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Islands in the Stream, that is What We Are

Live video is taking over. If you have been on social media anytime lately, you probably noticed the barrage of streaming Facebook Live videos. In addition, videoconferencing has replaced boring teleconferences on just about every major platform. Why? Because, while we supposedly live in a super connected world, people are, in fact, less connected than ever. We communicate via text in short sound bites that are constantly misinterpreted. Emails are frequently misunderstood and social communications via platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are often incorrectly perceived.  This is because the majority of human communication occurs through visual cues such as body language, tone of voice and facial expressions… and you cannot see any of these through text or email.

Why the rise in live streaming with telecommunication companies and social media platforms? Because it’s engaging. Video, in itself, is engaging. But add in another dimension where it is not pre-recorded, but live, and conversations occur in real-time. It takes video to the next level as a communications tool.

If you think this is not already happening, let me tell you, it is. And it could be creating problems for your dealership if it’s happening on a salesperson’s personal Facebook profile or on a Facebook page they created to represent the dealership. First, if it’s happening on the salesperson’s personal profile or a Facebook page they created, there is truly no dealership connection, record of the conversation or ability for oversight. Second, when salespeople are representing the dealership, those conversations with customers belong to the dealership, not the salesperson. What happens if the salesperson says the wrong thing – even innocently?

Now don’t misunderstand my point here as live streaming video is an excellent way to engage customers. The customer can talk to a salesperson as if they were on your lot. The salesperson can walk out to the vehicle the customer is interested in, do a walkaround and interact with the customer live while answering their questions and showing them features they are interested in. It’s like taking a phone call to another level. Live streaming will certainly grow in used, just as video-conferencing has. If you are not doing so already, you would be wise to investigate solutions that allow these types of engagement between consumers and your dealerships in a way that’s measurable, and controllable, while enabling customers to communicate in the way they prefer and find the most productive.

Here are 62 statistics about live-streaming that are important to know. This blog would be a book if I went into all of them, but the key point is that live-streaming is quickly becoming the medium of choice for consumers for brand interaction.

In our era of smartphones with built in Facetime and Google Hangouts, consumers are utilizing real-time live streaming to connect with their loved ones and friends because it’s more intimate and personal. And that is spreading to the retail world. Consumers can gain a more intimate and personal connection with your dealership in the same communication manner. Whether it’s from a one-way video call (the customer can only see the salesperson) or a two-way video call (both can see each other), they are equally effective.

People want to deal with people. This is easy to do via live-streaming, right from the comfort of their home. Salespeople have a much better opportunity to build rapport and trust and help the customer while telling the car’s story. They can show customers what they want to see – all in real-time.

Oh, and just a quick note in closing, as I don’t want to make you work too hard — for those of you too young to remember the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers song “Islands in the Stream,” the title is a word play on the title of that song – stream – streaming video – get it?

With shoppers flooding the streams of video, your dealership needs to be the island they can rely on for great content, a personal connection and to get exactly what they want in the format they choose to engage.

3 Tips to Up Your Video Marketing Game

Assuming your dealership has a video marketing strategy in place and that you’re getting good results, you may be ready to take your video marketing to another level.

To quickly review, the fundamental basic blocks of a video marketing strategy include:

  • Content. Start with what you sell…your inventory.  Next sell them on your dealership with value proposition videos, customer testimonial videos, and service “how to” videos.   Also, sell them on your staff with personnel introduction/profile videos.  All of these content videos build trust with the shopper.
  • Exposure. In addition to your website, your videos should be on multiple touchpoints like Cars.com, Autotrader.com, Facebook, and any other distribution points video is accepted to display. Also using video in email marketing and in the lead follow-up process garners great results when compared to traditional e-mail and phone calls.
  • Actionable Data Collection. Where you host your video plays a very important role in the success of a video marketing strategy. Using public hosting platforms like YouTube and Vimeo do not help your SEO nor guarantee to keep your shopper on your site. Your dealership’s video should be hosted on a platform that allows your website to claim the SEO benefits of your video, and also has the ability to collect actionable data from your video viewers so you know who’s watching which video from where and with what.
  • Data Utilization. Use the actionable data to create relevancy, to create or adjust your marketing endeavors so you are able to serve up the right video to the right customer at the right time.

Now that we have reviewed the core elements to a successful video marketing strategy, let’s take a look at kicking it up a notch.

Here are some additional elements to add to your strategy designed to even further increase your engagement, conversions and leads.

Empower Your Customers with Information
Today’s consumers want to be in control of the purchase process. Videos can have a significant impact in that process, with up to 90 percent of people claiming that video plays a role in their purchasing decisions, according to one report.

Although customers want to be in control, they still need information and a trusted resource to guide their decision. Why not become that trusted resource?

When it comes to car shopping, most dealers don’t have a lot of information on their website to help prospective buyers in their research and decision-making process. Why leave that up to the OEMs and third-party sites?

Part of this process involves deciding where to buy. Customers want to buy from a dealership they trust. One of the best ways to gain that trust is to provide the car shopper with information in a transparent way.

If you don’t already have a video showroom on your website, it’s time to add one. Then, create and add the following types of videos:

  • Explain the difference between your brand’s trim levels
  • Explain the difference between your brand and your top two competing brands
  • Explain new features in a newly introduced product/brand
  • Explain the sales process/what to expect at your dealership
  • Explain the F&I process and products

These videos should focus on educating the shopper. Their purpose is to gain customer trust, so the videos should be focused on your customers’ needs and your dealership’s expertise.

Virtual Reality Video
Virtual Reality (VR) is already mainstream. The good news for dealers is that creating VR videos doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment or time. You can create VR videos in approximately the same amount of time as you can a regular video.

VR videos are highly engaging and will differentiate your brand, at least until the rest of the Jones’s on the block catch up. If you want a captive audience, start by creating and posting a few model review videos on your website in VR first as these will be more relevant longer then an inventory specific video.  To get even more engagement you can then distribute them through email and your social media channels.

Watching a VR video is a completely different experience than watching a regular video; if you haven’t tried it yet, you should! The experience is completely immersive, memorable and emotional.

You don’t have to start doing VR videos for every piece of inventory. Focus on creating a VR video for your new models and make them both educational and fun, if possible. As the customer is sitting in the front seat, guide them through what they’re seeing, touching and feeling.

Consumers can experience VR videos if they own a smartphone and a pair of VR goggles or headsets. All that’s required is downloading an app that can play virtual reality videos.

Live Streaming Video
Today’s consumer demands instant information and transparency during the car-buying process, and live-streaming video calls are a great way to establish a connection, build trust and provide information in an immediate and transparent manner.

Live streaming is another technology that you may want to consider incorporating into your sales process. Allow your shoppers to connect in real-time with your team.  It’s not just Millennials that want their information now…Boomers do too!

Are you ready to take your video marketing game to the next level? Try these three video strategies designed to engage customers and increase conversions and leads.

In Video Marketing, the Car Should Be the Star

Video marketing is becoming more important as consumers increasingly choose this medium over others. That’s exactly why almost every platform has shifted to a video-centric algorithm.

I’ve spoken many times about the types of video a dealership should produce outside of inventory videos to create an emotional connection to your brand, dealership and employees. However, there is one thing I have touched on in the past that needs more attention. It is, in fact, one of the most important pieces of advice I can give:

The car should always be the star!

What do I mean by that? Regardless of the type of video you produce, the sole focus of each is fundamentally to excite and persuade a potential customer to choose your dealership and come in to buy a vehicle. But what about personalized walkaround videos, personal e-mail responses, why buy videos, or customer testimonials?

If you’re creating video content for your dealership and only take one piece of advice from me, let it be this: Make sure that the brand you represent, and/or the vehicle you are trying to sell, is visible in every video.

It’s great to send a personalized video email response to a customer. It’s certainly engaging and puts a face behind the name. But, while the personal video e-mail response will do that, the customer ultimately is considering purchasing something you sell.

Imagine how much more powerful a personalized video response would be if, instead of filming in front a background consisting of a white wall or other desks, it was filmed in front of the exact vehicle the customer inquired about. I’m not talking about a walkaround. Simply a little product placement.  There’s a reason major brands pay big money for product placement in movies, television shows and video games. That’s because it pays off! That Pepsi can that the actor is drinking out of may never be mentioned or referred to — but I can guarantee you one thing… it was noticed.

Make sure that, when making a personal video response, why buy video, or while filming a customer testimonial, the background contains either a vehicle that you sell, the specific one the customer is interested in, or the vehicle they already purchased.

Video content is evergreen in that it doesn’t expire. It can float around the digital universe for an eternity if you want it to. Ensure that as many videos as possible promote not only your store and employees, but also the vehicles that you sell. You never know when someone will come across it and be impacted by it.

Many times, those accidental or unintended video views lead to relationships that span a lifetime. Make sure every piece of video content displays your vehicles – even if that’s not the video’s intent – and you’ll take your engagement and connection to the next level.

How to Shoot Professional Quality Videos with a Smartphone

When dealerships first start their video marketing programs, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “Will I have to buy an expensive camera?” The answer is no. Just about everyone these days has a smartphone that can shoot HD video. When used properly, the quality of video produced can be exceptional. All it takes is practice.

Most dealers start with inventory walkaround videos and these are probably the trickiest videos to shoot, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.

First, to ensure a good high-resolution (and non-pixelated) video, adjust your camera setting to record video at 1920 x 1080 and 30 frames per second (fps), unless you plan to extract your still images for the inventory from the video.  In that case you may want to utilize 60 frames per second (fps).

Next, invest in a stabilizer. Most smartphones have a pretty good stabilizer built into them today, but they will only make a good video better. This is the merchandising layer for your inventory that most shoppers are going to view, so invest in the tools that you need to provide the best experience for your shoppers that you can. Don’t fool yourself into believing you can walk around the vehicle while holding the smartphone steady in your hand. The result will be a bouncy video that will make your viewers seasick and result in low video completion rates.

A hand-held stabilizer or tripod is better than nothing, but if you want to produce the best quality video invest in a 3-axis gimbal for a couple hundred bucks. It is worth every penny! For top of the line stabilization a 4-axis gimbal is even better, but may run you a couple thousand.

Currently we recommend using a set-up that includes your smartphone, and the DJI OSMO camera/gimbal combo. This is a really cool camera that takes amazing quality video and connects wirelessly with your smartphone, so you can use your smartphone to view what the camera is recording.

You can find a DJI OSMO starter kit for around $500 and depending on how you want to accessorize it, you may spend $700 to $800. This is a small investment that will make your inventory shine!  GoPro also offers some great camera/stabilizer combinations that cost less and produce very good quality videos as well.

Once you have a stabilizer, the next thing you’ll want to address is lighting. Smartphones have small lenses so adequate lighting is critical. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re shooting outdoors, but always position the vehicle so you will not be pointing the camera into direct light, such as the sun.

When you first begin shooting walkarounds, you may want to allow extra time to shoot the entire video two or three times. With each ‘take,’ experiment with different ISO settings, which measure your camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. On a sunny day your ISO settings will be lower and on cloudy days your ISO settings will be higher. If you do shoot on a sunny day, avoid shooting midday because that’s when the sun casts the harshest shadows. Instead, schedule shoots for early morning or late afternoon.

For vehicle walkarounds, you want to feature shots panning the side of the vehicle, as well as the front and back so the viewer has a good sense of what the vehicle looks like from all angles. Open the doors and shoot the interior, both front and back.

Then focus on shooting the features that you will use to sell the car, such as the Infotainment system, new tires, safety features, etc. The total length of your walkaround videos can range from one to four minutes. Don’t believe experts who tell you that all videos have to be one minute or less. Though this is probably true for a bad or dull video, if the presentation is informative and entertaining, two, three or even four minutes is okay. There are plenty of dealerships that get 80 to 90 percent completion rates with videos that long, and plenty of dealerships that only get a 50 to 60 percent completion rate with their bouncy and dull one- minute videos.

If you are worried about the audio track for your videos, you can have your photographer shoot your videos and have a data driven audio track added to the video automatically.  If you are adding your own audio while shooting the videos, or if you decide to shoot your walkaround videos featuring a salesperson or spokesperson giving a live presentation, invest in a good noise-cancelling microphone.

Either way you can always go back and replace the audio layer of the video if you want or need to without having to re-shoot the video.  You can even personalize the audio layer of the videos for specific leads (personalized walkarounds) without having to shoot another video, saving you a LOT of time while producing an identical personalized walkaround video to one that was shot from scratch.

Finally, expect that the first few videos you create will probably suck. Don’t be discouraged! Practice makes perfect. Keep doing it and eventually things will click. Pretty soon you will find your own unique style and every walkaround video will become a mini-masterpiece.

What tips do you have for shooting professional quality video with your smartphone?

What to Do with the 5 Must Have Types of Video Content

by Tim James

In my last blog, I shared the five types of video content you must have when beginning your video marketing initiative. To recap, they include: New Model Test Drive, Inventory, Value Proposition, Testimonials and Lead Follow-up.

Hopefully you’ve begun the process of creating this content. Now for the next step!

Effective video marketing requires much more than just content creation. In fact, if used strategically, video can be one of the most effective ways to steal your competitor’s business. However, if no strategy is involved, you will simply be wasting your time.

So, as promised, here are some strategies that can be used to make those videos effective and capture more business.

The keys to transforming your video CONTENT into a video marketing STRATEGY are:

  1. Exposure – If nobody ever sees your videos, they’re pretty useless. Consumers look at up to 24 different touch points in their buying journey. You have to ensure that your videos get on the right touch points to be seen by your buyers at the right time in the buying cycle and without them having to work to find it. The problem is that some of those touch points make it difficult for dealers to get videos onto these sites. Video files are extremely large and most touch points don’t want to host the video. In fact, they would prefer (some even require) that your videos are hosted elsewhere and then just hyperlinked or embedded on their site.

    That is why the right hosting platform is so important. It will automate a large portion of your exposure and make it very easy to integrate your video content with your Sales & Marketing strategies, getting more of your video content in front of your shoppers, at the most critical decision points, which brings me to my next point.

  1. Data Capture – The right hosting platform can be one of your biggest assets when it comes to video marketing. By having your videos all hosted together your hosting company can capture your viewer’s data from more touch points and then you can use that data to communicate with a shopper in real-time via the video. This data can also be utilized to generate real-time alerts via your CRM, no matter what video is being watched, and no matter what touch-point the video is being watched on. Which brings us to personalization.
  1. Personalization – How cool would this scenario be: You send a video email campaign out to your existing CRM database. The data from your existing customers (and all of your abandoned leads) that engage with that email is then captured and matched with your video viewer database from your video host. From then on you receive an alert in your CRM every time someone from your database is back “in market,” because they are watching one of your videos.

    Armed with this knowledge, you can then send personalized videos to that specific customer with various messages. Perhaps the customer has been consistently watching videos of Honda Civics in your inventory. Sending a video message informing them of special offers on Civics would certainly be relevant and give you the fast track to selling them a vehicle before they start shopping at your competition.

    However, there’s a fine line between personalization and creepy. So make sure that the video doesn’t necessarily inform the customer that you KNOW they’ve been shopping. The video message should be something relevant to the behaviors you have seen them make, without crossing that line.

  1. Tracking – Because you’re capturing this data and it’s being matched to buyers, you’ll get a notification that your buyer is watching one of your videos, along with which touch point that they are watching it on. Now you know that right at that second Joe Smith is on AutoTrader, Cars.com, or any other touchpoint out there, and what vehicle(s) videos they are viewing. Wouldn’t it seem like a good idea to call them at that point?
  1. Conquest/Geo-Targeting – This technology allows you to know which site they are viewing your video on and you can also see where (as in physical location) they are watching it. Imagine getting an alert that Joe Smith is watching your video and happens to be on your competitor’s lot at that exact moment. The right hosting company would enable you to know this information, call Joe and in addition queue up a “last chance offer” as a banner ad right there on the video they are watching… all in real-time!

A video marketing strategy isn’t just about the video. It’s a strategy that involves getting MORE of your videos on MORE touch points while capturing MORE data. Then utilizing that data to your advantage to know exactly how and where your customers are watching your videos. Then sending more personalized, relevant and perhaps even deal-saving messages to them in real-time.

There is nothing more powerful than to communicate with your customer exactly at the right time, with the right message, in a way that they know is just for them.