I’ve no need to yak on about using emerging media to your firm’s advantage. You’ve heard it countless times. And Mechanical-Hub’s own Eric Aune laid it out as plainly as possible here -> Contractor November '09 and here -> 5 things you wont find me doing on facebook. (Catch up if you missed out.)
So maybe you’re already using social media, or your website has some images of nice shiny mechanical systems with blocks of text explaining what’s shown. But to captivate today’s pressed-for-time homeowners, or trade pros – and hold that attention for more than 10 seconds – you need to take it to a new level. Raise the bar with video.
It’s projected that, by the middle of next year, 90% of internet traffic will be video, and according to Internet Retailer, 52% of consumers say that watching a product video makes them more confident in their purchasing decisions. If the video is information-sensitive, 66% will watch it twice or more. (Internet Retailer, 2012)
If you haven’t already explored video, and think it’s probably a good idea, you’re right. There may be some questions running through your mind, like, “What kind of video should I put online?” “Where do I get the equipment needed?” “How difficult is it?”
What do you want to tell people?
The only purpose of a video is to tell a story. What is it that you want potential customers to see? Here are a few ideas.
Introduce Yourself: Maybe you’re the new guy on the block. Maybe you’re the go-to for the older generation in town, but you’ve had trouble locking in new business with the web-savvy first-time homeowners. Use video to put your name in the cyber hat.
Film your shop, inside and out. Interact with a homeowner of film. Introduce your employees. Give a brief history of your business and mention any specials you might be running at the time. Tell the audience what makes your company different. It’s also important to know what you want to say so that you can say it confidently and spontaneously. If it looks like you’re reading a teleprompter, or if you’re frozen with a deer-in-the-headlights expression, it’s time to scrap the first take and re-work it until you’re much more at ease.
Seasonal videos: Make short, two-or three-minute videos about service specials you’re running before the heating or cooling season ramps up. Start out with a 10-second clip where you introduce yourself. From there, continue with the audio but feed B-roll (just video, no audio) of equipment in a warehouse or installed. You’ll be hitting talking points about the benefits of an outdoor reset or heat pump cleaning, while the video is showing the same thing. Wrap it up with a call to action like: “Just mention this video and get 10 percent off.”
Testimonial/jobsite profile: Do you have a good looking installation and a homeowner willing to talk on camera? Walk through the mechanical room, have a technician explain what everything is, and the benefits of each item. Then, get the homeowner on camera talking about energy savings, increased comfort, and how clean and courteous your techs were.
“Oh, JimBob’s Heating installers always took their shoes off before walking on the carpet, and when they left, you’d have never known they were here, and each room in my house is the same temperature now!” That’s the idea.
If you’re doing your job well, you shouldn’t have to milk good comments out of your customers. But a free duct cleaning or pre-season boiler check-up certainly helps;)
As an example, the video here was filmed with a contractor audience in mind. For manufacturers, this can be a great approach. For installers, it can get the wheels turning about how you might want to cover a jobsite with video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rALFt4pQPD4&feature=plcp
Well, you’re limited to two options here: a.) Buy the equipment and do it yourself, or b.) hire someone to help you with it.
If you’re handy with electronics, you shouldn’t have any trouble producing internet-quality videos with an investment of $2,000 for a camera, software and microphone. Watch other online videos, and imagine yourself as the videographer. Where is he? What’s he focusing on? Where’s the subject? Etc. Your first video might not be a home run, but they’ll get better.
Looking to hire? There are plenty of high school and college kids willing to work for a fraction of the cost that a professional requires. For internet purposes, they’ll more than likely be just as effective. If you’re happier with a fast out-of-the-gates result, there are plenty of video pros willing to help. Most photographers today do video as well.
- As inaccurate as stereotypes are, they DO exist. If you have more than one technician, don’t film the one with a pony tail and full sleeve tattoo. He might be an amazing pipefitter, but you want Granny to feel comfortable inviting your crew into her home.
- While it’s a good idea to use a company vehicle in the film (people will recognize you around town), make sure it’s your nicest one. Wash it, check the tires, and get the Twinkies wrappers off the dashboard.
- Clean mechanical equipment. If you’re filming a shot in a mechanical room, wipe down the equipment. Shine the boiler up; dust the water heater and the circulators. If outside, pull the leaves off the condensing unit. Take 15 minutes to clean up a shot. When you sit down to edit your footage, you’ll be glad you did.
- Audio is most important. Viewers will tolerate a little dust or shaky camera, but they won’t forgive bad audio. Get out of the wind, silence background noise, and use a decent lapel microphone for interviews. If using B-roll, make sure the sound is eliminated from the clip.
- Online videos average around five minutes, so don’t break the mold. Any longer and you’ll lose the crowd. If you can get your message across in three minutes, all the better.
- The rule of thirds. No, it’s not what’s expected of you at Thanksgiving dinner. It means that you should, as a habit, offset the subject. Your target doesn’t need to be dead center of your screen all the time. This is video, not deer hunting. Much better to have the subject, be it person or thing, somewhat off center. If you’re using a camera that’s autofocus-enabled, make sure it’s focusing on the subject, and not the boiler 10 feet behind them.
- Finally, have fun with it. A lick of humor and spontaneity will go a long way.
Daniel Vastyan is account manager, writer and videographer for Common Ground, a trade communications firm based in Manheim, PA. The focus of their work is the plumbing and mechanical, HVAC, geothermal, solar and radiant heat industries. Dan routinely writes about and uses video to track progressive, cutting-edge mechanical systems large and small, and the professionals whose work and expertise make it come to fruition. He can be reached at 717/664-0535, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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~Thank You, Mechanical-Hub