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?

To Sell More Cars, You Need to Get Personal

The chances are pretty good that any email lead YOU receive is also sent to competing dealerships. That means the car shopper will get emails and phone calls from other salespeople looking to sell that customer a car. Unless the lead is on a unique used vehicle, your competitors have the same new vehicles in their inventory.

Therefore, reaching that customer quickly and effectively, while at the same time standing out from your competition, is vital in winning that customer’s business. The easiest way to do that is to build a personal relationship quickly – something every successful salesperson learns. While that may be easy in person, it becomes more of a challenge when the customer’s email inbox is barraged by auto-responders and other generic emails.

So, how do you stand out?

Well, personal video email responses are a very effective way to separate yourself and transform your email from just plain old text into a more dynamic, eye-catching and personal introduction.

Something you did on your VDP got their attention, whether that was on your website or a third-party listing site (hint: If you have video included in your listings, you’ll attract more customers). If that customer were in front of you and inquired about a vehicle, you would proceed to sell the dealership, then sell yourself, and then sell the vehicle. You would work to build a trusting relationship with the customer from the beginning. But, how do you sell your vehicle to a customer that’s not present?

The same, exact way!

The great thing about selling cars today is all of the technology that is now available to assist salespeople in facilitating a better online buying experience for the customer. Because of the Internet, customers are visiting less dealerships than ever – it’s now down to just about one dealership visited before the customer purchases, because now the customer can browse inventory in their pajamas at home.

Today, when you receive an Internet lead, video enables you to literally walk the customer around the vehicle explaining its features and benefits in a personalized way .This video can then be delivered to the customer on a landing page that contains your Value Proposition (Why Buy); and testimonial videos to sell the dealership; as well as your own introduction video to simultaneously sell yourself – all while you are selling the vehicle — just as if they were on your lot.

Dealerships that do take the time to shoot personalized walkaround videos for Internet leads see a 20-40% increase in re-engagement, lead to appointment and lead to show rates. Car shoppers love them. They show a customer, whom you have not yet met in person, that you care about earning their business and will make the effort to get them the information they requested over and above the standard “when can you come in” message that exists in most first responses.  Combining personalized walkaround videos with the value proposition, testimonial, and your personal introduction video, will then multiply the emotional impact of your communication and significantly enhance the “trust relationship” that you so greatly covet.

Being forthcoming, providing information and doing so in a personalized way with the use of video, allows you to “sell” the vehicle, build rapport and make the customer feel more at ease and amenable to coming into the dealership.

The customer will still want to inspect, touch, feel and drive the car and they can only do that in person at your dealership. Video, however, can whet their appetite and grab their interest and attention in ways that pictures can’t.

It may sound like a lot of work. Perhaps you are thinking you don’t have the right equipment. But hold on a minute – the fact is that you can use your existing inventory videos and personalize the audio — all from the comforts of your office and without even having to walk out to the vehicle each time you need to shoot a personalized walkaround. You’ll quickly find out that the few minutes it takes you to personalize the audio of your existing video will pay dividends in increased sales and bigger paychecks.

You don’t have to be content with closing rates on Internet leads hovering in the 8-10 percent range. Maximize each and every opportunity you receive, blow your customers away with your responses, and put your competition out of the race by sending Internet leads personalized emails that use the power of video to sell your dealership, sell yourself, and truly sell the vehicle– then sit back and sell cars.

How to Use Video to Turn Leads Into Shows

by Tim James

All dealerships get leads that originate from the Internet. Not all dealers, however, are equal when it comes to how they handle these leads. Ever wonder why some dealers are able to close Internet leads at 12+ percent, while others struggle to reach 6 percent? The reason has everything to do with how these leads are handled – from speed of reply to the content in the reply itself.

One of the most powerful ways to communicate to today’s tech savvy customers is with video. It’s a highly effective form of communication because it engages the customer’s senses. It can help capture the customer’s attention and increase the amount of leads that turn into appointments.

There are three basic types of videos that I find work best when created and integrated into any lead follow up system :

  1. Lead Response Videos: When you receive a 3rd party Internet lead, chances are really good that lead also went to multiple other dealerships. This interested buyer then gets bombarded by e-mails and phone calls. Quite frankly, most of these responses are generic, contain no information, aren’t personalized and tend to start looking alike. Gain a competitive edge with your response — rather than simply send a template email, create a personalized video response that thanks the customers for the inquiry. Introduce yourself, mention the vehicle the customer inquired about and invite them in. Your video will stand out and make you the memorable one. Customers will also feel flattered that you took the time to create this video and realize that there is a real person communicating with them, not just a computer.
  1. Appointment Confirmation Videos: When you do get a customer that is interested in test driving a vehicle, it’s important to create a sense of obligation on their part. It’s proven that e-mails that contain videos get opened at a far higher rate than those that do not (especially when the word “video” is in the subject line). Create an appointment confirmation video and you can increase the chance that the customer will open and view it. In addition, use the video to tell them that you’re looking forward to seeing them and make it “personal” so they feel guilty if they blow you off and don’t show up. Let them know that you are doing something “for them” by making sure you have the vehicle cleaned up, pulled around and waiting for them…and offer to have an ice cold bottle of water or a cold Coca Cola waiting for them.
  1. Personalized Walkaround Videos: Nothing is stronger than sending a personalized walkaround video to your customers. The fact that you took the time to video and explain the features and benefits of the specific vehicle they inquired about JUST FOR THEM, can impress them and can also increase their interest level. People appreciate it when others go that extra mile to help them. Make your vehicle AND yourself memorable and you’ll have a better chance of building trust and rapport with your customer and, ultimately, getting them into your dealership.

Give one or two of these a try, I’m confident you’ll be impressed with the increase in the lead to appointment rates and appointment show rates that you receive.

In Marketing, Consumers Want to Know What is In It For Me

by Tim James


People aren’t watching your commercial or video because they want you to sell them your product. They’re watching because they want you to sell them a solution.

In the world of online marketing, oftentimes marketers forget this very basic concept. Think of it as painting pictures when selling. The idea is that you want to tell the consumer why they need a feature, so that the consumer will visualize how each feature will make their life better, easier, more efficient. How it will make them more money, or provide a solution to a need. It’s not uncommon for salespeople to go on and on about the features of a vehicle. It has this type engine. It’s safe. It has Bluetooth, etc. They may as well (and some probably are) read the window sticker to the customer. Great salespeople, however, understand that the customer doesn’t necessarily care about the fact that the vehicle has Bluetooth, unless it’s tied back to how it benefits the customer.

Mr. Customer, one of the great features on this vehicle is that it has Bluetooth functionality. This will allow you to connect your cell phone wirelessly and accept or make phone calls without taking your hands off of the steering wheel. Which will make your commute for you and your family safer.

Consumers may watch dozens of video walkarounds in their car-shopping journey. If you’re doing live video walkarounds of your vehicles, consider this: How would you do a walkaround for a customer right in front of you? Why would you do your live video walkaround for your website and VDP’s any differently?

Create more memorable videos that capture a customer’s attention and sell the consumer on why they need the features of each vehicle. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about the vehicle’s features. What I’m saying is that you’ll create more powerful videos if you tell the consumer why those features are important and highlight the impact each feature will have on their lives.

Live Video Walkarounds: Are they Worth the Effort?

by Tim James

While most forms of digital marketing offer some value to dealers, the one constant has – and always will be – the better your inventory merchandising, the higher your sales.

In the digital world, your merchandising takes place on your VDP Pages, making your VDP Pages one of (if not “the”) most valuable pieces of digital real estate that you have today. The goal of the merchandising on your VDP Pages is to get a consumer emotionally attached to the vehicle, to take “mental ownership.” Or, at a minimum, to generate enough interest that the shopper will come to your store and take a test drive. If you can’t obtain one of these goals, then you hope that your presentation of the vehicle at least had a large enough impact on the shopper that they will remember one of your vehicles as they continue their shopping and bounce from site to site.

This is why you invest the time and/or money into your current digital marketing strategy: You have a website that gets good traffic and that has good flow to the Vehicle Details Pages (VDPs); pay 3rd parties for VDPs on their sites; have high quality photos for each vehicle on its VDP; use a good quality vehicle description for each vehicle; and even have all kinds of “conversion widgets” and such on your VDP Pages. You know how important your VDP Pages are. And you currently invest a lot of time and money into your efforts to have the “best” presentation of your vehicles as possible on those VDPs.

Now, up to this point, I haven’t told you anything that you don’t already know. But let’s consider this:

• People retain 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and an amazing 70% of what they see & hear combined. This means that a shopper is at least 40% more likely to form an emotional attachment and remember “your” inventory if they are able to watch videos of the vehicles on your VDPs.

• More than 85% of today’s consumer’s say that they prefer product video over photos and a text based product description. Shoppers are significantly more likely to spend a greater amount of time on your VDPs — and more likely to return to YOUR website at a future time — if they know that they can receive their content the in the form in which they desire to receive it…video.

• Live Inventory Videos average 600% more engagement than stitched photo videos. This means that having a stitched photo video is better than not having a video at all; however, you will receive a significant boost in engagement if you are utilizing live inventory videos. This IS the best presentation of your vehicles (merchandising) possible for your VDPs.

The actual process of shooting a live inventory video only takes around 2 to 5 minutes per vehicle. Yes, it may take you a little longer in the beginning, when you first start shooting the videos, and before you are comfortable with the process. But, after you’ve shot a few, you should easily be able to get your process down to the 2 to 5 minute range. The actual process of shooting a live video is hardly an overwhelming investment of time, especially when considering the engagement and conversion benefits.

What DOES take time is everything else. You have to manually upload the video to a “host” (or multiple hosts), rename every file as you upload it, and then manually process the video URL to each location that you would like for the video to play. I’m sure there are plenty of you reading this who remember the days that this same “time consuming” process was at one time true for your photos. Shooting the photos was the easy part, but to get your photos to all of the various digital touch-points, you had to manually rename them and upload them touch-point by touch-point. Instead, many dealerships would either choose to not keep their photos current on the various digital touch-points, to outsource the photo process to a 3rd party, or would hire an in-house staff to do nothing but shoot and upload photos all day. As time progressed, and as dealerships started to realize how important the photos were to the merchandising process, more and more started investing in technology that made the upload and distribution process fast and easy. They still had to have someone shoot their photos, but that’s all they had to do and technology took care of the rest.

The great news is that this same technology now exists for your videos. All someone has to do is shoot the video (2 to 5 minutes) and technology will automatically name, upload, and distribute the videos for you (and often in real-time). In fact, you can even have your photographer shoot the video for you at the same time they are shooting their photos. And if you aren’t comfortable with your photographer talking about the vehicles while shooting the videos, then technology can even automatically add the audio layer to the video as it is being automatically uploaded. And you could even have one of your Sales or BDC Team members (from the comfort of their own office) re-record the audio layer of the video and instantly replace the automated audio layer on all of the digital touch-points (in real-time), if so desired. No more wind or highway noises, no airplanes flying overhead, and no worrying about the weather.

Even greater news is that these same videos can then also be utilized by your sales team and/or BDC team for personalized walkaround videos for lead responses. Instead of the time consuming, over and over process of shooting one video that would be seen by one person, of checking out the keys, finding the vehicle on the lot (in the heat, cold, rain, snow), pulling the vehicle out of the line, shooting the video, parking the vehicle, walking back inside, checking in the keys, uploading the video to a “host”, grabbing the URL and sending the video URL out in an email…the sales or BDC team member can now simply pull up the existing video (being used on the VDPs), re-record a personalized message as the audio, add background music (if desired), click save, and email out…all in less time than it takes to check out the keys and find the vehicle on the lot.

We used to find all kinds of excuses for why we didn’t keep our VDPs (across all of the digital touch-points) updated each day with 25, 35, 55+ photos. Excuses ranged from “it’s too much work” to “it costs too much money (if outsourced).” And I’m sure you can find plenty of new excuses as to why you aren’t shooting live videos for your VDPs and using walkaround videos for your lead responses…but the fact is that “it’s too much work,” is no longer a valid excuse, especially when you consider the impact that it will have on your sales.

They Watched Your Video. Now What?

by Brian Cox

There’s no doubt that video marketing is exploding in popularity with businesses and consumers. Both Facebook and Twitter are investing heavily in video and, in the case of Facebook, rewarding those who upload their video straight onto its extended reach advertising platform.

The days of reading long text descriptions and features of vehicles on websites are quickly fading. Manufacturers and dealerships are putting more effort and bigger budgets into video marketing. However, no matter how creative, funny, informative or compelling a video is, if it’s missing one simple ingredient, it will not help you sell more of anything – whether that’s a salesperson, the dealership or a car.

What is that simple ingredient? – It’s a call-to-action.

In terms of functionality and conversion, all websites typically contain calls-to-action. Customers that visit a dealership’s website can gather the information they want and, most of the time, there is a call-to-action on the page they’re viewing; be it the home page or a vehicle description page. Many videos, however, have no call-to-action. An online car shopper will visit multiple touchpoints when researching vehicles – Think of all of the sites your videos are on that the consumer could visit. You may control the content and call-to-actions on your own website, but it’s not always the case on every touchpoint.

Many dealers incorporate personalized video e-mail responses and walkarounds and introduce staff on their “About Us” pages. These are all great but, in many cases, they neglect to incorporate the single most important question that a consumer will ask after watching:

What do I do now?

Even if you have a call-to-action on the actual webpage that the consumer is on while watching your video, include a call-to-action within the video itself. It doesn’t have to be long or confusing. It should be simple. Something like:

  1. Call us at XXX-XXX-XXXX or email us today at XXXXXX
  2. Make sure to mention this video to claim your special offer
  3. Make sure to visit our website and get the exclusive Internet pricing only available on our website

If you’re not asking viewers of your video to do SOMETHING at the end of your video, they won’t do ANYTHING and you’ll be missing out on conversions. Guide the consumer through the funnel in relation to the video content they just watched. If the video was a “Why Buy From Me” sent by a salesperson, include their contact information at the end. Another thing that can be very beneficial is to incorporate a call tracking number on your videos.

If it’s a vehicle walkaround video, direct your customers as to what they should do next. Create a video explaining how your dealership assists people with challenged credit then direct them to your online credit application to get started. If you produce service videos, make sure to include an offer, coupon or, at the very least, an invitation to the dealership or to schedule an appointment.

It’s really not a difficult concept. Almost every other form of marketing will have calls-to-action (if they’re any good). So why shouldn’t you also include them in your videos? It’s up to you to tell your customers what you want them to do. If you guide them properly and with relevance, you’ll find that more of them follow the path you’re leading them down and will see more conversions.