(Article by Minda Zetlin originally appeared in Inc.)
You know that video, both hosted on your site and uploaded to third-party sites such as YouTube, is one of the most effective ways to promote your business. And in today’s world, making high-quality videos about yourself or your product is easier and more affordable than ever before. But are you doing it right?
Not necessarily, says David Albright, an independent video producer who’s produced more than 1,000 videos for brands ranging from the NCAA to Simon & Schuster to AllRecipes.com. Albright says many companies large and small are missing the chance to harness the full effect of video’s power to capture viewers’ attention and emotions. Why? Because of five simple mistakes that many promotional video creators make. The good news is that getting them right won’t cost you an extra cent.
Here are Albright’s insider tips-with examples-for how to make videos that turn viewers into customers:
1. Lose the script.
“When companies want to tell success stories through testimonial videos, they’ll usually select candidates, as well as a script to accompany the testimonial,” Albright says. “Scripted testimonials, however, come across as far less authentic and are too obvious of a sales pitch.” And the worst part is, they’re boring, he adds.
Instead, he advises, smart video producers simply ask their customers to tell real stories about their experiences. “You’ll get genuine anecdotes and people will respond in an authentic and lighthearted way,” he explains. “It’s more important to convey enthusiasm than to be word-for-word on message.”
One good example is this completely unscripted video Albright made for Limeade, a wellness and engagement start-up, using testimonials from Jamba Juice. Limeade only gets mentioned once, 1 minute and 48 seconds in to a 2 minute and 19 second video. Yet the benefits of using Limeade come through loud and clear.
2. Embed your message into a larger compelling story.
“Viewers don’t want to hear company sound bites, they want to learn something new, fun, or interesting,” Albright says. So resist the urge to make your message the focus of your video, or you’ll wind up with something “dry and overly promotional,” he warns. “It’s more effective to wrap your marketing message into a larger story to make it relevant to your viewers.”
Case in point: This video on how to make Philippine Adobo chicken from Allrecipes.com. The video consists of interviews with three owners of a family-run Filipino restaurant in Seattle’s Pike Place Market who talk about their store, their relationship to their customers and each other, and how to make the Philippines’ national dish. (My mother is Filipina and their recipe is nearly identical to hers-my favorite food growing up. Mmm!)
Allrecipes is never mentioned out loud, and the name is only displayed in the introductory 2 seconds and then the last 18 seconds, along with the recipe and then the credits. But it’s a memorable and effective way to let viewers know they can find a reliable recipe for nearly anything they might want to make on the site.
3. Shoot people reacting instead of just talking.
This tip won’t work in every situation but when it does, the effect can be highly compelling. That’s because, Albright says, “One of the hardest things to capture on camera is authentic emotion. When you turn a camera on someone, they usually freeze, become self-conscious, and don’t act like themselves.”
To get around this phenomenon, he says, create an environment where people can forget that they’re on camera. “Instead of filming people describing their emotions, set up a situation where they can react naturally.”
One great example he offers is Amazon’s pre-launch video for the Fire Phone-which doesn’t contain the words “Fire” or “Phone” and doesn’t show the product itself. Instead it shows a series of users encountering its Dynamic Perspective feature for the first time. I have to admit-it made me curious.
4. Be specific and anecdotal.
“If your video contains a series of high-level statements about your company, you’ll quickly lose interest,” Albright warns. “People find it easier to relate to specific anecdotes. So instead of putting your CEO in front of a camera and having him talk in a general sense about how your company is different, ask for specific examples.”
In this promotional video for a small hosting company named Wowrack, the company’s owners wanted to come across as a smaller and more approachable hosting option than, say, Amazon. So the video shows how the company started began 14 years ago with six servers in one of the founders’ apartments. “You come away from the video remembering their story,” Albright says. “If they had just plainly stated that they were small and accessible, it wouldn’t make as much of an impact and would be far less memorable.”
5. Cut down to the essentials.
“Unlike in text, viewers don’t have the option of skimming past sections of video that are not interesting to them,” Albright says. That means that if they hit something that bores them, they’re more likely to click away from your video altogether. And with today’s notoriously short attention spans, you need to be extremely choosy about what makes it into your final product.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean every video has to be super short, but it does mean your video shouldn’t be any longer than it needs to be,” Albright says. “A general rule: After you put together your first draft of the video, go through and cut about a third. Find the gems that truly capture your story and leave the rest on the cutting room floor.”
One good-though extreme-example is this one-minute video “Move” from the Australian travel agency STA (for Start The Adventure) that’s been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube. “This could have been a much longer video showing all the different places you can visit,” Albright says. Instead, with each destination on screen for one second or less, the focus of the video becomes the delight of travel itself. “What’s more important than the actual places is the sense of adventure you’ll get from visiting them all, and the smiles it’ll bring to your face.”
And if your video can make viewers smile, chances are they’ll remember it-and you.