The camera pans across a backyard paradise at night. Spray features spill into a frothy hot tub, lit only by the dancing flame of a nearby fire pit. The shot dissolves, and another beautiful pool appears. In every scene, upbeat, jazzy music punctuates the movement of the water.
So begins the introductory video on the home page of Champagne Pools & Spas, based in Sanford, Fla.
“We tried to choose pools that would intrigue people and open up their imaginations about what they can do in the backyard,” says company President Michael Manley, who commissioned the video.
For pool and spa builders, creating original videos and slide shows is a natural way to court customers online.
“Web video marketing is an exceptional fit for people who are in the pool and spa business just because of the nature of what they’re selling,” says Jennifer O’Meara, head of content and social networking at theWeb Video Marketing Council in Dover, Mass.
And there’s another important benefit as well.
“Video [content] is being crawled by search engines,” O’Meara adds. “So some people are finding that their videos actually generate better search results than their text content.”
Today’s digital technology allows you to create professional-looking visual Web content to fit any budget. Here’s how:
- Hire a pro.
- Involve your Web professional.
- Find a video hosting site.
- Showcase your own work.
- Document every project.
- Prep the pool.
- Take multiple angles.
- Show a selective price range.
- Broaden your focus.
- Time it right.
- Complement images with text.
- Be entertaining.
- Post television content.
- Mix it up.
- Use videos on multiple site pages.
- Viewers must be able to access your content.
- Get permission.
- Include your contact information.
To shoot a promotional DVD of his projects, Manley hired a videographer through his marketing consultant. “They did everything,” he says. “They set up all the appointments at the houses and called the customers to gain permission.” Manley suggests budgeting between $5,000 and $10,000 if you decide to go this route.
It’s relatively inexpensive for your Website programmer to integrate videos or slide shows. Programmers can help you with the timing, the look and feel of the page, and other technical requirements. For example, the Web designer for Colorado Poolscapes of Glenwood Springs, Colo., even created an online database that allows the staff to edit the opening slide show on their own. “We can go onto an online database and actually put different pictures in or take pictures out ourselves,” says David Anderson, president of Colorado Poolscapes.
YouTube isn’t the only game in town. Indeed, for a more professional look, you want to find business-oriented servers to host your videos. Some are free; others charge monthly fees. Among the many possibilities are fliqz.com,brightcove.com, fileave.com and hotlinkfiles.com. To find free places to host and post videos — and more — visit internetvideomag.com.
Some companies incorporate manufacturer-provided images of pools onto their Websites, but there are experts who say that’s not a great idea. Ric Reineke, president of The Pool Guyz in Virginia Beach, Va., notes that every photo on ThePoolGuyz.com depicts one of the company’s actual projects. “That’s important to us,” he says. “We don’t want to show pictures of other people’s work or other people’s product.”
Make a point of taking photos or video footage of every finished project so you have ready content for your next slide show or video. Manley notes that at the end of each project, one of his salespeople will deliver a gift package to the client, which also provides an opportunity to take a brief video. “The salesperson goes back, gives them the gifts, has them fill out a survey, and can do the video at the same time or take pictures,” he says.
When you photograph your pool projects, allow plenty of time for setup. You’ll likely need to skim leaves out of the water, remove pool toys and floats, wet down the deck, and even rearrange the patio furniture to get the best shot. “Just getting it all cleaned up and ready for a photo shoot is sometimes a lot harder work than scheduling it and driving to it,” Reineke says.
When showcasing a project, consider taking shots from multiple angles to give viewers an idea of what the pool looks like from different sides. “To get a true perspective of what it’s going to look like in their yard or against their house, they need to see all of it,” Reineke says.
Resist the temptation to highlight extravagant aquascapes that most customers won’t be able to afford. Make sure the photos you choose are representative of the main body of your work. “We didn’t want to include the most fancy jobs, and we didn’t want to include some of the smaller jobs,” Manley says.
Be sure to highlight waterfeatures or other backyard elements in your slide shows or videos. For example, Reineke is planning to include sections devoted to fencing, landscaping, decking and lighting, among other features. “We wanted to show lots of different things, not just pictures of pools, because we build the entire backyard,” he says.
Chances are, viewers will get impatient if a slide show or video takes too long. If you have a lot of content, consider breaking it up into multiple slide shows or videos. “You want to keep your audience’s attention span in mind,” O’Meara says. “I think the sweet spot for most Web video marketing executions is anywhere from 30 seconds to 45 seconds. I wouldn’t go over two minutes.” For slide shows, the images should change every five to 10 seconds.
Each photo in the Colorado Poolscapes Web slide show is accompanied by an adjective such as “sophisticated,” “elegant” or “creative.” The words were chosen to set a mood for each scene. “The idea is that your swimming pool and spa is just not a body of water sitting out back, but is part of a whole experience for your backyard,” Anderson says.
Videos and slide shows need to be engaging for viewers. Reineke, for example, plans to create a video that showcases a family in their backyard enjoying the pool and other outdoor features. “It’s a really fun business category,” Web video expert O’Meara says. “I could see a hot tub retailer creating their own monthly newsletter just by sitting in a hot tub and talking about trends.”
If your company and/or its work has appeared on a TV show, don’t be shy about posting a video showcasing that moment. Reineke, whose company has been featured on several episodes of “Little People, Big World” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” includes clips of these appearances on his Website.
Some videos — such as a professionally done introductory piece — don’t necessarily have to be changed often. But whenever possible, add new content, even if it’s just updating photos in an existing slide show. For the pool and spa industry, O’Meara suggests seasonal videos.
“For a pool retailer, maybe their videos in the spring are about opening up the pool,” she says. “In the summer, maybe it’s about new pool toys. And in the fall, it could be about closing it up, if they’re in a Northern region.”
Video content doesn’t have to showcase your products alone. Consider a short film introducing the owners or staff at your store or showroom for your “Contact Us” page.
A variety of video players are out there and, unfortunately, they are not all compatible. O’Meara recommends using Flash or another “viewer-agnostic” platform so everyone can enjoy your content.
Music can really jazz up a site, but you must make sure you have the rights to use the tune(s). If, like Manley, you’re working with a marketing firm, they can usually handle this task. Also, if you take pictures that include human subjects, you’ll usually have to ask them to sign a release before you can post those images on the Web.
If it’s up to you to obtain the music rights, you’ll find advice and links at www.webdevarticles.com/legal/using-music-on-websites. Or check out Richard Stim’s book, Getting Permission: How to License & Clear Copyrighted Materials Online & Off, Third Edition (Nolo, 2007). Available at major bookstores and on Amazon.com, this updated version comes with a CD-ROM.
In the case of video releases, the typical form is short and straightforward. In it, the subject agrees to allow your company to photograph them and record their voice, then use it for advertising, publicity, commercial or other business purposes in all domestic and foreign markets. If the subject is under 18, the form must be signed by a parent or legal guardian. To download a sample form, go to www.webvideozone.com/public/88print.cfm.
It’s good to prominently display contact information in each video or slide show so viewers are able to get in touch with you.
For example, the Champagne Pools & Spas video displays the company Website at the beginning of the video, includes the company logo in the lower left corner of the screen throughout the duration of the video, and ends with a full-screen shot of the logo and the telephone number. “It’s really important to have a very clear call to action,” O’Meara says.
- Web Resource Center
Find a variety of tips and tools to strengthen your online presence.
- Web Video Marketing Council
- Internet Video Magazine
- VideoWebWizard 2.0
WVMC provides free resources, tools and other educational information to promote the use of Web videos for direct marketing.
YouTube.com gives users who create an account, or “channel,” a free venue to showcase online videos. Posting a video on YouTube could create interest and increase the traffic to your Website.
This e-zine reviews Web videos, provides tips and tricks to producing your own online videos, and offers product reviews for video and editing equipment.
WebVideoZone.com is a subscription-based resource center providing tools, resources and tutorials for creating Web videos for businesses.
This software is designed to give users all the tools they need to convert video into a Web-friendly format.
Lynda.com offers a variety of online tutorials on creating digital videos.
This subscription-based tool can be used for video e-mail marketing and direct communications.