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Golden rules for making a homepage video

“I want to put a short video on my homepage that is going to entice people to explore more ...

what are the golden rules/top tips?”

asked Susan, a business owner from West Sussex

How will you get your idea into reality?

In order to get a film from an idea into reality you will need to have answers to the following 3 questions:

  1. What do you want to say?

  2. Who do you want to say it to?

  3. How do you want to say it?

Golden rule #1

Your film should address the problems of your potential clients and offer a solution, whilst firmly positioning you as the solution-provider. In order to do this you will need to know your customers, be clear about their problems and what solutions you’re offering to resolve them.

Golden rule #2

The second rule is that you should make and a film that’s arresting and memorable for all the right reasons. A film that grabs the attention of your potential clients and makes them want to find out more about your offering.

What kind of film do you want to make?

You need to consider which type of film you want on your homepage. There are many different genres, so it’s worth considering whether it’s broadly marketing, advertising, PR or branding that you’re after.

  • A marketing film will deliver a clear message about who you are and what you do.

  • An advert will focus on the benefits of using your product/service, and how great it feels.

  • PR may be spoken testimonials from happy customers, telling the world how great you are.

  • A brand experience film will put your potential clients’ feet in the shoes of your happiest customers, so they can feel it for themselves.

What’s the job of your video?

To help you answer this question start with the end in mind. If you have a business plan you’ll know what your goals are this year, and for this quarter. Write these key performance indicators into your brief. Then design a film to deliver on those goals.

Where will your film be seen?

Context is critical, so although your question is primarily about the content of the video we have to consider where it will be shown, which in this case is the homepage of your website.

Where will people actually watch your video?

Which device? On a laptop? Tablet? Phone?

Where will they be in the world? In the office? On the train? In the bus? Walking along the street?

Will they be listening and/or watching? Will they have speakers, headphones?

Best to use subtitles in case they have neither.

Or perhaps they’re sneaking a peak of your video while they should be doing something else. Consider all scenarios and ensure you give your film the best chance to communicate its message, whatever the situation.

Remember there is no social media as such. It’s a useful umbrella term, but there are different viewing habits associated with each platform. Think about how you engage with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In, Pinterest etc, and consider the viewing behaviours of the market you’re trying to reach.

Having considered the variables, you may want to make different versions of your video to engage with your customers’ viewing habits.

What’s the film’s Call to Action?

Let’s assume your main goal is to increase sales, in which case your film would probably be about promoting a particular event or service, and would culminate with a call to action such as a sale or enquiry.

How easy are you making it for them to buy from you?

Position a click-through button that enables your customer to easily buy your product/service, or order a ticket to an event. Perhaps offer an early bird option to encourage your viewer to take immediate action.

How much value can you give to your audience, even if they don’t buy today?

In case your viewers are not quite ready to buy yet you could also have a button which gives away some kind of value, perhaps in the form of a free report, maybe a booklet of top tips around your product in the form of an attractively designed pdf booklet, downloadable in exchange for their contact details.

How can viewers stay in touch with you?

Additionally on your homepage there should be easy access to enable viewers to follow you on twitter, Instagram or your facebook page through icon buttons.

What can a film realistically achieve?

Don’t try to fit 10 gallons into a 5 gallon hat. It won’t work and you’ll ruin the hat. You wouldn’t try to put 300 characters into a 140 character Tweet!

In a bid to get the most value from a film the temptation can be to try and make it do too many jobs by cramming in too much information, which results in some kind of meaningless amorphous Euro-pudding.

How will you measure the return on investment of your budget for this film?

Analytics? How will you measure plays? Partial v. complete views? Shares? New sign-ups to your YouTube channel? Live audience reaction? Click-throughs or sales?

How long should your film be?

For a welcome film on a homepage I would be thinking of 90 – 180 seconds duration. Less is more. There is so much information available in the world today, and the corollary of this is that it’s increasingly hard to gain people’s attention.

“Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.” Pascal

Translation: I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

Customers tend to think that making a short film is easier than making a long one. The opposite is generally true.

What are your brand values?

In order to look and feel like the brand you want to be perceived as you need to be clear on what your brand values are. If you’re a law firm or a bank you probably want to come across more serious than playful. Santander is a regular client, whose values are ‘Simple Personal Fair’. These values inform the films we make for them, from the way the presenters/actors speak, the choice of motion graphics, style of camerawork and the pace of edit.

How important is authenticity?

Human beings have a highly developed sense of the congruity between what you say and how you say it. A bullshit detector.

When I’m in edit I’ll listen to perhaps 3 hours of filmed material to end up with 3 good minutes of well-delivered content. I might spend a whole day with my eyes closed listening to the content and making selects. To achieve a ratio of 180:1 I apply several criteria:

1. Does the message make sense?

2. Is the soundbite well-expressed, with a nice turn of phrase and memorable delivery?

3. (This is the most important part) Do I believe them?

4. How does the speaker look on camera, particularly in terms of eye contact and body language?

5. Can I edit around them with cutaways?

What are production values?

Your video will be judged by viewers who’ve watched tens of thousands of hours of high production value TV: Audiences are used to watching $100m movies at the press of a button. They’ll switch your video off just as easily if it looks shonky!

So, you’d better make sure your film is of a certain standard.

How important is storytelling?

The job of a story is to make the audience want to know what’s gonna happen next. That’s what keeps viewers hooked in.

One definition of storytelling is “somebody wants something, but, then, But, Then, BUT, THEN – they either get it or they don’t. Sometimes they get what they thought they wanted and find they don’t want it after all, but they get something else instead (like love, humility, understanding, connection).

In Hollywood they say “Start with a bang, and build from there.” After all, if you haven’t engaged your audience in the first 3 seconds they’ll move onto the next thing.

How many times will you write your film?

Filmmaking is not only a collaborative process, but an iterative one too. So whilst it’s essential to have clarity at each stage, remember that the blueprint is not the finished house.

They say a film is made 3 times:

Once when it’s written

Again when it’s shot

And again when it’s edited

Each iteration will throw up different ways of expressing the core messages, so make sure you’re clear on these from the outset, then allow space for creative innovations to present themselves.

What are the Golden Rules?

When promoting your business or service via your website, make sure your film is:

  1. Relevant to your viewer/market

  2. Interesting/gives value

  3. Pleasurable/make sure it rocks along via a well-crafted script, credible delivery, classy shots, cool music and well-paced editing.

  4. Respectful of your audience and the time they’re giving you. Make your film as short as possible to do the job it needs to do.

How can you visualize and articulate what you want your film to look like?

Go onto YouTube and find 3 films from your industry that you love, and write down the reasons why.

Then find 3 films from your industry that you hate, and write down the reasons why.

This research will come in very useful when you get into conversation with a video producer to articulate what you’re looking for.

Why do you want to make a film?

Why film/video?

What about writing a blog? Printing a brochure? Making a phone call? Sending a telegram?

  • Is it because a picture paints a thousand words, and video has 25 frames per second?

  • Is it because video engages the viewer (customer) on a number of different levels including sight and sound, and is able to tap into emotions in a subtle yet powerful way?

  • Is it because we know that people make buying decisions based on their feelings, then justify with logic?

  • Is it because we’re at a moment in the evolution of technology where everyone has at least one mobile viewing device on them in every waking moment of their life, and that video consumption is at an all-time high that’s only set to increase?

Whatever your reason for wanting to make a video for your business, I hope I’ve managed to convey some of the steps that I go through in my assessment process, so you can see more clearly what for you some food for thought with the questions above that will move you forward in the process.

Best wishes and good luck,

Alan Gardner

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