Virtual Spokespersons: How to Choose a Look

When it comes to virtual spokespersons, props, makeup, and wardrobe can make a difference. Most actors are able to play many roles and are comfortable altering their appearance to match. Because of this, try not to rule out actors based on their initial appearance in a demo tape. For example, if you have your heart set on having a virtual spokesperson dressed in medical scrubs, don’t rule out an actor who appears on camera in a business suit. Look for qualities like a friendly smile, approachable look, and pleasant tone of voice and then imagine your favorite actors in suitable attire.

While this is helpful for website owners who know what they want, what if you don’t know? How can you choose the right look for your site? Start by examining the following considerations:

  1. Consider your target audience. Who are you trying to reach? Women? Teens? Senior citizens? Business people? Write down the largest audience segment.
  2. Consider your brand. Describe your brand using three different adjectives. For example, a financial advisor’s adjectives might be traditional, conservative, and authoritative while a personal trainer’s might be athletic, fun, and disciplined.
  3. Consider props. The above two considerations may give you a better idea of the type of virtual spokesperson your site needs such as a traditional, conservative, authoritative woman or an athletic, fun, and disciplined man. Now think about props that could help your virtual spokesperson reinforce what your site is all about. For example, a stethoscope, stopwatch, clipboard, and briefcase each represent different professions.
  4. Consider hairstyle. For women, buns and ponytails create dramatically different impressions. A woman with her hair pulled back into a bun may be a perfect fit for the financial services site. Meanwhile that same woman wearing a ponytail could resonate with the personal trainer’s website.
  5. Consider wardrobe. Finally, consider the wardrobe. From professional attire like business suits, medical scrubs, lab coats, and uniforms to casual wear, athletic clothing, and work clothes, the possibilities are unlimited.

Be careful not to overdo it though. For example, a virtual spokesperson in business attire would likely be more effective on a legal website than one dressed in judicial robes. A young adult in a polo shirt and khakis may look more collegiate than one dressed in a cap and gown. Remember your audience; you want your audience to relate to the virtual spokesperson, not be intimidated by her.

Fortunately, if you’re working with a video production company, you’ll likely work with talented professionals who can help you select the right look for the virtual spokesperson as well as for your website, brand, and audience.

Using Your Video Spokesperson on Landing Pages

The decision to incorporate a video spokesperson on your website is a smart one. After all, a video spokesperson can greet your site’s visitors, take them on a tour of your site, connect with them on a personal level, provide additional information, and prompt visitors to take your desired action. To get the most out of your virtual spokesperson, you’ll want to carefully script the role. Not only will your spokesperson greet visitors on the home page, she’ll also greet them when they arrive on a landing page. Because visitors arriving via a landing page arrive through a back door so to speak, you’ll want to craft your script with care in order for it to be the most effective.

Your website can target any number of visitor segments ranging from students, young adults, professionals, and athletes to parents and senior citizens (and beyond). While your virtual spokes model on the home page can greet the community as a whole, when placed on landing pages, the spokesperson can greet individual segments of the audience.

This requires careful scripting and broad conceptualization. When hosted on common pages such as the Home page and About Us pages, the script should be inclusive so that all site visitors feel as if the video spokesperson is speaking directly to them. The landing pages can feature language specific to the targeted demographic. After all, those arriving from an advertisement on a fantasy football site are going to fit a different demographic than those arriving from a link in a genealogy forum. And, each visitor from these different demographics is unlikely to ever see any of the other landing pages. The visitors will have first seen an external call to action such as an advertisement that prompted them to click the link and go to your site.

When the visitor arrives at the landing page, he has already heard a message promising something for clicking the link. What was that message? Let’s say that your website sells housewares. Perhaps you’ve run an ad campaign targeting college freshmen and their parents offering advice and products designed for making the move into campus living as smooth as possible. Because these visitors have heard the message about easing into dorm life and how wonderful your products are, your video spokesperson needs to follow up on that! If she’s talking about products designed for senior citizens, she will be speaking to the wrong audience.

On the other hand, if the virtual spokesperson begins with something like, “Not sure how you’re going to store leftovers in your dorm room or worried about accidentally eating your roommate’s turkey sandwich. . .,” your ad campaign’s message will continue, your visitors will sense the continuity, and original call to action will be reinforced. These elements work together to put your visitors at ease and motivate them to follow through on the original call to action.

As your visitors move from the landing pages into the main pages of your site, they’ll encounter your virtual spokesperson who continues to be friendly, knowledgeable, and informative. When scripted properly, the transition will be seamless and all visitors will feel as if the virtual spokesperson is speaking directly to them.

Video Email Marketing Trends for 2012

Video Email MarketingVideo email marketing continues to evolve, yet few marketers are doing much with the medium in their email campaigns. Part of the problem (the fact that embedding video into actual email messages is impractical and rarely an option) is also video email marketing’s biggest advantage. In most cases, your email marketing message will link to a website video. Isn’t driving your subscribers back to your website one of your primary goals? Below are a few video email marketing trends to keep an eye on for 2012.

  • Creating animated GIFs of a given website video gives subscribers the illusion of motion, and can be an effective teaser that prompts the user to click through and view the video in full screen. If you link the animated GIF to your website video, your video email marketing technique worked like a charm. This technique has its downsides, however. For example, some email clients such as Outlook 2007 display only the first frame.
  • Another option is to grab a screenshot of your website video, insert it into your email marketing newsletter, and then link it to your website video. This is one of the more common video email marketing techniques – and it works. Many marketers have reported remarkable click-through rates using this simple email marketing technique.
  • Using embed codes will also result in a static image complete with the recognizable “play” button superimposed over a screenshot of your website video. Using the embed code is a simple technique, and the resulting image is readily understood by users. They know that when they click the play button, they will activate a website video. While this action doesn’t necessarily take place within the video email marketing message, most users won’t mind be directed to a website to view the video.
  • Another video email marketing trend has less to do with where the user views your video and more to do with how the user interacts with it. Many video players are becoming more sophisticated, offering added features such as player customization, social sharing, interactive transcripts, and calls to action.
  • The more you include video in your email marketing messages, the more important video email marketing analytics become. Depending on which email service provider, video player, and analytics services you use, you can analyze the performance of your video email marketing campaign as well as the video itself.
  • Video heat maps are often included with video players as well as offered as standalone services. These analytical tools can show you where viewership dropped off, which parts of the video were referred to most often, and give you a general idea of the audience’s engagement with your video.
  • HTML 5 makes video, and email in general, a better choice for tablet computers. Expect to see an increased emphasis on HTML 5 in the year ahead.
  • Another trend is to use YouTube’s Post Bulletin feature to update subscribers to your YouTube channel subscribers or uploading your video to Facebook and Twitter. Though technically not official email marketing techniques, these video sharing options can be part of your overall video marketing strategy.

Perhaps one of the biggest video email marketing trends to expect in 2012: more marketers will be experimenting with website video and email marketing. After all, embedding website video in email marketing messages adds value and drives traffic.

Do you have any video email marketing success stories to share? We’d love to hear how your click-through rates have improved or how you’ve solved tricky issues with embedding videos in email messages. Share your thoughts in the comments section below:

The Mechanics of Video Spokesperson Production

Adding a video spokesperson to your website requires a basic understanding of the video production process. After all, a video spokesperson needs a script to follow and must be filmed and edited. In general video production is broken down into three stages: pre-production, production, and post-production.

Video Spokesperson Pre-Production Tasks

Think of pre-production as the planning stage of the video production process. During this time, you’ll need to: consider how you’ll use the video spokesperson throughout your website, write the script, cast the virtual spokesmodel, and schedule production.

  • Planning the virtual spokesperson’s role – A successful video spokesperson implementation begins with a plan. Where will your virtual spokesperson appear on your site? What will she talk about? What type of person should play the role? Which demographic will you try to reach?
  • Writing the script – Once you understand the video spokesperson’s role, it’s time to write the script. You’ll use a portion of the script during auditions and then later during filming.
  • Casting the video spokesperson – If you are not planning on being on camera yourself, you’ll need to find an actor to fill the role. Many video production companies have demo reels of local video spokesmodels that you can view or you can hold open auditions.

Video Spokesperson Production Tasks

Once the plans have been made, the script written, and the talent hired, it’s time to move into the production stage of the process.

  • Lighting, staging, and sound – Filming should take place in a video production studio where you’ll have full control over lighting, staging, and sound. Virtual spokesmodels are typically filmed in front of a green screen which is later filtered out of the shot, allowing the video spokesperson to appear as an overlay on your website without distracting backgrounds.
  • Rehearsals – While many video spokespeople will prepare for the shoot on their own time, allow plenty of time before shooting begins to rehearse the script and fine-tune its delivery.
  • Filming the video spokesperson – Finally, cameras roll and filming begins. It may take several takes before everyone is satisfied with the delivery. Even if the video spokesperson delivers a flawless delivery the first time, shoot several additional takes as a backup.

Video Spokesperson Post-Production Tasks

Now that filming is complete, it’s time to head into the editing room to select the best scenes and complete the production. If you’re paying for editing time by the hour, view the videos at your own location and take extensive notes so that you can limit the amount of time spent in the editing bay.

  • Editing the video – You’ll work with a video editor to select the best scenes and piece them together.
  • Overlaying the video onto the website – Once the video spokesperson’s scenes have been selected and edited, the video production company will package the video for your website. On your end, you’ll simply need to copy and paste a line or two of code into your website. Once the code is embedded, your virtual spokesmodel will appear on your website.

Like any video production, adding a virtual spokesperson to your website involves pre-production, production, and post-production tasks. Hiring a reliable, professional video production company ensures your success.

Video Spokesperson: Owner or Professional Actor?

Video spokespeople on websites add a personal touch and provide site visitors with guidance and information along the way. When it comes to choosing the person to act as a virtual greeter, you have several options including having the company owner play the role or hiring a professional actor. Both can work beautifully. However, when the company owner steps in front of the camera, problems can occur.

When it Makes Sense to Feature the Company Owner as the Video Spokesperson

For some companies, the company owner is the obvious choice. For example, if you were in charge of casting a virtual spokesperson for, who would be your first choice? Martha Stewart! Companies that are led by well-known personalities who already have a strong media presence should take advantage of the brand and talent available to them.

A company owner doesn’t need to have Martha Stewart’s reach in order to make a strong impression as a video spokesperson. Basic speaking skills and confidence in front of the camera may be enough for small business owners who want to appear on their websites as virtual spokespeople, especially when combined with a good script and a professional video production crew.

Websites that lend themselves to featuring the company owner as a video spokesperson include:

  • Websites where the user needs to “get to know” the company owner such as individual attorney websites, photographer websites, and professional speaker websites. For example, it makes sense for a motivational speaker’s website to feature the speaker as the video spokesperson.
  • Websites where the company owner has a local or national following. For example, an accounting firm owned by a retired NFL quarterback could benefit from featuring the owner as the video spokesperson.

When it Makes Sense to Hire a Professional Virtual Spokesperson

Hiring a professional video spokesperson makes sense most of the time. After all, professionals can project the exact image that you want to project and they’re able to quickly and naturally deliver the script’s message.

Even if it makes sense to feature the company owner, it may also make sense to hire a professional actor. For example, if the quarterback-turned accountant is uncomfortable in front of the camera, it may be best to let a professional spokesperson handle the job.

Websites that lend themselves to professional virtual spokespeople include:

  • Websites that are trying to reach a specific demographic. For example, a clothing company catering to skateboarders may want to feature an urban, young adult and not the balding, 50-year-old company owner.
  • Websites that want a polished image. While it’s possible for a company owner to project the right image, hiring a professional ensures site-wide continuity.

Each website and website owner is unique. Before you make the final virtual spokesperson decision, ask your video production company for input.

Conducting a Video-to-Lead Funnel Audit

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been exploring the video-to-lead funnel and how you can use online videos to engage, convert, and nurture your site’s visitors. Your website may already have Web videos working diligently on these tasks. However, without first understanding how the video-to-lead funnel works, it’s possible that your current online video strategy doesn’t conform to the funnel’s structure. For example, your site may contain dozens of engaging videos but few designed to convert prospects into leads. Similarly, your site may have many nurturing videos, but few engaging ones. In either situation, gaps should be identified through a video-to-lead funnel audit.

Online Video Audit Step 1: Identify All Web Videos on Your Site

You’ll need a notebook and a block of uninterrupted time for this step. Go through your entire website and list each Web video featured. Watch all videos and identify which phase of the funnel (engage, convert, or nurture) the video falls under. Keep in mind that some videos may have elements from each phase. At this point, focus on the primary purpose of the video.

While you’re at it, write down where the video appears and how viewers get to it. For example, is the video on your home page? Is it on a landing page accessible from an advertisement? Is it on a page your email campaigns point to?

Online Video Audit Step 2: Identify Online Video Gaps

Now that you have a list of web videos and have identified each video’s purpose within the video-to-lead funnel, it’s time to see if any gaps exist. You should have a nice mix of engaging, conversion, and nurturing videos. If your site is filled with conversion and nurturing videos but lacks engaging videos, your online video strategy may not be effective because you haven’t earned the right to jump to those phases yet. Likewise, if your site lacks conversion videos and is heavy on those that engage, you could be missing an opportunity.

Online Video Audit Step 3: Analyze the Progression from One Online Video to the Next

Finally, consider how viewers interact with your online videos. Is there a natural progression leading from one phase of the funnel to the next? For example, after viewing an engaging video, is the user directed to additional options? Is there a call to action to view additional videos or sign up for a newsletter (where you can later send links to additional videos)? Are additional videos easy to locate and well organized?

The Web video audit should show you areas that could use improvement. Whether you need to produce additional Web videos or rearrange navigational elements so that users can easily move through the video-to-lead funnel, taking the time to audit your existing efforts can help you to optimize it for success.

The Convert Phase of the Video-to-Lead Funnel: A Detailed Look

Continuing our discussion about the three phases of the video-to-lead funnel, let’s explore the second phase: convert. As you know, prospects move through the video-to-lead funnel from the top at the “engage” phase, move down through the “convert” phase, and finally enter the “nurture” phase.

Once you’ve engaged your prospects with videos that help solve your prospects’ problems, present tips and best practices, expand upon an event, or otherwise engage your prospects and build trust, the next step is to convert them from casual visitors with a passing interest into legitimate leads with a genuine interest in your offer.

The convert phase provides you with the perfect opportunity to showcase your company, product, or service as well as prove that you can deliver upon your promise. Videos well suited for this phase of the video-to-lead funnel fall into the following three general categories: overviews, demonstrations, and testimonials.

Video Overviews

Video overviews are short Web videos that show case your company, product, or service. Remember, your prospects have already been engaged by viewing earlier videos. At this point, you may have solved a problem, shared interesting ideas, or interviewed a key leader; in short, you’ve earned a degree of trust with your visitors. They’re now much more open to learning more about you and your offerings. A video overview showcasing your company, such as a company tour, or your products and services typically increase prospects’ time on a website by four times over baseline. Not only that, your customer is now much more informed when entering the sales cycle.

Video Demonstrations

Engaged prospects may actively seek additional information as they begin forming their buying decisions. For example, if you’ve discussed a problem in a Web video and mentioned that your product was designed as a solution to this problem, an engaged prospect may look for a demonstration video to see the product in action. Demonstration videos educate and inform prospects about the product or service, reinforce benefits, and serve as proof of concept. Sure, you can say that your widget sets up in less than 10 seconds, but the real proof is in actually seeing the widget being set up – in less than 10 seconds as promised. Web video can do that. These video demos also position you as an expert who understands the challenges and problems prospects face, and they show that you have the best solution.

Video Testimonials

Video testimonials are particularly powerful. Again, you say how wonderful your product is all day long but your word isn’t nearly as trustworthy as that of a prospect’s peers. Video testimonials show proof that your product or service has served others extremely well. For example, which of the following is more credible: “Our widget will save you $1000 per year in utility bills” or “This widget paid for itself in the first month and saved me over $1000 last year on my electric bills”? Video testimonials serve as an accelerated, and effective, form of word-of-mouth advertising.

The video-to-lead funnel’s convert phase is an important phase where you can build upon the trust you’ve already earned with your prospects.

Video-to-Lead Funnel: Guide Your Prospects to the Sale

Leveraging Web video to generate sales leads requires more than glitter and technology, you need a strategy to guide your visitors through the process. First, visitors must land on your website. Once, there, you’ll need to shape their buying decisions. One of the best ways to transform your prospects into qualified leads is to use the “video-to-lead funnel.” Here’s a look at what it is and how to leverage it.

video to lead funnelWhat is the Video-to-Lead Funnel?

Like a traditional funnel, the video-to-lead funnel is wide at the top, tapering down to a small spout.

Prospects fall into your video-to-lead funnel at the top where you’ll have the opportunity to engage them through informative videos, promotional videos, event videos, and other videos that add value. Video content that adds value, encourages follow through on calls to action, or adds interest is ideal in this phase of the funnel.

As prospects move down the funnel, you’ll need to convert them to qualified leads with videos that educate prospects about your company, products, and services. Typical videos that aid in the conversion process include demonstrations, product overviews, and testimonials. Because prospects have experienced engaging videos earlier, they know that you offer something of interest to them. Now, they need proof of concept in order to convert. Videos such as company overviews, product or service demonstrations, and video testimonials accomplish this vital task.

After going through the engagement and conversion processes, your prospects approach the spout of the funnel where the nurture process begins. At this point in the funnel, you have the opportunity to make a connection with your prospects, send follow-ups, and present solutions. All along, your videos have been preparing your prospects to get to this point: the point where they’re no long prospects who happened by your website but qualified leads who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer. Your videos at this point can arrive after requests for information, as email follow-ups, or through deeper links within your site.

What Can the Video-to-Lead Funnel Do for You?

When successfully implemented, a video-to-lead funnel improves conversion rates and shortens the sales cycle. At the top of the funnel, engaging videos can increase conversion by 20 to 200 percent. In the middle of the funnel, conversion videos increase engagement two to four times. As these prospects progress through the bottom of the funnel, you’ll likely see an increased close rate and a shorter sales cycle.

Putting the Video-to-Lead Funnel to Work

Simply embedding a few YouTube videos on your website or blog isn’t a strategy and knowing that the video-to-lead funnel exists isn’t enough. You must actively plan, implement, and manage your funnel. This involves the production of professional, well-crafted videos and effective calls to action for each section of the funnel. Like water moving through a funnel, prospects go through the video-to-lead funnel from the top to the bottom. Plan your strategy so that each section (Engage, Convert, and Nurture) logically leads to the next and you’re sure to see improvement in conversion rates.

Why Should Your Site’s Visitors Trust Your Virtual Spokesperson?

Deciding to add a virtual spokesperson to your website is exciting. Not only will you soon have an attractive video spokesmodel welcoming visitors to your site and adding a personal touch, you’re expecting to see increased sales conversions as a result. But wait? What’s that nagging feeling in the back of your mind? Could it be trust issues? Are you wondering why your site’s visitors should trust your virtual spokesperson?

The Importance of a Credible Virtual Spokesperson
Whether you’re wondering about this or not, it is vital that your virtual spokesperson builds trust with your site’s visitors. If the spokesperson fails to build trust, you might not see the sales increases that you’re hoping to see. Worse, if you select a virtual spokesperson that is unprofessional or a bad fit for your site, you could lose credibility with your audience all together.

Because building trust can drive sales and losing trust could drive visitors away, it’s important that you choose a professional virtual spokesperson. Professional spokespeople are trained in the fine art of appearing on camera.

Professional virtual spokespeople are actors who can:

  • Quickly memorize scripts
  • Work off of teleprompters
  • Play multiple roles
  • Change their looks to match different roles and moods
  • Appear at ease on camera
  • Relate to audiences
  • Maintain eye contact with the camera
  • Select clothes, makeup, jewelry, hairstyles, and props that look good on camera and enhance the role being played without distracting
  • Add personality

How a Virtual Spokesperson Can Build Trust 
A virtual spokesperson can build trust in several ways including:

  • Having the right look for the website. For example, if your website caters to hip-hop music fans, an urban young adult playing the part of a record producer or D.J. would be more likely to build trust with site visitors than a senior citizen or a traditional businessman. The opposite is true if the site caters to senior citizens or banking customers.
  • Having a natural, accessible appearance and attitude. The more your audience feels connected to the virtual spokesperson, the better. Does the spokesmodel seem like someone your audience members might enjoy being with? Does the spokesperson seem approachable and friendly?
  • Saying the right words, in a natural way. Virtual spokesmodels don’t generally get to say whatever they want to say; their words are carefully scripted in advance. A talented actor delivers these words in a natural way. With a well thought out script and a natural talent delivering the message, you can build trust with your audience.
  • Appearing on screen without causing technical glitches. Web users don’t like websites that cause their browsers to crash, and they’re technologically critical. Strong production values and overlay technologies that do not cause conflicts are a must.

What does all of this mean to you? It means that professional talent, the right appearance, a strong script, and high production values build trust. Invest in these areas and your virtual spokesperson will be a successful addition to your website.

Online Video Types – Know Your Purpose

When it comes to online videos, all videos are not made the same. Nor should they be. In fact, each video that you produce should have a clear purpose. Do you know what you expect out of each online business video? By knowing the video’s purpose, you’ll be able to produce a video that fulfills it as well as be able to measure the video’s success once posted online.

Three Types of Online Videos
Most online videos fall into three categories: informative/educational, conversion, and viral videos. Each of these categories has its own purpose. For example, an informative video endeavors to educate viewers about a product, service, industry, or issue while a conversion video strives to convince viewers to perform a specific action such as subscribing to a newsletter or buying a product. Viral videos are often used to build brand awareness or drive traffic to a Web site.

Informative Videos
Informative videos are educational videos. Creating a informative video allows you to provide value to your site’s visitors while also distinguishing your company from your competitors. After all, buy sharing your expertise, you are demonstrating it and building trust. If your competitors are not doing the same, who do you think will look more credible from your customers’ perspectives?

Understand that an informative video isn’t necessarily going to translate into immediate sales. While you may see some immediate and future sales as a result, sales are not the primary purpose of informative business videos. Depending on how you optimize an educational video and where you post it, you may see: increased traffic to your Web site, incoming links from other Web sites (which can both drive traffic as well as provide additional PageRank from Google), return traffic, higher listings in Google search results, more trust with customers (and future sales). In addition, if your product videos show users how to use the product or troubleshoot common problems, you may experience fewer calls from customers seeking help.

Conversion Videos
Conversion videos have a single purpose: to convert prospective customers into actual customers. This purpose may be a multistep process with a conversion video first prompting your site’s visitors to subscribe to a newsletter, download a white paper, or download a trial version of software or it could be an immediate prompt enticing the prospect to buy now.

When producing a conversion video, it’s important to understand what you want your customer to do as a result of watching the video online. Do you want the user to download a white paper? Then make sure you prompt the user to so and provide links on the page where the video is hosted. Make it as easy as you can for the user to do what you’re asking him to do.

Viral Videos
Viral videos are online videos that viewers find interesting enough to share with others. Most often, this happens organically though many companies attempt to create videos specifically with hopes that the videos will “go viral.” This type of video is most often found on video-sharing sites such as YouTube rather than on corporate Web sites. If you’re hoping for a viral video sensation, you’ll want to create a video that’s funny and unexpected. In addition, you’ll need to post it on the popular video-sharing sites so that it is more easily discovered and shared.

Understanding what you want to accomplish with your online videos before you begin shooting is an important part of the video production process. Once you understand what you want to accomplish, you can then create a workable plan and shoot your video with confidence.