• April 1, 2012
  • By Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal, Beagle Research Group

Video Production Made Easy

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There has never been a better time to use video in business. Technology for producing good-quality video is abundant and inexpensive. The components in shortest supply may simply be talent and experience. But almost anyone can develop the experience for producing quality video by following a few basic rules.

First, keep it simple. While some of the bigger vendors have pumped a lot of money into their video production capability, we don't all have to go that route. That means finding the best way to tell the story that you want to tell. Sometimes a big production with great animation is in order, but I've also seen highly effective work done with simple tools on a shoestring.

When you have a chance, look at the Sage channel on YouTube. You'll find a series of fun videos featuring a character named Napkin Mike. Mike is a cartoon, and the conceit uses simple napkin drawings and—get this—Popsicle sticks to explain the advantages of ACT!, perhaps the most widely used contact manager on the market. People at Sage tell me it costs them about $4,000 to produce one of Mike's spots. Not bad at all.

Another rule that's a favorite of mine is keep it short. If you've ever tried to speak in public, you have discovered how long just a few minutes is and how much information you need to fill up the time. Video is the same. A three- to five-minute video contains a lot of information in the form of visuals as well as audio, and people seem to just drink it in. In my experience, you can cram as much information into a three- to five-minute video as you can place in a white paper that takes much longer to read.

One of my clients, Zuora, develops customer testimonial videos that last, on average, 30 seconds. That's all it takes. Zuora keeps this process simple with a standard background and text graphics. They once shot six testimonial videos in an afternoon at a user group meeting. With some professional lighting and camera work plus a little effort after the shoot, they had a wealth of customer testimonials at a very low cost per video.

Lastly, there's YouTube, as I mentioned earlier, and it's worth elaborating on. There's no need to manage video servers yourself when you can pump your creations up to YouTube, where they can live for nothing. Having a library where all your work is stored and indexed will save some headaches as your collection grows.

Salesforce.com has a channel and it's chock-full of all manner of videos that they've developed over the last several years. Salesforce's library is so big and easily accessed that they now routinely capture statistics on its effect in their sales process. You might be surprised to know that a video library can do the equivalent work of dozens of telephone agents. Best of all, the library is available 24/7.

Finally, keep things moving. Video is, after all, about moving around on the screen. So avoid the temptation to record your sexiest slide show or killer demo. Those things rarely translate well to full motion. Instead, re-imagine the presentation and, rather than bullet points, use pictures, saving the words for narration. Concentrate on the bigger ideas of problem and solution. If someone buys into your ideas on video, they're more likely to sit through the demo.

People like to watch people in motion, even people they don't know, but that doesn't mean you need a big budget for actors, a crew, and a script. This is where editing software comes in.

If you've ever watched a Ken Burns documentary about a time before the introduction of "moving pictures," you might recall that he makes still images seem to move because he moves the camera over them or dissolves one image into the next. These are all techniques that anyone can master with the help of low-cost editing software.

The printed word isn't going away, but increasingly in our busy lives, we have less time to digest written content. That's where video can help. I like to say it's informationally complete, you can pack a lot into a few minutes, and it''s viral—something every marketer craves.

Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of CRM market research firm and consultancy Beagle Research Group, has been writing about CRM since 2000 and was the first analyst to specialize in on-demand computing. His 2004 white paper, “The New Garage,” laid the blueprint for cloud computing. He can be reached via email (denis@beagleresearch.com) or on Twitter (@denispombriant).

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