Video Can Be Powerful Lure for Customers

Lights, camera, action! When it's done right, a personal video message on your Web site can build business.

August 1, 2004

Dear Mr. Internet:
I'm thinking about putting a personal video message on my Web site. What’s the best way to do this?—Janet Harris, AgentOwned Realty/Preferred Group, Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

Dear Janet,
Video can be a very powerful way to engage your site visitors and help turn them into serious prospects. But to work, it has to be done right. Otherwise, a video may be perceived as a poor attempt at a used car commercial. Let's take a closer look at what makes a video work for you, not against you.

Remember Message is King

"The medium is the message," says Marshall McLuhan, the famous commentator on the effects of television on our society. But in my opinion, the message you’re trying to convey is still the most important factor in connecting with prospects. Your message needs to answer the visitor’s question: "What's in it for me?" Keep these tips in mind as you create your message.

  • Skip the welcome. Avoid the temptation of a long-winded "welcome" message that features you more than the value of your site. Otherwise, visitors will turn it off so fast you’ll think that they were using a remote to change the channel.
  • Keep your message relevant to their concerns. One idea for an effective video message is giving visitors a quick overview of your site’s highlights and how they can get the most from a visit.
  • Keep your video message short. Your message should ideally be 45 seconds to 60 seconds. Any longer and you risk boring your viewers.
  • Script what you plan to say and practice it. Even if you plan on using a teleprompter, practice will help you calm your nerves and give you that natural, off-the-cuff delivery that’s key to connecting with visitors.

Now you’re ready to think about the details of how you’re going to actually create your Oscar-winning footage.

Use the Right Tools

Many people assume it is expensive and time consuming to shoot a good video. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way if you have the right tools. If you plan on doing your video without the help of a video professional, the bare minimum ingredients you need are:

  • Camcorder (preferably digital)
  • Tripod
  • Condenser mike (plugged into the camera)
  • Shoot location (somewhere quiet, with good lighting, where you won't be interrupted)

Choose the Right Background

Keep in mind that your shoot location, which serves as the background of your video, can make a big difference to the video’s impact. Try to choose a background image that’s appropriate to your content. You want a professional look and a background that’s not so busy that it overpowers your presentation.

If you don’t have easy access to an appropriate background, don’t worry. There’s a very inexpensive way to create almost any kind of background you want. Visual Communicator from Serious Magic is a breakthrough software product that lets you create outstanding Web videos using virtual backgrounds. It’s very easy and quick to use because it was designed specifically for non-professionals. Here is a step-by-step rundown on what you need to do to start using the software after installing it on your computer.

  1. Position your camcorder so the lens is just at the top of your computer monitor.
  2. Stand in front of the “green screen,” which is provided with the software, and shoot your presentation. This chroma key screen, a simple form of the same techniques used to add special effects in movies, enables you to use the software to substitute any background image behind your image
  3. Load your script into the teleprompter.
  4. Shoot your video.
  5. Save your video file to your computer's hard drive.

The software is quite versatile because it lets you change different background images or sets even after you’ve shot your video. It also lets you do professional-looking fades and transitions though incorporating these takes a bit of practice. There’s even a special section containing backgrounds specifically geared to real estate professionals. Visit the site to see an example of how Peter Temple of Keller Williams Realty uses Visual Communicator to help standout from the competition.

The Visual Communicator Web version sells for $199.95 and comes with a high-quality clip-on microphone. This version should work fine for most of your needs. However, there are other more powerful versions, such as Visual Communicator Pro, for $399.95, which you may want to consider if you plan on doing a lot of video.

Once you have your video masterpiece “in the can,” you’re ready to transfer the video to your Web site so your visitors can access it. Note here that you can save your videos to DVD and sent them to prospects if you use the Visual Communicator Pro.

Deliver the Goods

Wouldn’t it be frustrating to have a great, promotional video of yourself that you just know will bring you dozens of new customers, but not have it in a format that most people can view? Because different users will be viewing your video at various connection speeds, you’ll probably want to encode your video for different access programs and speeds. The easiest way to do this is to send your images to a professional video hosting service. Video hosting companies have the necessary hardware and bandwidth to deliver many simultaneous streams when required, so multiple viewers can access your video at the same time.

One service I’m currently exploring for my own use is StreamHoster. It charges $30 per clip for set up and encoding. A clip can be up to 30 minutes and use up to 500 MB.

The company also offers several levels of video hosting fees, starting at $15 a month. Pricing depends on how much time visitors can view your video (45 hours for the $15 option) and the level of resolution you’ll get.

By outsourcing this part of my video messaging instead of hosting it on my own Web server, I keep my server from slowing down with video requests and I’m assured that the widest array of visitors will be able to see my message. Many ISPs can host your video, but the majority of them don’t have the capacity for streaming. That means that a viewer will have to download your video for viewing, which can be a deterrent.

Having the right kind of video message on your site can make you look like—and maybe even become—a multimillion dollar producer for just a few dollars a month.

Mr. Internet’s Tip of the Month

Just put your Web address at the end of the subject line of your e-mail. For example, write: “Be sure to visit my site at www.mysite.com. Recipients using Microsoft Outlook, which many if not most do, will see your Web address as an active link that will let them click directly to your site.

What’s particularly cool about this is that I've only seen one real estate practitioner use this technique. That means you’ll really stand out if you incorporate this as part of your online marketing repertoire.

A good way to direct people to your site is to put a link to your Web site within your signature at the end of an e-mail message. And it’s still a good way to direct people to your site. However, I just discovered another clever and highly visible way to promote your site every time you send an e-mail.

Michael Russer, a.k.a. Mr. Internet®, is CEO of Russer Communications. He is a leading speaker and author in the real estate industry and has been writing about Internet marketing and virtual outsourcing since the dawn of the commercial Internet.

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