Video and Credibility in Marketing

A business partner who helps a Connecticut real estate firm told me her client wanted “virtual tours” for their website.

Now, “virtual tours” can mean two things. First, those wizzy 360-degree pictures, with tiny counterintuitive pan-and-scan controls and that need a web browser plugin. To get those done, you need an “interactive agency” with a special camera.

I hate those.

The other kind of tour is a simple video like those done by Jim the Realtor, called by James Lileks ”our Virgil on our tour of the housing market”.

Let’s go to Solana Beach:

Despite the DIY aesthetic, this is riveting — especially compared to the cookie-cutter pan-and-scans.

Jim’s videos have been seen about a million times in the two years of his cinema verite period, and he’s gotten great regional PR for it.

His total cost for this marketing effort was probably $300 for a camera, an hour a day, and $0 for a YouTube account.

It’s a massive success. Why? What’s going on here?

Let’s go to Jim for the beginning of an answer. A correspondent from ABC’s Nightline asked him about… virtual tours!

“I think that virtual tours …  are canned, only showing the pictures they want you to see.”

“The unvarnished truth is what sells. People want … to see it the way it is. If you just give them that, that alone is a draw.”

Here is the bottom line: Your customers are interested in credible opinions about future purchases.

Jim exudes natural credibility, and uses the video medium sensibly to deliver it.

Can video fit into your selling process?

Today on TechCrunch, Ashkan Karbasfrooshan writes, “Search captures intent, video captures interest. Intent offers advertisers a short-term benefit, interest a more long-term value.”

The rest of the article is about how people can monetize their videos, but it’s good advice for anyone in sales and marketing.

Even though people and business aren’t buying as before the recession, they are still looking and evaluating. Their buying process continues, it’s just stretched out. Provide your customers something interesting and believable, and you are creating long-term value. That means future sales.

Teaching the Fishermen

We go back to real estate for another example.

A client of mine (let’s call him Mike) has a business doing some specialized work in real estate. Mike was asked by a realtor group to speak to their members, and give those people a seminar on how to do that work themselves. He declined, thinking he’d lose potential business.

I think Mike lost out on some upside. Imagine being asked to teach a room full of fishermen how to bait hooks! That’s a badge of honor in your customers’ eyes.

Chances are, 75% of those realtors in the seminar would have tried doing the work themselves and failed. Billybob Realtor would have thought, who could do this specialized work for me? Then they call Mike. Who would Billybob refer if someone else needed this specialized work?

Mike. He would be the expert.

Just like Jim the Realtor.

To bring it back to video: Mike could have gone one step further — by having his realtor seminar filmed, edited down to three minutes, and then distributed on his company’s website.

This doesn’t mean Mike is committing to a timesink like video blogging. Text content is about 5X easier and cheaper.

Karbasfrooshan would agree. “Unlike articles, you can’t fool audiences as easily with videos.  It’s easier to get away with a slapdash article than with a slapdash video.  Thus, most of the existing online video content relies on ‘talking head’ footage and Q&A formats which are relatively simple to produce. Most of the videos that pass for professionally produced videos should be articles.”

That said, video is great evergreen content and helps conversions. Maybe a 5:1 ratio is about right. (Of course, the consultant’s answer is, “it depends.”)

Is Mike giving away his trade secrets with his three-minute seminar video? Maybe a few, but that is an incentive to view and thus drives traffic. Doing so broadens your market, and offsets the potential loss.

So when is video right for you?

If you can demonstrate your company’s credibility on a screen for four minutes, then do it.