The Dos and Don’ts of Successful Video Marketing

This article was originally published on the Hearst Bay Area blog. Reprinted with permission.

We’ve all seen viral videos that were intended to be good and missed the mark. I consider myself a pretty nice person, but I have to admit that I have indulged in the hilariously absurd misfortunes of well-intentioned but really bad videos. 

My all-time favorite viral video is Rebecca Black’s Friday. It’s bad. In the act of redemption, there is a watch-worthy documentary about Rebecca Black. She’s matured into a wonderful young adult pursuing a career in music, but the journey there was rough. You don’t want that to happen to your business. 

We’ve all been there to some degree. For example, I over-plucked just one of my eyebrows well into college. Sometimes, you just don’t know what’s working and what’s not.

I say all this because I don’t ever want business owners to feel shame for making mistakes or doing something out of fashion or out of step with what makes a successful marketing video. But, at the same time, most business owners want to avoid mistakes!

As Friday proves with its 147 million views, going viral is not the holy grail of successful video marketing. Along with heeding video marketing trends and best practices, what makes a video effective?

successful video marketing

How Video Marketing Can Help Your Business

There are benefits to video marketing. No matter which type of video advertising you’re using, a successful video marketing program has the power to make an authentic emotional connection with a prospective customer.

And it’s so easy to get that wrong, even if you are a passionate, caring, and genuine business leader. You weren’t born knowing how to do video marketing, and that’s quite alright. 

A big key to an emotional connection is trust. 

Successful video marketing can reach this goal more efficiently than any other method. Similarly, you can erode trust if you get your video content marketing wrong.

Before you create your video content, it helps to figure out your video marketing strategy, so you understand the purpose of your content and where your video fits into your funnel.

So what makes a successful video?

5 Video Marketing Dos and Don’ts

There are many different types of video marketing, and you’ll want to choose what works for you as you also consider which video advertising service will reach your target market.

This post leans toward examples for brand videos. Still, the same principles can be applied to many different marketing videos for business and can be layered in with these tips for video marketing for small businesses.

While it all works together, any strategy hinges on great video content. Here are some fundamental dos and don’ts to keep in mind when putting together your next marketing video.

Do: Make Full Use Of Video As A Medium

Video is such a powerful medium because you can make a human connection. You can get pretty close to what it’s like to meet someone in person and get a feel for who they are.

You get a vibe.

You can share your personality.

You establish trust.

You can be vulnerable.

And with that emotional connection—if it’s truly authentic and trustworthy—you can sell. And I would venture to say that selling is generally the goal of successful video marketing for business owners.

Can you communicate what you need to communicate in text? Then you don’t need video. Can you say it better in a static infographic? Do that instead. Is an image or even a meme the best choice to share your message?

You get it. Use video only when you need video.

There are, of course, many types of videos, and making an authentic, emotional human connection is vital even if your goal is to inform or demonstrate. No matter the purpose of your video, your audience wants to watch people who care.

Don’t: Be Boring

There are many ways to make a boring video.

Here are three of my favorites.

Your Video Is Too Long

There’s no exact length a video should be. It depends on your platform and your message.

Generally, business videos are 1-3 minutes. But they can be longer if the content is strong. Have you ever watched ten seconds of a video and wanted it to be over? Or watched three minutes and wanted there to be more? You always want your audience to come away from your video wanting more.

Think of your business video as a movie trailer to your business that will naturally invite your audience to take the next step with a clear call to action (CTA).

You don’t want to include too much information in your video and risk boredom.

Your Video Is Too Obvious

Your audience doesn’t need your video to tell them things they already know. Get to the point quickly. 

You might even feel like you’re dropping into the middle of a conversation, which is good. Build a little curiosity and tension. Use visual cues, and the principle of “show don’t tell” to convey a complete story in a short window of time. 

Think about who’s watching your video and where they’ll consume it, especially as you strategize to reach “cord cutters” with your video marketing.

Your Video Feels Unnatural

It’s boring to watch someone try to be something they aren’t—the result is stiff, formal, and awkward. Think about what captivates a YouTube audience. 

Your audience wants you to be comfortable on camera and speak confidently in a conversational tone.

Watch a few business videos from other brands and notice where you tune out. Notice what’s happening in those moments, and don’t repeat those mistakes. Think about making a video that you would want to watch, and you’re on your way to successful video marketing.

Do: Go Unscripted

I love it when people ask my clients: “Who wrote the script for your video?” Because, generally, we don’t use scripts.

There are some types of videos where scripts make sense, but if you’re filming a brand video or a testimonial, an unscripted interview is a great option to include in your successful video marketing strategy. 

This may feel counterintuitive. But, have you ever tried acting? I have, and I’m terrible at it. 

What I’m really good at is being who I am. So are you. 

Most of us trick ourselves into thinking that acting is easy because we watch a lot of films with amazing actors and think they’re overpaid. We also think memorizing a script or reading a teleprompter will give us a sense of safety and make us feel like we hit all our talking points and didn’t forget anything. 

If you do that, maybe you will technically convey all the information you need to say. But if your video’s goal is to establish trust and an emotional connection with customers, you’re going to undermine that by trying to be an actor. 

A good unscripted video comes across more confidently because the non-actor appearing in them isn’t worrying about whether or not they’re doing it right.

Find a production company that will encourage you to show up and be yourself and trust them to ask you great questions and edit your story into a compelling story that inspires trust. It’s no accident that this is what I do at Concurrent Productions

It’s important to note that going unscripted doesn’t mean you don’t have a plan. You can have an outline of the content and messaging you want to convey, and you can even create a storyboard and still film in a very candid way. You might also be surprised and uncover some messaging you hadn’t previously articulated that ends up being key to your marketing message.

Don’t: Be Generic

Stock footage is over-used. A freeway drone shot is a classic one to illustrate how busy we all are in today’s society.

Not everyone has access to custom footage, so it’s okay to rely on stock footage when you need it, but please don’t make it your entire video. Stock footage is generic by design – it’s created for mass use.

When you take a risk to share your beliefs—your perspective—you effectively communicate why your product, service, and business leadership is different. You begin to attract customers who align with you and your brand. 

Another way to be generic is by using an animated explainer video template. A video marketing strategy template is a great tool, but actual video content templates are not. 

We’ve all seen animation videos along the lines of: “This is Jeff. Jeff is having a hard time figuring out what cereal to eat. Now, Jeff gets his cereal delivered directly to his home according to his taste in music.

Download the MusiCereal app and be happy like Jeff.”

These are available on several popular platforms at too-good-to-be-true prices. The format is so overused, it’s become a template, and that makes it easy to tune out.

A successful video marketing campaign will surprise your audience enough that they tune in and identify you as offering something new and original that’s uniquely you.

Do: Prioritize Storytelling

Above all, use video to tell a compelling story. If you have an unlimited budget, great – make a masterpiece. But creativity and persuasive storytelling always wins over technical perfection, beautiful shots, and a cool background. 

You’ll most likely land somewhere in the middle, and hopefully, your limitations will inspire creative solutions. 

Of course, you need the basics down for successful video marketing—excellent sound quality and good lighting. But really, you can get away with some degree of technical imperfection if you tell a great story. 

A great story has a beginning, middle, and end, a clear perspective, a relatable “hero/character” your target customers can believe in.

As I write this, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. We’ve been able to continue to serve our clients by recording videos remotely. We most often recommend this option for customer testimonial videos, where leaning into a homemade feel adds credibility to the story.

Of course, there are benefits of videography created by a trained professional, and high-quality video is usually the best strategy to represent your brand well. However, a great interview with a person speaking from the heart and edited into a short clip that tells a compelling story is a lot better than a perfectly polished but tone-deaf video.

3 Best Marketing Video Examples

Lists of video advertising examples abound on the Internet. For more inspiration, these are excellent video marketing examples. Here, I’m focusing on small business examples that showcase how they use our three “dos” of successful video marketing

1. Example: Making Full Use Of Video As A Medium

You may be thinking something like: “I can’t make an emotional connection; I work with machines (or data or insurance…).” You can. 

I love this video by Beard and Bowler for Machinery Services Corp./Rapid Pump & Meter Service Co., Inc.

They do a fantastic job of using emotion to establish trust.

“Attitude is everything” drives this team. That’s the soul of the company. We meet the team, and we get to know them. They also use visuals in b-roll to show the audience what they need to see rather than telling.

A dynamic, human story unfolds naturally, and you come away from the video not only feeling like you know what the company does, but you also understand why they do it, why they care. You get a great sense of who they are.

2. Example: Going Unscripted

If I were writing a script for an insure tech company video, I guarantee you I would never come up with the opening line: “We are really bad people to invite to parties.” 

But it works in this unscripted video for HazardHub created by my company, Concurrent Productions.

It works because it opens a theme that we uncovered in an unscripted interview. We used that theme through the edit, and it’s directly related to their role as business leaders in insure tech. 

This team is obsessed with data, and they have a personality that they aren’t afraid to show. You can’t access that in a scripted video. (And for the record, I think they would make great party guests!)

3. Example: Prioritizing Storytelling

This video from Kōan Studio for Dignity Health is quite a powerful example of storytelling. Not all the footage is perfect, which enhances the authenticity of the story in this case.

They include old photos and home movie footage as b-roll, a common documentary technique.

The primary footage, however, is polished. Holly’s story exhibits all the elements of a great story we reviewed above.

Video Marketing Dos and Don’ts: Final Thoughts

At its core, successful video marketing hinges on a few fundamental principles – start with these, then build your specifics around a solid foundation.

  • Video can be a powerful tool to make an emotional connection and establish trust for your brand. Make use of that power and avoid using video to communicate rote information.
  • Be yourself. Your passion and love for your work will connect you to your audience in a way that clinging to your talking points never will.
  • Focus on telling a compelling story. The story always wins over technical perfection. Sometimes, imperfect footage can enhance your video’s authenticity—know when it adds to your story and when it takes away.

Additionally, as you plan, get clear on your marketing metrics. Figure out what works for your business to best reach your target audience with an emotionally resonant video. 

And hopefully, one that doesn’t require a documentary to redeem an unintentionally bad viral video.