Recently an old friend of my from my college days contacted me about a video contest his son and daughter in-law were finalists in, and he asked me if I would vote for their videos on the site. Turns out the contest was hosted by intuit, the company well-known for their personal and small-business finance software products, which has built a growing presence with their web-based tools, services, and communities for small businesses.
Intuit has already selected the top 50 contest finalist videos, and is awarding over $300,000 in small business grants, and is allowing the public to vote on their favorite videos until May 31st. Viewers are allowed to give their votes based on 3 categories: 1) Inspiring 2) Useful 3) Funny. Each viewer can vote once for each of the three categories however; viewer votes are only 40% of the final tally, as intuit's own judges get 60% of the vote share. You can also read the video owner's story, where they share their own business experience and offer advice. Additionally, you can leave your own comments under the video, and check out the owner's website.
Intuit is awarding over $300,000 in small business grants prize money for this contest. The Grand prize winner are to win $25,000 in small business grants, and the four final round runner-ups are to win $10,000 each. (Winners will be announced June 4th.) You can see all the submissions by going over to the intuit website.
Grant's review of the finalists' videos
I watched most of the selected finalists videos, You can check out my comments by going to the comments page for each and many of the other videos, just look for my profile name, "Grantast." I based my own review a little different from intuit's voting criteria. I also included production quality (audio as well as video), and "talent" (both on-camera and narration).
Here are my favorite finalist videos of the bunch:
- LanguageLearner (Little Ambassadors)
- Pura Stainless
- StarrMatica Learning Systems
- Art Aids Art
- Chef Alison - Square Meals: Custom Cuisine
- Kogi BBQ
- Fairy Godmother
- Mountains of the Moon
I found many of the videos to actually be lacking in their production quality and talent, even for what I would consider "business video quality." The most common faults I found were:
- Poor audio
- Poor camera angles
- Poor lighting
- Not getting to the subject matter early
- Lousy on-camera presence
- Poor transitions.
- People reading from scripts... on camera!
Benefits of entering video contests for business owners
Having your business' video featured in a website that's a popular authority brand with a large established community is not only an excellent way of not only getting recognized by your peers, but also networking and making connections with businesses and consumers that are looking for what you have to offer. It's a great way to make an introduction, tell a personal story, and have the popular branded website do the marketing for you. If you get picked as one of the winners, you get even better recognition and credibility. Win-or-lose, you get valuable feedback from the viewers in the comments area.
Benefits of video contents for website owners
- Lots of content you can feature on your own site, even in the submission process.
- You get a larger pool to use than just by contracting out to one person.
- Cash prize always a good incentive.
Intuit did a smart move of hold a video contest for the target audience, the small business crowd. Not only did they ask for videos, but they first had everyone submit text on their business story, and tips they would offer to others. That way they got to judge the quality of the story and business before they made any request for videos, which improved the pool to select from.
I also like that Intuit choose certain universal criteria that would be important to small business - "useful" and "inspiring" mostly, although I'm sure they took into account "funny" as a vote that could be done in a separate category like the others. What I found interesting was that some of the videos with the highest vote counts were my least favorite. (One is from a cheerleader gal that spends a good amount of time having her friends tell people on camera to vote for her, which I really found annoying.)
Grant's tips for entering a business-video contest
- Learn about the website owner's own business. Read up on them, understand their own business goals and their customer needs.
- Read the contest guidelines carefully
- Check out all the categories for submissions, and find the one(s) that best match your own business model and message.
- See what has already been submitted, or at least is already featured on their website. (Check out the website owner's other video content, both on their site and on video sharing sites like YouTube.)
- Don't feel like you have to produce it yourself! If you're not a videographer and post-production editor, hire a professional. Make sure you see how their work already looks online, since there are people who do specialize on online video versus broadcast television. (Believe me, I can tell the difference.)
- Bring mics and lighting for on-location shoots. (Nothing ruins a good video concept like poor audio and lighting.)
- Memorize your lines! Practice reading through your script so that it comes natural. You can use cue cards or a teleprompter, just don't appear like you're reading off them.
- If you can't act, just have someone else be the talent, and do an off-camera narration. (I actually recommend that any business owner who plans to go on camera first consult with an acting coach.)