How to produce an effective video …without footage

Posted by Mark on June 29, 2017

Chances are you are reading this article because of its contradictory title. Maybe you are thinking “no way, this is pure clickbait. How can a video be produced without footage?” You may be thinking “Its animation!” Nope. Animation is a really expensive option, even in 2D. And 3D animation can quickly decimate the heartiest of budgets.

So I will take the concept one step further: How about producing an effective 2-3 minute product, company profile or training video without footage – on a reasonable budget. By reasonable I mean somewhere in the 3.5K to 5K range – which isn’t peanuts, but since the video can be utilized over multiple platforms such as website, blog, eblasts, YouTube channel, trade show booth and more the value is tremendous.

First, the Perfect Scenario

I write this all with a bit of trepidation, because creating a video without footage – but instead with a “Toolkit” of assets and sources I will get into shortly – is not the preferred way to go. In fact, it can be quite a pain and strain on the brain. So humor me and let me describe an ideal situation for producing a video. Or skip down to the chase…your call.

Let’s say we are producing a trade show loop for a company that manufactures “X” brand of car accessories. They have a lot of state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment and processes they want to showcase in the video. My dream scenario:

  • The manufacturing facility is clean, well-lit and up to all codes and standards
  • The workforce is reasonably diverse and wearing fresh clothes or uniforms
  • It’s a sunny day outside – with the sun in the right position to facilitate a nice exterior shot of the building
  • The various machines and processes are humming along nicely for as long I need to shoot video of them
  • Finished product is shipping out the back door – always nice to shoot
  • I get finished early, beat traffic and start happy hour at 4pm sharp
  • The client provides hi-resolution, professionally-shot application photos to incorporate in the final video – as well as hi-res version of their company logo.

The Reality

To put in poker terms, if all the above elements fall into place it’s pretty much at least a Straight Flush – possibly a Royal Flush.

But as in poker, hands like that in the video production business are few and far between. The reality is that sometimes as far as assets and video resources are concerned you end up with two Jokers, along with a 3, 7 and maybe a Jack. Usually it’s somewhere between those two extremes.

This could be for a number of reasons – some possibly beyond anyone’s control. Perhaps the client’s product or service is more conceptual and isn’t something that can be shot with a video camera. Maybe the product is made overseas. Maybe they are a young company and their only application photos were quick smartphone shots done by sales people in the field that are photography challenged…even with smartphones. Maybe the manufacturing process is messy/dirty and doesn’t lend itself to impressive video.

For these reasons and others I have been called upon numerous times throughout the course of my 30 year career to PRODUCE EFFECTIVE VIDEOS WITHOUT FOOTAGE.

Here are my secrets. Let’s assume the client has given me very few assets to work with. Close to Zero.

The “No Footage” Video Tool Kit

Script

Here is how it works. Every video needs a script. The first step is to obtain the necessary information about the product or service and develop a script for the video that will eventually be narrated. In most cases I glean the info I need from company brochures and websites.

Should you write the video script yourself? Maybe, but probably not. You are better off coming up with an outline and letting someone like me write it. Or a freelance writer. Use the power of Google, for Pete’s Sake!

Professional Narration

For the video voice over, you need to hire a seasoned pro. Since we are essentially “creatively winging” the footage aspect of the production, there is no excuse for the voice over to be anything less than stellar. Don’t even think about narrating the script yourself in the bathroom into the audio app in your smartphone and sending it to the video editor. (He or she will hate you.)

Animated Video Backgrounds

High-quality animated video backgrounds used behind onscreen text and images add visual interest and can be acquired at low cost from numerous places on the web. Some are even free. A trick of mine is to convert a color animated background to black and white in post-production, add a bit of blur if appropriate, and then apply the company’s corporate color to the animated background. Voila – I have essentially created a custom animated background to use in the video as needed.

Titles & Text

For the best communication, the appropriate amount of well-placed titles and on-screen text are crucial in any video. Again, to increase visual interest, it’s usually good to add some subtle motion and or fades to the text – or have text bullet points progressively appear.

Think of producing this type of video as a layering process. You start with your voice over as your foundation. The next layers are the animated background, then text layers, and finally other images and graphics as needed. It’s kind of like a pizza.

Foraged Client Assets

In my world, any graphics, photos, charts or video clips I can lift from a client’s website or company literature are fair game. If it’s there, I will find it and use it. If the resolution isn’t HD, I can place it in a frame as an inset over the animated background with a bit of descriptive text off to the side.

Here are a couple short clips that illustrate how the elements we have discussed so far come together. (The door graphic in the video was pulled from the client’s website and modified for use in this video.)

Stock Photography – ala Ken Burns

The availability of high resolution, affordable stock photography has exploded over the last several years. There are hundreds of millions of quality images available. I am consistently amazed at what I find that works perfectly for our clients’ videos.

Stock photos can be used as insets, with text or bullet points off to one side or below – similar to a PowerPoint look, but with motion elements discussed earlier. Stock photos can also be full screen with pans, zooms, or motion effects applied – a style popularized by famed PBS documentary director Ken Burns. If it works for Ken, it will work for any production.

Once I was tasked to produce a “high energy music video” to introduce a line of door locks and handles. Since the product was new, there were no installations, so there were no application shots. All I had were glamour shots of the hardware. Great.

The solution: I incorporated numerous background shots of the types of buildings and offices the hardware would be soon installed in. Done deal. You can check out a sample of it here:

Stock Video Footage

OK, I fibbed a little. Some “no footage” videos do have a bit of video footage. Like stock photography, stock video footage services have really come a long way, so I use a clip or two here and there if appropriate. You can run into some cost issues, because it can get expensive. One stock video clip generally costs as much as 4-5 stock photos. If it’s a shot of a building, a mountain or scenery you are better off using a still shot and adding a bit of motion in post-production.

Here is a video sample that combines stock footage, stock photography, on-screen text and product shots:

For the record, on a few occasions where cost was not an object, I have produced entire videos from stock video footage:

“Poor Mans” 2D Animation

This technique combines graphic arts, Photoshop skills and video editing knowledge – the trifecta. I’m not a graphics guy, but I’m solid in Photoshop and a black belt in Adobe Premiere video editing software. So, for me this technique is usually a team effort.

Basically, multiple Photoshop layers are manipulated in the video editing software with various effects to create a simple “animation” of a process or concept. It’s way more cost-effective than a standard frame by frame animation, and can be done fairly quickly.

The Infographic

The infographic is an art form into itself that combines graphic, text and 2D animated elements to effectively tell a story. The Wikipedia definition spells it out perfectly: “Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly. They can improve cognition by utilizing graphics to enhance the human visual system’s ability to see patterns and trends.”

Infographic videos are excellent platforms to demonstrate information flows, data, concepts and other ideas that would be extremely challenging or downright impossible to shoot on video.

The Creative Factor

These various hacks and techniques to produce videos or parts of longer videos with little or no footage are proven, and have always pulled me through. That said, it’s a process that requires a LOT of thinking outside the box and improvising. It tests creativity and patience to the limit. There are often seriously high levels of frustration. In other words, don’t try this at home, it will drive you nuts, to drink or both.

Call me at Total Spectrum instead. I or one of my protégés can hopefully convince you to work toward the “Perfect Scenario” video described earlier. But if not, we’ll figure out a way to make you a great video with whatever you have or can provide. It’s just how we roll.


Mark Terpening is a seasoned copywriter, videographer, video editor and reluctant IT specialist for Total Spectrum Advertising. He is also a practitioner of other Strange and Unusual Arts too numerous to mention here.

What’s Trending in Marketing Photography for 2017

Posted by Tammy on June 15, 2017

So you’ve got an ad, flier, or social media post deadline coming up, and you’re looking for that killer image to call out to your audience. But what does that look like? It’s a question that many marketers like you have asked. And from “the chosen,” trends emerge to help us stay current.

So to help you with what’s hot right now, lets take a quick look back at what was Hot in 2016, and what is Hot in 2017.

FIRST, A LOOK BACK AT 2016.

In 2016, we saw a huge emphasis on people connecting with community, and genuine moments. Posed studio photos that screamed of “stock photo” were already long gone. People had gotten so good at tuning them out they became white noise. So what were the stand outs that embodied the opposite of staged and fake? We saw a few ways it manifested in photography: the return of flash photography, the return of film, body art and neon haze.

Flash photography, easily identified by its bright light, hot spots and harsh shadows, also brings that quality of “in the moment.” It feels authentic, even when it’s completely staged because it gives the impression that there wasn’t time to stage it.

Film, identified by its analog and grainy quality, saw a resurgence. With so many instagram filters being used for everyday photos, the audience cast a vote for enhanced reality. Photographers were called back to the traditional media of film to provide a truly authentic version of the “filtered” digital images.

Body art made its way into mainstream in a big way. Tattoos were flaunted instead of covered up, and reflected the growing acceptance of body art in society. While not seen much in photos in the corporate world, they still made their way into many other ad media.

Neon Haze was everywhere. This technique of turning sharp colorful photos of the here and now into neon versions reminiscent of decades old polaroids became prevalent. Its appeal can probably be attributed to Instagram’s influence, but its popularity may be because it functioned so well on websites. These images were bright and colorful and, at the same time, websites could take advantage of these photo’s low contrast to easily place legible type on top of them.

THAT BRINGS US TO 2017.

So now that we’re smack dab in the middle of 2017, let’s take a look at what trends persist, and what has taken their place. After all, while trends never last forever, some have a knack for sticking around.

In 2017, we are still riding the wave of authenticity. Which is no surprise. Millennials are currently the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, as well as in America in general, so the topics that speak to them are going to influence the language marketers need to use today.

Body art is going strong. Bold expressions of individuality… right-on. It’ll be interesting to see if body art  starts making its way into photos in a corporate setting. But at this point, everyday people in everyday activities are fair game.

Newer Tech is popping up in images. Laptops are still ok, but tablets and smart phones are where it’s at. Remember when I mentioned Millennials as the biggest group of people looking at your marketing efforts? They conduct business on laptops, but they also conduct business on their smartphones, and I don’t mean phone calls. Photos that mirror their lives resonate with them, and make you look like you are up with the times.

Real world places become the setting for convincing authenticity. Whether in a built environment like a restaurant, bar or home, or against a natural backdrop of forests, gardens or beaches, real is in. You’ll also notice the people in these photos behave naturally and appropriately for their setting.

Alternative Points of View (POV). We are already seeing more birds-eye views thanks to drones. But we’re also seeing more first person POV images—walking in on a surprise birthday party; mountain biking on a wooded trail; holding hands with the love of one’s life in a romantic setting. With the rise of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), we’ll continue to see more of these alternative POV shots to mirror advances in technology.

Social commentary is also trending this year. This is where you’ll see a range from subtle to extremely bold. Brands are taking a risk in revealing where they stand on social issues because their customers, especially Millennials, care about where you stand. Whether it’s a message of tolerance, diversity, or breaking away from traditional roles, a surge of socially charged topics are making their way into the images we see on all channels.

We’re not even half way through 2017. There’s still half a year to witness new shifts… and I’ll be watching.

While this list is nowhere near comprehensive, these are areas I’ve been following. If you are interested in a more comprehensive trend report, large stock photo houses like Getty and Stocksy usually prepare yearly trend forecast reports based on their search data.


Tammy Deng is an Art Director at Total Spectrum Advertising – and an ace photographer to boot. She is also a skilled client mind reader who has a habit of nailing concepts and ideas the first time and then knocking them out of the park.

How do you explain marketing automation?

You don’t – you demonstrate it!

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that marketing has its advantages. Implemented properly, a solid marketing automation campaign can be executed with precision, speak directly to your audience at just the right time in the buying decision process, and yield incredible results.

The Devil is in the Details

The challenge, of course, is to start with a solid strategy. Assuming that the strategy has been properly identified and articulated (a necessary assumption since the topic of this article is implementation and not strategy), the “marketing” piece is automated, right? I mean, it’s in the name.

Not so fast. Marketing automation requires meticulous front-end planning. With careful orchestration of your marketing communication components and messaging, as well as accurate sequencing of workflows, you can sit back and – push the button. It’s “automatic”.

Can’t Picture it?

Think about how exciting it would be to have a product that handled the front and back-end deployment of marketing automation powered by a team of experts to help plan and execute your campaign. You’d want to tell the world, or at least a few of your closest friends. But how to explain a relatively complex product capability? Put it into action!

That’s exactly what we did. At Total Spectrum, we developed an interactive demo targeted to an audience that we anticipated would be receptive to the idea of a new kind of marketing automation product + service. Because although the software can perform its’ function, if you don’t have the right thinking behind your communication, your efforts will be wasted.

Take It For A Test Drive

An interactive demo allows the audience to participate in an engaging “test drive” to experience, first-hand, how the product works. Based upon self-identifying with a set of criteria, the prospect is sent a series of emails that tailors the message to his/her specific interests. This is the core tenet of any successful digital campaign.

Gone are the days when a “passive” visual will attract attention and elicit a response. There’s too much competition for attention. See how the power of interactivity transforms a static communication into an interactive, immersive journey that communicates the power and possibilities of marketing automation.

Click Here To Go For A Spin

Web Analytics Basics (Or, Google and Everyone Else)

Introduction

Just so we are all on the same page (no pun intended), let’s start off with a formal definition of web analytics: “Web Analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage.”

The source for that little tidbit: WAA Standards Committee. “Web Analytics Definitions.” Washington DC: Web Analytics Association (2008).

For our purposes, “understanding and optimizing” web analytics translates into marketing and research, as well as tracking eBlasts, on-line ad campaigns, surveys, landing pages and much more. To begin this short journey, let’s review a bit of web analytics history:

The Pre-Google Analytics World

Without getting too technical, here goes: In ancient, pre-Google Analytics times (before 2005) there were open-source web-reporting tools that parsed and analyzed website server log files. Essentially, they were (and often still are) features included in the control panel or “back-end” administration sections of websites. Among them are:

  • AWStats analyze data from Internet services such as web, streaming media, mail, and FTP servers. As mentioned above, AWStats parse and analyze server log files, producing HTML reports. Data is visually presented within reports in simple tables and bar graphs.
  • Analog is a free web log analysis computer program that runs under Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and most Unix-like operating systems. It offers reporting options for a technical audience. Analog does not support the concept of a visitor – an option much-desired for business analysis.
  • Webalizer is an application that generates web pages of analysis – also from access and usage logs. It is one of the most commonly-used web server administration tools. Statistics commonly reported by Webalizer include hits, visits, referrers, the visitors’ countries and the amount of data downloaded. Statistics can be viewed in graphic form and presented in different time frames, such as by day, hour or month.

Hits! I was waiting for that dirty word to come up. We now must take a minor detour into a major pet peeve: One of the worst and misleading metrics ever conceived for website tracking is “hits” – hands down. Why? Because clients tend to think “hits” on their website equate to visits or views. They don’t.

Here is the short version: let’s say a single page on your website has 10 photos or 10 separate graphic elements – or a combination of both. If one person visits that page, it counts as 10 “hits”. Basically, everything “seen” on the page counts as a hit. You can see how that can skew data! Clients see hundreds of thousands of “hits”, but it really only equates to tens of thousands of actual visits. End of rant.

All of the above programs provided good, solid information – but each had significant gaps in their reporting and NONE of the information was presented nicely. The reports were not (and are still not) pleasing to look at, to say the least. (The 1950’s called; they want their reports back.)

Google Analytics: The Big Dog Basics

There are other solid website tracking programs available, but as we have said before, currently it’s Google’s World – we just live in it. Besides: Who is going to argue with Google results? It’s pretty much the gold standard for better or worse.

Google Analytics IS a very powerful web analysis tool that will help you understand and improve the engagement, sales and metrics outcomes for your online marketing efforts. This isn’t your “grandfather’s” analytics. The types of information and ways you can track and filter it and are staggering. It also has features to help you track and evaluate the monetary values of traffic, actual sales outcomes and interactions related to real product data.

You can even see how many visitors are on your site in real time, what pages they are on and more. (For any Harry Potter fans out there it’s kind of like the Marauders Map from the third installment of the series.) It’s a really cool feature.

So how does it work?

Unlike the control panel or web server-based programs discussed above, Google Analytics tracks website data via a tracking code or “script” inserted in the unseen meta tag header of each web page you want to track. This is important. If a website consists of a home page and five sub-pages, all six pages must have the tracking code installed if all six are to be tracked by Google Analytics.

In WordPress and other website templates, there are Google Analytics plug-ins that will populate your tracking code into every page automatically – which is quite nice for websites with lots of pages.

So how do you get a tracking code? After you set up a Google Analytics account for a website, the tracking code is generated. Then, you copy the code (be sure to grab all of it) and either send it off to your webmaster and mix a proper martini, (preferred method) or open Dreamweaver, WordPress, etc. and insert the code in to the web page headers. This requires some software and a bit of web savvy, but it is doable – it’s not webmaster-level stuff.

Once the code is in place, Google will start tracking you web pages within 24 hours. Whoohoo!

Linking to Social Media

In the Google Analytics console you can activate important functions. One of the most important and easiest settings is the Social Settings which “tells” Google analytics where your social media pages are, and specifically tracks them. In Social Settings you can easily enter the URLs for your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other pages to view how much traffic comes to your website via social media.

Dashboards and Reports

Now that your site is being tracked it’s time to begin exploring Dashboards and Reporting in your Google Analytics Console. These functions allow you to see tracked data and have various settings you can adjust with dashboard widgets, custom reports, date range variation, etc.

There are literally countless ways to set-up tracking or pull reports for any date range on-the-fly.
What you should focus on depends on the nature of your website’s business and your specific marketing objectives. Our advice is to start on the left-hand side of the console and open and review each report one at a time to see what information is available.

Generally, as a bare minimum you should be checking the following Google Analytics statistics on a regular basis:

Audience Overview:
Shows total number of sessions, users, page views, average session duration and more

Engagement:
Breaks down session duration times

Frequency and Recency:
Breaks down session visitor counts

Mobile Overview:
Sorts mobile, tablet and desktop sessions, as well as types of devices used

New vs. Returning Visitors:
Compares new and returning visitors

Organic Search Traffic
Lists key words and phrases typed into search engines

Pages:
Lists the top pages visited, visitor counts and more

Referral Traffic:
Ranks websites that have referred visitors to your website

Unlike the old-school web reports, in Google Analytics, NICE LOOKING data and reports can be exported into spreadsheets or PDF’s and shared via email or stored reports. You can even have web reports automatically generated and emailed to yourself or others on a specific day and time.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Using Google Analytics is a dynamic process and is always a work in progress – especially at the more advanced levels. It can work in sync with your SEO efforts, webmaster tools, call-to-action comments and subscriptions – and other tools that provide information about your website and user interaction.

Naturally, Google provides numerous tutorials to help you along as you learn. It can be a bit daunting but well worth the effort.

Wrap-Up

If you get it, but just don’t have the time to mess with it, Total Spectrum has the answer. We can set-up and manage your Google Analytics accounts and provide regular reports custom-tailored for your organization. Call us at 714.637.3600 and speak to one of our web experts. They have the knowledge and experience that deliver the results you require.

Evaluating Internet-Sourced Content (Or, tips so you don’t go off half-cocked)

Introduction

Scenario: Let’s say you need to beef up educational content on a company website. The powers-to-be decide to go on a Google-fest and find a bunch of industry-related articles and videos to post on the newly-minted company blog. Problem solved.

Not so fast. First of all you should be moving toward creating your own content as discussed in Creating Effective Content Efficiently. That said, there is nothing wrong in supplementing your website content library with articles and posts from other sources. But there is a step that often gets overlooked: vetting the content you are posting for truth and accuracy. You can’t just grab and go. Keep in mind passing along bad information can potentially damage your company’s credibility and/or cost money.

Remember, anyone can pretty much post anything on the internet – accurate or not. The purpose of this article is to review some tips on how to quickly evaluate the content of web pages to help you weed out questionable or inaccurate online content.

Tip #1 What’s in a URL?

Let’s start with the basic-basics. Look at your list of search results. Before you get fired up about anything and start clicking around, glean all you can from the URLs of the results page. Questions to ask yourself include:

Questions to Ask:
Is it somebody’s personal web page? Read the URL carefully: Look for a personal name (i.e. smith, or sjones) or words like “users,” “members,” or “group.”

Is the server a commercial internet service provider (ISP) or a provider of personal web page hosting – like wix.com? Personal pages are not necessarily bad sources, but you will need to investigate the author carefully – because with personal pages, there is no publisher or domain owner vouching for the information on the page.

What type of domain does the page originate from? Is it educational, nonprofit, commercial or government? Government sites end with .gov or .mil; commercial sites .com; educational sites .edu and non-profits are .org. (Note that .edu can include personal student and faculty pages as well as official college and university pages.)

Additionally, many country codes, such as .us, .uk. and .de, are no longer tightly controlled and may be misused. Look at the country code, but also use the techniques in Tips #2 and #4 below to see who published the web page.

Tip #2 Scan the Edges

Once on a page, look for links that say “About Us,” “Philosophy,” “Background,” “Biography”, “Contact” etc. If you cannot find these links, you can often find them if you truncate back the URL. Here’s how: In the top location box, delete the end characters of the URL stopping just before the first / after .com, .edu or whatever. Then press “enter” and you will be taken to the home page. Hopefully you will find the information there.

Questions to Ask:
Who wrote the web page? Look for the name of the author or the name of the organization, institution, agency, or whoever is responsible for the page. An e-mail contact is not enough. If there is no personal author listed, look for an agency or organization that claims responsibility for the page.

Does the page seem dated? Is it current enough? Is it stale or out-of-date information on a time-sensitive or constantly-evolving topic? In our view, undated factual or statistical information is no better than anonymous information. Don’t use it without confirmation.

What are the author’s credentials on this subject? Does his or her background or education look like someone who is qualified to write on the topic? Could the page have been written by a self-proclaimed expert, or enthusiast? All good questions to keep in mind…

Tip #3 Look for Quality Indicators

Look for a link called “links,” “additional sites,” “related links,” etc. If you see little footnote numbers or links within the text of an article that might refer to documentation, take a little time to explore them.

Questions to Ask:
Do the links work?
What kinds of publications or sites are they? Reputable? Scholarly?
Are they real? (It is possible to create totally fake references)
Are sources documented with footnotes or links?
Where did the author get the information?
If there are links to other pages as sources, are they to reliable sources?
Do the links represent other viewpoints or indicate a bias?

The credibility of most writings is proven through footnote documentation or other means of revealing the sources of information. Just randomly writing stuff (however true) without documentation is not much better than just expressing an opinion or a point of view.

Tip #4 What do Others Say?

It sure doesn’t hurt to do a separate general Google search of the author and/or the owner/publisher of the web page to see what others have to say. If there is negative information about either, the chances are it will be posted somewhere. This might be the quickest way to vet an article or site in a pinch. However, although “Googling” someone can be revealing, be sure to consider the source. If the viewpoint or tone of an article or blog post is controversial, expect to find detractors.

You can also acquire more information about a website by typing or pasting a URL in the search box on alexa.com. Depending on the volume of traffic to the page you can view:

  • Traffic details
  • Contact/ownership info for the domain name
  • “Related links” to other sites visited by people who visited the page.
  • Sites linking in to the page

Another interesting resource is the Wayback Machine, a website archive where you can view what almost any webpage page looked like in the past.

Tip #5 How Does it Add Up?

To close a website content “investigation”, step back and think about all you have learned about the page. Check your gut reaction – the gut never lies.

Think about why the page was created and the intentions of its author(s). Be sensitive to the possibility that you are the victim of irony, spoof or fraud. It is easy to be fooled on-line, and this can make you look foolish in turn. We all need to stay aware of the range of intentions behind web pages.

One more thing: ask yourself if the web is truly the best place to find resources for the content you are creating! Just saying…

Wrap-Up

If you have any questions about websites, web content, marketing automation, video production or just about anything else in the B2B marketing realm, call Total Spectrum at 714.637.3600 and speak to one our seasoned experts. We have the knowledge and experience that delivers results. You can bet on it.

What You Need to Know about the New Marketing Paradigm (Or, why content is now king)

Introduction

Perhaps you’ve already noticed the big paradigm shift in the marketing world, and you’ve been working on figuring out how your company is going to take advantage of it. Maybe you have not yet understood the sea change that’s been going on, and you’re wondering why your marketing efforts have not been as successful as they used to be.

Either way, the reality is that the marketing paradigm really has shifted. This is especially true in the B-to-B world, and it’s also the case in many sectors of the B-to-C world as well. So what is this paradigm shift? What exactly has changed? Here is the deal:

  • The way that your prospective customers approach the buying process has changed
  • The technologies available for reaching prospective customers have changed
  • Lead generation and lead nurturing have changed
  • And marketing best practices have changed in response to these conditions

In this article, we will discuss these changes, and what direction your business needs to take to leverage this new marketing paradigm and close more sales.

But before we go any further, there’s something that needs to be made crystal clear: These new marketing methods are all “additive” to the traditional marketing methods that you are probably using now. They’re not a replacement. Even in the new marketing paradigm you still need to continue your branding activities, and have high levels of creativity in place to catch your prospects’ attention.

So What’s the Difference?

As Steve Jobs famously said, your company needs to “market, innovate or die.” To help you do that, let’s compare the old marketing paradigm to the new one.

In the past, the buying process that most customers followed was one that developed because of information scarcity. If a prospect was considering buying a product or service like yours, he had to rely on your sales people to educate him about your offering.

So it’s no surprise that in this world of information scarcity, lead generation was very much an “outbound” effort. Marketers bought, begged or bugged their way in the door with print ads, direct mail, cold calls, PR and commissioned salespeople. The main focus was on intrusive outreach techniques designed to set sales meetings with prospective customers, so that the sales people could educate the prospect and, hopefully, close the sale.

Today, however, information scarcity is history. A vast array of educational resources are now easily found online. Which means that today’s buyer takes a very different approach to the purchase decision than yesterday’s buyer did. Before they even speak to a sales person, most of your prospects will go online and do their own research. They’ll learn about your product category in general, and about both your products and your competitors’ products in specific.

In fact, studies show that prospects will gather 65 to 90% of their decision-making information before their first contact with your salesperson. They’ll gather their information, sift through it, digest it, and then contact your firm to either ask further questions or complete the sale.

So it’s no surprise that in a recent national survey, 80% of customers said “we found them” – referring to the product or service vendor, rather than “they found us.” Lead generation has shifted from being a primarily “outbound” effort to being a primarily “inbound” effort.

Content is Now King

In this new marketing paradigm, marketers essentially “earn their way in the door” by publishing helpful information. Consequently, content is now king.

For considered purchases, the reality is the buying cycle can be quite long. To thrive in this new marketing environment you need to provide the information that prospects are looking for and require. Today lead generation and lead nurturing are all about quality educational content.

Since buyers are now actively seeking information, so to build awareness and an affinity for your brand you need to conveniently provide high-quality marketing pieces that give prospects the information they are looking for at various points in their research process. Providing high-quality educational content – such as articles, white papers, videos, case studies and more – as part of your marketing efforts, will help you become a trusted resource to your prospects.

In fact, research has demonstrated that prospective customers are more likely to buy from and feel better about companies that are producing valuable content that educates them during the decision-making process.

Quality content (not sales materials) is key to nurturing potential buyers and building relationships so as to earn their business when they are ready to buy. Although this new marketing paradigm does not apply for impulse buys, content marketing can be vital for any company that has a long knowledge cycle and/or a long sales cycle. Educational content is today’s fuel for your marketing engine.

So how do you leverage this new inbound and content-based marketing paradigm to capture and nurture leads and close more sales? Check out Creating Effective marketing Content Efficiently and The 5 Secrets of Content Driven Sales to learn more.

Wrap-Up

If you have any questions about the art of content-driven marketing, call Total Spectrum at 714.637.3600 today and speak to a content development expert. We have the knowledge and experience to deliver top-quality content to fit any budget.

Interviewing for Content Creation (Or tips to get them to say what you need)

As discussed in “The 5 Secrets of Content Driven Sales” it’s a given in that in today’s marketing world, content is king. You get that.

You also get that in-depth, recorded interviews (either audio-only or shot on video) with industry experts, key company personnel, customers, installers, end users, etc., are excellent for generating valuable educational and marketing content that can be used as source material for case studies, white papers, YouTube Videos, thought leadership articles and much more.

If you just stumbled across this article, be sure to read Creating Effective Marketing Content Efficiently for more information about the content generating process.

What did I get myself into?

So you have finally pleaded, begged, cajoled or blackmailed some “people of knowledge” in your industry to consent to being interviewed for your content generating efforts. Let’s say for the sake of this exercise you have developed at least a dozen good, probing questions for each interview, and sent the questions to the interviewees ahead of time so they could prepare for the interview. You also booked a professional video studio and crew to capture the interviews so you can use video clips as well as the raw, transcribed content. What the heck do you do now?

The Interview Shoot

Let’s assume you have sufficiently vetted the video production company via viewing samples of their work and checking references. They have their end wired. This is more about what YOU have to do to ensure a successful “content generation” shoot. Here are some tips:

Tip #1: Warm Them Up

Most people are not accustomed to being on camera and in most cases be a little or extremely nervous. The “electric eye” can melt even the most seasoned public speakers and CEOs, so it’s important that you make your interviewees feel as comfortable and at-ease as possible.

Before diving right into your content questions, warm your interviewee up with a few questions about their education, career history, current job position, responsibilities and overall business philosophy. You probably won’t use much of this stuff, but it will get the session up to speed before getting to the meat of your interview.

Tip #2: Ask Open-Ended Questions

Whether an interview is videotaped or over the phone, from your end it’s really all about the questions and how you ask them. In addition to being pertinent, probing and timely, they need to be as open ended as possible – meaning that they can’t be answered in short phrases. You want the answers to be as detailed as possible. If a question gets your subject “on a roll” and he or she talks enthusiastically for 2-3 minutes, let them go – don’t interrupt – as this scenario is exactly what you want.

Example:
Bad question: “What are the 3 main factors that are driving sales in the industry today?”
Bad answer: “Factor A, Factor B and Factor C”

Good question: “From your viewpoint, discuss how factors A, B and C are driving sales in the industry today?”
Good answer: Subject gives his opinion on A, B and C for a couple of minutes or more

Tip #3: Have Them Rephrase the Questions

A good way to get solid, complete answers to questions is to request/prompt your interviewees to re-phrase questions as the beginning of their answers.

Example:
Question: “What effect does the weather have on productivity in your division?”
Answer: “Weather effects productivity in my division in a number of ways. To begin…”

This method gives your subject good launching points for their answers. It also makes it easier on the poor sucker who has to wade through and edit all the raw video because the answers exist as complete thoughts since the question is built into the response.

Tip #4: No Question Left Behind

If a short answer could be more detailed or needs clarification, don’t give up – by all means follow up with more questions. Re-ask, or re-phrase the same question if necessary. Do a second take. Don’t be afraid to dig deep; you probably only have one shot at this. That said, not all short answers are bad. If you get a nice concise sound bite that hits all the right notes, go with it. You will know one when you see one.

Tip #5: Wardrobe Choices

Have your interview subject bring at least 2-3 different wardrobe choices. Sometimes you just don’t know what looks best until the lights and cameras are turned on and video is reviewed on a monitor. Try to stay away from white, as it can look too “hot” under lights, and greens or light blues if shooting a green screen production – where the green background is later keyed out and replaced.

Clothes with odd stripes and patterns should be used with caution, as they can look too “busy” and distracting on-screen. Be sure to “iron out” wardrobe considerations well ahead of time to avoid last minute shopping trips to the local Walmart for a pair of wrinkled khaki’s that you have to steam in the bathroom.

Wrap-Up

That’s about all for this content-driven marketing installment. If you need any assistance with prepping for content interviews or any aspect of video production, Total Spectrum is your source. We have the experience, equipment and staff to help you acquire the content you need. Contact us at 714.637.3600 and speak to one of our experts today.

View this article as an infographic.

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The Art of the Trade Show Video

(Or how to attract and inform visitors while keeping your booth staff sane)

In How to Effectively Deploy Your Finished Video Production, we touched upon the best practices and hardware for playing a video in a trade show booth or environment. In this article we will delve into some tips that will help make you trade show video “all it can be”. A common misconception is that any video – whether it is a short corporate promo, an installation piece, or a product knowledge clip is perfect fodder for trade show viewing.

In reality, a properly produced trade show video is really its own animal and needs to be approached as such. Elements of existing videos can certainly be incorporated into a new trade show video production, but not relied upon to do the job by themselves. Behold the Art of the Trade Show Video:

Production Quality

Any video should be in HD and crisply and professionally produced. (For tips on affordable, high-quality video production check out How to Concept and Executive Produce a Short, Effective Video Production.) Since most trade show booth video monitors tend to be on the larger side (32” and up) this is particularly important. Due to the massive proliferation of hi-quality consumer HD video and audio equipment, audiences are getting more and more sophisticated. (A properly used smartphone can shoot damn fine HD video in the right lighting and conditions.) People are accustomed to viewing hi-quality video pretty much everywhere – your booth should be no exception.

Length and Structure

Since trade show booth videos are typically played/repeated all day throughout the show a 1-2 minute video generally doesn’t make sense – as it will pretty much drive everyone nuts in short order – show attendees and booth staff alike. Most attendees are at a show to learn more about a service or product and are willing to spend some time doing so.

Conversely, a 15 minute training video is much too long and detailed for trade show use. In our experience, 5 to7 minutes is the sweet spot for the majority of booth/product applications.

Much like trade show videos, infomercials are often repeated over and over so they are worth examining. Let’s briefly look at the structure of a typical infomercial. Usually an infomercial begins with an upbeat (or dramatic) “commercial” that hits all the key points of the product or service. Then it stretches out with more detailed information and demonstrations. Then the cycle repeats: commercial – detailed information, commercial – detailed information, etc. Maybe there are a few customer testimonials thrown in randomly as well.

The point is that the style and pace of infomercials changes up frequently – instead of repeating one video segment over and over until it becomes a droning buzz in the background that people tune out…or turn off.

An Example:

Let’s say you sell racing go-carts and want to produce a trade show video. The first minute or two can be a voiced-over “commercial” and quickly focus on the company and models of go-carts provided. Then cut to a minute or two of racing shots of the go-carts set to music – with no narration or voice over – just music. Next, have the voice over return and cover go-cart features and benefits. Then cut to a customer testimonial or two…then cut to more go-carts in action set to music.

You get the idea. The main point is to change up the style and pace to better hold viewer interest. Of course, in the “music video” portions you can also fly-in copy points or logos as needed to help reinforce your message or brand. More about that next…

Music Video vs. Voice Over Video

Trade shows can often be very noisy environments, and narration from video playback in a booth can add to uncomfortable noise levels and/or not be heard properly.

If trade shows or conferences where you exhibit tend to get really loud, you may want to consider ditching the voice over format in favor of a music video format where footage, text and graphics are cut to an instrumental music track appropriate to your industry and company.

The challenge when taking the music video route is communicating your message, business philosophy or brand with on-screen text and graphics. The up-side is that if you do it right and your visual content and text points are solid, a music video is a powerful and effective way to communicate – even without the benefit of a voice over.

On the other hand, if your booth is large and perhaps has a separate conference area for meetings with interested attendees, a video with a voice over is preferred as it is a more “formal” sales setting. In a perfect scenario, your prospect would have been drawn in by the informative and fast moving music video playing at the front of the booth!

Wrap-Up

In conclusion, here are the key elements of a winning trade show video:

  • 5-7 minutes in length
  • Well-paced, infomercial format (see above)
  • Compelling music track and/or
  • Engaging voice over
  • Solid on-screen copy points

One more tip and we are wrapped-up. A good test for almost any trade show video is as follows: turn the sound all the way down and watch the video. Does it still communicate effectively, a little bit or at all? If it still communicates without sound, it’s a winner for sure.

If you are looking for “winning” trade show videos, Total Spectrum is your production company. We have the experience, equipment and staff to make it happen in time for your next trade show. Contact us at 714.637.3600 and speak to one of our experts today.

How to Effectively Deploy Your Finished Video Production (Or what the heck do I do with it now?)

Introduction: Now What?

OK, so you have completed your short, attention-grabbing 1 to 3 minute video production as outlined in How to Concept and Executive Produce a Short, Effective Video Production. What are the next steps? In this short article we will review various video formats, applications and tips on how to maximize the impact of your video.

Video Formats

As we mentioned in the above-referenced article, you should have requested that your finished video be delivered in different formats for different uses and playback systems. We recommend:

  • DVD (Standard or Blu-Ray)
  • High Definition (HD) .mp4 Video (for Mac/PC)
  • High Definition (HD) Windows Media File (Generally for PC)

Let’s briefly examine each format:

DVD (Standard and Blu-Ray)

For years DVDs were the preferred method of delivery and dissemination of marketing video content, as they were a vast improvement over VHS tapes and were the state-of-the-art in the pre-YouTube era. Although their use is tapering off in the marketing world they are still commonly used in mailers and in connection with TV commercials such as spots for reverse mortgage companies (“Call Now for Our Free DVD”).

A quick technical overview: pre-or non-Blu-Ray DVDs are in Standard Definition (SD) as opposed to High Definition (HD). The native dimensions of an SD DVD “picture” are 720 x 480 pixels. Those pixels are enlarged depending on the size of the TV screen. If you play an SD DVD on a really large screen, it will “pixelate” which means the pixels will become noticeable and elements in the picture will appear “jagged” and not look so hot.

Blu-Ray DVD on the other hand is a High Definition (HD) format with native dimensions of 1920 x 1080 pixels – which is a heck of a lot larger than the 720 x 480 SD video format. Since there is a lot more to “work with” in HD, it looks far superior and sharper to SD on any size screen – large or small. Bitrate plays a big part as well. An SD DVD bitrate is usually around 6,000 – 9,000kbps, where a Blu-Ray DVD is 12,000 – 18,000kbps and up.

There is more to it, but those are the basics of DVD formats and resolution. The moral of this DVD technology tangent: Keep in mind the possible end uses of your DVD. If it’s going to be played on small to mid-sized screens, then an SD DVD is just fine. If it’s going to be played on a large screen at a big conference, then it’s Blu-Ray all the way!

High Definition (HD) .mp4 Video

In today’s video world, the .mp4 is becoming the most-used and flexible video format. It’s compatible with most media players in Macs or PCs, as well as iPad and other tablets. Some older Windows players won’t play mp4s, but that situation can often be remedied with a quick player or codec update. The file sizes are reasonable and good for uploads, and the picture quality is great. (…If properly rendered, of course..)

High Definition (HD) Windows Media File (.wmv)

Windows Media Files (.wmv) are similar to mp4 video files in that the file sizes and picture quality are roughly the same. The main difference is that .wmv files are the the PC “standard”, and will play on any PC pretty much flawlessly. Very reliable. On the flip side, sometimes Mac video players won’t play .wmv files or require an update or a plug-in.

So really, the whole point of multi-format delivery from your video producer is to cover your Mac, PC and DVD bases – which will give you the options you need for any playback scenario.

Video Uploads: Where and Why

A question that often comes up is: What file do I upload to YouTube or similar sites? The answer: either the HD mp4 or .wmv file described above – it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s in HD. You want to upload the highest quality video you can for optimum playback quality. This is especially important if end users decide to stream your video at full screen size through a large TV or computer monitor.

Please don’t try to upload the files on a DVD. It won’t work. (We actually had a client who tried that, but that’s another story.)

Another hot question: What’s the best place to upload and host my video for a website embed? That’s a bit more involved, so here goes:

YouTube

Everybody knows about YouTube…as far as video sharing websites are concerned, they are at the top of the heap – size and volume-wise. But a key advantage of YouTube may not be so obvious: In addition to hosting videos, YouTube technically is the second largest search engine on the planet next to Google, who guess what? Happens to own YouTube. So, with rare exception, your video should probably be on YouTube, and maybe a couple of other sites as well.

The down side of YouTube is that there is a LOT of advertising, pop-ups, competing videos and general clutter. It’s kind of the New York Times Square of video sites in that regard.

Vimeo

Vimeo is a somewhat different animal as users can purchase different levels of “Premium” and “PRO” customization with fewer or no advertisements or pop-ups – thus keeping the competition from intruding on your channel or page.
Vimeo PRO accounts for business and commercial use allow additional storage, more plays, advanced analytics, third party video player support and more. Everyone except “small scale independent production companies, non-profits, and artists who want to use the Vimeo Service to showcase or promote their own creative works” must become Vimeo PRO subscribers in order to upload commercial videos or use Vimeo for their business’s video hosting needs. Sometime you just gotta pay…

Wistia

Wistia is similar to Vimeo and is often used to host training and content libraries. Wistia has also integrated closed captioning, transcripts and other tools that are growing increasingly important in the video marketing world. The Wistia interface allows for complete customization of the video player, post and pre-roll behavior of the video, and an API which allows users to make customizations to their videos, accounts, and statistics on the back end.

There are numerous other up and coming video hosting sites out there. Check several of them out to determine what will work best for your company or organization. Most of the time, we prefer YouTube for general videos and Vimeo for our website embed applications.

Descriptions and Tagging

Regardless of the where you upload your video program, it’s important that people can search for and find your work. So take advantage of the video description box and write a short description of the video. Make sure to include your website URL and contact information as well. A hyperlink to your website will be automatically created in YouTube if written in the http://www.yourcompany.com protocol.

In the admin section for each video there is also a box to add “Tags” or key words and phrases to allow search engines to index, locate and list your video in search results. Tags should include the company name, name/model number/title of the product or service, product benefits, city, county, state, etc.

eBlast Your Video

A great way crank up some video views on YouTube or other video sharing sites is to send an eBlast promoting or introducing the video to your customer email database. eBlasts should be designed with a big “Play” button prominently displayed so potential viewers can click directly through and view – unless you require a form to be filled out and submitted before accessing video content.

Trade Shows

Every company needs a video or videos playing in their trade show booth. It’s really the topic of a whole different article, but as far as format/playback is concerned there are a couple of things to consider:

The tendency is for clients to ask for a “DVD for the booth”. OK, but not always the best choice. First of all, a DVD requires hardware (a player) that has moving parts, so there is always the possibility of mechanical breakdown or failure – especially if the unit is running for days at a time. DVD’s played in laptop computers can be sketchy in general unless they are playing store-bought movie-type DVDs. This is because store-bought DVDs are “replicated” and just more reliable than one-off computer-burned “duplicated” DVDs. It’s a strange science, believe me.

A better choice: play the mp4 or .wmv version of the video on a laptop or tablet with the video file stored on a flash drive or on the computer desktop. No mechanical DVD drive to fail or stutter. Then connect the laptop or tablet to the TV monitor in the booth. Done deal.

Wrap-Up

That’s about it for this installment. As you can see, one video can be deployed and used in a number of ways to effectively promote your service, product or brand. Have questions or need help with your online video hosting? Contact Total Spectrum at 714.637.3600 and speak to one our experts. They have this stuff down.

Green Screen Tips and Techniques

Tips and Techniques to Ensure a Great Green Screen Video Production

As mentioned in our article on video production, a super-effective and flexible video production tool is green screen technology. For example, you shoot video of the host of a program against a special green or blue background that can be removed or “keyed out” in post-production and replaced with the background or backgrounds of choice. With this technique, the host can appear in multiple locations without the need for travel – thus saving thousands of dollars in production costs.

Probably the earliest and most common use of green screen or “chroma key” technology is TV weather reports – where meteorologists stand in front CGI backgrounds gesturing wildly at the latest weather patterns.

In the past, the chroma key or green screen technology tended to often look cheesy and rough around the edges, but with modern keying technology, equipment and techniques it can look very crisp and incredibly realistic – adding amazing dimensions and flexibility to your project. The kicker is that it can now be accomplished within a modest budget.

Basic Tips and Techniques

Although the results can be fantastic, there are a few things that are critical to a green screen shoot that can truly make or break the production:

The Green Screen or Wall

Most green screen video shoots utilize a wall or multiple walls painted with a special bright green reflective paint developed specifically for the purpose. It’s worth repeating: this isn’t Home Depot or Dunn & Edwards paint, but special stuff that’s formulated to provide the high luminance values and color saturation required for keying effects. It’s also generally about 80 to 100 bucks per gallon.

Larger, more elaborate green screen studios often have green floors, as well as walls with curved corners for head-to-toe or wide, seamless shots. That’s a lot of expensive green paint. Portable green screens with special green cloth that stretched over a frame are another option for location shoots – say at a convention or event where you wish to shoot quick customer testimonials and select industry-appropriate backgrounds for your subjects later in post-production.

The main thing to remember is that whatever type of green screen is used, it needs to be smooth, even and properly lit, which brings us to our next topic…

Lighting

Equally important as the green wall or screen itself it the lighting applied to it. It needs to be sufficient, even and smooth across the entire green wall or screen. No shadows or dark areas. No area should be brighter or blown out with excessive light. You should see nothing but that weird green – nice and consistent. To best dial-in the light on the wall or screen, studios use dedicated lighting systems just for the green screens. The on-camera talent is then lit separately – as humans require different types of lights and lighting.

Clothing

The idea of using an ultra-bright green as the color to “key out” and replace stems from the fact that there are very few hues in the natural world that come close to it. It’s also about as far away from human flesh tones as a color can get, so it’s a good color to use. That said, if an actor wears a green shirt in front of a green screen it can key out or partially key out…even if it’s a much different shade of green.

This means the green shirt would disappear or partially disappear – and would be replaced by whatever background that is being used. Not good, to say the least.

Shadows

If the on-camera talent or anything else in the shot casts a shadow on the green screen, you also have trouble. The shadow technically changes the color of that part of the green screen or wall. This means the area with shadows won’t key out properly or will be very difficult to key out properly. The remedy? Move the on-camera talent farther away from the wall to eliminate the shadow. Actually, it’s best to have the talent as far from the green wall a reasonably possible to eliminate the next potential problem…

Spill

In addition to eliminating shadows, keeping the on-camera talent a good 8-10 feet or more from the green wall eliminates “spill”, or unwanted reflected green light from the wall or screen. That bright green wall reflects green like crazy and that wild green light can get everywhere. If on-camera talent is too close, expect a green hue on the tops of shoulders, or even on the sides of faces. It can tint blonde or light hair green. If a person is wearing glasses, the sides of the frames can catch and reflect a bit of green and also cause problems.

Incorporating Props

If you are going for a realistic location look, there are a couple of easy and cool ways to enhance the shot. Let’s say the planned background shot is live footage of a beach or resort shot from a balcony. The on-camera talent shot in front of the green screen will be laid over that footage. To increase realism, include an actual table, chair, plant or other prop in the talent’s green screen shot. That way the foreground is completely “real” and only the background is “faked”. Add a fan blowing lightly off screen to simulate a bit of outdoor breeze through the set and you have nailed it – the VAST majority of viewers will think it was shot on location.

That’s about it for this installment. In today’s marketing world, “content is king” and green screen productions are a great way to add interesting, compelling content to your online presence. Additionally, if you want better communication with your customers, investors, regulators, vendors and even the press, let us show you how green screen productions can help you achieve these goals in a cost effective manner. Just call Total Spectrum at 714.637.3600.