Picture this: your boss, who has just spent the last few hours looking at YouTube, comes into your cube. "We need to make a viral video," he says.

Viral videos are great fun, and have the potential to make your business. However, if you're looking for sustainable growth with video as an element of your marketing plan, vying for virality may not necessarily be the way to go.

On the surface, the alternative--"business video"--may not look like much--their view counts will rarely match those of the more popular cats on YouTube--but they can be a amazing tool for marketers ready to take the leap.

I asked Wistia founder and CEO Chris Savage for his thoughts on how businesses get started making videos, some common strategies they use, and why it's in a company's best and long-term interest to have a solid video marketing plan.

Here's Chris:

When a company does video for the first time, it's taking a real leap of faith. Many marketers still aren't familiar or comfortable with the medium and require proof of its effectiveness, and the easiest way to prove that is by showing a return on investment.

For this reason, companies commonly start out with what's called the explainer video. The explainer video forces you to compress your product offering into a minute or two: kind of like the elevator pitch you rehearse in your head over and over before you set out to raise money. Except now you have to imagine you're giving it to the average person on the street who you think might use your product, just might, if only they understood how it would change their life.

Dropbox explains

Dropbox did this back in 2009. At the time, the idea of the company was just too novel. Technically-minded people didn't see why they should use Dropbox over FTP or shared servers, while the general public didn't see why they would want file syncing for multiple computers at all.

So Dropbox partnered with video studio Common Craft specifically to make an explainer video that they hoped would increase conversions.

If it turned out the video wasn't good, they would be looking at a huge loss, because that was the only thing they had to create conversions. If people hated it, then their business was probably over, because who was going to use a product they didn't understand the need for even after they watched a video?

Fortunately, people seemed to like it.

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Upon putting the video on their website, Dropbox's conversion rate immediately shot to 10%, which with tens of millions of dollars in revenue a year means a pretty penny.

Statistics show that website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product after they're shown an explainer video. This is not voodoo: our brains are just hardwired to respond to and engage with the medium.

And explainer videos are a great way to get started capitalizing on that because it's easy to trace the success of a campaign back to a video. Dropbox had nothing but the video and a sign-up button on their page, which made it abundantly clear that their resulting boost in conversions came from the video.

Using Educational Videos to Build your Brand

With an explainer video, people who previously didn't understand your product's importance suddenly do, and sales rise accordingly.

Once you understand the power of storytelling--the ability it has to make complex topics understood--it's natural to want to take it a step further and start telling other kinds of stories. For instance, you and your colleagues possess a wealth of knowledge: why not share that with the world?

It's good to be smart, but it's better to be smart and generous. People will notice your good citizenship; customers too. You'll become known as a leader in your industry. And you'll be deepening your connection with your users, showing them that you're knowledgable and worthy of their time.

Moz teaches

Rand Fishkin, co-founder of Moz, travels around the world attending conferences and giving lectures on marketing.

One day he happened upon a simple idea: what if took five minutes out of his day every Friday, got up in front of a whiteboard, and recorded himself speaking on a subject that he knew a lot about?

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The lectures he made were not boring. They were vibrant presentations designed to get right to the heart of an issue: in this case, why your website might be uglier than you think, and why it might be holding back your marketing efforts.

These videos are indexed, so when you're Googling to find a solution for your marketing or website woes, you may very well end up on one of Rand's videos.

And because Rand knows what he's talking about, these videos are actually helping people, and in the process building up trust and recognition for his brand.

This is a big step in the development of a company's video plan because these kinds of videos don't fit into any obvious mechanism for increasing profits. Teaching videos are essentially a good will project, designed to promote your company as a leader in the field, not just in terms of products, but in thought and expertise.

But because of the intimacy expressed in videos like Moz's, they are also a way to forge a human connection with the audience. Where Rand might have once traveled the world giving these kinds of lectures, he's now able to connect with those same kinds of people, but at scale.

Exploring the possibilities of connecting with people at scale is the next step in the typical video plan.

Connecting with Users' Emotions

At Wistia, we started out making conversion-focused videos and teaching videos too. But it wasn't until a while later that things really clicked and we realized the true potential of video.

It started with a survey. Not a very interesting one, either. Here it is:

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Personally, it's the kind of thing I would probably archive and never look at again. We knew that most people would feel the same way, and we were afraid that no one would respond.

Then we had the idea to make a video to promote the survey by doing something a little different. We thought if we could somehow connect the survey to our users on an emotional level, we'd get some better results.

So we did the Hustle.

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We were a little hesitant about doing the Hustle. It seemed like kind of a silly thing to do, that probably wouldn't work out, and it was a little embarrassing. But the results changed our minds.

2,400 people played the video, and we got about 78% engagement. Pretty good stuff. Here's what really blew our minds and changed the direction of our company forever.

1,000 people filled out the survey: that's almost 50% of the people that watched the video.

After this, we had to reconsider the way we did marketing. By making a fun video to promote our survey, we had accidentally found ourselves in what some consider an old fashioned business model with a modern twist: connecting with customers on a personal level but accomplishing it at scale, reaching thousands of people.

The Future of Scaling Human Emotion

Until the Internet, conventional wisdom has it, just about every business partnership on Earth was based on these kinds of human relationships. You relied on others with more knowledge and experience to give you advice and guide you in the right direction. If a store didn't have what you needed, you expected the owner to tell you where else to look. You expected a smile and maybe a little chat from the staff at your regular morning haunts.

And you would reciprocate that relationship. You found your favorite coffeeshop, the one you would walk to even if a closer option opened up, and stuck to it because you felt a connection with the people there.

Video brings people back into the equation and lets that kind of relationship come alive on the Internet. It lets you take your company and show it to people in a whole new kind of light, and it lets customers see you for who you really are: a collection of people who care about what you do and who you serve.

Published on: Oct 5, 2015