It used to be that online video was a hassle. Too long, too herky-jerky, no one wanted to watch something they had to, much less sit through content on a website that they were just perusing. Nowadays, all that's changed. Video is almost a must-have for a business Web presence, allowing potential customers insight into the company they’re about to do business with. Beyond that, video can be a tool to attract new clients, retain existing ones, make extra money, and cut down on costs.

Ascension Technology Corporation, a Burlington, Vt. manufacturer of tracking devices for medical and military applications, no longer has to ship VHS tapes and DVDs to potential customers all over the world, which had been costing the company thousands of dollars, says Jack Scully, Ascension’s vice president for new business development. Now, the company just directs people to their URL. Not only does that save money but also helps seal sales as people can easily see what the product does.

Here’s how your company can take part in the video revolution:

Don’t worry if you’re not Steven Spielberg

David Walsh, head of FacesMedia, a Cambridge, Mass. video company, will fly to wherever you are and shoot your business video. His company sets it up just like a video shoot that could be for, say, the Biography Channel and edits it into bits that can be broken up by topic and used on different parts of your website. Walsh knows that viewers have short attention spans so FacesMedia keeps the videos on your site short and to the point. Among other touches, they coach you so smoothly integrate key buzzwords into your taping, so that when someone types those words into search engines your company clients will turn up at the top of the search. They charge anywhere from $2,000 to $18,000 depending on the number of videos you want to shoot.

“I get calls every day from people I otherwise wouldn’t get calls from," says FacesMedia client, Gary J. Wachtel, a New York landlord and tenant real estate litigator. "They found me through a search engine. Several people have said that they thought my website was informative.” Walsh says that for the legal business, in particular, it’s critical for clients to see what a prospective attorney will be like -- which video gives a sense of -- rather than just see text on the website.

Your own business TV channel

What can also be done to further promote your brand is to use your videos to in essence develop your own business TV channel. Say you own a hairdressing salon, on your website you could use your own videos shot in your salon or you could license someone else’s video to make a “hairdressing channel” with tips, suggests, Paul Hamm, CEO of Endavo Media and Communications, an Atlanta, Ga. company that can help you set it up.  You could make your website a destination for people to get entertainment and advice, marketing your brand, along the way. Get good enough and others will want to license your content, giving you another possible source of revenue and definitely another means of promotion.

“We use the Web to build your brand,” says Hamm. “We focus on giving the enterprise a chance to connect, deliver, and monetize content. It’s all about connecting. For example, our e-mail system allows us to do e-mail campaigns. All these tools are different ways for small businesses to connect with their audiences.”

It’s not enough to shoot video and slap it up there

Vince Philips, founder of, an online hip-hop music community which delivers on-demand video mainly from artists on the BME label, says Endavo helped the company use video to attract more traffic. “Video has allowed us to improve the experience of our fans and customers as well as offer us valuable research," Philips says, "as we take note to which videos are most watched and viewed multiple times we learn what they like."

Endavo will upload your business videos onto other networks such as YouTube and DivX Stage6 so that your message potentially reaches a wider audience. In order to post onto different sites, the video needs to be put into different types of formats. Endavo and other companies provide such services, costing a bit less than $2,000.

Your online video can also make money for your business by selling advertising. Endavo has a system in which they can seek out advertisers and work out a revenue split. Marketing research firm eMarketer forecasts that ad revenue from online video will hit $775 million this year, an 89 percent increase from the $410 million spent in 2006. The key, of course, is having relevant content for your site.