What can you do with your customer’s voice?

[This is Part 2 of a four-part blog post on the reasons for and ways to capture your customers’ voice on video.]

When you search for a subcontractor to remodel your kitchen, what’s your process?

Back in the days when the primary definition of virtual was “being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized or admitted,” as in, virtual certainty, people walked over to a shelving area near their telephone and consulted the Yellow Pages. The yellow book was the bible for American business. Users carefully worked through the listings and identified a handful of logical possibilities by location, name, or whatever other subjective analyses made the most sense. Oh, and whenever possible they’d talk to their neighbors, friends, business colleagues, church members and anyone else in their non-virtual network and ask them “got any recommendations for kitchen remodelers?”

Advertising and the well constructed and placed ad was the best way to promote your company, product or service.

Today, the most prominent definition of virtual has shifted to “existing primarily online.” The Yellow Pages are more or less dead, and the only remaining vestige of the old process is talking to people for recommendations. Actually, these days it isn’t so much about talking to people, but it’s definitely about hearing what they have to say.

The kitchen remodel analogy isn’t that far from how B2B businesses acquire all kinds of products and services. Today we may begin by identifying the companies who produce what we want. But once we’ve created that list, we turn to our version of Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, Yelp or any one of a variety of other social media sites to find out what our proposed vendor’s customers think. Most B2B buyers today are a savvy bunch. In practice, but the more expensive the purchase, the less likely buyers are going to let advertising sway them, and the more important the end users’ perspective.

If a business is smart enough to capture its customer’s voice, what’s the best way to use it? Generally speaking, the closer you can get to what was actually said, the better, which is one of the reasons video is so important.

If you can capture your customer’s voice on video (or audio) here are some key ways it can be used:

  • In email marketing campaigns
  • On appropriate company Web site pages
  • In online ads
  • In social media (e.g., accompanying blog posts or twitter posts)
  • In the tradeshow booth
  • At user group meetings
  • By sales people in response to prospect queries
  • In one-on-one meetings (either on an iPad or from a PC PowerPoint presentation)
  • As fodder for printed case studies and for other printed marketing collateral

Frankly, because your customer’s voice is the best way to promote your company and sell your product or service, the ways it should be used throughout your marketing efforts is only limited by the breadth of your imagination.

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How important is the customer’s voice?

[This is Part 1 of a four-part blog post on the reasons for and ways to capture your customers’ voice on video.]

I sometimes work with a marketing executive who is fond of saying, “Marketing should get the *&^% out of the way.” He has little patience for the postured, polished prose that typifies most marketing collateral. For this executive, the only marketing that matters is the customer’s voice. Marketing has an important role to play, but it is to setup programs, platforms and processes that enable customers to openly share their perspectives about products and services.

The preceding notwithstanding, relying solely on your customer’s voice could be problematic, if not devastating. No one doubts the importance of customer perspectives in promoting what company’s sell, but few would position it the only marketing program. There are a variety of reasons for this, perhaps first and foremost is that you cannot guess, anticipate or control what a customer will say. For instance, what about businesses that have good products that sell well and enjoy significant market share but aren’t the type of products customers are likely to describe using compelling words? In these instances, Marketing’s role may rightfully be to craft messages that portray the platonic ideal of a company’s product; messages that have been so well polished and reviewed they are spot-on and in line with important company positions.

But in today’s world we consumers are becoming an increasingly savvy bunch. When I’m in need of a new product or service, I’ll definitely consider the well-honed marketing brochure, but I will not engage the company until I have had a chance to listen to one or more customer perspectives. Today’s social media platforms are making my search for those comments easy to find and sometimes potent.

One recent example that has nothing to do with a company or a product is nonetheless instructive. On the Monday night start of the Republican Convention Melania Trump gave her first big speech. During her speech she clearly plagiarized the words of Michelle Obama from a 2008 speech at the Democratic Convention. The plagiarism was missed by all Convention commentators, but an out of work news journalist in L.A. recognized it, did some quick Internet research, and tweeted the result – setting loose a firestorm of media coverage.

Imagine if instead of a speech it was a company product and instead of a comment about plagiarism it was a serious complaint … something that put the company and its product in an extremely unfavorable or embarrassing light. Company or product comments don’t have the same inflammatory potential as a presidential campaign, but they can still be devastating or elevating, depending.

In my own search for products and services, I give the greatest weight to the customer’s voice, or preferably several customers. Their comments are both easy to find and always instructive.

I don’t entirely agree with the senior executive mentioned in the opening paragraph, but I do concur that these days the customer’s perspective is only growing in importance.

The next post will cover some of the ways businesses can and do use the customer’s voice.

To green screen, or not to green screen

Every year we interview customers and company leaders during an annual conference, mostly in front of a green screen. For some, using green screen technology is videography heresy. For others, it’s the preferable way to shoot. The truth is there are good reasons to use it, and some instances when capturing the full-on authentic scene is more important. Usually it boils down to scheduling and ultimate use.

First, if you are going to shoot a lot of people in a short period of time and you need to shoot them well (i.e., with a high-quality shot, proper lighting, good sound, etc.), setting up a green screen in a quiet room is one way you’ll be able to move people in and out quickly. The interview will appear staged, because it is. But the message won’t be diluted.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to go for that man-on-the-street authentic feel, you can shoot people sitting on the street (and you can even use lighting and a mic, etc.). Just keep in mind your ultimate use is limited to the person on the street. Maybe the street’s loud? Maybe in the middle of your interview someone walks through your background?

Ultimately use is important, especially if you’re trying to stay on message. Most of our videos are for marketing purposes, so message is important.

With those two considerations in mind, let’s talk advantages and disadvantages.

  1. It’s not just in scheduling these interviews, but in shooting them, too. You have much more control over the environment than if you recorded your interview with a woman on the street.
  2. As previously noted, if you want to show customers talking in front of a company logo, and then in front of a Florida swamp, followed by a car race, you should probably shoot in front of a green screen.
  3. With lighting, sound quality, camera angles, and more.

There are, however, some disadvantages.

  1. Most of the video on YouTube doesn’t involve a green screen. Consequently, the dumbing down of our need to see high polish on videos means people appreciate the authenticity of seeing a person in their natural environment, even if the picture and sound are less than reasonable quality, and someone’s leering in the background.
  2. The problem with frizzy hair. Green screen technology is good, but if your interviewee has frizzy hair, a green striped shirt, or similar issues, you won’t always be able to use what you shoot.
  3. If you use a green screen, it means you either own one or have rented one or you are paying a professional to set it up. Regardless, using a green screen is probably going to cost you more money than if you recorded an interview without one.

Villagers and video production

I’ve always loved the lone wolf story. Heroes don’t often share the stage with other heroes (recent X-men movies notwithstanding). As Americans, we are raised on independence, self-reliance, freedom of choice, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and personal responsibility. And while all of those traits are important and positive, the evolution of society – and video production – has more to do with cooperation and inter-dependence than single acts made by people acting alone.

Like it or not, you cannot get along in today’s world without the assistance of many hands. Someone else built your domicile, manufactured your clothes, car, bicycle, the roads on which you drive and the building in which you work. Similarly, those of us who work for corporations may sit in corporate cubes, but we are more interconnected today than at any other time in history. And when we create a video it requires the work of many hands.

Just this week a new product evangelist contacted me and said, “I’ve recorded some interview comments and I need to turn them into videos.” Her recordings were of employees who had used or helped build an important new tool and she wanted to share their perspectives with others.

Her footage consisted of approximately 4 minute interviews with five members of her team. She had three key themes she wanted to explore and she worked with each of the interviewees to record their comments. She also needed a way to tastefully introduce each video … ideally something that could serve as a kind of template we could modify, depending on the theme being addressed. We worked with a designer who created a Powerpoint slide that was both visually attractive and modifiable.

The actual video production required some give and take and back and forth over both design and content.

I often refer to these kinds of projects as village projects. No marketing collateral requires more work by villagers than videos.

The point is, the creation of these three, 1 to 2 minute videos required eight villagers;

  • the person who imagined the need and recorded the interviews,
  • the five people who worked with the new tool and were interviewed about it,
  • a design person to improve its attractiveness (at least with a reasonable intro), and
  • me to help review, edit and work with everyone to produce the final product.

In the words of comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell I believe we are all on a hero’s journey. And I love stories that depict the single person who by stint of nerve and intellect and heroic action saves the person, the town or country. But today video production is just one example of the importance of having villagers willing to come together in a cooperative spirit, park egos at the doorstep, and collaborate in earnest on a project until it is followed through to its exemplary conclusion.

“Lydia is dead.” Six fundamental storytelling rules

The best videos – even ones designed to be simply promotional – tell a story. Technical expertise is important, but if the video content is well told, the grainiest, poorest lit, most terribly shot video in the world will ALWAYS out attract its higher quality, well lit, better shot rival.

Consider these two informational videos designed to promote dog training businesses:

[Note: if you spend three minutes to watch these videos the following will make more sense.]

  1. The first line test

Stories are a little like calf roping; you need to grab your audience right out of the shoot. I always give novels the first line test, in part to determine if I want to keep reading. Here’s a great first line from an excellent novel: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know that yet.” (From Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You). The first line is so compelling you must keep reading. The Jumpy video works because of what Jumpy does when the narrator says: “Go to mark. Good boy.” This dog is clearly intelligent and well-trained. We’re intrigued. The Toronto video opens with a nine second logo display, no words, no story, just blah.

  1. Make it human

The Jumpy video is about a dog. But dogs can often seem practically human and Jumpy begins to demonstrate his humanness. Also, of course, the narrator is human and their relationship comes through in the video. The Toronto video features dogs and people, but mostly in disconnected images or video clips. No one speaks except the narrator, who’s off camera. And nobody barks.

  1. Show, don’t tell

After the nine second logo display, the Toronto narrator says: “Dog obedience training classes are an excellent forum for supporting guidance and training your dogs in excellent skills.” This prosaic intro is supported by showing three still photos of people training dogs. The Jumpy video is all about obedience, but shows it, doesn’t tell it.

  1. Where’s the drama?

The drama in Jumpy’s video is all about the next mind boggling trick this dog is going to do, all the while demonstrating remarkable attention and intelligence, not to mention athleticism and daring. In contrast, the Toronto video is drama-less. It’s really not a story at all, though both videos are designed to promote their dog training businesses.

  1. Give us an unexpected, meaningful ending

Jumpy ends with a remarkable, poignant trick. The Toronto video … a handler giving a leashed dog a treat … for doing nothing.

  1. Keep it short

The intro to the Jumpy video, mentioned earlier, takes two seconds. Two seconds! The logo and first spoken sentence of the Toronto video takes a whopping 16 seconds. Almost one fifth of the video!!!

Watch any video; if it abides by these six rules, you’ll want to watch it again.

In-house video contest a bust … for now

This is one of those ideas I wish I had thought of, but did not, dang it. Recruiters are in the business of attracting people to their companies to fill vacancies. While there has been a very slight labor slow-down in recent weeks, the market is still historically good for people coming into the labor force, or looking to switch jobs. The competitive labor market means companies are contemplating innovative ways to attract new employees and retain the ones they have. If recruiters can convince the world their company is the kind of place everyone wants to work, their jobs are simplified and they can gain a competitive advantage by being able to attract top talent. Think Microsoft in its heyday or Google today.

In an effort to convey just this kind of reputation one company recently held an in-house video contest. The rules were simple, and the winner would receive a free day of vacation (but you could also offer fortune and fame). Here’s how it worked.

Employees were encouraged to create their own amateur videos explaining what they liked about their jobs and place of work. In particular their videos would be judged by how well they told the story of their work as fun, interesting, cool and innovative and why the company would be a great place to work. Participants were given two weeks to compile their creations and the initial instructions provided links to useful how-to videos that could help them figure out how best to shoot and produce their efforts. [E.g., Making a Great Recruitment Video is Easier Than You Think]

This innovative idea leverages the increasingly ubiquitous technology world in which we live. Do you know ANYONE who doesn’t have a mobile phone device with video capabilities? Nearly everyone I know is shooting video. Most of it is personal, but increasingly people are fascinated with the quality of their own efforts (often justifiably so).

I love this idea, because it works on so many levels; it’s fun for employees, it promotes the company’s culture, and it simplifies recruiting efforts. Unfortunately, this time around, it was a bust. After two weeks no one submitted a video. When the contest was extended another two weeks, the time passed without anyone so much as offering a selfie of their cool and innovative remarks.

Cynics might attribute the absence of submissions to the nature of the work and the place of employment. But personally I think it had more to do with timing and a lack of confidence by amateur videographers. I believe this is an idea with merit and it’s only a matter of time before a new crop of neophyte videographers takes up the challenge and creates something truly remarkable. In less than a year this idea will bear fruit. In less than two it’s going to yield an orchard.

Giving voice to your business video creations

Just this week I received an enquiry that read something like: “What is the process, turnaround, and cost for finding a professional voice to read a phone or video message?”

In previous posts I’ve talked about the low, middle and high business video spectrum. The low part of the spectrum involved ephemeral videos, easily and cheaply created, typically in-house. The middle and high parts of the spectrum typically have more sophisticated production value, are more expensive to produce and have a longer shelf life. The middle and high end are usually produced using external help. Often these kinds of videos require some kind of professional narration. In those instances, it’s best to engage a pro.

The following considerations were provided by John Gabrik, from First Light Media, who has produced thousands of videos involving professional voice over narration.

  1. Have all the copy/text you need recorded ready so the voice talent can see how much is involved and they can provide you with a solid price bid.
  2. Choose a voice that fits your desired “image” and fits in your price range. You can use some of the sites below to listen to numerous male and female voices.
  3. If you have a preference for a male or female voice, that cuts the potential candidates in half! If you have no preference, you can obtain auditions from both.
  4. You can post a sample of your text on a voice talent web site and various artists can audition and provide bids.
  5. Almost all voice talent has their own recording audio equipment and they will record at their own location. Some recording considerations to keep in mind include:
    • If you are not particular about “how” they read it then they can generally be trusted to record on their own and provide you with the recorded files.
    • You may want to do a read-through with them on the phone to make sure there are no odd pronunciations, names or industry-specific terms that the average citizen may not know.
    • If “style” and/or “mood” are important, most voice talent will use a phone patch so you can listen in while they record to ensure everything is satisfactory.
  6. Finally, if you need background music many voice talents also have access to music libraries, though you can also access music sites like pond5.com and choose your own.

You can easily locate voice over talent web sites using your favorite Internet search engine, but here are some to get you started:

www.voice123.com

www.voices.com

www.amazingvoice.com

www.voicejungle.com

www.fiverr.com

 

 

YouTube versus Vimeo: Wildebeest or Rhino (and what about the Elephant)?

Should you post your business videos on YouTube, Vimeo, or both? The truth is, with regard to posting, embed code, metrics and more, both services offer similar functionality. So are there other criteria you should consider before making your decision?

Google the phrase “Vimeo versus YouTube” and you’ll find ample coverage on the topic, including two videos posted on YouTube. Most of the discourse leans toward it depends. But nowhere do these conversations look squarely into the eyes of the animals in the room. Consider …

Wildebeests

One of the reasons some analysts suggest YouTube over Vimeo is the herd. According to its own web site, YouTube has more than 1 billion unique monthly users, compared with Vimeo’s proclaimed more than 100 million monthly visitors. Any way you count it, that’s a lot of wildebeests. Clearly, YouTube – approximately ten times the size of Vimeo – has a bigger herd. So if you’re looking for non-targeted exposure to the largest number of wildebeests, Dude, YouTube has the bigger herd.

Impalas

But let’s say you’re looking for that small group of Impalas. Say, all impalas who are also dental hygienists? Then getting noticed in the herd is going to be a little more difficult. So maybe in those instances you want to consider Vimeo. But what about …

Flamingos

Some commentators make much of the video company you keep. These commentators seem to think Vimeo has more artsy, film school types, flaunting their stylish good looks like flamingos across a Yucatan estuary. Therefore, if you’re serious about quality videos, think Vimeo.

Rhinos

Personally, in a business setting, quality matters, but since our ultimate goal is to sell a product or service with the single-minded focus of a rhinoceros, does the size of the herd or the quality of your fellow beasts really matter? We aren’t really looking for a video so beautiful it will live forever, or commentary so eloquent it will stop a stampede in its tracks. Which brings us to …

The Elephants

Finally, meet the elephants in the room; access and advertising. What good is your uploaded business video if only a percentage of the people/businesses you want to reach can access it? Today, it’s still a sad paternalistic fact that some companies, who don’t want employees “wasting time,” block access to sites like YouTube and Facebook. Can’t say I agree with this perspective, and yes, there have been times I’ve watched a YouTube video at work that has absolutely NOTHING to do with work. But I take a more safari-like perspective of performing work for my employer: If I can see the occasional Flamingo, it provides me with a satisfying break that makes me all the more productive when I return to my cube. Finally, Vimeo is ad free, while YouTube is ad heavy, making YouTube as distracting as wild animal calls on a Serengeti night.

Frankly, many businesses use both: Vimeo for controlled video sharing, marketing campaigns and similar efforts, and YouTube to convey the public, social media face of the business.

Good article, though posted 9/14: Vimeo vs. YouTube: Which is Best for Business?

Posting and sharing your business video creations

Once your video is finished there are numerous ways it can be shared, both within an enterprise and externally. Over the last five years the video sharing landscape has radically changed, adding new platforms and technology at a mind boggling pace.

Video file size and compression technology

One of the historic problems with videos has been their file size. Early on, it was difficult to post a video on a corporate network and serve it out to network users so they could watch it. Most IT infrastructures were not robust enough to support it. In the instances in which it was tried, it often resulted in slowing network traffic to a snail’s pace and slowing video caching and viewing to a snail’s pace on a very cold morning.

The solution was video compression technology, which uses magic, mirrors and smoke to squeeze large video files into sizes that can be easily conveyed across networks, including the Internet. Not all compression technologies are equal, but many are now good enough to do the job.

Generic video platforms

Three good examples of video conveyance platforms are YouTube, Vimeo and Vidyard. [www.<name>.com] The first two are more similar than Vidyard, but for our purposes they can be lumped together to illustrate some of the considerations users face when selecting a video platform.

Five years ago, when many businesses started getting their feet wet with videos, YouTube was one of those forbidden web sites that required an Act of God to access, at least within the corporate cube. Consequently, many companies turned to Vimeo. Vimeo gave companies access to a web site that did everything YouTube did (facilitated easy posting, conveyed video using state-of-the-art compression technology, etc.), but was small and cottage enough to fly under corporate IT minders’ radar. Vimeo was also considered to be a place where more quality videos were stored and served to a more discerning audience, while YouTube, much larger than Vimeo, contained more ads, pet videos, sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Both YouTube and Vimeo have grown to enormous proportions, and as they have grown there’s been widespread acceptance of these sites, so both are now used in a similar way. And now both offer business subscriber accounts that provide more bells and whistles than their free accounts. In our business, we actually use both; Vimeo for conveying video internally and externally, and YouTube for social media purposes.

Vidyard is a fee-based video platform service that can be used to convey video, with a few extra features and functions. Notably, the cost of subscribing to and using Vidyard is comparatively expensive, but its robust metrics and other capabilities make it a service many companies use in certain video conveyance instances. And you will never encounter an ad.

Social media

Today, sites like YouTube, FaceBook, LinkedIn, and now even Twitter have begun supporting videos on their sites, with limitations … which I will cover in a future post.

An example of a simple :21 video posted to my personal Vimeo account – easily conveyed via this link or embed code. Zebra Longwing in Phoenix

Simple business videos

I have been stunned, vexed and miffed by the tens of thousands of dollars some companies pay for business videos. I can appreciate that when it comes to business videos there is a broad spectrum of quality and cost, which is in large part dependent on the ultimate video purpose. But in the B2B world, in which the number of viewers who will actually watch a video is limited, it seems like a waste of the company’s money to spend tens of thousands to produce any video. I am stunned because I imagine the video budgets at these companies have little oversight and apparently no limits. I am vexed and miffed because of envy.

Clearly the quality and cost of business videos fall along a broad spectrum. But the tools are becoming so prolific and easy to use that at the lower end of the spectrum there are a variety of more ephemeral videos that can convey simple, quick messages to both internal and external audiences. More importantly, these videos can be conceived, shot, edited and produced for a literal single digit fraction of the cost of what some companies are spending on video.

The following list contains four business video types that can be easily produced at minimal or no cost. Three to five years ago producing these kinds of videos was prohibitively expensive. But today’s tools, combined with the widespread acceptance and use of video conveyance platforms like YouTube and Vimeo, makes video communication accessible for companies with little or no budget for it.

Executive messages

Historically executive messages have been conveyed via print or online conference calls. Increasingly companies have begun using video. Here is an example of a video featuring several executives conveying praise to employees on Employee Appreciation Day.

Employee Appreciation Day

Employee successes

Businesses of all kinds love to tout the occasional successes of their employees. For the last two years my place of work has identified employees it considers to be Top Talent. This year those employees could be recognized by short videos featuring congratulations from their colleagues and bosses. Similarly, businesses that want to promote a kind of behavior or employee engagement have produced simple videos featuring employees demonstrating certain skill sets or perspectives.

Event videos

Businesses of all kinds promote their wares at conferences, trade shows and similar events. Over the past couple of years these kinds of events have been promoted and covered via social media. Today businesses can easily augment their social media promotions using video. Here’s an example of a video designed to promote one company’s free shoeshine service offered to conference attendees who visited the company’s booth. The video was featured in a tweet.

Shoeshine

How-To

It is extremely easy and useful to build a variety of simple how-to videos. Here’s one that demonstrates how remotely shot video footage using an iPhone can be easily conveyed to wherever it needs to go.

And easy way to transfer video from your iPhone to …