With the buzz that inbound marketing is making lately in the B2B world, more and more firms are exploring newer, more interactive ways to engage and educate an audience.  Video seems to be hotter than ever as a way to stand out, show personality, and connect with an audience.  But, knowing the video subjects are not professional actors, how can you ensure your video will be polished and professional?

I love YouTube as much as anyone, but I have to admit that when I first heard of video marketing, especially for professional services firms, all I could think of were the cheesy local commercials they play during daytime TV hours.  However, over the past few years, since I’ve been more involved in planning, shooting, editing and promoting videos, I’ve learned some tips and best practices that will ensure they don’t come across this way.

Last year, I wrote a post on the basics of video marketing. Since that time, I’ve worked with a few different videographers and editors, script writers, etc. and learned some more in-depth best practices. I’ve compiled these along with some tips from other professionals to develop the following best practices checklist:

Strategize on a deliverable first.  Decide on the end goal before beginning.  What will the video be used for?  It might be a video bio to add to a web site, email signature, etc.  If the company truly has a unique value proposition, a video might serve to introduce this to their potential clients.  It might be a series of clips used for a FAQ section of their Web site.  There are many possibilities.  Knowing what your end goal is helps drive your message.  Which leads me to the next tip!…

Know your message.  Sure, spontaneous off-the-cuff videos can be both fun and useful marketing tools for blog posts and other times you want to get a quick, timely multi-media piece. However, for the bigger projects, when you are using a professional videographer and using the time of busy professional staff, you want to be clear on the message before you get started. It’s important to consider that people tend to search on YouTube for entertainment and educational purposes- NOT to buy. With this in mind, when planning your video, it’s important to consider: Who (specifically) is your target audience? What are their needs? What questions do they have?  Answer these questions within the “script.”

Don’t overlook prep time at the actual shoot.  Mike Connery of Water Bear Studios advises, “An hour of time spent prior to a shoot making sure elements like lighting, blocking, audio, cue materials and scripting are 100% ready can save many hours in post trying to rescue, repair or work around poorly executed footage.  The best source footage yields the best final cut.”

Go off-script.  As important as it is to plan your video and script your message, you also want the video to come across as natural and conversational.  When you end up reading or memorizing a script, it becomes obvious and a bit monotone.  In order to keep the integrity of the message and sincerity of the speaker, we suggest using the interview method.  Knowing the points from the script, one person (not appearing on camera) will ask the subject questions to draw the answers in a more natural way. Jennifer Ryley of MarketSense adds, “Get your interviewee talking before you get to the heart of the message. Let them get comfortable first. Feed off of their answers. Ask them to elaborate if you like where they’re going with an answer. Make it a conversation.”

Don’t forget the details when on set.  Even if your “set” is simply an office or conference room, it’s important to be aware of all the small details of the production ahead of time.  Mike Connery noted that this will allow your subject to feel comfortable, confident, and focused once the cameras are rolling.

Connery adds: “Managing the simple things like making sure the room is a comfortable temperature and free of distractions, having water and snacks available, ensuring that your crew is prepared and the equipment is 100% tested and ready will avoid delays and complications during the shoot.  When the production side of a shoot is going smoothly, everyone can be relaxed and focused on what’s happening on-camera – and that in turn will help produce the best possible results.”

Collaborate during the editing process.  I’ve found that the initial script helps greatly with the editing process.  Often there are multiple hands in the pot — videographer/editor, consultant/director (the marketer in my case), and client.  I use the script as a guide to brings everyone back onto the same page. I like to start with a first cut that hitting the points from the script, then review and recommend revising segments, remove sections, add b-roll, etc.  Keep open communication with the client to manage expectations¾there’s nothing worse than going through the whole editing process to find out the client had something entirely different in mind.

Optimize and promote.  Once you have a produced a great video, add it to the company’s YouTube page.  Remember, you can tag YouTube videos with keywords and add a title and description (up to 5,000 characters). Fraser Kay, a Marketing consultant in the UK recommends submitting your YouTube Channel to a “ping” service such as Pingler.com. For example, you would submit:  “http://www.youtube.com/rss/user/USERNAME/videos.rss“.   You can also add specific tag feed to Pingler (i.e. link to “http://www.youtube.com/rss/tag/YOURTAGHERE.rss“).  Kay also suggests using a unique tag, that no-one else is using to get more backlinks.

Finally, share the video using social media (Google+ is great for selecting a specific audience), or by adding it to your Web site and/or email signature.

As I see more and more clients ready to roll with video marketing, I’d love to hear any video marketing tips you may have to add!