An increasing number of precasters use online video to get the word out about their companies, their products and the overall value of precast concrete.
By Bridget McCrea
Log on to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube these days and you might be surprised to find out that a few of your competitors are already using it to promote themselves and their products. Key the words “precast concrete” into the search bar, for example, and you can get an eyeful of Superior Concrete Products’ most recent decorative precast concrete fence, screening wall and sound barrier projects.
Calvin Clarke, vice president of finance for the Euless, Texasbased precast manufacturer, says the company uploaded its first informational video to the Web about a year ago. The idea spun out of an existing promotional video that the company used for business development. “We sell our products internationally, and we’re seeking a new way to reach out to the non-domestic market,” Clarke explains. “After looking at the most efficient, fastest ways to meet that goal, we decided that online video would be a good way to go.”
Recently, for example, an overseas customer requested additional information regarding Superior Concrete Products’ processes. “They couldn’t get their arms around our processes. We were able to shoot some video in our plant and upload it to YouTube for them to view online,” says Clarke. “The customer was pretty impressed with how quickly we were able to react and meet their needs.”
Superior Concrete Products’ online videos range in length from 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 minutes, and include statements about the firm’s status as an NPCA-certified plant that employs ACI-certified technicians. Clarke says the short clips, which are posted on the firm’s own Web site as well as portals like YouTube, serve as an easy-to-access educational tool for both
new and existing customers.
“Any time someone decides that they’re interested in our processes or our equipment, we can direct them to the Web or just send them a link to the online videos,” says Clarke. “This saves us – and the customer – a lot of time and hassle.”
Clarke says the firm spends about two to three hours a month updating and maintaining its online video presence, and in turn reaps both tangible and intrinsic benefits. “For starters, it gives our customers a better feel for what we’re doing here and helps them put a face to the company,” says Clarke, referring to the firm’s spokespeople, who are featured on the video clips. “It also adds credibility and results in a fairly high return on our marketing investment.”
Raising the bar
The fact that companies like Superior Precast Products are using online videos puts them in a group of leading-edge manufacturers who aren’t afraid to integrate what are known as “Web 2.0” technologies into their marketing efforts. With the total value of pay and ad-supported online video expected to surpass $15 billion by 2012, according to New York-based research firm ABI Research – and with a high percentage of search engines now listing online videos among their results – the strategy is quickly gaining ground with companies looking to beef up their online marketing presences.
Ed Taylor, president at Internet Marketing Group in Ashland, Ore., says online video is a natural choice for precast manufacturers that need an easy, quick way to share information about their products, processes and success stories. The precaster who wants to spread the word about a proprietary new procedure, for example, can develop a two-minute clip that describes (to the desired level of detail, based on the competitive nature of the business) the process and shows customers how it can be applied in their individual projects.
“Using online video, you can get that point across in a very compelling, convincing and persuasive manner,” says Taylor, who advises precasters to take a step back and come up with an online video strategy that gels with the company’s existing marketing efforts. Do this before uploading any videos to the Web, he says, and you’ll avoid a major trap that many companies fall into when attempting to tap into the Internet marketing wave.
“Too many times companies end up frustrated because they’ve spent time, money and resources getting videos produced and published, only to end up with dismal results,” says Taylor. “The firm that takes the time to come up with an informative clip and couples it with a call to action that integrates with its Web presence and other marketing strategies is the one that will achieve the most success with online video.”
To get there, Taylor says the fi rst step is to identify the goals for your online video. Are you looking for new clients? Do you want to educate current customers on the latest processes and products? Are you interested in educating specifi ers and engineers on the overall value of selecting precast concrete for their upcoming projects? The more you can narrow down your objective, says Taylor, the more effective your online video efforts will be.
“You can’t cover too much in any single video,” Taylor explains. “You must be very specifi c about a single topic or subject that can be communicated quickly and clearly in a three- to five-minute timeframe.” Also avoid rambling, says Taylor, or going on and on about various subjects without ever coming to a clear point. The precaster who highlights a particularly interesting aspect of a larger project, for example, would probably get better results than one who fi lls an online video with information about the firm, its products and multiple success stories.
There are other challenges to overcome when using online video. At Superior Concrete Products, for example, Clarke says the company is careful not to include proprietary information that competitors could use to their advantage. Remember that unless a website is password-protected, pretty much anyone can access it and use it for competitive intelligence. “One of the things we battle with is giving out too much information online,” says Clarke. “Other than that, it’s a pretty simple strategy that doesn’t present many challenges for us.”
Western Precast Concrete of El Paso, Texas, is another precaster that’s thrown its hat into the online video ring and come out a winner. According to Leo Feuerstein, operations manager, the company has seen particularly good results from the “customer testimonial” videos that it uploads to its corporate Web site. The strategy was launched after a random group of customers were interviewed on camera for feedback on recent projects. A Web site update followed, and included the addition of the short testimonial clips.
“We also have several videos on there showing exactly how our products are made,” says Feuerstein, who in the future plans to add clips showing the fi rm’s delivery methods and process for meeting specifi cations.
Feuerstein says customer feedback to Western Precast Concrete’s online videos has been positive over the past few years. “Clients are very interested in how our products are made, but they never really knew before we were able to show them on the videos,” he explains. “Now they can see the process online, and with minimal time or energy investment.”
Western Precast Concrete, which rotates its customer testimonial videos on a biannual basis, continues to reach out to clients to “see if they will agree to be interviewed on camera,” says Feuerstein, whose team utilizes a local community college’s production equipment and location to shoot the footage.
“Cost is always an issue when you’re producing videos for the public, but we wanted something very professional so we were willing to invest in it,” says Feuerstein, whose own wish list includes a nationally oriented video that shows how precast products are tested to ASTM and other specifi cations. “If there was an online video out there that I could point our customers to, and that outlined the steps that are taken to test products,” says Feuerstein, “it would be a lot easier than having me explain it on a case-by-case basis.”
Getting it right
Online video may be a new frontier, but there are some tried-and-true production and distribution techniques that video marketers have honed over the past few decades, and that can be applied on the Web.
For starters, Rodger Roeser, president at Cincinnati-based PR firm Eisen Management Group, says precasters should launch their efforts by saying to themselves, “no one really cares what we do as a company.” In other words, he says, re-warming pieces of a past commercial, or simply sending out a “hey, look at what we’re offering you!” video message won’t work with today’s fickle cyber surfer.
Roeser adds that the next step is to determine what type of content will interest your current and prospective customers the most. Then come up with a way to make that subject matter appealing to the viewer. “If it’s not visually compelling, and if someone has never heard of your company or its products, then he or she isn’t going to watch it,” says Roeser, who suggests quick, inexpensive, simple-to-produce video clips posted to sites like YouTube as a good starting place.
“Our clients have had a lot of success using an interview-type format, with the company CEO or other higher-up being interviewed by a reporter about the firm, its products and other topical information,” says Roeser, who prefers a three- to five-minute format for online videos. “We then link that video to some useful clips that viewers can use to make educated decisions.”
Taylor advises precasters to not only post their videos on their own websites, but also on public portals like YouTube and Google Video, both of which capture a high percentage of viewer eyeballs on a daily basis. Those companies interested in “controlling” exactly who accesses the videos should check out the hosting options on sites like Amazon.com, says Taylor, where manufacturers can “maintain more control over how the video is presented and who sees it.”
Going beyond YouTube also allows precasters to embed messages in their videos that actually “stick” with the viewers. “Videos that are posted on your own website, and that include auto-play and auto-load features, give you more control over the presentation than you’d get on YouTube or Google Video,” says Taylor, who advises companies to take advantage of simple social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter to get the word out about their videos.
“Create an integrated online video strategy that includes your own Web site, public video sites and social networking portals,” says Taylor, “and you’ll be able to get the most out of this very effective marketing and customer education strategy.”
SIX VIDEO PRODUCTION TIPS
Once satisfied with stationary websites filled with text and photography, today’s cyber surfers expect a lot more when they get to your online home. Here are six ways to keep them interested in your online videos:
1. Start with a good concept: Consider what you’re trying to to accomplish with the video, who you want to reach and what you’d like to say to that audience.
2. Keep it short: Don’t try to pack everything you know into a 10-minute video. Instead, come up with four 2-1/2-minute clips that focus on a specific topic.
3. Get to the point quickly: Show the viewers what they want to see, and include a call to action that makes them “click here” or “call now” for more information.
4. Write it down first: People typically speak at a rate of 100 words per minutes, so use that rule to come up with a script of adequate length for the video your producing.
5. Don’t use a cell phone camera: Invest in a video camera that produces high-quality pictures and sound. Expect to spend at least $300 on this vital piece of equipment, and don’t forget a tripod for avoiding “shaky” images.
6. Use an editing program: Your options include Windows Movie Maker, iMovie (for Macs), Adobe Premiere Elements or online options like Animoto, to name just a few. These programs allow you to select the imaging, sound, text and other elements needed to get your video ready for prime time.
Bridget McCrea is a freelance writer who covers manufacturing, industry and technology. She is a winner of the Florida Magazine Association’s gold Award for best trade/technical feature statewide.