Television elbowed its way into our homes in the 1950s and by the 1960s ‘most every North American home had at least one set. Since then, video has become part of nearly everyone’s life.
Early TV was primitive. The first network news anchors sat at a desk reporting the day’s events without any dizzying graphics. Commercials were laughable by today’s standards: Dancing cigarette packs and ballerinas pirouetting around a refrigerator.
It’s a long way from “Doctors recommend Camel cigarettes!” to YouTube, which has evolved into more than merely a social media outlet where old movies, nerdy teens speaking Klingon and amateur video of cops beating up a suspect can be found. For many companies, it is an important tool for reaching buyers. Most YouTube ads have slick production values, often with story lines revealing useful product details.
Yet professional service firms have been slow to take up using video on their website despite the wealth of articles urging them to do so. The problem with many of the arguments is that they use general statistics about video which may not be relevant to lawyers. For instance, a piece that ran in October, 2017, cited statistics from Marketing Sherpa that video draws two-to-three times as many visitors, doubles the time they spend on a site, and generates 157% more visitors from search engines.
While the numbers are accurate, they are drawn almost entirely from consumer products and services. Still, according to Forbes, 80% of people watching a video on a website landing page will go to an inside page, 59% of company decision makers prefer watching a video than reading a blog post or article, and digital marketing expert James McQuivey of Forrester Research Inc. estimates than a single minute of video content has the same impact as 1.8-million words.
Proprietary research on the impact video for financial and professional services is just starting to be done. Yet what little data has been collected seems to indicate that, done properly as my colleague Terrie Wheeler has written, video can be just as important for professionals as it is for carmakers and fashion designers.
Professionals haven’t gotten the word. There appear to be fewer than 100 YouTube channels for lawyers and law firms with perhaps twice that number for accountants not part of a Big 4 firm. Only independent financial advisors seem to be using the medium in numbers of any magnitude – perhaps because part of the cost may be at least partially underwritten their broker-dealer.
Video can play an important role in helping to grow a professional service firm, regardless of its focus and keep seven things in mind:
- Don’t skimp on production values. When people watch internet video, their brain tells them they are watching TV. This is why consumer product companies have such glossy web videos. You don’t need a Hollywood budget but don’t just hold up a phone and yammer away; it will make you look unprofessional – even amateurish.
- Give viewers useful information. Like a blog, a video needs to provide ideas and information that are new to a viewer and that they can use. Don’t simply tout your expertise.
- State your conclusion first. People process and remember information in a way that’s just the opposite of how most professionals are trained to present facts. A viewer needs to hear the conclusion first so they can follow what you’ll be telling them and why it’s important.
- Write out what you’ll say before recording the video. Preparing a “script” will organize your thoughts and let you know if you’re actually making sense.
- Keep it short. Three minutes is the maximum length for a vlog; any longer and people lose interest unless the video is highly produced. Six second commercials are increasingly common.
- Rehearse a lot. You may know the subject cold but if you “Um” and “Ahh” you’ll sound as if you don’t know it at all. You don’t need to memorize the script but you should know what you’ll be saying inside out.
- Don’t sit against a blank wall or a window when recording. A blank wall will make you look “flat,” and it’s a window will turn you into a shadow. Sitting in front of a filled bookcase looks best. If all you have in your office is a plain wall, then stand a tall plant behind you.
You don’t have to be as smooth as the anchor on the local news, but you need to come across on video like the polished, well-prepared professional you are. More important, as part of a strategic marketing plan video is another tool to establish and imprint your “brand” on clients and prospects, and to reinforce the notion that you’re someone people want to work with.
Jim Bliwas is PSM’s senior marketing and communications strategist.