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When It’s Okay To Brag (A Little)

We’ve outlined a few marketing “rules” over the course of this blog, including the Sacred Directive to never talk about oneself (or to at least avoid talking about oneself whenever possible). Marketing, we’ve said, is all about the client. And that’s true. In the main, clients don’t want to hear your story. They want to hear about them. They want you to tell them how you can make their lives better.

But all those blatantly self-promotional materials can serve a purpose. The trick is figuring out the timing. There’s a time and a place to brag (a little), but it’s later, after you’ve secured client interest and (ideally) sealed the deal.

It helps to think about client engagements as romantic relationships. As below:

web marketing video production San Francisco

You might think that’s a weird place to do your bragging, but trust us, it’s necessary. Especially if you’re selling a service – something invisible and intangible. You need to reassure clients that they’ve made a good decision in hiring you. Do this by highlighting awards and accomplishments, fresh testimonials and successful new clients.

You can do it with a quarterly newsletter or a quarterly video – something short and sweet, maybe 90 seconds on “See What’s Happening at Doe & Associates.” Just remember not to brag too much or too often. And, as with initial phase marketing, tie everything back to the client (“we’re expanding to better serve you, etc. etc.”).

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You Just Can’t Reason With People

Whether you’re trying to seduce or sell — or even win a debate — the use of reason should be a last resort. This seems counterintuitive, since we typically think of ourselves as rational creatures. We assume we make buying decisions based on good information. And we assume that the kind of selling that works on us, should work on everyone else.

But science says we overestimate our own use of reason, especially when it comes to money (and especially when dealing with intangibles like service or experience).

Think back to the last big purchasing decision you made. Or (better yet), think back to the last major purchasing decision a friend made. When discussing it later, were the justifications based on hard data? Did you (or your friend) say, “Doe, Blah, & Associates has an 82% success rate in cases similar to mine, and their performance is rated above industry average, according to third party studies,” or did you say, “I just trust them. They seem to know what they’re doing. I like the guy working on my case. He has a degree from Harvard.”

The language of justification is subjective. It’s the language of “like,” “trust,” and “nice” — based on feelings and intuitions rather than information.

How do clients justify choosing (or not choosing) you? Remember: professional qualifications matter, but only at a basic level. Better to be personable and competent than an aloof expert.

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Be Exceptional

And we mean that in the purest sense: be the exception. The rarity. The weird one.

“Playing it safe” and “playing by the rules” might get you new business now and then, but it’s a matter of luck and brute persistence — you put your marketing in front of a few hundred prospects and maybe get a dozen bites. It’s luck and it’s numbers. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something right.

The problem is that in marketing, as in operations, most smaller businesses are tempted to follow the “best practices” of the big ones. The result is a lot of copycat websites and marketing video. (Picture a room full of suitors, each wearing almost the same thing and saying almost the same things. Of the fifty of them, maybe three will be short listed for further consideration. But the guy in the corner wearing a feather boa and saying nothing at all? He’s short listed automatically, just for being intriguing. He makes the others look trite by comparison.)

It’s the same in trying to attract business: you have to be willing to stand out. Be willing to alienate a few prospects, or you’ll get interest from almost none of them.

That’s phase one. Once you’ve got a prospect drawn in, you should switch to phase two: toning down the weirdness and demonstrating your competence. This assures the client that you aren’t all gimmicks and clever marketing, you can actually do the job. And that’s how you turn plain curiosity into new business.

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You Can Say Anything

So long as we’ve never heard it before. That’s the one caveat. Because we’ve already heard from a thousand companies with a “commitment to excellence,” companies who say “customer service is number one,” and promise to deliver “on time every time.” We’re practically starving for a new kind of message. And we’ll actually listen when we hear it.

One of the most important ads of the 20th century. Who before Volkswagen would've labeled their own car a Lemon? This was revolutionary. (Click the pic to view larger)

The human brain is hardwired to focus on the new and the unexpected. Familiar is safe, and not worth the mental resources it takes to closely examine it. That’s why our eyes glaze over whenever some business leader starts spouting clichés. It’s not A.D.D. It’s our brains saying “I can safely check out of this part. I’ll come back when things get interesting.”

So when scripting your video, prefer the unexpected and offbeat. And find some way to tie that weirdness back to your business.

If you’re a law firm, you might do a “we’re the lawyers everyone tells jokes about” campaign. And talk about how your clients laugh all the way to the bank.

If you’re someone who invests other people’s money, you could do worse than a “we’re greedy” video, giving “greed” an unusual spin (“we’re greedy. That’s why we’re so conservative with our investment choices. Because we don’t like to lose. etc.”)

Unusual is interesting. Honesty disarms. Without these two qualities, your business might still succeed. But it won’t be because of your marketing.

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Sometimes, There’s No Competition

Sure, there are other people who do what you do. But for a certain, select group – maybe your family, maybe the people you meet face-to-face at networking events – you are the only choice. They want their suit tailored, or their kid’s birthday photographed, they come to you. You’re “their guy” (or gal), as in “I have a guy” (or gal). You’re the default choice.

The backflip into water is the superior backflip. But some people would rather just sit on the dock with a beer.

You still need a marketing budget.

Because now you aren’t competing with providers in your industry. You’re competing with every industry. Your job isn’t to convince people your service is superior, it’s to convince them they need your service at all.

Like the birthday photographer who loses out to the birthday clown. Or the suit tailor whose clients start dressing casual, or wearing vests (which are “in” now, according to the guy who brings us pizza and news from the outside world). Your main job is to convince your core audience that your services are needed.

This is an important consideration, especially for providers of non-essential services like those mentioned above. If they can do without you, they probably will. It’s your job to convince them that they can’t.

Compete for share of mind. Not share of market.

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Greatest Hits: Volume One

We started this blog for one reason: to share as much knowledge about video production and the theory of marketing as we could. (Also to show off. So what? Two reasons.)

Alas. It’s the nature of blogs to bury old things as new ones become available. But this stuff isn’t news or anything. It doesn’t expire. And our first post is as relevant now as it was on July 1st, when we got this baby up and running.

So without further adieu, we present: the retrospective — a quick summary of our favorite posts over the past few months. This is a great way to see, briefly, all we’ve talked about ’til now (with links to full articles if you want a deeper dive). It’s also a great list of general marketing rules.


1. Perception is everything. What you say doesn’t matter as much as how you say it. So straighten that tie and make sure your shirt’s not too wrinkly. Spend a little more on your marketing materials, if for no other reason than looking like a pro.

2. Don’t go out with the P.C., P.R. -approved version of who you are and what you stand for. ‘Official’ messages are boring. Wear that suit, but don’t put too much starch in the collar. You can be well-put-together and still be human.

3. Being the “best” you can is important, but it’s more the cost of doing business than a compelling message for customers. Nobody cares about the ‘best’ product or service. They care about what using your product or service means for them.

4. Keep your message brief. No one owes you their attention. Don’t waste their time (they won’t remember a long message anyway).

5. Don’t deny public perception of your brand. Re-frame everything to be positive instead.

6. Use generosity — writing, speaking, community outreach — to build a scaffolding towards sales. Don’t just go around asking for business or contact numbers.

7. Sometimes what should work backfires, and what breaks ‘the rules’ of good communication is actually what’s necessary. Know thy audience.

8. Avoid the over-technical or over-creative. You can only sell what your customers understand.

9. Obvious selling almost always backfires. Instead show customers who they are, or who they’d like to be, and tie that identity to your service/product.

10. Pick one thing to define you in the mind of the customer. Try to stand for everything and you’ll stand for nothing.

11. Don’t talk about you. Talk about your prospect. Learn to speak the language of their hopes and fears.

Bonus tracks:

1. 3 Reasons to NOT do a Video
2. 3 Steps to Hiring a Videographer
3. Research Reveals the Power of Video Marketing
4. List of Storytelling Techniques for Video
5. 8 Questions for Measuring Effectiveness of Video Campaign
6. Ten Questions to Ask When Looking for a Video Production Company

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What So Much “Persuasive” Communication Lacks…

…is a clear direction forward. We spend so much time and energy convincing people why they should do something, the how becomes almost peripheral. It’s attached at the end as a quick “call to action,” a single, generic line or paragraph, tacked on seemingly as an afterthought. The thinking seems to be: we’ve done such good job convincing people of the importance of this thing, we can leave it to them to figure out how to deal with it.

"Clear Directions" being, of course, a relative term.

Not so. Lacking clear directions for how to move forward, people can be 100% convinced that they need your product or service, and still do nothing about it.

Don’t believe us? Check this out: a group of scientists trying to persuade students to get a vaccine divided their audience into two groups, giving one a soft sell (“get vaccinated or you’ll get sick”) and the other a hard sell (“look at these awful pictures of what can happen if you don’t get vaccinated”).

The hard sell was certainly more effective on a emotional level — the students were terrified — but it made almost no difference behaviorally. Despite their terror, almost no one in either group went to get a vaccine.

But when scientists started including a map to the on-campus clinic, “compliance” numbers jumped significantly in both groups.

The lesson here is that while your video has to do a great job of answering “so what?” it should give equal weight to the “so what now?” Remember: human beings aren’t strictly rational creatures. Just because we’re convinced something may be in our best interests, doesn’t mean we’ll take the initiative to follow up or follow through. It’s usually easier to push aside the message of hope or fear and go on living our lives.

You’re competing with our natural laziness and attention deficiencies. Give us some simple and clear next steps, or the compelling message that came before goes to waste.

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No Such Thing as “Positioning”

This is something that business leaders (and even veteran marketers) so often get wrong. We speak of “positioning” ourselves in the market, as though a few hyperbolic ads can alter reality as customers understand it.

Consider the increasingly desperate feel of Microsoft ads over the past few years. Here’s one called “The Surface Movement” ( that tries really hard to be cool. (It actually is cool, if considered in isolation, but we scoff because it’s Microsoft. And because they’ve arrived late to the tablet / touchscreen party, and tried to make it seem like the hip new thing all the kids are doing.)

You look at an ad like the Microsoft one, and you know that somewhere behind it, someone is insisting that “this new campaign will position us as THE market leader in innovative tablet technologies.”

But you can’t position yourself as anything, at least not with a simple marketing campaign. Your position is predetermined by your customers. It’s what you are, not what you say you are, or pretend to be.

You can influence the results of your position through clever marketing, by re-framing what your position means (see our post on re-framing). But to change the position itself? Forget it. The “thought leader” we’ve never heard of, the “authority” without a single publication, the back-country diner with “World Famous Apple Pie,” they all look like what they are: little kids in grown up clothing, complete with shoe-polish mustache.

Better to be honest about where you stand. Do a video about why your most loyal customers keep coming back.

Picture Unrelated


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Finding a Video Production Company for Your Online Marketing: Ten Questions to Make the Process a Snap

web video production company San Francisco

By now, most businesses understand the strong marketing power of a professionally-created video for their online marketing campaigns. An engaging and relevant video is one of the best tools to attract website visitors, as well as to keep them coming back, and hopefully to encourage them to become both loyal customers and brand evangelists, too. However, this marketing insight has created a bigger issue: Fierce competition. Let’s face it, many companies are out there vying for the attention of online users, so your video has to stand out above the rest in order for people to notice it and want to view it. For this reason, hiring a professional video marketing company is the most effective way to create a video that will serve as your top marketing tool.

The most important factor to remember is to shop around for the right video production company, because there are so many that have recently cropped up to answer the demand for online video production. Taking the time to screen each one will help you find a company you will want to work with for years, creating a long-term business relationship that will benefit you both exceedingly well.

Here are ten questions that will help you choose the best video production company for your specific needs:

1. Do you offer scriptwriting services? A professional video production service will offer scriptwriting or editing services, using images and music to tell your story creatively. You can ask them for samples, so you can get an idea of how they write, such as tone and structure. An experienced company will also let you contribute during the scriptwriting process.

 2. Do you include marketing services? A reputable video production company understands their services don’t stop after they have completed your video. Choose a company that will not only help you produce your video, but will also help you market it effectively. They should have people on board who are knowledgeable in online marketing techniques, such as SEO, so that they can add the right keywords to make your marketing video easy for people to find.

 3. Do you offer many choices? When selecting your video production company, make sure to find out if they provide a variety of packages to fit your needs, both now and in the future. Ask them if what types of videos they offer, and if they are willing to create a custom concept, should you need it. You don’t want to have to do start shopping for a video company all over again, so make certain the company will focus on keeping your branding consistent with the rest of your marketing platforms. Look for a top-notch video production company that asks to review your current marketing materials, such as pamphlets and advertisements in order to gain more insight on your specific needs and goals.

 4. Are you truly professional? For best results, check to make sure your creative professional is really a professional. Find out what professional associations they belong to, such as the Chamber of Commerce. Find out if they have any complaints to the Better Business Bureau. Check to see if their clients come back for repeat business, and make sure that the equipment they use is professional and up-to-date.

 5. Do you have references or testimonials? Client references and testimonials will give you reliable information about a video production company. They should come from firsthand experience of past customers. Ask them to share references with you and make sure to follow up on them. With some video production companies, you can look for reviews and/or complaints online. However, do keep in mind that one negative complaint or review does not make a bad company. If you are uncertain about what you find online about them, ask for an explanation of how they handled this unhappy customer. This will give you some insight as to how they deal with their clients on a regular basis.

 6. Can I view your portfolio? Video production companies are creative professionals and artists, so you should be able to identify their style in their projects. If their past projects don’t meet with your vision and preferences, you are most likely not a match. Make sure your tastes and the voice of your company align with the artistic creativity of the video company. A professional video service enjoys showing off their creative work, so look at a few their past projects, so you can get an idea of their style. You should also look for the following:

  • Engaging and relevant storylines
  • Clear and appropriate audio
  • Well-presented interviews and cameos
  • Properly-balanced colors and lighting
  • Evenly and creatively-framed shots
  • Attractive captions and consistent fonts

 7. Can you meet my goals? Bear in mind, anyone can buy video equipment, learn some basic video editing skills, and then call themselves a video marketing professional. A professional video production company will know exactly how to convey your story through images and sound in an online video. Make sure that your online video production company can tell an engaging story that will captivate your audience, so be sure to browse their portfolio, and take time to view a few samples from beginning to end. Make sure that the professional video company you hire has the creative, technical and marketing expertise to align with the goals of your company.

 8. Can you meet my budget? Have a ballpark budget in mind when you talk to a professional video production company. True professionals will give you a realistic idea of what they can accomplish within your budget. Even if you are not sure what your project goals are, a good professional should still be able to offer you some viable choices, so talk to them about your budget, as well as your project goals. A professional video company will let you know whether they can work with you or not, and in the worst-case scenario, they can refer you to someone that can work within your financial means.

 9. Can you work with my schedule? Are you a start-up business with a big media campaign set to launch on a specific date, or can you take your time with the project before you have to launch it? Are you in the midst of a big branding update and need everything released on a certain time schedule? Whatever your situation may be, make certain your video production company knows your time constraints, and is sure they can help you work within them.

 10. What makes you different from other video production companies? There is an important reason to ask this question last. Give the video company time to learn what your goals and visions are for your brand and your marketing campaign. If they have listened to you carefully, they will be able to tell you why they feel they are a good fit for your company. And, if they answer this question with any negative talk of their competition, consider that a red flag. A professional video production company will be able to express their unique value to you with ease. They should never have to bash another company just to get your business.

Remember, the success of your online marketing video depends on clear communication between you and your video production company. Make sure you choose one that listens to your ideas and goals carefully, and then comes up with useful ideas and a solid plan for creating effective online content for you. They should also have a firm grasp on how to incorporate videos into your website, social media and other digital marketing platforms. So take the time and effort necessary to find the best video production company for you and your business, so you’ll have an invaluable ally in the war to win viewership, as well as to promote your brand.

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Speak Their Language

There’s an internet cartoon making the rounds right now that shows the kind of insane egocentrism we all exhibit from time to time. We can’t find it right now, so here’s an approximate recreation:




The point here is that, despite how focused we are on ourselves, other people just don’t care about us that much. Because our problems/concerns/hopes/insecurities are so big in our own minds, we assume they’re big to other people. Not so. Other people have themselves to worry about.

The implications for brand marketing are obvious. Other people do not care about your brand, your company, your story, or your offerings. They have a thousand other things on their mind. You can’t just wedge your way in there, or expect them to push those thousand other things aside and focus on you.

Here’s the trick: find a way to associate yourself with one of those other things. Find a way to speak the language of your prospect’s mind. Then talk about the things that come across the loudest.

Most people want to belong. Most people want to be liked. Most people want more money, more sex, better stuff, better sex. Most people care about the health and safety of their loved ones. They want a better version of the story of their life. They want to hear that everything’s okay.

They don’t want to hear about your taste test, your features, or your story. Not unless it relates to them. Focus on speaking their language.

P.S. Those of you who read our “Pick One Thing” post ( know you should pick one thing to focus your marketing efforts on. Getting inside the minds of your customers helps with that.

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