20 Tips for Small Business Video Marketing

small business video marketing

Last week we talked about 3 reasons to use small business video marketing.

Now I want to share 20 tips for making better small business marketing videos. 

Also, one common tip you should 100% ignore.

I’ll start with the most important pointer I learned in my 15 years of making television.

READ THIS LATER: If you don’t have time to read this article right now, you can download the PDF version to your phone or computer and read it when you have time later.

#1 – Audio Matters More Than Video

The reason for this may surprise you.

Viewers will put up with bad video but not bad audio. Think about it. Will you watch crappy surveillance video if something interesting is happening? Of course you will.

Did anyone skip watching this JAY-Z vs. Solange elevator fight because the surveillance video was poor quality? I think not.

Will you listen to something that interests you if it’s staticky or muffled? No way.

For this reason, invest in a real microphone and use it. I use this one. This cheapo is good too.

#2 – Save Money on Editing Software

When I left TV, I was snotty about free or cheap consumer editing programs. In news, I used Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro.

When I started my business and suddenly I was the one paying for software licenses, I realized those pricey, complicated programs aren’t necessary. If you’re posting your videos on TikTok, use their native editor. If you’re putting the video on YouTube, an online editor like Kapwing, or a one-payment program like Lumifusion are terrific.

#3- When in Doubt, Add More Light

If audio is the most important thing to get right, lighting is the second most important. If you’re shooting a face (including your own face), make sure plenty of warm light is hitting square on, not from above.

Pot lights overhead will always make you look like a goblin. (Seriously, no idea why anyone puts these in their home.) Standing outside can work but may be too harsh depending on cloud cover. I recommend an adjustable ring light. I have this one, this one and this one, and they’re all great. 

#4 – Consider Framing

Don’t plunk the subject of the video right in the middle of the frame. In broadcasting school, we learned the photographer’s “rule of thirds.” Divide your frame into imaginary thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Try to line up the item you’re focusing on at the intersection of two lines.  

#5 – Appropriate Headroom

Framing also matters when shooting a video of a person, especially in terms of what we call “headroom,” or the space between the top of the subject’s head and the top of the frame. It is better to have too little headroom than too much, which is the sign of an amateur. 

#6 – Match Your Words to Your Visuals

When the viewer sees something on the screen, it should match what they hear. If you’re talking about bears, show bears. If audio and video don’t match, that’s called cross-scripting, and it’s a big no-no. 

Incongruence between the visuals and the audio creates a barrier for your audience.

#7 – BLUF: Bottom Line Up Front

Our desire for efficiency increases as our patience becomes ever more diminished in this modern world. We simply no longer consume content that is not relevant to us. Therefore, your video needs to start with a super quick overview of what viewers can expect. 

“Hi, I’m Bridget from Create That and I’m going to tell you why baking cookies for your customers is not considered marketing.”

#8 – Peel the Onion

“Peeling the Onion” means to slowly and deliberately reveal interesting points. Yes, I know I just told you to give an overview of the video at the beginning. That doesn’t mean eliminating all elements of surprise. Surprising your audience is a surprisingly effective way to cultivate a loyal following. Save a pivotal detail to reveal near the end. That will train your audience to watch till the end for future videos.

#9 – Shoot Outside at Your Peril

Okay, that’s maybe a bit dramatic, but I still shudder at the extreme weather I faced in 15 years of shooting video mostly outside.

Even on a day with nice weather, shooting outside takes longer than shooting inside because of the unpredictable conditions. The sun moves behind a cloud, a gust of wind blows your hair around, or a passerby waves in the background. A Canada goose strolls into your shot and honks loudly. (True story.) These kinds of occurrences make the shoot take longer, so give yourself extra time when shooting outside.

#10 – Don’t Shoot Up At Yourself

I’m trying NOT to make this a list about how to look good on camera while small business video marketing because I don’t really think it matters. Still, I can’t help adding a few pointers for flattering shots. Do not point the camera up at yourself. Shooting down on yourself is okay. The camera needs to be at least head-on, if not higher.

#11 – Stand

Not only is standing better for us in general but our voice and body language are also more natural and powerful when we stand. If you can, stand and deliver.

#12 – Banish Shine

Some things just don’t show up on camera the same as in person and shine is one of them. Glittery video backgrounds are trendy but not effective. Sparkly eyeshadow and rhinestone clothing are not flattering on camera for anyone except my beloved Dolly Parton. Saint Dolly is in a category of one. Humans are easily distracted, and reflective elements are a sure way to distract your audience from your point. 

#13 – Have a Beginning, Middle and End

You may remember your English teacher telling you your work needed a “beginning-middle-end” structure. This holds true when making a video too. Make sure your audience knows where they are in the journey that is your video. Start with an overview of your point (as described in #7), then make your point, then sum up your point. Having an idea of where we are in a given “agenda” helps us pay closer attention.

#14 – Spend Money on a Good Tripod

In a world full of pricey gadgets to stabilize your shot (including some I love), you can’t beat a good tripod. Spend your money on one you find easy to set up, won’t blow over in the wind, and is tall enough that you can avoid shooting up at yourself, as described in #10

#15 – Record in Your Car

If you don’t have a quiet place to record, record in your car. All the fabric creates a sound-absorbing studio effect, and all the windows allow great light without having to be outside in the wind. (Do I have to say, “don’t do this while driving?” Please tell me that is stating the obvious)

#16 – Use Transcription Software

For small business video marketing, you may need to edit certain videos like client interviews or how-to videos. It’s easier and faster to decide what to cut out in a written document than by re-watching the video. In news, we call this writing process the “paper edit.”

This process is practically brainless if you use transcription software. I use Otter.ai, and it’s just the best. On one device, start Otter. On another device, press play on the video you recorded. Otter will create a perfect transcript so you can easily decide what to keep and what to cut out. Bonus: you can use the transcript for super accurate captions.

#17 – Beware your Backdrop

Always keep an eye on what is going on in the background. You don’t want anything “growing” out of your subject’s head, like a lamppost. You also don’t want to get a perfect shot only to come back later to discover that someone walked through the background wearing one of those rubber horse masks. (Another true story.) 

#18 – Beware the Jump Cut

A jump cut is when you edit two pieces of video together, and the two shots aren’t different enough, giving the illusion that the video “jumps” awkwardly. Frequently this happens when you are editing a video of someone talking to camera.

If you are editing a video of yourself talking to the camera, you can cover these edits with another video clip related to what you’re saying.

#19 – Stock Footage

If you need video to cover your edits, make use of the enormous advancements in stock footage in the last five years. You can access professional 4K video on virtually every subject from stock providers like Pixabay or Pexels. Personally, I use Canva because they aggregate free stock video from many other sources.

One precaution about stock footage: it can quickly veer into the “cheesy” category. Avoid slo-mo video or anything where the subject looks directly into the lens.

#20 – No Shame in Your iPhone Game

Most brand-name phones have a camera that can rival all but the fanciest DSLR cameras. You don’t need a camera to make a professional video; go ahead and shoot your videos on your phone. Just remember the rest of the tips on this list, like the tripod. 

Bonus: A tip you see everywhere that you can just ignore.

If someone tries to tell you that you can’t use vertical (portrait mode) video, tell them to take a hike.

People trained in old-school broadcasting hate vertical video. You can’t really zoom in. You can only see a narrow slice of the scene width-wise, but get a bunch of unneccessary stuff in the frame at the top and bottom. One writer for Wired magazine went as far as to say, “you’re violating not only the set video standard but also the laws of nature as they pertain to human sight.” A bit dramatic, perhaps, but he has a point.

There is a reason Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and every other social platform have optimized their apps for 9 x 16 video. It works.

In a large-scale field study from the University of Ghent, researchers finally decided to test whether vertical or horizontal is better for audience interest and engagement. The researchers demonstrated that vertical video works better to engage viewers and allows the viewers to process the content of the video more fluently. 

Think of vertical video like the word “literally.” So many people started to misuse the term that its meaning actually changed. To grammar snobs, this is a travesty. 

Vertical video may be ugly to cinema purists (and curmudgeonly broadcasters), but the science shows: it’s better for marketing.

Re: product recommendations in this article. I’m not getting any kind of payment or benefit from any of my recommendations, although now come to think of it maybe I should look into that. Anyway, I just like the stuff, that’s why I linked to it.

picture of author bridget brown