How to Create Marketing Videos on the Cheap

We all know the myriad ways in which marketing videos can benefit a brand, whether it’s through link building, XML video sitemaps or simply looking better than the competitor that barely knows the meaning of the word “blog.” But ask a business owner or marketing department what they think about video, and they’re likely to respond: “We like it. We want it. It’s too expensive.”

That’s downright wrong.

Marketing videos can be affordable – unless you insist on going about production the old-fashioned way (hire videographer, edit, deploy). There are now cameras available on smartphones, relatively inexpensive and easy to use video editing software, and creative content/set-building tactics that all help decrease costs.

Video that used to cost thousands of dollars can now be cheaply produced in house. Here are a few strategies for getting a quality video done on a budget.

Buy or Make Inexpensive Equipment

If you need specialized equipment, there are a wealth of resources out there that can help you do it yourself. Green screens, for instance, can be built with PVC piping and cheap green screen material from Ikea or a crafts store. And while you’re out, shop around for some shelving to make a cheap camera dolly. Or just use what you have lying around the office to make a steadicam.

Even easier, try soundproofing a room with duvets, cushions, and rugs and recording voiceovers in clothes-filled closets – perfect for absorbing stray sound.

Find People Who Are Willing to Work for Cheap or School Credit

When you’re producing a video on a small budget, students are your best friend. You can try posting a listing on a site like Craigslist or even TaskRabbit.

Better yet, go directly to the source. Freelance actors will often work cheaply, especially as they build up their resume. Both Breakdown Express and Casting Call Pro US are good databases. For students, research acting schools online and reach out directly to the departments.

Buy a Good Camera

If you’re going to be producing your own videos, the biggest investment will be your camera. However, if used properly to regularly produce quality content, it should make up for itself quickly.

A few great models in the $3,000 to the $8,000 range: Canon 52 MK II for shots under 12 minutes; Sony EX1R for both SD and HD, or its less expensive counterparts, Sony HVR-V1U and Sony HDR-XR160.

Or if you’ll be producing relatively simple, low-tech videos, you might as well just go for the camera on your smartphone or in your computer. No matter what, just make sure the sound quality is high and the visuals are steady to ensure an optimal viewing experience.

Determine How New and Original the Production Has to Be

Sure, you’d love for your videos to be aesthetic masterpieces, but that might not happen when you’re producing several videos a day. Do an honest inventory to see what kind of features you require.

If, afterward, you still think you’d like a load of graphics and animation, search for ways to make materials do twice the work. Can you, for instance, use the same intro and fade out for each interview? Can you reuse footage or images in interesting ways throughout the course of the video? Can you use stock footage rather than creating your own from scratch? (Disclosure: I work for Shutterstock, which offers both images and footage.) Whenever you can, use what’s already there and use it more than once (without being obnoxious).

Be Strategic With Your Content

Again, you don’t need the highest paid actors or flashiest animation to create compelling video.

The wildly successful shoe retailer, Zappos, has its own employees showcase products in these short, fun online videos. They make products feel accessible and down to earth because, hey what do you know, they’re real people – not expensive actors or models.

Many other companies, both big and small, use cheap screen casting software to create more engaging videos. Google does this both for training videos and in ads so iconic, Bing is now following a similar strategy . There is a whole range of inexpensive screen casting options, especially when you go for open source programs.

That said, if you do want to play with graphics, both Apple Motion and Adobe AfterEffects are good choices. The former is great for simpler tasks like adding 3D effects and manipulating graphics, while the latter can do pretty much everything you’d require in an animation program. While they are a bit pricey, running from $800 to $1,499, they’re well worth the investment if you think you’ll be using either regularly. This is particularly the case if you already have an in-house graphic designer, who will be a natural with Adobe vectors.

Marketing videos are one of the best strategies available for link building and increasing your conversions. Whatever roadblocks might be in your way, expense shouldn’t be one of them. Get creative with your content and with your budgeting – and get filming.

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