With millions of videos on the Internet, how do you make your business video stand out? To find out, CIO.com asked dozens of video marketing professionals to identify the biggest, or most common, mistakes companies make when crafting and marketing business videos.
Mistake No. 1: Not having a clear objective. "It may seem obvious, but knowing exactly what you want from the video is crucial," says Lisa Rhodes, vice president of Marketing and Sales at Verne Global, a data center solution provider. "Perhaps the biggest and costliest mistake a company can [make] is not outlining the objectives before shooting scenes. Before anything begins, companies should know why the video is being created, the target audience, intended results and the overall budget," she says. "Without these four items, it's likely [your] video will skyrocket in cost and time, and could end up being something that doesn't resonate with intended viewers."
Mistake No. 2: Not including a call to action or contact information. "When someone has watched your video, what do you want him or her to do next?" asks Tim Bradley, manager of Video Services at Matter Communications. "Empower your audience to do something: call, log on, email, like, click, share, tweet, comment, follow, hashtag, etc.," he says. Above all, make sure your audience has a way to contact you or learn more after watching your video.
Mistake No. 3: Sounding too scripted, or stilted (i.e., boring). "Typically, [video] copy is written for the eye vs. the ear, often by [a] businessperson [instead of a video script writer], making it sound stilted and boring," says Ruth Sherman, a communications expert and media consultant. So before going into production, read the script aloud to make sure speech sounds natural, not scripted. Or better yet, hire a professional script writer.
A similar mistake is not making sure the "talent," especially if they are employees or customers (i.e., not professional actors), know and are comfortable with their lines before shooting, she says. Even if people will be reading off of a teleprompter, make sure they have practiced and know their lines before shooting begins. That way they won't sound too scripted or stilted.
Mistake No. 4: Overproducing, or including too many distracting elements. "People new to business video tend to overproduce, [including] distracting visual elements, lower-thirds, flashy graphics, etc.," explains Ben Risinger, new media and community relations specialist, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. "A good video is clean and streamlined [with a] minor title on screen, minimal lower-thirds and a simple credits page or ender. The subject and story should be the focus of the video, not crazy visuals."
Adam Bowers, marketing communications manager, Urjanet, which provides a platform for automated big energy data, agrees. "Many business videos try too hard to have interesting visuals and end up producing a busy mess," he notes. "Most stock transitions with flying elements should never see the light of day. As with most things in business and marketing, keep it simple," he says. "Avoid busy backgrounds, superfluous movement that doesn't add to the story, and stick with simple dissolves or tasteful cross-fades to keep the viewers' attention on what really matters: the message you're trying to convey."
Mistake No. 5: Telling, not showing. "Create a winning video by making the product [or service, not the CEO,] the hero," or focus, suggests Hope Bertram, founder and director of Digital Marketing, Digital Megaphone, a social media events and digital marketing company. "Blendtec does an outstanding job of this with their 'Will It Blend?' video series. In this series, they blend items not typically blended, such as an iPhone, to prove the power of their blenders. So without even overtly saying, 'our blenders are powerful,' they get the message across."
Mistake No. 6: Making videos that are too long. "The optimal length can vary based on intended purpose of the video," says David Laubner, vice president, Marketing, ThinkingPhones, an enterprise cloud communications service. For example, "an introduction or 'explainer' video should be a maximum of 2 minutes, with a goal of getting it to 1 minute." Why? "A study from Visible Measures showed that your will lose 20 percent of your audience after 10 seconds and more than half at 60 seconds."
And while some video marketers say it's okay to make videos that are five minutes or longer, most agree that shorter is better.
"Do not make a business video that is over two or three minutes [or] you will lose most of your audience," says Kevin O'Keefe, creative director, SmartFile, a secure business file sharing company. "People will either not watch it [or] skip ahead and miss content. Unless your video consists of Michael Bay special effects with a classic voiceover talent and a free t-shirt offering, your video needs to be short and to the point," he states. "If [it isn't], break it into separate videos. It's more content for marketing that way."
Mistake No. 7: Making the video a sales pitch. "This is a pretty common one," says Tyler Lessard, CMO, Vidyard, a video marketing company. Instead of selling, "your video should entertain and inform your audience and leave them wanting more. A good video will help move a buyer along the customer journey. It doesn't have to close the deal."
"The number one mistake businesses make is to sell in the video," says Anita O'Malley, CEO, Leadarati, a social, mobile and digital communications company. "Nothing will get turned off quicker. I tell my clients to give out information that can help their viewers with something that they didn't know before," she explains. "Add value and offer expert advice. Talk to industry experts in the form of an interview video. Include your contact information at the end. If they want to hear more, they know where to find you."
"Focus more on telling a story," advises Tim Ryan, founder & director, TAR Productions, a video production company. "Video provides a unique opportunity to share a narrative in a short timeframe. Take advantage of this through powerful, engaging storytelling. Think about what makes your brand, service [or] product unique and get creative."
Mistake No. 8: Bad AV production. "A few simple steps to ensure proper lighting, audio and presenter framing can mean the difference between a video that gets views and one that doesn't," says Ari Bixhorn, senior vice president, Panopto, which provides a video platform for businesses and universities. "In general, you can never have too much light. If your indoor lights aren't bright enough, then take advantage of natural light by facing a window or doing an outdoor shoot."
And don't forget about the audio.
"Audio is more important than you think," says Jayson Schkloven, senior vice president and partner, Merritt Group, a marketing communications firm. "Countless times we've seen beautifully produced videos that sound like they were shot on the tarmac of an airport. Keep in mind that something as simple as a quiet air conditioner can ruin the audio of an entire video," he points out. So "always make sure you're using an external microphone for interviews and double check the sound before you begin recording. This can go a long way to making sure the audio quality is pristine." In regard to framing the presenter, if you are using a presenter, "use the 'rule of thirds,'" says Bixhorn. "Specifically, position the presenter with [his or her] eyes approximately one-third of the way down the frame."
One way to get around these problems: use a professional videographer or video production team. A good videographer or video production team will "help and guide you in creating great video content on the budget you have," says Bradley. "They will aid in setting expectations and provide the production value you need to achieve your vision and goals."
Mistake No. 9: Not making your videos mobile friendly. "One thing businesses may overlook is optimizing their video for mobile," says Ashley Cisneros, cofounder and director of Communications, Chatter Buzz Media, an integrated marketing agency. "As more consumers view videos through a smartphone, businesses need to create informative, mobile-friendly videos. For example, you can create a connection with your consumer with a simple 1-minute how-to video instead of a 12-minute video about the CEO."
Mistake No. 10: No promotion or social media strategy. "So you've spent time and money [creating] a killer video. Now what?" asks Bradley. "You cannot just upload it to YouTube and expect thousands of views. You need to support the project by way of a social media strategy, a PR distribution plan, even paid media placement. And you should also create shorter teaser versions of your video to add to your Instagram account, for example, directing traffic to the full-length video."
"In a recent Animoto study, we found that 84 percent of consumers have 'liked' a company video in their Facebook news feed, and nearly half have shared a company video on their own profile," reports Brad Jefferson, cofounder and CEO, Animoto, a cloud-based video creation company. "Additionally, Socialbakers recently reported that the organic reach of native video on Facebook is more than twice that of photos. Despite this, many businesses still aren't incorporating video into their social media strategies and, as a result, they're missing out on priceless word of mouth marketing."
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