7 Ways Online Video is an Affordable, Effective Marketing Tool for Small Businesses

7 Ways Online Video is an Affordable, Effective Marketing Tool for Small Businesses

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The New York Times has a great article up highlighting a few small businesses that are using YouTube for marketing purposes. They profile a manufacturer of ceiling tiles, an online grill vendor, a smartphone parts supplier, and a specialized video camera company–detailing the ways each has found success with online video. The biggest revelation? Online video is one of the cheapest marketing tools around, and can be among the most effective.

Not every small business will go viral with their online video, and that’s okay. Because most small businesses shouldn’t be trying to go viral–at least, not in the traditional sense. Because a small business, by definition, usually has a smaller audience. So, unlike Coke or Nike, who market their products to millions, a small business might only need a few hundred or a few thousand views for their online video to be considered a viral success.

The Times profiles four small companies, each of whom is using video in a different way:

Ceilume – produces vinyl ceiling tiles. Uses video to demonstrate their product, and then to help guide users in making purchase decisions on the many varieties and styles of ceiling tile offered. They also have a successful series of Q&A videos.

Here’s a sample of the kind of demonstrative and educational videos Ceilume is putting out:

BBQguys.com – sells grills and grilling equipment online. Utilizes video for videos that have demonstration elements as well as a notable celebrity chef from the company’s home town of New Orleans. Rather than selling the products with the videos, the company gives tips and advice, helping cement BBQguys.com as a grilling authority for many viewers.

Here’s one of chef Tony’s tips-and-advice clips:

GoPro.com – makes and sells special HD cameras intended for extreme sports enthusiasts. Uses video marketing in reverse fashion, asking users and customers to upload clips they filmed doing crazy stunts while wearing a GoPro.com camera. Customers have responded, creating over a hundred videos that brought in over 24 million views–all without GoPro.com having to lift a finger.

Here’s an awesome clip showcasing the kind of videos GoPro customers are making in large numbers:

Directfix.com – sells replacement parts of mobile devices. Uses video to draw in the right demographic, and turns them into sales down the road. For example, the company’s most successful video shows viewers how to take an iPhone apart. There are many more similar clips, and DirecctFix says that their videos have reduced customer questions by 50%, allowing employees to focus less on customer service and more on other areas.

Here’s the famous “dismantle an iPhone” video:

I thought it would be good to examine these case-studies and pull out the most actionable nuggets of wisdom. We’ve had several years of stories about how video was on its way to becoming a useful tool for small businesses… but the future is now. We’re here. Companies of all sizes are using YouTube and other online video outlets to great success.

So we’ve created a list of 7 Ways Online Video Is An Affordable, Effective Marketing Tool For Small Businesses:

1. Product Demonstration

No amount of text will ever compare to seeing a product in action. No matter how eloquently you articulate your customers’ pain–and your product’s ability to ease that pain–a picture is worth a thousand words. A moving picture is worth even more than that.

Because of online video’s infinite shelf life, demonstration videos can impress potential consumers forever and ever–unlike the limited run of most TV commercials.

2. Allows Fans to Become Cheerleaders

In a case like GoPro.com, the main use of the videos is still demonstration–showing off the capabilities of the tiny HD camera to capture thrilling extreme sports moments in first-person view. But in a fantastic twist, it’s actually demonstration video content that’s being created by happy customers–the brand doesn’t have to even do the work anymore–brilliant.

When people are passionate about a product or service, they’ll tell others. And as video becomes the dominant content form online, more and more of those passionate consumers are making use of it. The holy grail of online marketing for brands used to be if they could get a blogger to write something positive about them… or put it on their Facebook wall… or tweet about it. Now, however, there’s video.

Consumers are going to make video regardless of what your company does. More people than ever have video capabilities at their finger tips They’re making videos of abnormal weather… crazy pets… or hilarious kids. Brands that excel in the areas of customer satisfaction are going to reap the benefits of online video for years to come, whether or not they create any on their own.

3. Low-Cost or No-Cost

Time is really the only cost remaining with online video. YouTube is free… many online promotional methods are cost-free, such as social media… you can get a high-quality HD camera for a few hundred dollars now… so the balance of power in the advertising world is shifting. It’s now possible for a Mom & Pop outfit to create video that looks and sounds as great as what major brands were spending millions on only a few short years ago.

In the same way we urged small businesses to use email marketing as a way to cut printing and postage costs… we’re now urging them to use video to save… well, any cost whatsoever. It’s hard to beat online video ROI when the total investment is somewhere between $0- $500.

4. Placing Ads On Others’ Videos

A lot of small businesses are still a bit intimidated by the idea of writing and filming their own online video. And that’s understandable. Technology isn’t always easy to embrace when people are set in their routines.

For those who aren’t quite ready to become filmmakers, but still see the incredible popularity and power of online video, there’s video advertising–specifically, placing ads on the successful videos of others. Just like Adwords places highly-targeted keyword-based ads on search result pages… YouTube has their own version of an Adwords-like system. Companies small and large can run ads based on keywords, viewer demographics, and more.

Of course, the ideal solution would be for a company to create their own great videos, and then use YouTube ads to drive traffic from other similar videos to theirs.

5. Be More Human

I used to encourage consulting clients to blog because a blog, by nature, has a more casual tone. Stripping the message of the formality that often accompanies professional website copy has a way of humanizing the company, the executive, and the employee.

And if a more casual writing tone can endear consumers to a brand, how much more powerfully will video convey the company’s identity and message?

6. Instruction & Advice

A lot of video viewers don’t begin their viewing journey as ready-to-buy customers. Many start out with a very specific problem or informational need. Like how to properly grill a medium-rare steak… or how to get quality video footage of a bike race… or how to replace a bathroom faucet.

As video becomes a more standard part of Google’s universal results, there is an increasing audience for video tutorials–clips that show do-it-yourself fans exactly how to… well, do it themselves. This makes the video creator a trusted authority for the viewer–even if that only happens on a subconscious level. They are more likely to share your videos with friends, and more likely to return to your establishment when they finally are ready to make a purchase.

7. Demographic Profiling

YouTube gives users a pretty powerful suite of analytics, containing all kinds of great data related to who watches videos, how they find the videos, and more. This kind of demographic information is invaluable to businesses–Radio Shack can attest, as they’ve been asking for your zip code at checkout for more than a decade now.

Smart small businesses can leverage the demographic information gleaned from their video stats to better understand and serve their customers in the real world.


I consult with a ton of small businesses, and even though many of them can grasp the great benefits of online video, the most-buzzed-about video successes tend to be from large corporations and Fortune 500 companies. Most smaller entities still struggle to see how their little company can actually utilize video in a way that will affect the bottom line. But there are great object lessons around every corner of the online universe. Smart small business owners are embracing the fact that video is the next great content format on the web, and will learn quickly how many ways there are to leverage video to their advantage, even if they never get millions of views.


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