A gaggle of researchers are telling us that online video is a powerful magnet–it makes people stick around websites longer. And it’s like rocket fuel for what marketers call conversion rates–having people who visit your site do what you want them to do. As for SEO, Forrester Research found that video can multiply your chances of appearing on the first-page of Google results by 50 times! I won’t bore you with the impressive stats I’ve collected; instead, I’ll just ask you to meditate–and then act–on the 4 1/2 tips I’m about to lay before you.
Tip #1: Just do it … go ahead and put some video on your homepage. While preparing this post by scoping out dozens of websites, I was shocked to realize how few use video, especially right up front on their homepages. Since video is demonstrably so potent, so influential, why don’t more companies and organizations deploy it? Especially folks that have a visual story to tell. A couple of days ago, I was nosing around TripAdvisor. Though I’ve used the site many times, I didn’t remember seeing any videos. And what’s more visual than travel?! It turns out that TripAdvisor does have videos–lots of them–but the ones I unearthed were nowhere near the homepage, and they showed up in a teeny player.
What worked much better for me was the homepage of Stonyfield–you know, the yogurt people. The first thing you see is a player with the familiar “Play” triangle and the single word “Welcome.” When you click on the picture, their homepage will open in a separate window. Watch a bit of their video, then come back and read on.
The video itself may be nothing to text home about: it consists of pretty still pix with message titles and a predictably organic-sounding acoustic guitar track. But it does convey their brand. What shows that Stonyfield really understands the persuasiveness of video is that you can connect to more than a dozen “YoTube” (groan) videos right from the homepage. Let’s give Stonyfield an “A” for this savvy … and move on to the next tip.
Tip #2: Know your audience and what they want. By now, it’s almost a marketing cliché that your customers (or other people you’re trying to reach) don’t care about you and what you have to offer. They care about how you’re going to solve their problems or satisfy their needs. Do you know who your audience is and why they’ve sought out your website? Here’s an example of a homepage video that demonstrates understanding the audience and what they’re looking for. You’ll need to watch about 45 seconds of it to get their premise.
[vimeo clip_id="4167960" width="400" height="300"]
This video is clickable from the homepage of Design Continuum. They’re a sophisticated “innovation and design consultancy,” so their potential clients are apt to be connoisseurs of good design. The storyline and graphic approach of this video are subtle and complex. They don’t hit you in the face. Another website with this sort of video might drive would-be clients away, but I’ll wager that Continuum’s enlightened clients are impressed. The company gets high marks for knowing their audience and playing to them.
Tip #3: Use a sharp hook to catch your site visitor. OK, you know your audience. Now what are you gonna do to catch and hold them? I suggest you use a sharp hook–find some images, words, music that will go straight to their amygdala, a part of the brain that deals with strong emotions. Here’s Apple, that master of marketing magic, trotting out the iPhone 4 on their homepage. Watch the first 20 seconds or so:
What a well-honed hook! The first words you hear are, “iPhone 4 is so much more than just another new product. I mean, this will have a lasting impact on the way we actually connect with each other.” What could stimulate the salivary glands of an Apple early adopter more than this pitch, coupled with the techno-porn shots? The guy’s tee shirt and stubble cut down the appearance of slickness (which makes this even slicker). And he’s a Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, so you know he’s cooler than you are. Admit it, you want an iPhone 4, at least if you’re part of the company’s demographic.
Before you give up and slink away, mumbling that you can’t duplicate Apple’s core (groan) appeal, let me say that none of this requires Apple’s marketing muscle. You can achieve Panavision results on a Flip budget. Just use your imagination … and take the time to find a great hook for your demographic.
Tip #4: Production values are important. That said, you don’t need the best production values, just ones appropriate to your company or organization. Look at a bit of this video, which visitors can click to from Greenpeace’s homepage:
Nobody would give the videography a prize: the shooting style is just off-the-cuff casual. But there’s enough light on people’s faces, and you can hear every word they say. Greenpeace’s only goal here is to get viewers to buy their “Energy [R]evolution” message, and that comes across loud and clear.
It’s all about production values that are appropriate to what you’re trying to communicate. You could even upload raw video from your cellphone to YouTube, embed it on your homepage, and call it a day. That may be perfect for you if you’re a teenager hawking your lawn-mowing service and we can see you doing wheelies on your John Deere. Maybe not perfect if you’re a medical center promoting its liver transplantation unit. As usual, to do it right doesn’t always cost more money, but it likely will take more time.
Tip 4 1/2: Jot down your ideas right now. I’m only calling it half a tip because it’s not so much a tip as a piece of advice: You’re thinking about video on your homepage at this very moment, so why not take a few minutes to jot down your basic ideas for a video that will greet your visitors? To make it easy, I’ve uploaded a very basic 1-page form you can print and fill out for yourself. Its simplicity will encourage you to think of a simple video structure, which is usually best. It should help you to see your story. Once you’ve filled out this form, you can work out the details of making a homepage video that’s just right for you. Good luck! Now click here for the form … and please let me know if it works for you.
I’m looking forward to your comments.