Four Tips for Including Video in E-mail

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about video in e-mail. The Email Experience Council (EEC) hosted a Webinar on the topic last week, and many in the industry are proclaiming 2009 the year of video in e-mail.

As a result, I have clients clamoring to include video in their e-mail messages. It’s an exciting new way to use e-mail, but as with any technology you shouldn’t use it just because it’s “cool.” You only want to use it if it forwards your business goals.

It doesn’t matter whether the video is actually embedded and plays within the e-mail (the hot new technology) or there’s a link in the e-mail that opens a Web page where the video plays (the old, down and dirty way to do it). The thought that should go into using video is the same.

In 2005 I received an e-mail from the Redskins with the subject line, “Coach Joe Gibbs has a special message for you.” The copy in the e-mail said something vague about Gibbs having big plans for the upcoming season and wanting fans to be a part of it. I was intrigued, so I clicked to view the video.

There was Gibbs, saying almost word for word what was in the e-mail. No specifics, no new information, nothing that hadn’t already been said. The e-mail implied there would be some value to watching the video, but there wasn’t. As a reader, I felt duped.

This is not a good use of video in e-mail.

Before you get too excited about video in e-mail, focus on the video content. Here are some questions to ask.

Do We Have Video Content That Could Be Included in an E-Mail?

With the YouTube’s popularity, many organizations have video content that could be repurposed for e-mail. If this is the case with your company, you are ahead of the game. Pull an inventory of your videos; figure out which ones are best at advancing the features, benefits, and advantages of your product or service; and build an e-mail campaign around them. Just be sure the copy in the e-mail isn’t a direct transcript of the video itself.

What Content Do We Have That Would Lend Itself to Video Presentation?

If you don’t currently have video content, develop a strategic plan to create some. It doesn’t have to be high end. I have two clients that have libraries of video testimonials from clients. One created these in a very formal way, by working with the speakers on the message, scheduling the shoots, and having a professional camera crew do the filming.

The other client used an equally successful but less formal approach. It set up a camera at a conference it hosted for clients and between sessions asked people to talk a little bit about its product. There were some questions used as a starting point for each interview, but the answers were basically ad-libbed. While not every video testimonial was top notch, many were. One thing that helped my client was the passion these customers had for the product. People were happy to talk about successes they had using the product, and their enthusiasm comes through loud and clear in the videos.

Of course, customer testimonials aren’t the only way to use video, but if you’re just starting out it’s a good thing to consider. You may also have a video that talks directly about the features, benefits, and advantages of your product or service. Remember, video is the medium; the message can be just about anything.

What Resources Do We Have or Will We Need to Create Video Content?

This is an important consideration; while video production doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s not free. Be sure that you factor the cost of the video into the campaign’s cost — and run your ROI (define) figures accordingly to confirm that the lift provided by video will at least cover the additional cost, if not provide some profit.

Will Recipients Be Able to View the Video?

This has been holding video back. While great strides are being made, my understanding is the technology to view video is primarily limited to Web-based e-mail clients (AOL, Gmail, MSN, Yahoo, etc.). That means if your audience is consumers, video may be a good option. The e-mail clients most used in the business world (Lotus Notes, Outlook, etc.) aren’t necessarily video-ready just yet. Be sure the technology in your e-mail isn’t more advanced than the e-mail clients your audience are using. Otherwise the use of using video is moot.

Until next time,


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