6 Tips for Making the Perfect YouTube Video

Chris Doctor owns Delphi Construction, a deck builder in Encinitas, Calif., and, like many small-business owners in a competitive industry, he wants attention. How he gets it has evolved in recent years.

“I’ve had a website since 2005. I spend about $300 a week on paid search advertising, but nothing has been as successful at attracting customers as my YouTube videos,” says Doctor, who landed $14,000 in new contracts the first month he posted two videos. “I was really surprised that people were looking for services like mine on YouTube.”

Once the exclusive domain of break-dancing babies and bulldogs on skateboards, YouTube is now the second-largest search engine on the web. It can be a powerful means for small businesses to raise brand awareness and generate sales. To get started, check out how other businesses are using YouTube for messaging. (Simply go to YouTube and search for local operations like yours; for example, “pet groomers Atlanta” or “property management Seattle.”) Then plan your own production with these tips in mind:

  1. Learn from the competition. Make a list of what you like about other videos in your space. Does the thumbnail picture of the video make you want to click to see more? Are you persuaded by the sales pitch? Do the music and graphics help or hinder the production? Meanwhile, if there’s something you dislike, be sure to avoid that in your own video.
  2. Don’t do it yourself. Skilled videographers not only have the right camera, microphone, and editing equipment, but also know how to light the location, when to zoom in for a close up, and how to add images, graphics, and a soundtrack. They’ll wrap all these elements into a seamless package that represents you as a polished professional.
  3. Set a budget. Videographers typically charge about $75 an hour and up to $1,200 a day, depending on their experience, talent, and resume. The number of shooting days, video length, and level of post-production work contribute to the overall cost. Fees may be negotiable, or you may be able to barter (i.e., offer your product or service to cover all or part of the total fee).
  4. Prep your message. You have 1 to 2 minutes to make your pitch. What do you want to say? Imagine you are speaking to one person. This will help you feel more conversational in front of the camera. What action do you want that person to take: Call for a quote? Place a phone order? Be sure that your contact information is visible throughout the video.
  5. Deliver quality content. Offer helpful advice that highlights your expertise, or create a how-to video. Let’s say you are a florist; you might demonstrate how to make a simple bridal bouquet, sharing one (but not all) of your trade secrets. Prospective customers will get a feel for your personality and your passion for what you do — and be more likely to visit your shop than try to open their own. How-to videos are often shared, so you can benefit from getting added exposure with a wider audience.
  6. Be tech savvy. Make the first 15 seconds especially compelling and keep the video short (again, 1 to 2 minutes). Look for the most searched-for words in your category and select six to 12 keywords to use when writing the title, description, and tags for your video (you’ll be able to do this when you upload it). These are critically important because they help search engines find you — and bring your business that sought-after attention.

Has YouTube helped your company? Share your video do’s and don’ts with us in the comments field below.

About Kristin Ewald

Kristin Ewald, a former Time Inc. editor based in California, has written frequently for the SMB audience. She is also a small business owner who helps companies write and produce user-friendly websites.
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