How to use video to promote your business
Chris Barling outlines how firms can wow potential clients and win new business by using video on their company Web sites.
Viewing videos online is on the rise. According to ComScore, in early 2010 an amazing 5.5bn videos were watched in the UK in one month alone. The growth rate of 37 percent year-on-year shows no signs of slowing down. It's a true phenomenon.
The harder you look at the subject, the more you see reasons for using Web-based video. In fact, there is an opportunity for using it at practically every touch point with both prospects and customers. Adding video to your site has some parallels with the transition from radio to television.
Video feels closer. Personality and charisma, if you've got it, is much easier to communicate. Visual effects are better at communicating complex information and they are more likely to click on a video link than read mountains of text. Modern society demands speed, simplicity and enjoyment: video ticks the boxes.
Videos are typically consumed by a younger demographic and present a great opportunity to reach that age. A video is one way, but can be played "on-demand" so anyone interested can view it at any time, pause and re-watch at will.
Done right, video will be a powerful tool for pretty much any business.
Prospecting and marketing
Video can be used in both lead acquisition and qualification.
You can attract new prospects when people find your videos on YouTube , Vimeo , or other specialist sites, and also when the people recommend them to their friends. So always put your URL in the video and provide an easy way for viewers to forward a link.
It is possible to build audiences via a subscription built up by offering multiple episodes to those that subscribe, but this is likely to be pretty resource-intensive.
If a video is crafted correctly, it can help to qualify leads before they enter the sales process, avoiding wasted sales effort. The viewer may conclude that the product or service is not what they are looking for and in the long term, this is better business. By reducing returns it may also be more profitable in the short term.
Use video to introduce your company, untangle complex ideas, explain products and show them in-situ and generally provide more enjoyment. Demonstrations of products will sell in a way that photos and text simply cannot. The visual approach fits with the Web experience, people prefer seeing to reading, and are more likely to last the course.
If you use videos to help to educate, this can still significantly boost sales. If the customer feels they do not understand a field it leads to hesitation. Educating the customer means that they will be more confident and therefore more likely to make a decision. Providing the education puts you in a position of trust.
The use of customer testimonials can lead to a positive emotional response. If someone you can relate to explains how they were helped by what you are selling, that's much more convincing than anything you can say.
Making your videos
You need to decide whether your videos will be professionally produced or home grown. Whichever approach that you take, it's vital to understand your objective before you start. The shape of the video - the topic, key messages, how you will present - must all then support that objective. Is the aim to sprinkle some gold dust on your business, to provide technical information, to help clinch the sale, to reduce phone calls or to educate your market place?
Once you have the objective and shape, you need to execute. You should be ruthless in limiting the length and size of the video, probably to three minutes or less. You must decide on the style - chatting, testimonial, demo etc. Make it interesting but relevant, e.g. a pretty face may attract some people, but may put off others. Above all, everything needs to be relevant to your brand values.
Make sure you have the right equipment and capabilities. You need a video camera, maybe a Flip  which is incredibly easy to use, and lights which make a big difference to quality, as will a good microphone. PCs come pre-installed with Windows Movie Maker  which is good enough to produce a basic video. One idea on low-cost video creation is to ask for some internal volunteers and then use the person who comes across the best on camera.
The video needs to be shot, then edited and possibly music added (watch out for copyright issues) or a professional voice-over recorded. It doesn't need to be a work of art but people must be able to see and hear it clearly.
Getting it out there
The good news is that it's very easy to publish your company's video efforts. You can either have your video hosted on your own site, or on a third-party site, of which YouTube is overwhelmingly the largest. If you choose the latter, consider establishing a unique channel for your company such as AccountingWEB.co.uk's channel at www.youtube.com/user/AccountingWEB . You can also embed YouTube videos in your site so that they are viewed without leaving.
The major advantages in using YouTube is that it provides the bandwidth so the service and speed will be excellent. They also solve the problem of which video format to use.
If you want to get traffic from YouTube, then remember to add a title, keyword tags and description. If you refer to your video in blog posts then this can boost rankings too. The usual rules about keywords apply to YouTube as they apply to other Google optimisation strategies.
Also look out for vertical sites collecting videos relevant to your business.
You can potentially use videos on any page of your Web site. Video is cheap, easy, and keeps you ahead of the crowd, for now. Returning to the television analogy, deploying video seems an obvious move. What are you waiting for?
Chris Barling is CEO of Actinic  which specialises in helping start-ups and SMEs sell online with its ecommerce software and in-store EPOS systems. He writes regularly for our sister site, BusinessZone.co.uk .