While speaking at the Hubspot User Group conference last month, a kind lady in the crowd asked me the following question:
“Marcus, what are your thoughts on video? I read all of this stuff that I ‘have to do’ and I feel overwhelmed just getting started.”
My response was blunt:
“The only people screaming that videos have to be perfect are the ones that get paid to make the videos. My point? Just hit record. Get started. Some will always be better than none. As long as you try to get better and better, you’ll be just fine.”
As soon as I stated these words, the kind lady showed a smile of relief. Finally, someone was there to help her realize she didn’t have to be perfect to embrace video marketing. She needn’t be a videographer. All she had to do was give it a try.
The Amateur vs. Professional Debate
I mention this story because last week I again found myself in a little debate with a video ‘professional’ on Gini Dietrich’s blog Spin Sucks. If you’d like to read the comments verbatim, feel free to see them here, but the philosophical difference I share with this gentleman and many others about video is this: It’s foolish to expect that average Joe business owners are going to be great and ‘professional’ when they first start video marketing, especially with factors such as budget, learning curve, and equipment playing such a big role. Should the end goal be 'professional'? In most cases, I'd say yes, but the end goal should not be the standard of a starting point.
Fact is, I’ve talked to thousands of small businesses over the past 3 years regarding the power of video. During this time, I’ve developed a very good ‘feel’ for the main reason business owners and entrepreneurs hold back from simply pushing record—The fear of imperfection.
This is why videographers who bad-mouth any video that’s not ‘professional’ make me want to bang my head against a wall. They’re actually hurting businesses from growing because they’re setting the initial bar way, way too high for the majority of their potential clients.
The Sacred Art that is Video Marketing
When it comes to video marketing, I often wonder what breeds this ‘no amateurs allowed’ paradigm from certain people.
As a comparison, does a blogger have to be a great writer to start blogging?
Does a company have to have a perfect business model before they open the doors?
Does a teacher have to be a great teacher before they set foot in a public school?
Does a parent have to be a great parent before they decide to have their first child?
The fact is I can’t think of a single skill we all just ‘get’ from the beginning.
But for some reason there are those that make video out to be some sacred art that no one is allowed to attempt unless they do everything on the sacred ‘list’.
I call bull on that one, and I’m living proof.
We All Start Clueless
The first video I ever made for my business was in Feb of 2009. I had no idea what I was doing and just knew the next big ‘thing’ was video marketing and YouTube. So I decided to talk about a product in the swimming pool industry called Salt Chlorine Generators.
As for the quality of the video, I’m happy to say it stunk. I’ll cut to the chase in saying the quality is awful, the content is very average at best, and the lighting is so bad it makes me look like I’ve been lying at the bottom of a lake for the last 3 days.
Notwithstanding all of these ‘terrible attributes’, the video is something I’m proud of. It marked the beginning of a very, very important marketing/branding tool for my swimming pool company. Oh, and did I mention it also has 21,000 views, ranks for multiple keywords, and has made thousands of dollars in product sales?
Fail to Launch or Launch to Learn?
There are two types of companies when it comes to video—Those that suffer from a failure to launch and those that choose the opposite approach: launch to learn.
Obviously, I adhere to the latter. In fact, this philosophy has helped me train dozens of other small businesses how to get started with video and YouTube over the past year. My goal in working with them is always simple—let’s get better and better with each one.
The beauty is as companies get better and better with video, they’re also making sales in the process. This is what smart business and marketing is all about, which is why waiting for perfection and ‘super professional’ is a ridiculous business model. Furthermore, here are a few facts:
Windows Movie Maker (and similar editing programs) are intimidating for a large majority of small business owners, and do take time and practice to learn.
The only way for many people to get comfortable being in front of the camera is by….being in front of the camera, a lot.
Viewers don’t expect YouTube videos to be perfect or super professional, especially for a small business that doesn’t have a million dollar advertising budget.
Case in point? As my company has been learning video marketing over these past 3 years, here are our stats:
Over 100 videos produced
Over 1,000,000 total views
Over $1,000,000 in product sales
Amatuer videos? Yep, sure thing, but I’ll take those numbers any day of the week.
There is a Place for ALL Levels of Video
I don’t mention these facts as a green light for businesses to simply produce junk and throw it on YouTube. There is a time and place for high quality and professional. Anyone who watched my video last week knows I’m a huge proponent of hiring professionals to produce truly professional work, as it clearly has its place in every business.
But in the world we live today, there is a place for amateur video of all levels. 3 years ago I was a video dummy. But with each and every video that has been produced, my company has gotten better and better. We’ve gone from poor amateurs to ‘pretty decent’ amateurs, and in 2012 we’ll be spending another $15,000 on a new camera , equipment, and education with the end goal of becoming ‘great amateurs’.
But again, it all starts somewhere.
So let’s not put the cart before the horse my friends. Video marketing is possible for all of us. In fact, great video is possible for all of us. But please, don’t be afraid to learn. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you do, the results just may amaze you.
Now go push record. :-)
What has been your company’s experience with video and ‘failure to launch’? Do you feel video it has to be perfect or are you a work in progress? And if you are doing video marketing, how long have you been at it? Has the learning curve been difficult and what have been the results? Finally, I'd be curious to know what editing program you use?
As always, the conversation below is your turn to add your thoughts, questions, and comments…and please know that everything you say is valued and appreciated.