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The 5 Rules of Video Marketing Success

Can you quantify the impact of your video content on your marketing goals?

The most common answer?


If you don’t understand the performance of your video assets, you’ll miss opportunities to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Can you quantify the impact of your #video content on your marketing goals, asks @apricot_amir. Click To Tweet

Having been immersed in online video pre-YouTube, I don’t think marketers have pushed this wonderful medium as hard as they could over the last few years.

For the sake of marketing budgets, audience engagement and experience, and ROI, let’s push things forward.

Let me qualify that. I’m not talking about tactics (e.g., interactive, personalized, and social video are developing rapidly) or quality (there’s lots of stunning work).

I’m talking about something more fundamental – something that can help that good video work to have the impact every marketer and brand wants from their investment.

I’m talking about rethinking the model of video marketing itself.

As an agency owner, I’ve analyzed hundreds of YouTube channels and thousands of videos over the years that use the old model. I’ve seen it harm brands often without them realizing it.

Old model of video marketing

A brand wants to produce a piece of video content. If it doesn’t have internal capabilities, it hires an agency to make and deliver it. This video lives on YouTube and sometimes is embedded onto a web page.

Image source

Video promotion tactics include email shots and promotion via social media activity. Many videos are simply uploaded with no purposeful promotion.

If this old model sounds familiar, it is highly likely your investment in video isn’t optimal and won’t be easily (if at all) measurable.

How the old model fails

Let’s look at the main inefficiencies of the old model one by one and consider how each impacts a video marketing project and the brand itself.

No strategic approach

In the old model, no built-in mechanism exists to guide production of the right kind of content for a given goal. A good video strategy provides the guidance and a framework to create and distribute a powerful piece of content. It will also facilitate measuring the impact of that video.

Objectives like “educate our audience” or “raise awareness” sound valid. But the lack of specificity is harmful because those objectives are next to impossible to measure accurately.

If you can’t measure accurately, then you won’t know if the video was a success.

If you can’t measure accurately, you won’t know if the #video was a success, says @apricot_amir. Click To Tweet

An ill-conceived strategy also can be no strategy at all. I’ve seen creative briefs that give little detail on audience or, worse, state the video is for multiple audiences. While on the surface this may seem efficient, the reality is that if you make a piece of content for several audiences it ends up engaging no one.

Overreliance on YouTube

Another shortcoming of the old model of video marketing is the failure to consider context.

Context is the environment in which a piece of content exists. Getting the context right is utterly crucial for success. When a video is uploaded to YouTube, the context often isn’t optimal.

On YouTube, the viewers can’t immediately buy a product, sign up for a newsletter, or receive coded pixels for retargeting. To take an action they must click to leave YouTube and get to your site – something only about 1% of viewers do on average. Remember, YouTube want users to stay on its platform, but you likely want the traffic on your site.

Even if you use the YouTube embed code on your website you’ll still run into issues. Look at this screenshot:

The YouTube result stands out in the video results, which are likely to get 30% more clicks than the results around it. That would be fantastic if it was directing traffic to your site, but it isn’t.

I’m not saying don’t ever use YouTube. It has fantastic potential to serve your needs, especially if your goal is SEO, but only if the context is right.

Inadequate promotion

The old model sees videos uploaded with minimal to no coordinated promotional activity around it.

Without a launch and strategic promotion, a video is unlikely to earn a critical mass of views. Although view count isn’t a metric of success, you need viewers with whom you connect your story – your brand. Without a critical mass of views, it is hard to use the analytics to learn any useful lessons about your video content.

Without a launch and strategic promotion, a #video is unlikely to earn a critical mass of views. @apricot_amir Click To Tweet

Failure to build in regular analysis

The old model of video marketing doesn’t do much to support regular metric tracking, a key to long-term success. The model often forgoes the proactive inclusion of key performance indicators and regularly scheduled analyses.

Although videos may get a bunch of views on YouTube, view count isn’t a measurement of success. What matters is whether the right people are watching your video content for the right reasons and subsequently taking a desired action (i.e., a minimum viable conversion).

A follow-on from the last point is that, without proper measurements, you can’t accurately know how a video is performing. I’m talking about in-depth performance. As in, which parts of the video are working and where are viewers getting lost and dropping off.

Metrics like engagement rate (i.e., how much of the video is watched), play rate, shares, clicks, and conversions are more valuable metrics to track to better inform your video marketing strategy.

5 new rules for video marketing success

After having considered how the old model of video marketing doesn’t serve your best interests, what you need now is a clear way forward.

A new model should address the shortcomings of the old model and help you get the success you should demand from your investment in video. As a starting point, I propose five rules.

1. Use design thinking

Design thinking is a process where you work to understand an audience and how to tailor a solution for them. By answering a few potent questions, you can create something that’s going to resonate powerfully – get under the skin of those who matter most to you.

Ask these three powerful questions:

What’s it for?

Or to put it another way, what is the fundamental purpose of your video? Don’t say “engagement” or “brand awareness.” They’re a means to an end, not the end themselves.

Look at developing areas of the business – or your brand’s goals – for inspiration. Some answers include:

  • Get more conversions on a product page
  • Prompt increase in warm traffic to a key area of your website
  • Outrank a competitor for a valuable keyword
  • Increase the quality of leads passed to sales
  • Shorten the nurturing process

Whatever your answer, remember: Precision is the start of creating an impact with video.

Who’s it for?

At first glance you could be fooled into thinking this is an audience or demographics question. On the surface, it is. But if you want to craft a video that’s truly powerful to an audience, go deeper.

Psychographics are a good place to start as well as the view of your audience. What is it that they believe about your brand, product, service, content?

Go specific and narrow. If you can understand the view of your audience in relation to what it is you do, you have a greater chance of making something that means something to them.

How will you know if it’s worked?

Good marketing creates change. You seek to change an attitude or behavior to achieve your goal. Looking at your answer to the “what’s it for” question will help. You can only accurately answer this question if you know what the purpose of the video project is.

As Seth Godin says, too often, people wait to see what something does before answering what its purpose is.

3 ?s for #video success: 1. What’s it for? 2. Who’s it for? 3. How do you know it worked? @apricot_amir Click To Tweet

2. Do a video content gap analysis

Performing a video content gap analysis at an early stage will help you genuinely differentiate the videos you publish.

Differentiation provides leverage for you to take to market. Your videos will look and feel fresh. If you do the analysis in relation to the three questions in Rule 1, your video content is likely to connect deeply with your audience.

Analyze the video content your audience is watching. What are the trends? What’s getting traction (look at engagement on videos published on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter)? Then look at your video project and consider how you might position it to stand out and relate more closely to your audience.

Analyze your #video project; consider how you might position it to relate closely to audience. @apricot_amir Click To Tweet

For example, let’s say you work in an engineering sector. You find your audience is watching videos with a very technical style. Do you want to publish videos that look similar or content that’s immediately distinguishable?

Be purposeful with the design of a video so it has the best chance of appealing to and connecting with those who matter most to you.

3. Use correct context

Now that your video has been created, where do you put it for maximum impact? Options include YouTube, your website, and social media. Knowing the context or purpose of the video is vital to making the best decision.

Though I wrote earlier about how YouTube can harm a brand’s video marketing efforts, I want to reiterate that YouTube is not automatically bad. There is an overreliance on it. This causes a lot of problems.

If you’re going to use YouTube, use it correctly. For example, ASOS uses video content expertly. Its YouTube channel is updated regularly and contains content oriented around the lifestyle elements of the brand – content that gets across its brand values in a practical and helpful way for the viewers.

ASOS also uses a lot of carefully selected video and channel tags – helping its content rank well in search. This top-of-the-funnel content adds value while being true to the brand, thus giving ASOS a clear identity.

Now let’s look at a product page on the brand’s site:

This video is pure product selling. It makes sense when you think about the context – a product page where the objective is to make a sale.

You will not find a pure product video on ASOS’ YouTube channel or social media. Each context is married to the answer to the question of “what’s it for?”

4. Campaigns

OK, so the video has been made and you now know the best context for it. What now?

I previously worked in the film industry as a distributor. If there was one thing that was abundantly clear, it was this: If there wasn’t a well-crafted and executed promotional campaign to support the film’s release, it would die a quick and painful death.

It makes sense – how would people know about it if there was no promotion? No posters, no interviews, no trailer?

Each of those promotional elements are intrinsically linked to the main piece of content. Each piece helps to tell the story and can help to expand the themes.

Promote your #video like a movie distributor. Create content elements to feed core video, says @apricot_amir. Click To Tweet

The purpose of each piece of promotional content is to raise awareness of the main movie being released — to motivate people to go and watch it.

Your videos shouldn’t be treated any differently.

Running a coordinated campaign, where all separate elements feed to the core video, will help your outreach.

You’re creating a case study video. It is juicy – there’s so much good stuff to be woven into a story. If you include everything the video will end up at five minutes. Yet, if you go for a leaner 90 seconds, you’re worried too much powerful information will be left out.

What do you do?

The answer is a campaign. In addition to the case study video, you create native social content, an infographic, a white paper, and a microsite to tell the story as extensively as you like.

You’re cutting up your canvas and placing it in strategic places on your customers’ journey – while raising awareness of the core video content that packs a real emotional (i.e., persuasive) punch.

Finally, this activity is likely to get you much more attention (i.e., critical mass of viewers) on your video.

This neatly leads us to the final piece of the new model.

5. Optimize performance

Too many marketers view a published video as set in stone. Viewing videos this way can be harmful because you can only view a video as a success or fail.

Think of videos more like you do landing pages, which you monitor and optimize regularly. For example, create two versions of the video and do A/B tests. You post the different versions on your sales page. The goal is to convert viewers to a sale. Version A converts at 2.4%, while version B converts at 2.1%. You move forward with version A.

But are you just going to leave it there? What about optimizing that video to get more from it?

With a critical mass of views (typically, at least 1,000 views or published three months) on a professional video hosting platform, you can go deeper in terms of how your viewers are watching your video content.

TIP: YouTube analytics won’t help you to understand which parts of your video are disengaging your audience. Wistia (free and paid versions),Brightcove (paid), and Vidyard (paid) are a few of the professional hosting sites with excellent analytics.

Check out the view heat maps:

You can see in a granular way how viewers watch your video and use this data to make improvements to its performance.

For example, if viewers drop off at a point or replay a section, you now understand where you should tweak the video to retain your viewers.

That’s a wrap

The old model of video marketing does do what a lot of brands think they need – it just delivers video. But that thinking creates problems around strategy, promotion, measurement, and, fundamentally, the impact that piece of video will have on the audience (and ultimately, the brand).

Following the new rules enables you to practice video marketing with a more holistic approach that is more likely to achieve your business and your audience’s goals.

These new rules aren’t gospel, but I invite you to try them. Pull them apart and experiment. If you find success, please share it and let’s all together push forward this medium that can connect, entertain, and move people like no other.

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Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute