Owning and operating a number of medium-small retail websites that sell items that are difficult to ask for in person posed a marketing challenge to its owner Tom Nardone of Troy, Michigan who runs PriveCo. Although he saw the potential of selling an item such as the inexpensive bulletproof vest online according to a recent Associated Press (AP) article, Nardone realized that he needed to reach a wider audience than he was getting at gun shows. He began creating videos where he demonstrates the strength of the vest, shooting everything from watermelons to boxes of candy to illustrate what his bulletproof vest can and will do. The videos can be graphic, with items exploding at slow speed and Nardone sometimes splattered with barbecue sauce or peanut butter.
PriveCo's videos have collected a following, according to the AP article, with the melon video earning nearly one million views. In the video, Nardone lines up seven melons and shoots them at point blank range. The video illustrates that one would have to carry around four water melons to match the protection Nardone gets from one inexpensive bullet proof vest. Nardone is often recognized at gun shows and has received compliments from people who like to watch him shoot items from gravel to boxed wine, AP notes.
"The vest does its job, but it's nothing to look at," Nardone says. "So we said, uh oh, we've got to come up with something good."
It's natural for some small businesses like real estate brokers to use videos in marketing campaigns for houses and other properties; for others, it can take some brainstorming and perhaps even an offbeat sense of humor to come up with something compelling, the article notes. But more businesses are getting on board — Facebook counted more than 3m small business videos posted in September, up 50% from 2m six months earlier, according to the company's most recent published figures.
Arlington Machinery, which sells, repairs and appraises used plastic-making machines, began posting videos on YouTube nine years ago with several objectives. One was to raise the company's rank in internet search results, and another was to display machines for prospective buyers. Or, if equipment was sent to the company for repair, videos could show the owners that the machines were ready to be sent back, the article notes.
But more recently, Arlington realized videos were also a way to market itself to different kinds of customers. The Elk Grove, Illinois-based company decided to have a little fun and commissioned the whimsical animated video that explains the company's services.
"Used machinery is not all that exciting to most people," says David Pietig, a general manager at the company. "What we're trying to do is make people interested in what we do."
Thinking about what customers want to see is the best way to get inspired, marketing experts say according to the AP article.
"Good ideas can come from everywhere. If there is an old-school mentality at a company, they should get a pool of 21-year-olds that are more digitally and socially media savvy," suggests Brian Metcalf, CEO of GreenRoom, a digital marketing company based in Miami.
Making videos for these small businesses can cost almost nothing or run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Arlington Machinery says its animation cost only about $100, but Nardone paid more than $15,000 to produce a series of videos last summer. At Mountain View Vineyard, a Pennsylvania winery that began making videos in the past year, a smartphone and a still camera have kept the costs minimal.
When marketing director Laurie Monteforte started working at Mountain View a year ago, she made it a priority to create a campaign that included videos. But the standard way of selling wine — showing smiling people gathered around a food-laden table and lifting their glasses in a toast — won't work in a video, she says.
"Today's audience doesn't want commercials, where we try to sell you something," Monteforte said in the AP story.
Mountain View's videos teach viewers how to make something with wine, such as red wine hot chocolate, or show some aspect of the winery's operations. Last summer, owner Linda Rice demonstrated how she hand-picks Japanese beetles off of plants and drops them into soapy water, killing them without chemical pesticides.
Mountain View says its revenue is up about 30% in the past year, and credits about three-quarters of that gain to video and social media, the AP story notes.
"There are so many options where people can go for wine and spirits," Rice says. "Video and social media set us apart because people get to know us."