Online Video Advertising for Direct Marketers

If you’re among the 182 million or so who watch an online video each month, then you’ve seen a pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll advertising video. These video ads are gaining traction in views and acceptance. This is a new opportunity for direct marketers to take this format and use it to generate response based on direct response

If you’re among the 182 million or so who watch an online video each month, then you’ve seen a pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll advertising video. These video ads are gaining traction in views and acceptance. This is a new opportunity for direct marketers to take this format and use it to generate response based on direct response broadcast experience.

While it may be tempting to think no one watches these videos, the studies from Nielsen and the Interactive Advertising Bureau suggest otherwise. On average, people who are streaming video watch ads for 20 seconds with an average completion of 87 percent. Pre-roll ads at the beginning of videos average around an 80 percent completion rate. Mid-roll ads, in the midst of a video, experience completion rates of 89 to 99 percent depending on the length, and post-roll placements have completion rates exceeding 70 percent.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

With the explosion of online video advertising acceptance and the number of views by web users, now may be an opportune time for direct marketers to adapt proven direct response broadcast methods and apply them to online video advertising.

Because of the popularity of online video ads, eMarketer estimates video ad spending will grow more than 41 percent this year, reaching 4.1 billion dollars. Direct marketers are strongly positioned to reap the benefit of online video advertising because of our understanding of how to generate response based on years of direct response broadcast advertising experience.

Today’s video gives you the statistics from studies and surveys of advertising executives, which reveals what the branding world is doing (and not doing) that could work to the advantage of direct marketers.

While the traditional advertising agency world is focusing on impressions and views, we look at conversions and sales. And that, my direct marketing colleagues, is what can separate the effectiveness of your online video ads from all others.

What Is ‘Omnichannel’? And Is It Different From ‘Multichannel’?

This is the year of “omnichannel” based on the amount of occurrences that I’ve heard this term. I’ve never been a fan of jargon—but I sure use it enough in some of my clients’ communications, often at their request. When I comply, I usually advise that a short explanation may be in order upon first reference to help define whatever the term is and to set a marketplace expectation. So what does “omnichannel” mean to me?

This is the year of “omnichannel” based on the amount of occurrences that I’ve heard this term.

I’ve never been a fan of jargon—but I sure use it enough in some of my clients’ communications, often at their request. When I comply, I usually advise that a short explanation may be in order upon first reference to help define whatever the term is and to set a marketplace expectation.

Often enough, analyst firms rush to fill the void too, explaining such terms as “big data,” “customer experience,” “customer engagement” and the like.

The good thing about being marketers and communicators is that we are all also consumers and business people and are able to put our own perspectives on the customer side of the equation. We all recognize we have more power now as consumers (though we’ve always had ultimate power in the wallet), and that what was once pure hit-or-miss with advertising (the consumer side of spray-and-pray) is more often, today, data-driven dialogue with the many brands we use.

So what does “omnichannel” mean to me, as a consumer?

  1. That a brand that I choose to use—and possibly have a data-based relationship with—will recognize me uniquely as a customer, no matter what the channel.
  2. That the data such brands may have about me is shared throughout the organization, so that all parts of the organization—sales, marketing, customer service, finance, in-store, Web, mobile, social, partners, service providers—can act in coordination.
  3. That I am respected as a customer and treated royally. Of course, this is about the products and services I buy and use. It is also about extending to me notice and choice about channel preferences, and possibly subject preferences, and that all data about me is secured.
  4. That I actually expect (and in some cases, demand) that brands actually use data about me to make brand messaging and content more relevant to me. If you collect or track information, please use it—wisely!
  5. That if I’m not yet a customer—that is, if I’m still a prospect—that points 3 and 4 still apply from a prospect’s perspective. I understand points 1 and 2 are about customers, but even here, some elements of prospecting require careful coordination to respect my time.

On a practical level, this “omnichannel” expectation requires brands to remove channel and function silos on the brand-side and walk the talk on customer relationship management, customer-centric marketing, customer experience, lead nurturing and other advertising and marketing processes that reflect today’s brand-customer dialogue.

It also requires that marketers invest in data governance, data quality, data-sharing technology platforms, analytics, preference centers, multivariate testing, employee and partner training and strategies to work toward this omnichannel vision, that is, from this consumer’s perspective.

Suffice to say, multichannel—interacting with customers in multiple channels—is a journey stop to omnichannel. Omnichannel is smart marketing, realized—and very hard work. As a communications professional, I’ll be attending several omnichannel learning venues this Spring to see how brands are trying to make this vision happen.

For those in the New York area:

On April 23: http://www.dmcny.org/event/2013-breakfast-series-3 (Direct Marketing Club of New York)

On May 22: http://www.dmixclub.com/CMS_Files/index.php (Direct Marketing Idea Xchange: This is an invitation-only event for qualified senior-level marketers. Please reach out to me if you would like to be invited.)

On June 10: http://www.imweek.org/ (Direct Marketing Association, in cooperation with eConsultancy)

Credit Card Companies Are Our Role Models

Data makes the modern marketing world go round. More data, however, doesn’t automatically translate into more insights. Even with the tetrabytes of data collected each day, a lot of it remains atomized and difficult to turn into insights because of gaps between marketing and purchase information. Now credit card companies have begun to fill this void.

Data makes the modern marketing world go round. More data, however, doesn’t automatically translate into more insights. Even with the tetrabytes of data collected each day, a lot of it remains atomized and difficult to turn into insights because of gaps between marketing and purchase information. Now credit card companies have begun to fill this void.

Direct marketers have long lacked the glamor of brand marketers. There’s no show about them on AMC and they don’t lead at Cannes. But, by way of solace, direct marketers have always had numbers-cold, hard support that their advertising works.

Turns out, it can be very hard to determine which channel was pivotal when marketers pepper consumers with ads from all directions. The effect of a given advertisement, if any, gets lost. At the same time, consumers have a myriad of sales portals. A person can see an online ad while browsing her desktop at work, then buy later from home or the next day from her phone after finding it on Google-or walking down the street to a shop and buying it.

For direct marketers accustomed to a neat closed loop, this uncertainty gnaws at them. Finding a way to cleanly close the loop is a priority.

It turns out, another industry facing challenges from data and technology has been exploring ways to close the loop. Credit cards have a tremendous amount of data on purchase behavior. But, until now, they haven’t done a lot with it. In the last couple of years, however, they’ve woken up to the potential.

A few months ago, Mastercard bought Mu Sigma, a data analytics company. Although privacy concerns prevent Mastercard from offering transactional information about individuals, it can provide aggregated data about shopping behavior. Mu Sigma gives Mastercard to identify relationships between different purchases, how they relate to each other, and how they might relate to other bits of information, such as location or demographics. It’s not a large leap from there to provide aggregated information about the performance of marketing campaigns.

Of all of the credit card companies, American Express has done the most to link advertising with purchase information. The company has been a true innovator in direct response advertising on social media. Amex can track advertising on all types of platforms through to the point of purchase. A good example is a campaign using the Xbox and Halo, where game players receive rewards from advertiser partners. When players go to the partner, they automatically can redeem the rewards. It’s similar to programs that Amex has done on Foursquare, where Amex cardholders link their accounts to their check-ins and receive coupons in return. Or a program on Facebook, where cardholders sign up for special discounts. They receive the discount when they use their card-and Amex can track it all. Most recently, Amex has pioneered a program with Twitter, where users can sync their Twitter accounts with their cards, allowing them to buy products simply by tweeting a promotional hashtag.

Amex’s pioneering efforts in social marketing and Mastercard’s analytics products are early attempts linking purchase behavior with other marketing information. By doing so, they’re providing a bridge that closes the loop in today’s diffuse media world.

YouTube vs. Vimeo: Learn From Our Promotional Hiccup

No one likes a hiccup in their promotion—especially when you expected your message to spread virally on Facebook, but it wouldn’t as easily. More frustrating? It wasn’t a Facebook problem, but the inability to choose an acceptable thumbnail frame on YouTube that would satisfy Facebook’s advertising rules. The solution? Use Vimeo and YouTube and leverage the strength of both. It’s less than convenient, but using both services enabled us to use the best of both worlds

No one likes a hiccup in their promotion—especially when you expected your message to spread virally on Facebook, but it wouldn’t as easily. More frustrating? It wasn’t a Facebook problem, but the inability to choose an acceptable thumbnail frame on YouTube that would satisfy Facebook’s advertising rules. The solution? Use Vimeo and YouTube and leverage the strength of both. It’s less than convenient, but using both services enabled us to use the best of both worlds.

We’re in the midst of a short video test for a performing arts organization. We’ve started a contest using short video clips as a way to introduce new music to the fan base, build engagement and ultimately sell concert tickets to a series of performances in mid-April.

In today’s blog, we’ve described an issue that arose for our first video when we posted it on Facebook. It didn’t really hurt the campaign, but rather, reduced our viral reach. Fortunately, we had alternatives and we figured out how to fix the issue for our second video. This is learning that will be important to you if you plan to post videos on Facebook and use promoted posts and pay-per-click advertising to generate more traffic to the video.

(If the video isn’t just above this line, click here to view it.)

We’ve used promoted posts in the past. Based on our use of Facebook promoted posts last Christmas, and the fact that Christmas show ticket sales were up 20 percent over a year earlier, we believe those promoted posts contributed to the sales increase. And we certainly know that using promoted posts grew our number of fans.

When we posted our first video in this series for the April Shows, we used the promoted post option as we’ve done before. But this time, a few hours later, we received an email notification from Facebook that the promoted post wasn’t approved.

We figured out the reason, and it was that our thumbnail video image had too much text on it to meet Facebook promoted post standards. With YouTube hosting the video, you have little flexibility over the thumbnail image you want. The ability to choose an image is important if you want to use paid promoted posts on Facebook. If you want to promote a post, Facebook requires 80 percent or more of the image to be a photograph or other graphic treatment, and only 20 percent text.

While Facebook still included the video on our page and it was visible and played for our fans, it meant our post would not be promoted to friends of fans.

Thankfully there is an alternative in Vimeo. Vimeo allows the user to choose the exact frame from the video you want to appear when the video isn’t playing. So for our second video, a frame was created where the text was less than 20 percent of the image.

Facebook approved the promoted post, which enabled us to also create a pay-per-click advertising program. In the meantime, the video was also posted on YouTube, which we use for the video on our landing page.

Learn more in today’s video about our experience. We also describe in more detail the pros and cons of YouTube vs. Vimeo.

In the meantime, please share your comments, suggestions and experiences. We’re all learning here together, and we hope you’re enjoying the ride.

Facebook Embraces Direct Response

Facebook dominates the Web, but it’s never really cracked the direct response puzzle. That looks like it will change in 2013 with an avalanche of new measurement and targeting tools. As a marketing platform, Facebook has traditionally thrived at top-of-the-funnel advertising. Unlike search, which hits people just as they express an interest in buying a certain product or service, social media marketing at its best builds relationships, and there’s compelling evidence for its value.

Facebook dominates the Web, but it’s never really cracked the direct response puzzle. That looks like it will change in 2013 with an avalanche of new measurement and targeting tools.

As a marketing platform, Facebook has traditionally thrived at top-of-the-funnel advertising. Unlike search, which hits people just as they express an interest in buying a certain product or service, social media marketing at its best builds relationships, and there’s compelling evidence for its value.

The heavy lifting for this type of advertising, however, happens on the advertisers’ own media—their brand pages. Although Facebook doesn’t charge for brand pages, it can still make money from them by selling ad units that encourage users to become fans, or that amplify the reach of content shared on the page. In a lot of ways, these are straight direct response ads, but with a call-to-action for a “like” or “share” and not a sale.

Showing marketers how many likes or conversations an ad produces is one thing, but proving ultimate sales is another, much more difficult job. Because Facebook advertising traditionally operated high in the funnel, the platform has long suffered from a “last-touch” bias. Click rates and conversions probably underestimate the actual impact of advertising on the Facebook platform, especially for the small display ads that appear to the right of the newsfeed. If people see an ad while they’re checking in on their friends, they may not click. Or they may click on it and do nothing. Later, however, they may decide to go to the website or a store and make a purchase. It’s often this last channel that gets outsized credit for this sale.

Overcoming this last-touch bias has become an imperative for Facebook. First of all, Facebook has developed “sponsored stories,” a native ad format that appears in the newsfeed and refers to how a friend interacted with a brand—becoming a friend, commenting on an article, redeeming an offer, etc. They still pivot off the relationships within Facebook’s social graph but have much higher CTRs and engagement. With these ads, Facebook has a more powerful format, where CTR becomes their ally as opposed to an obstacle.

Facebook is also trying to move down the purchase funnel by giving advertisers the ability to reach people who have already shown interest in a brand. Last year, Facebook introduced two new advertising products that do this. Custom Audience targeting lets advertisers upload their proprietary lists and match them with Facebook users to deliver sponsored stories or standard display ads to their existing customers. Early results show that these custom lists produce higher CTR and lower cost-per-lead. In February, Facebook reached an agreement with big data aggregators Epsilon, Axciom, BlueKai and Datalogix to import even richer audience segments.

Ulitmately, an even more important innovation might be Facebook Exchange, which allows marketers to retarget ads on Facebook. Through cookies and other tracking tools, Facebook can identify which websites users have visited—and even specific products they’ve browsed—and then deliver ads based on this information. Although the exchange is still in its early stages, it too has shown promising results.

Through Custom Audiences and its Exchange, Facebook is digging deeper into the buying process, but its big challenge remains attribution. It needs ways to span the gulf between advertising on the Facebook platform and the ultimate actions it produces. Custom Audiences and the Exchange have shrunk the width of this gulf but haven’t eliminated it—and its advertising team knows it.

That explains why Facebook bought Atlas Solutions from Microsoft right at the end of February. The ad server enhances Facebook’s ability to track online purchases. In announcing the service, Facebook’s Head of Monetization Product Marketing Brian Boland said, “Why we’re doing this is not to launch an ad network, and why we did do this is to improve measurement. We heard loud and clear from advertisers that they want to understand multi-touch attribution instead of just looking at the last click.” With the ad server, Facebook can deliver more types of ads to more publishers and, most importantly, it can effectively follow what users do online. It’s an incredibly powerful tool for online attribution.

It is made even more powerful when paired with Facebook Connect, a plug-in for online publishers that lets visitors log in to a website with their Facebook email and password. The service gives websites a simpler login process and gives them access to a rich layer of biographical information and connections that Facebook has amassed. Facebook, in turn, can see what people are doing all across the Web, not just in their walled community and, importantly, it can track activity across multiple devices, as long as a user has logged into Facebook from that device. If you see an ad on your desktop but convert via your phone or tablet, Facebook can track the activity.

Combining Atlas and Facebook Connect produces a powerful suite of online measurement tools. With a partnership with Datalogix, it can even track activity offline via loyalty cards and email addresses collected at checkout. With these tools, Facebook seems positioned to fully “close the loop” and overcome the last-touch bias. In classic direct marketing fashion, they also let Facebook better optimize who receives advertising. If you know who’s bought your products, you’ve found a great audience for future purchases.

Better measurement tools and advertising formats with higher click-rates transform Facebook into a legitimate direct marketing player. With Facebook experimenting with a slew of new DR formats and tools, including trigger-based Gifts, the social search tool Graph Search, redeemable Offers, and its gift card called—what else—Facebook Card, Facebook seems finally to have embraced it inner direct marketer.

Are You Buying ‘Smart Media?’

Media buying, or online advertising, is more than just a Web strategy to help grow your business. It’s both a science and an art. It involves a bit of finesse, competitive research, creativity and good negotiation skills.

Media buying, or online advertising, is more than just a Web strategy to help grow your business. It’s both a science and an art. It involves a bit of finesse, competitive research, creativity and good negotiation skills.

Sadly, with most online advertising experiences, the lagging partner is typically the business owner by no real fault of his or her own … it’s simply from sheer lack of industry knowledge and media savoir-faire.

I’ve been buying online ad space for more than a decade. Here are my personal powerful and money saving tips to buying smart media. These are “must ask” questions that will help you get the most bang for your buck:

1. Competitive analysis—Find out what the typical industry rate is for that particular ad spot and placement in your niche. For instance, if you’re interested in running a 300×250 banner ad, do some research. Call some ad networks and find out what that ad unit costs on the home page and ‘”run of site” within your target niche. What ad units typically get the best clickthrough rates (also known as CTR)? Read some online e-zines or blogs and get an idea on average metrics so you have a benchmark to measure your campaign against.

2. Ad targeting—Find out if the publisher allows day parting (running ad during specific time periods). This can save you money on ad rates, especially using the CPM (cost per thousand) pricing model.

3. Dedicated email—Find out the size of the list you’re thinking of renting, the frequency the list goes out, and the average unit sale (AUS) per subscriber. Ask the publisher who’s mailing for you if there will there be a lift note (an introduction or implied endorsement). Lift notes help “warm up” the list (subscribers) and boost conversions.

4. Out clause—Ask your account executive if the media agreement has an out clause or termination right. This is important as if your campaign is not working, you don’t want to have to ride it out and waste money. You want the ability to end it and cut your losses. Also find out if you can pause your ad during a slow traffic times (i.e. summer, holidays) as not to waste impressions (CPM).

5. Reporting—Ask your account executive if you will be given daily/weekly reporting OR access to the online ad serving system. This will allow you real-time access to clickthrough rates and more to evaluate if creative (banner and landing page) is striking a chord with the target audience.

6. Seasonality—Each industry and niche has its highs and lows. But, generally speaking, it’s typical to see drops in website traffic during summer (June to Aug.) and around certain U.S. holidays. Research your industry and use consumer purchase behavior to your advantage. For instance, in some industries, the days around Thanksgiving are slower than usual. If you’re running a campaign that falls on this timeframe, ask about getting lower rates or pausing your ad during the slowdown. DoubleClick and ClickZ are great sources of information and often release quarterly consumer Web reports on buying patterns and traffic.

7. Exclusivity—Similar to economies of scale (where the more that’s produced, the cheaper the unit price), if your banner ad is sharing space with other advertisers for less “solo” time, you should be paying less. It’s important to ask whether your ad will get 100 percent of the rotations or sharing ad exposure. And if sharing, find out what percentage of exposure you are ultimately getting during your ad run. This is known as being “fixed ad placement” or “shared ad placement.” If you’re told you have shared placement, this is a great bartering tool to get a more competitive rate.

8. Site targeting—You’ve heard in real estate it’s always about location, location, location, right? Well, online real estate is no different. Find out if your ad will be run of site (ROS), run of channel (ROC) or on specific high-traffic pages. Typically, the further you drill down, the more you pay. It’s known as “site targeting.” Similarly, the higher you go up, the less you pay. ROS is the highest (most broad) level, so it’s usually the cheapest ad location. Next is usually ROC, whose ads appear on certain channels or sections of a website. Then there are also specific pages or demographic targeting. Your goals and budget will determine which placement is best for your needs.

9. Remnant space—Often the forgotten about query, remember to ask if remnant space is available. Remnant ads are those ad units that the publisher or ad network is having a difficult time selling for whatever reason. They can also be last-minute specials or units that are now available due to another deal falling through. With more popular, high-traffic websites, you can save a fortune buying remnant media. Just pay close attention to the terms and conditions in the insertion order, as with most special deals, there are usually restrictions and little leeway.

All of these factors will help determine the value of your ad space and, ultimately, the cost you’re willing to pay to access that audience. Good luck!

Dancing Baby Fails and Other Digital Distractions

Why, in the seemingly sophisticated world of digital marketing, are there so many advertising disasters? Who told the marketing director that the first step in digital marketing was to shout and wave your arms to ensure no one misses your message? Or to be vague/coy to drive inquisitive millions to click, just to learn more?

If you own a product or service, how much marketing value is there in having a person stand on a street corner twirling a directional sign trying to point passing motorists towards your company? I suppose if you own a restaurant and are offering a lunch bargain, and it’s between 11:30 and 2 p.m., it might get some attention and customers.

In my book, that marketer gets an A+ for clarity of message (Lunch Special RIGHT HERE!) and the ROI is probably pretty clear too. Give a guy $8 an hour to twirl a $200 sign, and you only need 20 customers to break even.

So why, in the seemingly sophisticated world of digital marketing, are there so many advertising disasters? Who told the marketing director that the first step in digital marketing was to shout and wave your arms to ensure no one misses your message? Or to be vague/coy to drive inquisitive millions to click, just to learn more?

I’m not just talking about that stupid dancing baby—which, by the way, has become so distracting I’ve been forced to place my hand on my monitor to cover it up while I try to read content on a page—or the creepy picture of the woman who ages 50 years in the span of 2 seconds, or the gal who seems to grow and shrink her belly fat instantly. They’re all the equivalent of the guy on the street corner, twirling his sign, but it’s not lunch time and I’m not hungry. And I don’t have the benefit of turning my head away to ignore the distraction, as I’m on a page with content I want.

The worst offenders are those that craft unclear messages that simply leave me saying “Wha–??”

Take the most recent ad presented on my Yahoo! home page: Reliant is not a brand I know, but apparently it’s an NRG Company. (Sorry, still nothing.)

The picture is of a stack of $20 bills and the headline is, “Secure your low price and get $300.” The button says “Switch Today.”

Call me dumb, but I have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. I’ve never heard of the brand, or the parent company, so I do what I do with most dumb marketing messages: I ignore it. (Well, that’s only partially true; under normal circumstances I would have ignored it, but I wanted to know who Reliant was—or, at a minimum, what NRG meant for this blob—so I clicked the “Switch Today” button.)

After lots of spinning, I got an error message. Hmmm … I tried to Google the company and then click through to their web site. A lot more spinning. Another error message. I start to panic. Did I just download a virus that’s now wreaking havoc on my desktop?

After switching browsers, I finally got to the Reliant website. It turns out they’re an energy company—but none of their links work. So I don’t even know if they service my area. Dumb and dumber.

Digital marketing isn’t brain surgery, but only a few have figured it out. Take ING Direct, for example. In the same pixel space as Reliant, the ING headline reads, “Turn on the Power of Checking and get a $50 bonus” with 3 bulleted benefits and a big, orange “Learn More” button. Yup. Got it. There’s cash for me for opening an account, no fees, 35K fee-free ATMs and I can make deposits from anywhere, anytime. Count me in!

Next time you’re crafting a digital ad, put yourself in the reader’s shoes. You don’t need gimmicks to get attention. You need a benefit-laden headline. You need a visual that supports your message. You need to make sure your link works. And K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Stupid.

6 Video Presentation Tips to Elevate Your Online Marketing

The video you create is but one component of your online direct marketing campaign. Yes, the video is what viewers are driven to—it’s the vehicle that delivers your story. However, without lists, email and landing page copywriting and design, blog comments and posts, social media entries, pay-per-click ads, YouTube advertising, etc., your video

Online Video Marketing Deep Dive co-author Perry Alexander takes over this week while Gary is away.

The video you create is but one component of your online direct marketing campaign. Yes, the video is what viewers are driven to—it’s the vehicle that delivers your story. However, without lists, email and landing page copywriting and design, blog comments and posts, social media entries, pay-per-click ads, YouTube advertising, etc., your video stands little chance to be viewed.

Think of the parallel: We know that without the intentional series of steps to get our direct mail package into readers’ hands, opened and scanned long enough for them to catch the lead, there’s slim chance it’ll make any impact.

Just as the direct mail letter headline and lead must drive the reader to stick with it, so must the first few seconds of your video. Your video must create and instantly set the visual and auditory tone that will draw the viewer through those precious first few seconds and into your story.

My co-author and business colleague, Gary Hennerberg, is the master copywriter of our team and, as he says, I “make stuff look good.” I make sure the story isn’t overshadowed by lousy presentation or distractions, which can repel, or at least divert the reader. Let’s go through some of the ways to make your video command attention—during the first few seconds and beyond.

  1. Bad audio will douse viewers’ interest long before bad video will. Don’t rely on your on-camera mike or, worse, your computer mike. You’ve heard these videos—they sound like they were recorded in a barrel or a cave. Viewer’s interpretation: Your presentation was slapped together, therefore your product or service is, too, so why should I bother listening?
    The Deep Dive:
    If your camera has a mike input, use a lav mike (Gary and I each use a $25 Audio-Technica). If there’s no external mike input on your camera, use a digital voice recorder to record quality sound, either through its built-in mikes or plug the lav mike into it (we both use the same $100 Sony recorder). Then, in editing, sync the audio from both the camera and voice recorder, then mute the camera audio. The mechanics of this are tricky at first, but once you’ve done it a couple of times it becomes routine and your sound is crisp and clear.
  2. Bad video won’t help matters. A webcam video looks like, well, you used a webcam—even an HD webcam. Not only is the image soft, but exposure is usually off, color isn’t great, and what about all that stuff in the background behind you? The message struggles to get out. Again, it screams that your story doesn’t deserve the viewer’s consideration. It’s just a throwaway webcam production about a throwaway idea. What does your viewer do? Click away to something else after just a few seconds.
    The Deep Dive:
    You wouldn’t dream of tossing a half-baked direct mail piece out into the market, expecting it to convince your audience of the value of whatever you’re offering them, would you? Anything that distracts from the message must be stripped away so only the message is noticed. Same with video. Get a $100 Flip or Sony camera and a tripod, or even the latest iPhone. Better: spend $400 for an HD video camera for long-form videos. If your shots are under 5-10 minutes each, use your DSLR. (We use a $100 flip-type camera on Gary’s videos.)
  3. On-camera jitters? Maybe the prospect of speaking into a camera lens is frightening, or at least off-putting. Really, though, after several miserable attempts, you will improve. Evenutally you get to where you imagine you’re just talking with another person in the room, and your fear melts away.
    The Deep Dive:
    Your job is to tell the story. How? Reveal your personality and mastery. Build trust. The call-to-action will produce nothing for you until after that’s all been established. Consider being in front of the camera just long enough to introduce your premise, then moving into slides, charts, photos, graphics or other images that tell your story. That way, you don’t have to memorize a long script. You can refer to notes as you narrate what’s on screen. On-camera script reading is usually deadly, anyway. If you’re on screen for a quick 20-30 seconds, know your stuff. Roll through several takes until you’ve looked that monster in the eye (lens), and said your piece naturally, completely, and with relaxed authority. Now you have their attention and trust!
  4. Stock photos, stock footage, stock music, stock sound effects? You’ve seen the websites with stiff and trite stock photos. Somebody, please explain what that might ever accomplish, because we’ve all seen that picture a thousand times. Filler doesn’t move the story along. But, relevant graphics that work can emphasize a point quickly and vividly. An occasional “foley” sound effect can emphasize a point, just don’t overuse transition swooshes, or they’ll become distracting gimmicks.
    The Deep Dive:
    Map out your storyline. What images will support or clarify what you’re saying? Use images that are specific to your product, service, technique, timeliness, etc. Short of that, invest time finding stock images, footage, music or sounds. It’s all online, and for not much money. YouTube and Vimeo even offer stock music beds you can use at no cost. But be careful in your choices. Be brutal in editing. Anything that distracts or detracts from your story and message, leading to your call-to-action, must be cut.
  5. Go short or go long? Conventional wisdom, born out by YouTube analytics, is that video viewer falloff is precipitous after the first 30 seconds or less. So, does that mean we must never consider creating a 3-minute or, horrors, a 15-minute video? Perhaps. Remember, everything must serve to support the story. Do that right, and they’ll stay with you.
    The Deep Dive:
    Conventional wisdom has always warned us not to use long-form copy in letters. However, seasoned, successful copywriters know that a well-told story will hold interest across 2, 4, even 16 pages. Same with video. Don’t rush to push features, advantages, benefits. Find the relevant hook, then reveal, build and educate about the issue. Lead them to want—then crave—the answer to the quandary or dilemma you’re setting up. Now, the sales copy tastes like good soup.
  6. Editing is half the storytelling. Putting up an unedited video is like mailing the first draft of your letter. It’s probably loose, meandering, dulling to the senses. Resist, revise and remove whatever doesn’t move your story along!
    The Deep Dive:
    Video editing brings clarity and precision to your story. The pace and direction are honed so the viewer is drawn in and held through the call-to-action. It’s an interwoven dance of timing, splicing, movement, color, design, sound, mood and the ruthless removal of what’s not contributing. But, you need two things: A) the knack to know when it’s right and when it’s not and, B) mastery of a video editing program, so you can accomplish your vision.

There’s so much more to cover, but perhaps you’re getting a sense of how online video marketing requires many skills and decisions so familiar to the direct mail pro. Different tools … different vehicles … similar foundational concepts. As always, we invite your comments, criticism or questions.

Drop me an email, and we’ll get you the list of resources, brand names, part numbers and such of what we’ve found works in our ever-evolving video marketing tool chest: perry@acm-initiatives.com

How to Craft a Compelling Offer for Search Engine Marketing

The best way to motivate a click online is to make a compelling offer and provide an urgent call to action. This is not news to Internet marketers. But when it comes to search engine advertising, like Google AdWords, you need to think about your offer and call to action a bit differently. The secret is coming up with an offer that attracts qualified prospects, to maintain conversion rates—instead of bringing in tire-kickers who are only interested in getting a quick deal, and won’t actually buy.

The best way to motivate a click online is to make a compelling offer and provide an urgent call to action. This is not news to Internet marketers. But when it comes to search engine advertising, like Google AdWords, you need to think about your offer and call to action a bit differently. The secret is coming up with an offer that attracts qualified prospects, to maintain conversion rates—instead of bringing in tire-kickers who are only interested in getting a quick deal, and won’t actually buy.

Two important considerations undergird this point:

  1. You only have 95 characters, spread over four lines of type, to play with.
  2. Since you are paying for each click, your ROI depends more on quality than on quantity.

In direct marketing offer theory, this is called managing the “offer equation,” which says that response quality is inversely related to response quantity. In other words, the sweeter the offer, the higher the response, and the less likely the respondents are to become profitable customers. Conversely, a lower response brings in a more committed prospect, one who is likely to prove more valuable over time—just costlier to acquire.

So the ideal in search engine advertising is to identify an attractive offer that also qualifies. And, it needs to be very simple, so it can be communicated with minimal investment of your precious 95 characters.

Here are some excellent offers that serve both purposes: simplicity and quality control:

  • Free shipping. A great way to differentiate yourself in a highly competitive environment. Free shipping is very appealing to prospective buyers, but because it is only redeemed on purchase, it’s successful in the equation management game.
  • Free trial. Another classic equation management tactic. Only people who are serious about your product will be likely to take it on trial. But you still get the power of the word “free.” In the tech world, a free software download has been a proven winner of this type.
  • Free gift with purchase. Another way to motivate conversion, versus mere click-through, and easy to explain. But it does take up a bit more real estate than free shipping or free trial.
  • Free information. Always a popular and productive offer in business markets, where buyers need detailed information as part of their purchase process. Examples include a free case study, research report, or white paper. Qualifies beautifully.

To be avoided are generous offers that motivate high response but poor quality. A free mug or t-shirt, with no strings attached, for example. Unless you can otherwise qualify the target with a highly selective keyword or phrase.

Have you come up with a compelling offer to motivate quality responses in B-to-B search engine advertising? Let’s share ideas.

A version of this post appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.