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What a 9-year-old taught me about marketing with digital video

What a 9-year-old taught me about marketing with digital video Kent Lewis
Nearly three years ago, I wrote The Ultimate Guide to Video Marketing on YouTube. I understood relatively early on in the growth curve of digital video and YouTube that both would play a significant role in the future of marketing. A year or more ago, however, a 9 year-old helped me see the true potential of digital video for sales and marketing.

With roots in search engine optimization (SEO), I’ve long extolled the virtues of YouTube, as the world’s second largest search engine. Unfortunately, the full potential of the video social platform didn’t fully come into focus until my son shed light through his interest in skateboarding and bracelet-looming.

Last Spring, I noticed my son’s rubber band bracelet creations were getting increasingly complex. I also noticed his skateboard knowledge and abilities improved drastically in a short period of time. I asked him how he learned these new skills and he replied “YouTube.” Like many other young web surfers, my son was using YouTube as his PRIMARY search engine and educational tool.

I quickly realized that my son was not alone in relying heavily on YouTube videos as a primary if not sole information source. If he was searching YouTube for “how-to” videos on skateboarding tricks and rainbow looming, a much bigger audience was equally hungry for similar insights across a broader set of interests. That translated to opportunity for my clients: creating videos for every stage of the sales cycle.

For the past few years, my clients have struggled to create compelling video content. Common objections include a lack of bandwidth or tools and insights into the type of content that prospective customers value. While it is easy to counter these excuses with common-sense arguments (i.e. HD videos can be easily created on smart phones and uploaded directly to YouTube in a matter of minutes) the real issue was a lack of sufficient motivation on the clients’ behalf.

Unleashing The Power of Digital Video

According to eMarketer, video is now the preferred premium content delivery format for marketers in businesses both small and large:

Digital video is also good marketing for a variety of reasons:

  • Video has 5x greater recall than the written word

  • Videos can drive engagement up to 300%

  • Videos are 53x more likely to show up on the 1st page

  • 80% of visitors recall video ads in the past month

  • Website visitors are 64% more likely to buy after watching a video

  • Video in introductory emails increases click-through rates 96%

  • 59% of senior execs would rather watch video than read an article

In terms of search engine marketing, and SEO specifically, videos are ranked well by Google and other search engines, as they understand it is a more compelling medium. As such, videos inherently rank well in universal search results, generate higher click-through rates, lower bounce rates and generate higher quality backlinks and citations (further boosting rankings).

Video is more than just a powerful SEO tool. The underlying reason why: video content is the ultimate storytelling vehicle and the highest life-form of digital content available. Think of video in terms of efficiency: a single 60 second HD video equals:

  • Up to 60 seconds of video for YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook or Vine

  • Up to 60 seconds of audio for iTunes, Stitcher or similar podcast-friendly sites

  • Around 90,000 still images for Pinterest, Instagram or Flickr

  • Up to a page of (transcribed) text for an article or blog post

Most compelling of all, YouTube is THE most effective platform for first, last and only touch point in the sales funnel of all social media channels:

While there are a variety of digital video platforms available, including Vimeo, Vine and even Instagram, the 800 pound gorilla is clearly YouTube. Here are just a few recent stats to frame YouTube’s leadership role in digital video:

  • More than 1 billion unique users visit each month

  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month

  • 300 hours of video are uploaded every minute

  • 80% of YouTube traffic comes from outside the US

  • YouTube owns a fifth of the U.S. digital video ad market

Building for the Funnel

Before I bore you with content development and marketing strategies, let’s talk about how to create compelling video content for all four stages of the sales funnel: Awareness, Interest, Intent and Purchase.

Awareness: At the top of the funnel, content should be designed to target and engage your prospects. Since this is their first interaction with your brand, the most successful videos establish initial industry credibility through educational content like news or “how-to” segments, trend stories and expert interviews with industry pundits, partners or even employees. Conduct searches to identify common questions prospects pose and create content to address their needs. A solid fallback position is to create a company “reel” that introduces your brand to prospects.

Anvil reel

Interest: Now that your brand is on the prospect’s radar, it’s time to build rapport and generate sufficient interest to move them further down the funnel. Content that is commonly used to achieve this objective includes product demonstrations/reviews and competitive or product-line comparisons. Beyond demonstrating features, advantages and benefits of products and services, framing your company’s unique selling point (USP) in the context of a story that resonates with your prospective customer is essential. One way to do this is to film behind-the-scenes segments that tell a compelling story about your process, people and/or intellectual property. If recruiting is essential, sell your culture, like Anvil did with its rendition of the Harlem Shake.

Anvil harlem shake

Intent: You’ve already earned a level of credibility and worked your way into the consideration set, so it’s time to close the deal. One of the most effective tools you can use to convert a prospect into a customer is to let your current (delighted) customers share their experience via testimonial/interview. The idea is to sit them down and ask them why they chose you as a vendor and why they are still with you today (if appropriate). Similarly effective tools include case studies/success stories and third party reviews.

anvil moonstruck case study

Purchase: There are two stages within the purchase phase: pre and post-purchase. For pre-purchase viewers, create content that aids conversions: promotions, contests and sneak peeks. Anything that can tip the scales to earn the business is fair game. For post-purchase, an effective strategy is to create content that decreases post-purchase dissonance (aka buyer’s remorse). That may include a “welcome” style video that includes key executives and employees that may be working with the customer. Additional content for post-purchase include training seminars, frequently asked questions (FAQs) and tips from existing customers. Last but not least, it’s helpful to remind customers that your product has won awards and received recognition.

anvil some submission

Developing Compelling Video Content

Regardless of whether or not you build content targeted at each stage of the funnel, it is important to make sure the videos you do create makes an impact. A majority of companies I’ve polled recently are not regularly creating video and still struggle to determine what type of content should be created and when. Here are a few tips to kick start your video content strategy:

  • Benchmark the industry and top competitors to identify opportunities

  • Assess popularity (views), ratings and comments of industry videos for insights

  • Ask your customers what type of content they would prefer to watch

  • Look at analytics for your existing videos and website for content ideas

  • Conduct additional keyword research and look at trending topics and videos

video content

As outlined in the eMarketer chart above, videos can easily be created at events at which your company hosts, speaks, exhibits, sponsors or simply attends. Not all videos need to be of high production value and cost $25,000. Think creatively, producing videos via smartphones or portable digital cameras. Storage is cheap, so record footage liberally and edit later.

Ideal video length is 30 to 120 seconds (I suggest 1 minute as a baseline). As such, consider editing down 30-60 minute videos into 1-2 minute highlight reels and create a series of videos (a playlist on YouTube) for drip marketing campaigns. Leverage partners for equipment, content and marketing purposes. Above all else, make sure your videos are useful, inspired and empathetic (resonate with your target audience). You also have less than 10 seconds to capture the viewer’s attention, so create a compelling “hook” in the introduction.

Don’t forget that there are multiple format options when creating videos for YouTube, including: screen-capture with voice-over, animated photos and images, whiteboard illustration, graphic, 2D and 3D animation. YouTube offers annotation (ability to insert text box overlays) and Cards. The best way to make a video stand out, however is with quality lighting, sound and editing.

Each video platform has a different demographic, usage patterns and expectations. As such, remember to keep the video application and end-user in mind:

  • YouTube: unlimited for uploaded videos and select ads as well as 5 and 30 second ad formats

  • Facebook: unlimited for uploaded videos, although the Premium ad format is 15 seconds

  • Instagram: 15 seconds for uploaded videos and video ads

  • Twitter: offers promoted videos

  • Vine: 6 seconds for uploaded content

When it comes to maximizing views and ROI, ensure to include a call-to-action in the video close. Far too many videos lack any meaningful action, which greatly reduces the ability to generate a return on your investment. It is also important to carefully select a thumbnail that both represents the video’s theme, yet is sufficiently compelling to generate a view. Be sure to ensure your videos are properly optimized when uploading. A properly-optimized video will include relevant keywords in the filename, title, description and tags. Lastly, be sure to syndicate the video link across your digital properties (website, blog, newsletter and signature file).

anvil call to action example

With video becoming the media of choice for consumers, it is essential that marketers create content for all four stages of the buying cycle. Video is more memorable and engaging and converts better than any other media type. YouTube dominates the video content and advertising space, so it’s critical to fully understand and leverage the opportunities provided by YouTube and alternative video platforms. Video is relatively easy to produce, distribute and measure, so what are you waiting for? Start your video funnel marketing strategy today.

With a background in integrated marketing, Lewis left a public relations agency in 1996 to start his career in search engine marketing. Since then, he’s helped grow businesses by connecting his clients with their constituents via the...

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