When a large brand like Pepsi or Old Spice decides to use video, there are a lot of factors they have to consider: What message is their video expressing? How will it affect their customers? When should they release it for maximum impact?
Small businesses have to contend with all those same issues, but with smaller staffs and less money. Despite the challenges, there is value in video for small businesses, even if you’re a video greenhorn. We found four businesses that have had real world success thanks to video.
These are just some examples of what to do, and even what to avoid if you’re looking to add video to your small business’s promotional mix. What advice can you offer? Has video been a hit for you? Let us know about your successes or lessons in the comments below.
Yup, you read that right, pen fishing rods. Odds are it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea without the help of the video above. Michael Di Pippo is the inventor of the “world’s smallest fishing rods and reels.” About the size of a large pen, the rods telescope out to reveal a 5’3″ of fully functional fishing rod. Based out of New York, the company has four full-time employees and distributors worldwide.
Di Pippo decided to use video, specifically YouTube, to give product demos and preview his product because there was a built-in market, it was free, and he was able to add tags like “Fishing,” “Camping,” and “Outdoors” to give his videos more reach. “If you can make a product look like it’s fun, effective and great in a video, it would be enough to make other people want to join in and make videos with your product,” Di Pippo said. “To date there are more than 100 videos on YouTube made by happy customers from all over the globe using my products.”
Because of this exposure and virality, Di Pippo said his company has experienced phenomenal growth. As a result, Di Pippo puts constant work into maintaining his company’s video presence. He makes sure to respond to user comments, which turns into sales. “[Users] would ask specific questions about the products and as long as you were polite and answered them, the customers felt like you took the time to interact with and cater to them,” Di Pippo said. “So they decided to reward your kindness and spend money with the company.”
Her Campus is an online magazine and college marketing firm aimed at providing news and resources to its predominantly college-aged female crowd. Founded at Harvard, it has grown to include 112 other college branches with their own reporters and editors. The site started to use video as a way of engaging its audience, and as an ace in the hole when dealing with marketers. Co-founder Windsor Hanger explained: “We ran a marketing program for New Balance, for example, in which we had college students vlog [video blog] about their workouts. A lot of the videos took on a really interesting instructional slant — the girls started teaching our readers the proper way to do crunches, for example.” Being able to show that on video made them more enjoyable than reading dry, instructional text.
Hanger estimated that 5 to 10% of Her Campus’s client deals now have some video component. Still, there are challenges to adding video — it can be difficult to tell what videos will perform or go viral, and it’s difficult to factor video content and tags into your site’s SEO. “The more video you do, the better idea you’ll have of what resonates with your readers and what doesn’t,” Hanger said. “Even if you can’t predict which videos are going to go viral, videos add an extra element to your site that will make you more approachable to your customers/users/readers.”
When the real estate market took a hit, Graham Hunt shaved his business selling properties in Spain, down to a one-man show. Online tools, including video, have helped him stay on top of the market. Hunt initially made videos to show off houses to potential customers, but realized their broader use: “I soon realized that my clients, usually foreigners from Northern Europe and the States, don’t just buy a house, they buy a lifestyle and a dream. So I started making videos about what it was like to live here.”
Hunt made 100 small tip videos in the span of four days and began releasing them on video sites like YouTube and Tubemogul every day. The videos help to pre-sell both the home and Hunt himself as a local authority. “People come here after following the videos and are already pre-sold knowing that they can trust [me], because I have previously told them everything they need to watch out for and they already ‘know’ me.”
As a result of his video, Hunt says his client visits increased by 225% and sales and rentals more than doubled. Hunt has also been approached by publications and media outlets for information on locales in Spain.
The main challenge for Hunt was finding the right tone for the videos. He needed to appear knowledgeable but not come off as a know-it-all. “The best bit of advice is really just to do it. I use a simple Kodak Zi* for the videos and have incorporated an external mic for the 100 videos,” Hunt said. “Doing the recordings is easy. Editing is a bit more long winded.”
Remontech provides remote monitoring for construction projects as a tool for project management. Essentially, they will set up cameras to enable you to see a construction project as it happens. A family business based out of St. Thomas, Ontario, Remontech has less than 10 full-time employees.
Video was a no-brainer for Remontech, whose product is itself video-based monitoring. The company features time-lapse videos on their homepage: Aside from showcasing their product, the videos are also an entertaining look at construction as it takes place. “We market to the well-established construction industry, where it is hard to introduce new technologies,” said Remontech Project Manager Cesar Abeid. “As a result, we constantly need to educate potential clients on what it is that we provide and why it will enhance their construction management experience. Since our services are highly visual, we realized that it would be better to show our potential clients what we do, instead of simply talking about it.”
As a result of the videos, Abeid says the company has landed sales, increased traffic to their site, and charted a significantly lower bounce rate. Abeid also mentioned the ability to add video tags to YouTube videos, enabling the company to reach a larger audience. As he summarized: “A picture is worth a 1,000 words. A video is worth 1,000 pictures.”
There is a chance that your business is interesting to a general audience, that you have connections with a nationally syndicated radio show, and that the show asks you to be a regular guest. However, in the more likely case that you are working within a niche industry, a podcast is a more realistic option and not necessarily an inferior one.
If done right, a podcast can reach the right people in your industry, establish your company as a thought leader, connect you with your customers and reach people on their own schedules.
These three company podcasts have successfully leveraged the platform to meet their business goals.
Kathy and Steve Elkins own WEBS, the largest independent retailer of knitting, crocheting and weaving supplies in the United States. Although they have a 16,000-square-foot retail store, most of their sales happen online.
So when a local radio station asked them to do a weekly show and podcast about knitting, they saw it as a great opportunity to connect with their geographically dispersed customers on a personal level.
â€œItâ€™s like inviting people into the shop and having a cup of tea, and itâ€™s the same conversation I would have as if I were sitting there knitting with them,â€ Kathy explains. â€œItâ€™s not hard pushy sales, itâ€™s informative.â€
WEBS has produced 208 podcasts and attracted about 13,000 listeners per week.
And now the results are evident in the companyâ€™s sales: When Kathy and her husband discuss a particular yarn or pattern on the show, she can see the traffic to that order page on the companyâ€™s website spike. People write e-mails asking how their kidsâ€™ hockey games, which they occasionally discuss on air, turn out, and sheâ€™s been recognized by her voice at trade shows.
What made it successful? Kathy cites promoting the podcast on the companyâ€™s other social media channels, keeping content interesting, sticking to a schedule and not using the podcast as a commercial.
â€œBe true to who you are,â€ she says. â€œYou donâ€™t have to be super polished, you donâ€™t have to have the booming radio voice — you have to be authentic.â€
Like WEBS, Greenfeet.com faces issues connecting to its online customers. The founder and president of the eco-friendly e-retailer, Valerie Reddemann, has found a podcast to be a good way to interact with customers worldwide. It has been especially efficient at creating brand evangelists.
â€œThey become extremely enthusiastic,â€ Reddemann says. â€œThey really connect with the company, and they understand that weâ€™re more than just a company. â€¦ These are people who I find â€¦ that mention our names to family and friends, that talk about us on their blogs, that tweet about us.â€
The podcast opens with a rock song and goes on to discuss new eco-friendly products as well as hot issues in environmentalism. The hosts also make an effort to include the audience as much as possible. Theyâ€™ll often reference listener communication, read e-mails or interview listeners on the podcast.
These listeners, like Greenfeet.comâ€™s customers, are spread throughout the world. In the five-plus years of running the podcast, about 1.2 million people have downloaded it. Most of those live in the United States, but China, Singapore, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Iran also make up significant portions.
Itâ€™s inspiring to be in touch with these people, Reddemann says. And she tries to respond to every e-mail she gets regarding the podcasts.
â€œThe whole idea is that you want to give your audience what theyâ€™re looking for,â€ she says. â€œBut if you donâ€™t ask them, how do you know?â€
Copyright licensing firm Copyright Clearance Center uses its weekly podcast, Beyond the Book to establish its expertise in the publishing industry.
“It’s just awareness of our role in this business,” says Chris Kenneally, Director of Business Development for the company as well as the producer and host of the podcast. “I don’t always talk about copyright, but everything that goes in publishing finally comes down to copyright — who owns what and what can they do to maximize their return on it.”
The podcast actually started as a quarterly conference series by the same name. But the amount of people available in a specific time at a specific place to attend the conferences were limited. With the podcast, they could reach many more people for a lower cost.
Only 60 people downloaded the podcast during its first month in October 2006. But today about 17,000 people download it each month.
Tips for Creating a Successful Podcast
After seeing the potential for podcasts to play an important role in marketing plans in 2005, Rob Simon launched Burst Marketing, a firm that specializes in producing podcasts for small businesses. Simon produces about a dozen podcasts, including Beyond the Book.
These are his tips for making yours successful.
Consistent Frequency: Just like a newspaper or magazine, podcast listeners will expect a new episode of your podcast on a regular interval. If you donâ€™t deliver, youâ€™ll lose them.
Determine Your Audience: Think about what information the people who are trying to reach want. Generally, this is not a commercial about your company.
Promote Your Podcast Elsewhere: â€œYou canâ€™t just expect people to find your podcast,â€ Simon says. Promote it on your website, Twitter, Facebook and at the bottom of your e-mails.
Be Patient: “It takes awhile for a podcast to catch on, and few become huge hits. Donâ€™t get caught up in numbers. If youâ€™re trying to be a thought leader, maybe 1,000 of the right people are better than 10,000 random people.”
If the iPad follows in its iPhone predecessor’s footsteps, it will likely create enough distractions (i.e. Angry Birds) to effectively cancel any productivity it enables.
Less than a year after the device’s launch, however, the jury is still out on its net productivity. And these five companies are making a pretty strong case for how Apple’s tablet (and it’s competitors, when they catch up) has a lot of potential to make business more efficient.
1. Zoom Room: Scheduling, Checkins & Checkouts
Dog agility training and canine social club Zoom Room (it’s a gym for dogs) uses iPads to run its three, soon to be eight, locations. Every member of the facility is issued a credit card-sized ID and a dog collar tag that have barcodes on them, much like the swipe in cards that many people use. Zoom Room uses a scanner that works with the iPad to check dogs into the facility for classes and other events. Because owners can handle this process, employees are free to answer questions, ring up sales and interact with dogs.
“All of our nationwide locations are required to use a 3G-enabled iPad model,” says COO Mark Van Wye. “In the case of an Internet outage — or even a power outage — we can still run every single aspect of our business from the iPad (ringing up sales, scheduling appointments, signing people in to classes, etc.) Thanks to the long battery life, our entire business can run a full day with no hardware and no electricity — just the iPad.”
2. Auto Racing: Data Visualization
IndyCar Series drivers, like Tony Kanaan and Jay Howard, and developmental drivers, like Andretti Autosport’s 16-year-old USF2000 Zach Veach (pictured above), use the iPad in pit lane during practice. Instead of handing the driver a data sheet that details the number of laps, lap times and other information, the pit crew hands the driver an iPad.
“Basically having this device streamlines the pit stop process,” explains Klint Briney, the CEO and a sports agent at BRANDed, a company that represents drivers. “The engineers have always had laptops in pit lane that allow them to see where the car is at on the track, where the driver is braking, and when they are shifting. The iPad allows the driver, when he or she comes into the pitbox, to view timing and scoring, see how many laps they have done, and who is leading and also view a track map.”
3. San Francisco Art Exchange: Sales Presentations
The San Francisco Art Exchange specializes in the art and imagery of popular culture. Before it implemented an iPad into its sales process, the team would fill requests like, “I’d like art featuring Jimi Hendrix” by collecting all of the physical Jimi Hendrix inventory.
With a new system developed specifically for the gallery, the sales team now uses the iPad to control a presentation of the artwork that might be of interest to a specific customer. The customer can compare pieces side by side, see what the work would look like on a wall and see prices and sizing options on a large monitor at the gallery. They also can save their favorites in order to show a spouse or get a second opinion.
4. WhiteGlove House Call Health: Prescriptions, Forms, Surveys & Translation
Nurse practitioners at WhiteGlove House Call Health visit patients at work and at home. Since 2010, they’ve also been bringing an iPad along with them. Previously, they used laptops with paper consent-to-treat and end-of-visit surveys, but the iPads have allowed them to go wireless (a demonstration of a visit is pictured above).
“Nurse practitioners use the WhiteGlove platform running on Apple iPads to chart and submit Rx medication orders, review the members’ medical history, complete consent-to-treat forms and enable members to take end-of-visit surveys that are automatically transmitted to corporate when completed,” says Michael Cohen, WhiteGlove’s vice president of marketing. “WhiteGlove’s Nurse Practitioners also use the iPad to translate conversations with members that do not speak English.”
5. Steve Gray Renovations
High-end home renovation company Steve Gray Renovations has given iPads to all four people who work in its Indianapolis office to increase their productivity. Employees use the tablets to keep renovation schedules, bring new project specifications to pricing meetings and track job costs. They also use the gadget on site.
“We are able to create job notes while on site, then send [them] directly to contractors,” explains CEO Steve Gray. “We also create notes and keep them on the iPad until the job is completed — less paper and easier to track tasks. Before, I used to walk around with a notepad and handwrite information. I can now forward my notes to the team, so everyone knows what we need to do on a job site.”
Series Supported by LogMeIn Ignition
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Sprout Social, a startup building social media management tools for small and local businesses, has raised $10 million in a Series B round led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Money will be allocated toward growth and product development.
Businesses can use Sprout Social to manage, monitor and track their presence on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Yelp.
By specifically serving small and local businesses with low-end monthly subscription plans, Sprout Social has squeezed out a middle market in the social media management space. The product offering is meant to be robust enough for a small brand or agency; it’s a bit meatier than the likes of HootSuite, but not as pricey as Vitrue or Buddy Media.
“Sprout Social is embracing an increasingly powerful segment of the market in online commerce — the local business,” says Harry Weller, NEA General Partner. “Sprout Social’s powerful platform will allow those businesses to manage and extend their relationships with customers across a range of social media channels.”
Sprout Social’s Series B represents a larger trend: Investors continue to remain enamored with startups working to solve social media management challenges for businesses of all sizes. Vitrue also just closed a $17 million round, for instance, and Buddy Media and Involver have completed sizable rounds of their own.
One of the keys to small business success is managing money. Whether it’s cash flow, credit or expenses, having money when you need it keeps the business going. More importantly, it can enable owners to make the investments necessary to grow their businesses.
With today’s smartphone technology, it’s easier than ever to keep track of financial indicators.
Here are 21 iPhone apps — all free — to help you stay informed and monitor your finances. Let us know which you use in the comments below.
Name your bank, and they probably have an app. Most offer similar features, however a couple have some different options that, depending on your situation, could be valuable.
Citibank also has a mobile banking app called Citi Mobile. Citi’s app also enables users to check account balances, pay bills and transfer funds. In addition, credit card customers can pay their credit card bill, check balances, view recent transactions and track their rewards.
Both TD Bank and BB&T offer similar banking services as well as promote the ability to contact their customer service departments directly via the app.
SunTrust Mobile Banking gives users access to up-to-date account balances for their checking, savings and money market accounts. I couldn’t determine if they had a list of banking locations within the app.
ING Direct’s mobile app has the unique feature of person-to-person payments. Chase Mobile also provides the person-to-person QuickPay option. And, the app allows iPhone users to make a deposit via cellphone.
If you make a lot of purchases with a credit card, a couple of credit card companies have apps to help manage your account.
American Express provides card members the ability to pay their bill, check balances, view recent transactions, manage multiple cards and check reward points.
Discover Mobile offers similar credit card services such as making payments, and viewing recent transactions and rewards activity. In addition, the app provides detailed account information including current balance, minimum payment due, credit available and Cashback Bonus balance.
If part of your financial planning includes investments, several firms offer apps to monitor your account.
Fidelity Investments allows you to monitor your portfolio, make trades, research investments and follow market news.
Charles Schwab & Co. offers the Schwab Mobile app with similar features: account monitoring, stock trading, real-time quotes and watch lists.
E*Trade Mobile Pro provides its clients with the same functions they enjoy on their desktop, including real-time quotes, breaking market news, trading options and cash transfers.
General Financial Information
If you are just looking to watch the market without doing online transactions, there are several apps that provide financial news.
The Yahoo Finance app claims it offers something for everyone. The app features customized news and analysis for the companies you want to track. It also compares currencies and provides after-hours tracking.
Bloomberg offers stock quotes, company descriptions and market trend analysis. You can also create a customized list of stocks that you want to follow.
CNBC Real-Time claims to be the only free app delivering real-time quotes before, during and after market hours directly from the NYSE and NASDAQ. The app also includes CNBC’s breaking business news.
CNN Money delivers breaking business news, financial data analysis and video coverage. The app has the ability to customize the content that’s relevant to you.
Budgeting and Expenses
Sometimes the most difficult part of managing finances is creating and sticking to a budget. Here are a few apps that can assist with the task of expense analysis and budget tracking.
Pageonce allows you to track your money and bills in one place. The app will give you bill due date reminders; track frequent flyer miles and rewards programs; and monitor mobile minutes, text and data usage. A pro version with added features is available, as well ($12.99).
CashTrails Expense Tracker offers you the ability to track both expenses and income, create instant reports and export your analysis into a spreadsheet. A premium version is also available ($4.99).
Mint.com Personal Finance brings the features from your Mint.com account (sign up is free) to your phone. One of the unique features of Mint.com is its ability to automatically sync with your online accounts to get balances and transactions.
This is only a snapshot of the many free financial apps available. Finding the best one for your business will involve taking a realistic look at your financial situation and determining what features you need the most to receive the greatest benefit.
What financial apps are you currently using? Let us know in the comments.