Sometimes the little guy can learn a lot by simply observing the bigger guy. That's actually the fundamental logic behind my weekly Viral Video Round Up series, which attempts to find lessons in viral smash hits for the small business video marketer to think about. It's human nature, really… to look at someone older, wiser, more experienced, or more successful and attempt to reverse engineer some of that success to see how it works. And reverse engineering is not a new concept.
It's the same principle I used when I took apart my dryer. It had stopped working, but I had a load of wet clothes in the washing machine. I also had nothing better to do with my evening, so I started taking the dryer apart. It was ultimately a far easier fix than I could have expected—the belt had come off the pulleys, meaning it could no longer turn the drum. Once I put the belt back on its track, I simply closed everything back up and plugged the unit back in… and it worked. I probably acted like I was Spartacus for a few weeks after that.
The point of that boring story is that I took something apart—broke it down—to analyze the moving parts and see how it worked. And that exercise gave me enough insight to be able to get it running again.
Today I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about a new use for video that the NFL is planning this season, and it is such a great illustration some very basic rules of video marketing that I simply had to share.
Simply put: the National Football League is rolling video into their fantasy football game. NFL Films has some of the very best video production people alive, and routinely spits out video that is insightful, entertaining, educational, and engaging—just watch the game recaps on the NFL Network, or view the fantastic Inside The NFL program on HBO. And starting this season, the NFL is going to begin incorporating some of their vast-and-always-growing library of video highlights into a new NFL-owned fantasy football game.
This means players will have access to highlights in potentially real-time as they watch their match-up's scoring battle. Or they'll be able to view highlights of players they aren't familiar with when deciding which backup Tight End they should draft.
Now… on the surface, maybe that's not an Earth-shattering concept. Actually, that's kind of my point. This is mind-numbingly obvious stuff here. Here you have the NFL—who clearly knows how much fantasy gaming has driven up interest in and engagement with their brand—running a co-owned fantasy game for the past 10 years with CBS Sports that they've largely ignored. At the same time, they have reels and reels of the very highest quality video… sitting on a shelf collecting dust… not being applied to fantasy whatsoever.
Sometime in the last year or so… something must have clicked for them. The Journal article suggests that NFL executives recently got a peek at some numbers suggesting their fantasy-playing fans are far more engaged with the NFL brand than people who don't play fantasy—fantasy players buy more jerseys, they follow more NFL news, and they are simply more connected to the sport.
And a light bulb must have gone off. I can see it now… NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell… in his left hand, he's got a report about the engagement levels of fantasy sports players. In his right hand… a brief detailing the unfathomably large wells of video content the NFL has amassed. He looks left… then right… and "Eureka!” An idea.
It is, in fact, such an obvious move for the NFL to get serious about its own fantasy game by rolling in video that I was disappointed with myself for not having thought of it sooner. I'm sure Commissioner Goodell feels the same way. He could have had a V8.
But it got me thinking: If the NFL, one of the world's most successful and rapidly-growing entities, can go so long without making an obvious connection like this, then what about the rest of us? What about the millions of small and medium businesses that toil in relative obscurity (compared to the NFL)? Surely there are some V8 moments looming for the rest of us too, right?
Here, then, are a couple of takeaways I get from this story—a couple of common sense video marketing tips gleaned from the lesson of the NFL that businesses all over can apply
1. Use What You Got
Do me a favor, will you? Go walk down your office hallway and look for a door that says "Video Storage.” Go inside that room. Do you have video content just sitting around doing nothing for your business? Then it's time you did something with it. A lot of companies have video footage from the past couple decades, most of it taken before YouTube even existed. It might be interview footage, news stories, training films, meetings, or any number of other kinds of business video.
There is this sad state of mind among many of the small businesses I work with that says that because YouTube is new… because small businesses using YouTube is a new concept… that any videos that a company actively incorporates into their marketing efforts must also be new.
That is a fallacy. One needs only to look at the online success (and new documentary film) of Winnebago Man to find proof that old video can work in the current online landscape. The original viral hit was comprised of outtakes from footage dating nearly two decades earlier. Now it's gone viral and spawned its own documentary.
I'm not suggesting you should only use older video in your campaign. Not at all. But to ignore existing video just because it's old or predates YouTube is a foolish strategy. Whether it was filmed 20 years ago or in 2009, the point is that you might very well have video resources—real, solid content—just sitting there… in your closet or on your hard drive… not being put to work for you the way it should be.
Do not overlook the value in using video that is already produced: you have no development time or cost whatsoever when you incorporate existing video into your online strategy.
2. Add Video To Your Existing Model, Don't Change The Model To Revolve Around Video
Notice please that the NFL is not reinventing fantasy football. They are, in fact, changing almost nothing about the core game play. From concept to scoring, it's all the standard stuff. They're simply adding video to the experience in a way that will complement and enhance the existing game.
Too often I see businesses get so excited about embracing video and creating new video content that they completely turn their business model on its head just. They're no longer the same company because their service is entirely new. Which means their customers are different people altogether. And before long they're looking around wondering how they go so far off course.
For example, I knew a guy who sold houses. He wanted to start incorporating video into his web presence. So he started filming some tours and other videos for the homes he was listing. And it worked. He saw a noticeable uptick in new business leads, many coming directly from the videos he had created. He quickly moved a couple properties he had created videos for, and began to get excited.
So he did what a lot of people do… he went overboard. He started creating videos of every single home he listed. He bought a fantastic camera, great lighting equipment, and just got very serious about the whole video-creation thing (which is not in and of itself a bad thing, mind you).
Next thing you know, he's spending more time on a week to week basis making and editing videos than he is meeting with clients or showing homes or landing new listings.
He called me one day after losing a great listing and said, "I've completely lost my way here. I'm doing so much video work that I can't keep up with the homes I'm trying to sell.” I responded, "Which would you rather be: a videographer, or a realtor?”
You don't have to sell videos. You don't have to produce video for your clients. You don't need to be the Steven Spielberg of your local market. You don't have to change your existing business model or core service to accommodate video—in fact, you probably shouldn't. It's not the backbone of your business… because your business is.
Video is exciting. Video is fun. And it can be a powerful tool to drive business. But it can also be a huge distraction—a time-suck that pulls you from the daily duties of your core business. Be careful not to let video change your business. Instead, try to make video a new and useful part of that old model… an extension of what you already have working for you.