This is a guest post by entrepreneur Adam Peterson, CEO of video-sharing platform VipeCloud.
Do startups need a video strategy? I’ve been in and around the “video for business” industry for the last six years and I get asked this question by startups quite often. The answer is always yes.
Video is the most engaging form of online content. But it’s also a highly expensive and time-consuming proposition for startups. So the strategy you take will depend a lot on what stage your company is in.
Here’s a breakdown of what kind of video you’ll want to invest in at each stage:
Pre-funding and pre-launch
There are really only two types of videos a startup at this early of a stage should consider. Most companies this early are going to change their messaging and possibly even direction several times. Taking valuable time or bootstrapping dollars to create a video can be a tough decision to make; however, these two use-cases should qualify:
- Create a simple screenshot or animation of the problem you are solving and your proposed solution. This will help you tell your own story, and it will help you with customer discovery to validate the problem and your proposed solution with prospective customers or buyers. I would not invest any funds in the first versions of this video. Simply use a screen recorder like Quicktime or Camtasia and run through a PowerPoint presentation, basic animation, or recorded whiteboard drawing.
- Create a professional looking video if you’re planning to do a crowdfunding campaign. A good-looking video will show your audience that you’re serious about your project. Tim Ferriss discusses the idea of “Minimum Effective Dose” in his blog about how Soma Water raised $100,000 on Kickstarter in 10 days. A professional-looking video is a required “Minimum Effective Dose.” If you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry; there’s an overwhelming number of resources available about how to make good videos. For reference, here’s an article offering tips for how to record a video on a skeleton crew and a series about how to make professional-looking content.
If you’re not one to pick up video editing software quickly and have a few bucks to invest, it might be worth hiring a videographer. A handful of low-budget options exist, including videographer networks like BBN3, Pixelfish, or SmartShoot. If your budget is slightly larger, you might try the animation approach with Ephipheo or AutoDemo. Of course, you might also have a friend of a friend who’s willing to help.
Pre-launch but MVP-demo-ready
Once you have a functional minimum viable product, recording a typical use-case of your product is a great way to validate your problem/solution and even generate pre-launch signups. Dropbox has one of the more recognized success stories doing this. Their waiting list purportedly went from 5,000 to 75,000 overnight after launching their simple screen recording video demo. That said, they took great care to cater to their audience by adding in several easter eggs.
Near this stage, your company might also begin social media and other efforts to generate attention. Videos are expensive and you shouldn’t always promote your own product on social media, yet video is one of the most effective forms of content to generate engagement. So what do you do? Share other people’s videos.
Sharing an interesting, educational, or new video meme with your network will still make you the source of the great content to your audience and thus help you generate attention. For example, you can generate thought leadership by sharing industry- or business-relevant videos like this strategy discussion from the Harvard Business Review, or an interesting TedTalk, or even the new Psy Gentlemen video if you dare. With 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, something should be interesting to your audience.
If all goes well, you’ll eventually get your product out the door. At this stage it’s almost a requirement to use video. Why? Because your buyers want it. Ninety-five percent of business-to-business (B2B) tech buyers are watching videos. Furthermore, your competitors are more than likely using video, as 87 percent of B2B enterprise marketers and 70 percent of business to consumer marketers use video.
What kind of videos should you make? The first priority should be product overviews. Product demos are more valuable than case studies or white papers for influencing purchase decisions. These overviews can include a high-level product showcase, highlights of key sections, feature releases, and use-case scenarios.
Product videos for customer support and onboarding efforts can also hit two birds with one stone. A quick screen capture can be much faster than typing up support guides, at the same time, the more FAQs you get on video, the more you can automate your support engine. If you check out the Box channel on YouTube (below) it’s clear their video focus is on supporting their existing customers. Zappos has also publicly discussed how videos have increased conversion rates and reduced return rates.
Whether you’re funded or not will really only affect the quality of videos you can produce. Quality is important; however, there are workarounds. For example, if you can’t afford a professional video to represent your brand on your homepage, then put one on your blog. Write an article and embed a “micro-webinar” product overview that’s positioned as something you made quickly like a screencast or a live interview.
What do you do with your videos once you have them?
Everything you possibly can. Videos can be the most expensive sales and marketing assets your company creates, so you should get the most out of them. Here’s what you should consider:
- Post them to YouTube. Though be careful not to rely too much on the “SEO value.” When a link to your website shows up in a Google search, it brings the searcher to your website or a landing page that’s also on your domain. When a link to your YouTube video shows up in a Google search, it brings the searcher to YouTube. You can turn the in-video ads off; however, ads and distracting promoted videos can still show up within your channel (for instance, click on any of the videos on Box’s channel and you’ll see a featured video ad on the right).
- Consider private hosting. There are thousands of video hosting options. We offer this at VipeCloud, so does Brightcove, Vimeo, and several others. Note, if you’re going to use Vimeo, you’ll have to upgrade to VimeoPRO as their community guidelines don’t allow videos for commercial use on their free or plus levels.
- Get everyone to share them, including your sales team, support team, and any evangelists inside and outside your company. The more people distributing your videos, the more value you’ll get. Buyers are looking to build relationships earlier in the process as they look for trusted advisers. Furthermore, your sales teams, support teams, and evangelists build different relationships with buyers than marketing does, and can guide video suggestions as such.
Video is a means to an end. It will soon represent most all of Internet bandwidth and a majority of mobile data. However, your company still needs to solve a real problem for a large market. The exercise of making your first video at an early stage will help you think through the details of the problem you are really solving. Once you’ve chosen your path, video becomes a requirement. Put together a strategy that works for your company, and remember to track if it’s working.
Adam is CEO of VipeCloud and an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at StartX, Stanford’s student startup accelerator. Prior to VipeCloud Adam launched eFaceTime in 2010, integrating video into Cendyn’s eProposal, the hospitality industry’s leading sales proposal software tool used by more than 10,000 hotels and venues worldwide. In 2008 he launched VipePower, an offering that became the leading recruiting and staffing video solution. From 2008 to 2012 he served as the Technology Chair on the board of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the California Staffing Professionals.