How Do I Create Impressionable Web Videos?

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It would be easy to start this discussion with some persuasive statistics about click-thru rates and impressions, conclusive evidence of the power behind marketing videos, perhaps some proof-in-the-pudding testimonies for further convincing. But I decided against that. You already know about the power of video.

The truth is you already happily watch “web videos” everyday on the internet—from the informative and educational, to the humorous and absurd. Yet you’re still not convinced that adding a first-impression video, for example, to your website’s homepage will do you any good. And for good reason. How many utterly boring and valueless videos have you been exposed to just this month? At least an unhappy handful. And why would you want to birth another one into existence? No talking heads to represent my business!

But here’s the rub. There’s something valuable about web videos that creates real opportunity. Instinctively you know this. And yes, it is even statistically proven. But what is it? Why do customers flock to video? And what makes them buy? Of course it’s only the final question that matters. And the answer is simple: memorable impressions.

With the accessibility of cheap video equipment and editing software, many “video producers” have emerged in recent years promising affordable marketing videos for your website and promotional goals. But equipment and software don’t make impressionable videos. People do. Vision does. Collaboration does. Storytelling does.

Here is what it takes to create a memorable impression with your web video:

  1. Original ideas. Seems obvious right? Yet this is the one thing—and the most important thing—that Acme Video Productions will rarely provide you. Why? Because they specialize in cookie-cutter moviemaking that lacks substance and abhors research and collaboration.
  2. Studio-quality production. There’s nothing worse than listening to someone in a welcome video speaking as though they’re inside a giant conch shell, or staring spellbound at a video title screen that never goes away…did I hit “play”?
  3. Branding and Storytelling. Tired of gaping slack-jawed at an endless procession of office hallways and smiling faces? Or happy celebrants hoisting martinis? What does that tell you about a company? Besides their ability to bore you—absolutely nothing.
  4. Partners you can trust. Your video production team should own more than a video camera. Make sure you ask about how they work. What are their processes? How will your video and market segments be researched? How specifically will your brand message be conveyed?

To conclude, if you are happy only saying your website has a video, then that’s exactly what you should shop for—a video. But if you believe in setting yourself apart authentically, then shop for something else. Shop for a collaborator. Shop for a media company that engages YOU. How else will your videos engage your customers and leave a memorable impression?

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Brand Self-Awareness: Becoming Conscious

Brand Identity
Show Them Who You Are

This week we’re meeting with a new consulting company to listen to some of their marketing dilemmas. They’re excited about a tremendous opportunity with a multi-national manufacturer. Yet despite their impressive backgrounds and early success, the company needs help. They need help organizing their business process and translating their service offerings into tangible, easy-to-understand documentation. They need a way to reach new clients and to present their solutions simply, cohesively, and with memorable impact. Of course, as they’ve come to realize, such feats are not easy to accomplish on their own.

The failure with marketing communications most often occurs when companies fail to develop their brand strategy. An effective business process is not enough to win over new prospects. A company must be able to effectively communicate their basic value propositions and their unique way of doing business. They must, in effect, become “self-aware.”

Corporate Identity

A corporate identity that is “self aware” starts with identifying a company’s core values. This step is often glossed over by ambitious upstarts. “We already know who we are” is the common thinking here. Yet the overuse of stock images and photography is a clear example that companies don’t know who they are. Everyone thinks their company can succeed if they’d just be given the chance. Below are three requirements for building a brand strategy that invests in more than just wishful thinking…

1)    Identity your core values and what differentiates you from your competition.

2)    Communicate your basic value propositions through high-quality imagery, photography, and messaging.

3)    Breathe life into your corporate identity with an integrated online and offline marketing strategy.

In order to build a foundation for you company’s brand, start with the cement. Invest in a marketing partner that can help you envision, create, and reach new opportunities. Invest in the dream of creating the best firm or company in your industry or market niche. Isn’t that why you’re in business in the first place? Of course it is. Yet we cannot do it alone. We need the strategic and tactical help of partners similarly invested in our success.

Messina Marketing Group

Media Express: a short commute from past to present

So just what is this blog all about? Well, we’re ecstatic that you asked. This post is adapted from the very first Writing Killer Content blog post, when MMG was still in its infancy. We have since expanded our services and our vision. Yet this article captures much of the original vision for our blog. It’s about conveying messages. And it’s about business. It’s about doing business in today’s interactive world.

It’s about community and it’s about passion. It’s about living in real-time and looking at our colleagues with respect and admiration. It’s about participating in the ongoing conversation.

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If you’re new to marketing or social media, the cries ring loud and clear: “Get on board! The train is leaving the station, don’t get left behind!” You know you must act, and you’ve waited too long as it is. It’s time to get on, and if you’re really motivated you can still get that first-class ticket.

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“But where do I start? What will it cost? And where will I see the results?” Though the answers will vary from company to company, the common denominator is this: Think slim, think smart, and start now.

Before you can bring your new products and services to market, the focus must be to differentiate, to communicate, and to connect. Your messaging and your ideas must be clear, effective and—in an age of shortened attention spans—to the point! Take a look at the following internet statistics from over the past five years:

• “A recent Logitech study revealed that people, on average, have six applications open on their computer at any one time, and the active window switches or a new window opens every 50 seconds.” ~Logitech

• “Users won’t read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word manner. Exhaustive reading is rare, especially when prospective customers are conducting their initial research to compile a shortlist of vendors.” ~Askmepc Webdesign (from “How People Read a Web Page”)

• Users read half (50%) the content on those web pages with 111 words or less. For web pages containing 200+ words, users read only between 20% and 40%. ~from “Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use.” Provided by Jakob Nielsen.

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Personal computing, along with marketing, has indeed come a long way. When we think about content today, we know we’re in a numbers game competing for visitors. But content is still king. And he is a thinner king and a slicker king. And like anyone in power, he never takes his throne for granted.

Messina Marketing Group

Gary Vaynerchuk on “Getting in the Game”

For those who are unfamiliar with Gary Vaynerchuk, I suggest watching this video three times—once to take in the size of his personality, a second time to really listen to what he is saying, and a third to really, really listen to what he is saying.

To make it easier, here are some key points he hits upon about the social media game. For those just getting out of the gate, I’ve added some clarifying points and suggestions…

Follow Trends. Pay attention to blogs that talk about Social Media. This means getting your hands into Blog Rolls and exploring the Social Media Blogger community. (Gary Vaynerchuk’s site is a great place to start. See my blog roll, at right, for more.)

Don’t Wait. This is one of Gary’s most insistent points here and elsewhere. While you stall, your competition is getting in the game and learning about new ways to attract eyeballs.

Anticipate Trial & Error. This might seem like common sense, but unless you’re hiring devoted social media staff or engaging a social media agency (like Chris Brogan’s New Media Labs), it is almost certain you will have to experiment before you find the right social media approach for your business.

Build a Presence. Make yourself visible. You can’t perform at the open-mic if you’re not on the list! Show up early, secure your place, then you can play. This is what Gary means when he talks about “growing into it” and
“getting involved.”

Listen In. When Gary and other social media experts talk about “getting into” the conversation, what they’re really saying is: listen up! This takes us back to the first bullet. But it’s also important to learn how others in your industry are competing in the social media arena. You’re bound to discover approaches you like and those you don’t. The idea then: build and strategize accordingly.

Messina Marketing Group





Facebook Advertising and the Future of Organic Search

ElisCheesecakeLogoI was uncertain what to expect when I showed up for the Facebook marketing presentation at Eli’s Cheesecake Cafe in Chicago earlier this month. About a hundred savvy marketers and networkers chatted on Eli’s patio while tasting slices of different cheesecakes. We were soon to be dazzled by an hour-long presentation with one of Facebook’s very own, a rare treat, yet we all did a good job concealing our anticipation.

It turns out that Eli Schulman himself, founder of Eli’s Cheesecake Company, was an avid social networker. Eli kept track of customers’ visits to his restaurant by writing down dates on check stubs. If he saw someone hadn’t stopped in lately, he’d make sure to call and personally invite them back. Eli would be proud to know that today his company forges ahead with an ambitious online marketing strategy, currently exceeding 1200 fans on their Facebook Fan Page and 1800 followers on Twitter.

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As the Facebook presentation began, no one really knew what direction it would take. However, its main intent was soon revealed: to inform area professionals of the great benefits in purchasing ad space on Facebook.

The excitement in the eyes of Brad Keown, Midwest Director of Sales at Facebook, bore testimony to the popular social network’s increasingly aggressive pursuit of advertising dollars. What is happening, as you will see, is nothing less than an online ad-space takeover.

Brad outlined some of the key benefits behind “social graphs” and “self-service advertising,” which allow advertisers to include or exclude potential customers based on information extracted from Facebook users’ profile information. Put in plain terms, Facebook deploys crawlers which pull information from your private profile for the express purpose of target marketing. In other words, anything you include in your profile information—basic information, personal interests, etc.—is fair game for advertisers.

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The term “organic search” is used to describe how the process works. No individual is browsing through your information. It’s the FB web crawlers that do this. That’s how you get “targeted” ads on the right column of your FB page—essentially ads organically selected by FB robots.

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So what’s the big deal? The big deal is that the need to search for products and services online diminishes with the increase in organic search advertising. You no longer need to look for things to buy. Today, products and services find you. The ultimate benefit to businesses has yet to be seen. However, the ease and relatively low cost (at least right now) of deploying “self-service,” custom targeted ads on Facebook is an exciting opportunity for many. The incredible speed at which Facebook has advanced on the social media scene is enough for anyone with a fair amount of common sense to jump on the bandwagon.

Of course, advertising can only get you so far. Without an effective brand image and strong online presence, many companies will fail to attract new customers. The real growth will be achieved by those savvy enough not only to utilize new social media platforms, but by those who understand the importance of successful branding and powerful messaging. It’s a brave new online world, and consumers today are more informed than ever. Develop an authentic brand. Build your presence. Then get in the stream.

Messina Marketing Group

 

Authentic Branding and New Media Transparency

THE END OF SECRECY

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I borrow the phrase “The End of Secrecy” from visionary and speaker Tim Sander’s recent blog post, where he reminds us “You can’t hide anymore in the new digital world we live in…this is great news for good people. Secrecy is the ally to evil. Think about the future of business in a transparent world: No bad act gets hidden, no good act goes unnoticed. What does this mean? Same things I’ve been saying since 2002—nice, smart people succeed.”

Nice, smart people succeed. It is certainly a utopian vision. But with an internet so appealing to the masses and the inherent transparency of social media networks, such a vision of a more open and honest internet is a win-win for many passionate small businesses.

ignore-smWhy? Because consumers are smarter than ever. And they’re just plain tired of hard sells and traditional advertising. In short, the digital natives are restless.

But just what is “transparency” and
why is it important?

Transparency in business today means exposing your intentions. It means providing real value first, and it means developing an authentic personal or small-business brand. And today, an internet-oriented “brand” must convey WHO YOU ARE, not what you do.

A couple of weeks ago, we met Steven, our aspiring food critic. Steven isn’t sure where he’ll sell his restaurant reviews and lifestyle commentaries: online, in print, maybe both. What he does know is that in order to succeed as a food critic, he needs an online presence. He needs to take himself and “get branded.”

My recent post, “Brand Myself? Are You Kidding?” takes a hard look at the importance of self-branding in an internet savvy world. In this context, branding isn’t so much an effort to sell as it is an effort to share. For entrepreneurs like Steven, it’s a process of becoming the business he sees himself becoming.

But how do I go about branding myself?

becky_holmes_wondering_lgeSmall-business branding is a birthing process, and it’s never easy to know who you are before you’ve become it! Yet this is exactly what one must do in order to build an entrepreneurial business online. Here are some tips on branding yourself and your business successfully:

Be authentic. Express yourself in a brand that shows us who you are—your values, your voice, and your vision. If you’re uncertain about these, ask a brand image consultant (like us) to help you develop who you are into who you’re now becoming.

Provide value up front. This means giving something of real value to your visitors. When someone arrives at your blog, be sure to reward them for finding you. Share with them your personal experiences (lots of value there!), links to interesting places, and other helpful resources.

Avoid the hard sell. With small business websites, it’s obvious when someone is being obvious. Decades of print and mass media advertising have conditioned us to avoid the hard sell. Remember your readers can walk away with the click of a mouse. Don’t make it easy for them by pitching yourself on your home page.

Think like a surfer. When creating your content, think about how you surf the internet. Do you enjoy seeing cluttered homepages? When shopping for a product or service, do you find too much content overwhelming? Use your own online experience as a reference point.

Stay tuned for updates on Steven’s brand-building adventure, as well as ideas for new business bloggers.

Messina Marketing Group

Thoughts on a Revolution: What are We Really Saying?

This video, though admittedly a bit “in your face,” is loaded with statistical information about the social media frontier. It’s certainly a lot of food for thought. Sometimes the numbers fly by so fast you may have to go back, as I did, to fully digest them. But what do these numbers mean? After watching the video, I ask you to consider the following questions:

• What do we gain by spending more and more time interacting online? What do we lose?
• Have you had any unique social media experiences that have changed your view of a person or organization?
• What social media behavior do you consider unnecessary? inappropriate? commendable?

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Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. To everyone eager to learn more about Steven’s self-marketing adventure, stay tuned. We’ll be visiting with Steven, our aspiring food critic, later this week.

Messina Marketing Group