to comScore, receiving more than twice as many visitors as its closest competitor, Yahoo, and can improve your site's Google ranking.)
Another advantage of having YouTube host your videos? "Unfortunately, not all sites can embed videos into their CMS [content management system]," says Rosenfeld. "That's partly why we switched over to YouTube to host our videos. If a partner cannot include our videos, they can link to our YouTube channel."
Spread the Word—and the Link
Don't just keep your videos to yourself. "Use social media," says Goldstone. "Tweet, use Facebook and liberally post links to the videos everywhere," he advises. "Populate blog posts and other non-product content with videos, add them to marketing emails, and post them to social network sites to increase visibility and viewership," adds King.
So Can Videos Increase Sales?
"Our research has shown that video is ten times more likely to generate a viewer response than traditional marketing collateral and web pages," says Ciampa. In addition, "our successful customers have seen their web traffic and conversions increase by 20 percent because of effective video marketing."
Similarly, studies conducted by Treepodia have shown that when people watch—and like—a product video, they're more likely to make a purchase. "The percentage increase varies from business to business, but a general ballpark is a 40- to 60-percent increase in the number of conversions," says King.
"Treepodia's own studies have shown that the mere presence of video, whether it's watched or not, can lead to sales increases," adds Kings, possibly due to the fact that Google includes video in its ranking algorithm, so a page with a product video has an increased chance of appearing higher in Google search results.
All that said, keep in mind that a million hits on YouTube will most likely not translate into a million dollars in sales. "Video isn't a magic bullet," says Scott Bell, owner of Seattle-based Media & Design. "It is another way to showcase your product and yourself. The best way for it to lead to sales is to have fun with it—don't have a normal [i.e., boring] business video."
Provide information that is valuable or helpful to customers and "do so in a unique and interesting way." If you do that, customers will want to know more about your products or services or brand and, if they like what they see, be more likely to purchase from you. Though if they have absolutely no interest in or need for what you are selling, the best video in the world probably won't change their mind.
Jennifer Lonoff Schiff is a contributor to CIO.com and runs a marketing communications firm focused on helping organizations better interact with their customers, employees, and partners.