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Low-fi video is great for growing an audience and a pipeline, not necessarily direct sales.

Last month, we looked at the power of low-fi video to build connections during the COVID-19 quarantine. In this post, let’s take that idea further and look specifically at three ways brands use low-fi, low-cost online video techniques to build an audience, grow the brand, and ultimately funnel that into an increased pipeline.

Remember that online video is really part of your content marketing and brand marketing. It’s not an ideal direct response channel, but it is great for engaging your target market and building your brand authority. The techniques we’re going to talk about here are less about generating sales directly, and more about building an audience of people who come to you to learn about your industry and the people in it.

This isn’t how you make immediate sales, it’s how you cultivate new customers. And that is an ideal activity to engage in while COVID-19 continues to disrupt normal business.

1. Brand Vlogs

This is how Gary Vaynerchuk started: He launched a “vlog” educating viewers about wine to build an audience and pipeline for his family’s mail-order wine business:

That was two years before he even started talking about personal branding, which has gone on to become the focus of his celebrity brand.

Neither example is his best work, but that style of video is exactly how he grew into the Millennial business self-help guru he is today.

This personal blog-style video, called a “vlog,” is a great way to connect on a human level with your audience. But a business vlog is different from something like a personal travel vlog. Business vlogs are almost always focused on teaching an audience how to do something, and they’re not just for building your personal brand as a guru (although Gary V has done that to great effect).

Any brand in a space that has a significant learning curve can expand its presence and thought leadership with a good vlog. In the SEO space, it’s how Rand Fishkin grew MOZ. Bon Appetit magazine has a bunch of vlog series with its staff chefs that get viewers more engaged with the cooking activities that bring them closer to the brand.

Mint.com, the hottest brand in Millennial banking, started its climb with a series of very earnest, straight-to-the camera videos featuring founder and CEO Aaron Patzer demystifying money matters for his young target audience. Patzer moved up to VP and general manager of Intuit’s Personal Finance Group when it acquired Mint.com, and the brand now features personal finance vlogs from a variety of hosts on its YouTube channel.

A vlog will always benefit from a little bit of polish in lighting, sound and editing — anyone can see how far Gary V has come over the years. But in each of these cases, the brand grew its audience with a bare-minimum video investment. It’s just the star’s charisma and knowledge connecting with an audience.

It’s important to understand that the point of a vlog is not to sell products, but to grow and educate an audience about the way your industry works. Your goal is to teach them how to be savvy players in your space and engage with the kinds of problems your products or services solve. That knowledge may not directly make them customers, but it teaches them the things they need to know to move further into your market and become prospects.

And since they learned how to do that from your vlog, your brand has every advantage over the competition when it comes to winning their business.

2. Product/Service Demonstrations

Online video has come to dominate the training space. It is, by far, the best way to teach customers how to use complicated products and services. For example, here’s the Tennessee Department of Revenue teaching viewers how to prepare for an audit.

This technique is used extensively in the cloud software space. Salesforce has a series of videos showing how to use its different products.

Filming demos and training videos is easier than you might think. Obviously, you can show how to use a physical product in a hand-shot video. If you’re trying to show an online service or software, like Salesforce, there are a variety of tools like Camtasia and Loom that allow you to record quick instructional videos with voice-over.

The thing you have to remember about modern customers — especially Gen X, Millennials and younger — is they hate having to call customer service to learn how to do something. They don’t want hands-on training, they want good UX design so things are easy to learn and online resources to help them fill in the gaps. A good suite of product and service videos allows you to give these customers the onboarding experience they want.

3. User-Generated Content

One of the mistakes brands make with low-fi video is assuming they have to be front-and-center in the content. Sometimes the best way to make branded video is to have someone else make it for you.

User-generated content lets you lean on your audience to create content that their peers will respect and use. This type of low-fi video immediately appears more trustworthy because an apparently unbiased third party is talking to them instead of your paid personnel.

User-generated content provides social proof to your audience. They can see that your products and services are trustworthy because someone they can relate to is telling them.

This isn’t just a testimonial video. It’s letting your users film content that shows how they use the product and what that allows them to do.

Here’s a great example of Adobe handing over control to a creative team who filmed their process throughout a project from conception to completion. They used Adobe products in some episodes, and they mentioned Adobe branding in all of them, but viewers are also seeing a behind-the-scenes view of how this team works with these products in a professional creative environment.

Again, the point is not to sell your product, it’s to engage the audience. You achieve that by entertaining them or expanding their knowledge. This builds brand engagement. If you host a popular how-to series, for example, it shows customers that they can come directly to you to learn how things are done. Even better, they learn new ways to use your products, or newcomers learn how to do the things that use your products in the first place.

This is how you cultivate new customers.

The next steps are to engage that audience in more traditional direct-response marketing channels and your sales funnel. In the future, we’ll look at how to move these audiences from low-fi videos like these and other content-focused channels into your direct sales pipeline.

If you have a low-fi video idea you want to talk through, or need help making it happen, we’d love to chat. Contact us to find out how Propelo can help you get ready for the COVID recovery.

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