Video content marketing has become a very popular and preferred form of “stealth” advertising. It is not, by definition, a sales pitch. Done well these presentations deliver four values to the participants: They raise awareness of a problem, issue or opportunity. They provide some educational material on how this issue can be properly addressed. They demonstrate that you and your firm have expertise in this area. And, they can start to establish a trusting relationship between you and potential customers/ clients. Lacking the "hard sell", content marketing attracts prospects that may have a need but are not yet ready to act. As a result, a good presentation as well as the recommended downloadable handout can have great impact - putting you and your firm top-of-mind for an eventual sale. The addition of an online poll or polls can provide you with additional details as to the: who, what, why, when, and where of prospects’ requirements.
SIDE NOTE: Similar to a TV ad, an online video or presentation can serve as a direct advertisement outlining the benefits and features of your product or service with the intent of generating sales. However, unless the customer is ready to buy now, these efforts often have little impact. Furthermore without the captive audience of live TV or an in-stream ad, they are frequently avoided or immediately halted.
SIDE NOTE TO THE SIDE NOTE: A similar argument can be made for print ads and sales brochures as compared to content-based e-books, white papers and articles.
So given that you wish to embark on a video-based content marketing effort, how do you decide between hosting a live webinar and creating a pre-produced piece? To explore this question, I examined the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of employing these two approaches. First some definitions: A live webinar is an event scheduled for a specific time in which a presenter addresses an online audience in real time, usually with the aid of the ubiquitous PowerPoint slides over a web conferencing tool such as WebEx, GoToMeeting or Adobe Connect. A pre-produced piece, as the name suggests, is produced in advance and placed on the internet, often through channels like YouTube or your company website, to be viewed on demand. What follows is my list of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of these two approaches. Assessing the relative importance of each of these factors to your content marketing goals will help you to decide which method to select.
SIDE NOTE: This list is "minimally reiterative to the inverse equivalent” i.e. for a basketball player, if being tall is listed as a Strength, then the (inverse equivalent) Weakness of being short is omitted.
The Live Webinar:
- It creates a buzz. This is positioned as an event that one doesn’t want to miss.
- It has urgency. There is a set time and date that helps encourage attendance.
- It is exciting. The audience can sense the more casual, spontaneous nature of the presentation.
- It is engaging and responsive. The audience can ask live questions and answer polls giving the speaker feedback and adding to the spontaneity.
- It can cover a topic in depth. Webinars generally last 50’ or so (45'-60’). This is a result of being a scheduled event as well as its exciting and engaging nature, as described above, which tends to hold the attention of the audience.
- It can be fairly quick to prepare for. The presenter just needs a slide deck and a stock photo of themselves. Someone familiar with the web conferencing software can set it up easily and add features on the fly.
- External experts can be easily attracted to speak. The amount of preparation is similar to a live talk: some slides and plenty of room for spontaneity.
- There is a cost associated with web conferencing. For a one off event, this can be $20/attendee hour. More frequent web conferencing can be done much cheaper.
- Significant effort needs to be made upfront in advertising the event. This is usually done through e-mail as well as other social media campaigns.
- Since live webinars can be recorded, they can be re-used/ re-purposed to what are in effect, pre-produced pieces with little effort and at no further cost.
- Technical failures can occur including completely dropped webinars, dropped or weak sound, and attendee logon difficulties which leave a bad impression especially because attendees have set aside the time. Incorporating slide decks work well, but video segments add additional risks. Experience and practice with the web conferencing tool can go a long way to minimizing these risks.
- The timing may not be appropriate for all potential attendees. This issue can be mitigated by posting an on demand version following the presentation, or even holding multiple sessions.
- The material is available on demand. Interested individuals can watch when it is convenient and at the time when they want the information.
- It takes place over a shorter timeframe making it easier to prepare. Pieces lasting from just a few minutes to a maximum of 15’ (the YouTube channel limit) are recommended as these appeal to on demand viewers who can be easily distracted.
- There are no ongoing production costs. Video software like iMovie is required and a camera, tripod, lights and even a green screen are recommended.
- There are minimal errors - segments that are of poor quality can be redone multiple times until the desired results are achieved.
- The viewer can pause, replay and in some cases view the material faster or slower. The material can also be watched again at a later date.
- Time and effort must be expended to make the video product look professional. This has become the expectation of on demand viewers, who will logoff if not impressed with the quality.
- Although live, dynamic (and responsive) polling is unavailable, a static poll can be done after the presentation through a link to a tool like SurveyMonkey.
- Similarly, questions cannot be addressed directly but the follow-up handout could include frequently asked questions (FAQs) collected from the polling and questions that are e-mailed in.
- It is relatively effortless to go from a pre-produced piece to a live webinar. The visual material and even the script are already in hand.
- Viewership can be low unless the material is continually marketed. One means to achieve this is to produce a series of pieces, releasing a new one at a set time each week or month, while providing an index and links to previous ones.
In reviewing this list and reflecting on my experiences with both formats, I have come to the conclusion that: Exciting and especially very current presentations by well-known third party experts benefit from the promotion, investment and spontaneity of a live webinar - like a major sports simulcast. More technical, detailed, educational and enduring material is better served by a series of shorter pre-produced pieces - like the format used by Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Between these two extremes, a live webinar series with on demand availability afterward, or a structured series of pre-produced pieces should serve both the viewing audience and the producers of the content marketing well. The decision comes down your own weighting of these SWOTs relative to your goals.
© Duncan Jones, Hexagon-Innovating (2015)