Video Demos: Powerful, Effective, and Yet Still Pretty Rare

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Jason Kincaid wrote something insightful over at Techcrunch today that I want to encourage you to read.  Aimed at helping businesses toward a better method of boiling down their pitch, the piece is called The Underutilized Power Of The Video Demo To Explain What The Hell You Actually Do.  (Hmm… maybe we could boil that title down a bit while we’re at it?)

The main thrust of the article is that more people should be using a simple, straightforward video demo to explain their core service or product.  And I have to agree.  In the YouTube age, there are a surprising number of web-related companies and startups that are curiously still ignoring video as a means to give an elevator pitch.

And all signs point to continued dominance of online video.  The masses are trained to look for video content—even salivating for it.  As much as traditional businessmen and classical English teachers don’t want to hear it, there are millions on the web who simply will not ever learn what you do if the only way for them to learn it is by reading text.

There’s a reason why more people are searching on YouTube than on any other site except for GoogleVideo rules. It’s the ultimate in lazy learning.  “Content” is no longer king… he’s been overthrown by “Video Content,” his far more entertaining son.

Kincaid points to Dropbox as a positive example of the kind of video demo he’s entreating us all to create… and with good cause—Dropbox’s video was created by the gifted folks of Common Craft, who we’ve praised before, and its fantastic.

More than that, a demo video actually shows people what your product or service does, instead of merely describing it.  The late Billy Mays was a pitchman known for demanding one thing of the products he sold:  that they be demonstrable.  If you’re in business, then you have a product or service that is demonstrable.   You’ve got to show people why they should be moved to do business with you.

A short-but-sweet video pitch can cut through the noise and reach a consumer with an explanation of your company that mere text could never convey.  However, it is a whole lot easier to say you need a catchy video than it is to actually create one.  In fact, there’s a reason companies like Common Craft and Transvideo exist—they’re experts at boiling something down into a catchy, informative video.  It’s an incredibly difficult task.

For as much as you may be the expert at what you do, you’re probably not the best person to make the video about it.  As honed as you may have your sales pitch, odds are good that it’s still too long winded, or too short.  It’s the same principle you hopefully followed when creating your website’s copy—hire or find some gifted writer to help harness your passion and translate it for the masses.  Video demos need the same kind of expertise if they’re going to succeed.

You can certainly finish reading Kincaid’s post, sit down in front of your Flip camera, and start talking about whatever the heck it is your business does… and you can certainly upload that on your business’ branded YouTube channel.  And I’ll bet you even money you’ll get fewer views than the video of my cat smelling my socks.

Putting videos online is quick, easy, and yes… even a non-techie can do it.  But creating great video content?  That’s an art.  That’s why very few of us have any million-view-uploads on our resume.  And video demos are an exclusive subset within that art of video creation.

But fear not.  Even for small businesses, demo videos are still affordable expenses, and they’ll pay off in the long run.  For any web-based company to hit the big time, there will inevitably be some sort of viral portion, with the users sharing the story with each other.  It would be helpful if those initial users that find you were able to understand your new service right off the bat.  A well-made demo video could mean the difference between obscurity and fame, between failure and success.


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