If you’ve ever planned a theme park vacation and wanted more than what’s offered in travel guides, you’re not alone. Undercover Tourist is travel and ticket reseller business that found success featuring first-person videos to show the rides, shows and experiences offered at their partner destinations in Florida to potential customers around the world. It was a highly savvy move on their part, where would-be ticket purchasers could actually experience the attraction via video, from the point of view, or “POV,” of an actual ticket holder enjoying the experience.

Read my interview with Undercover Tourist CEO Ian Ford to learn more about how his company achieved success with their video marketing efforts that Google selected them to be an official YouTube Marketing Ambassador; and his tips for how others can achieve similar success just from the lessons they’ve learned.

The Undercover Tourist Video Marketing Model

The Undercover Tourist YouTube channel has only been around for 2 years, yet already they’ve amassed nearly 10 million video views and over 7,000 subscribers. Whether travelers want to know what the individual rides are going to be like, or they want to relieve the trip because they’re not planning on going back, they can turn to Undercover Tourist’s YouTube channel to select and watch from nearly 400 videos. Google’s own press release on UI reported their videos attracting almost 14% their customers overseas from overseas from the UK, Australia and Germany.

UI’s marketing model involves posting raw footage from rides, shows and experiences from their partner Orlando, FL destinations, including Disney World. Their shoots are purposefully done like a regular tourist would shoot who had decent or typical equipment and without any special editing, to really give it the feel as if it came right from a fellow traveller.

Long-format videos prove highly popular for attraction seekers

Some of UI’s most popular videos are rather lengthy time-wise, and show a large portion of the event. Take the example below: It’s shot from an audience perspective without any special setup other than a decent handheld camcorder with zoom. There are multiple angles, no edits – just one straight shot from the audience perspective while slowly zooming in and out

Some videos will just have cuts in them, but they are always raw edits just to quickly cut portions of the route while inside the building that eventually gets you to the ride…

Dark portions of videos are forgiven

UI also features events done entirely indoors, like the one below. The tradeoff with capturing a POV from a typical ticket holder is dealing with many low-light situations, which are incredibly common as going through tunnels or other naturally dark arcade-style showrooms. But viewers seem to not mind that much since it lends to the authenticity of the experience.

My Interview with Ian Ford, CEO of Undercover Tourist

Grant: Ian, can you provide us with an overview of your professional background and the Undercover Tourist (UI) business model?

Ian: I’ve been working in the travel business for the past 16 years since 1996, and I started UndercoverTourist.com in June 2000. Our business model is to grow our online ticket sales for Florida Theme Parks including Disney World and Universal Orlando by treating people well, and offering free wait time mobile apps and meaningful tips that save visitors up to 4 hours a day in the theme parks.

How did video help you achieve your goals? How did YouTube drive your sales and grow operations?

For us, it drove brand awareness. Continually putting out videos is what rewarded our existing audience and kept us in their thoughts, and building new ones along the way. We know that for a fact because the number of people searching for our brand in Google correlates to the growth curve of our YouTube channel.

As our brand awareness has grown, direct paths from the call-to-action links on our videos and traffic into our ticket cart has been established. Our conversion rate is steady, which shows us that YouTube traffic is quality lead traffic.

Why do you think Google picked you guys be a YouTube Ambassador?

We are proving their business model. We proved that its simpler than people think to create quality video content and engage/build an audience that has a meaningful impact on your company’s bottom line.

We are engaging our existing audience and building a larger audience through discovery on YouTube in an effective manner. We have a proven ROI from our use of Adwords for Video, the Click Through Rate on our videos is high, the retention of viewership during is video view is high, the number of active comments are high, the subscribers to view ratio is high and the number of video views are growing.

What can you share with us about your experience at the Google headquarters and the two-day summit? What did you learn from it?

Both YouTube and Google employ some passionate and very smart individuals – and security guards too! (Personally, I found the YouTube campus had a better cafe :)

I was pleasantly surprised by how receptive both parties were to constructive criticism, requests, freely offering advice, and admitting any shortcomings. The platforms and tools are incredible and comprehensive, and more is coming. Overall the experience was one of partnership and an honest desire to help both parties succeed.

What is the nonprofit you will be mentoring?

We have not selected one yet but it will be kid-related; and we imagine it will be for underprivileged and abused kids.

What do you plan to share in your Google+ Hangouts you will host?

Best practices, experience with ROI on Adwords for Video; and of course, answer people’s questions.

What are your future video plans for 2012?

We are working to incorporate video into more of our marketing material as well.  We’re testing video content on landing pages and also cross-promoting it in other social media channels.

What tip can you provide others looking to have similar success on YouTube?

Here’s several…

  • Just act! It is amazing how crippling inertia and/or fear are for a business. Budgets do not have to be high! Just experiment, and especially listen to your customers/comments. If they’ve taken the time to thoughtfully criticize your work, thank them and learn the lessons. Once you put a process is in place, it is amazingly simple and exciting to watch your channel grow.
  • It really is simpler to develop video content than people think, and your audience will reward you. And of course, promote your videos on YouTube not just for new audiences, but remember to do videos that nurture your existing audience – you won’t want to lose them!
  • Always set aside some time just for creating content that is of value to your audience, and testing out new video content. Don’t be afraid to fail, listen, learn and iterate.
  • Lastly, learn the powerful tool that is Adwords for Video, and you will see an ROI!