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Three Reasons Solopreneurs Are Beating Corporations with Online Video (And How You Can Too)

Corporations and advertising agencies have mastered the art of TV advertising for decades. But online video is a completely new game – a game where small businesses are winning the hearts and minds of consumers, and leaving big businesses in the dust.

how solopreneurs are beating corporations with online video and how you can too.

As a small business owner, online video provides you with an extraordinary and cost-effective way to connect with your customers and grow your business – in a way that big companies will never be able to compete.

Let’s start by looking at my favorite TV commercial personality – Flo from Progressive Insurance. Flo is a great brand spokesperson, but no one expects Flo to answer the phone when they call Progressive – she’s just a brand representative.

Small businesses owners are the spokesperson, the salesperson and the tech support person – and customers love that. In fact, that personal familiarity is one of the key reasons consumers love small businesses.

And a sure fire way to drive more customers to your small business is to introduce you, as the brand representative and spokesperson, to them in a cost-effective way.

Small businesses also have the advantage of not needing to appeal to everyone.

You have an ideal customer that you know well – and your video can target and appeal to that specific audience, or strategically widen your audience. Dozens of small businesses providing the same services can co-exist – because each one appeals to a different ideal customer.

Compare that to Lowe’s and Home Depot – these corporations need to dominate the market and attract a very broad customer base – thus the need to hire expensive advertising firms to create the “perfect generic commercial” and pay top dollar for actors, production and air time on TV. Small businesses can move quickly, make decisions fast and produce video content efficiently. And if your quirky personality doesn’t work for one potential customer – it’s OK – you will draw in the right type of customer that will stick around for years.

Large corporations and advertising firms have not been able to successfully transition to online video – probably because of their long-term experience with TV media and their need to create broadly accepted advertising. But big companies, slow to adapt their tried and true methods, are using the same formulas on YouTube that they have used on TV – and that same formula provides very different results. They’ve had more success with platforms like Facebook and Twitter because this is a completely new technology, and they needed to learn how to use these tools just like the rest of us.

Small businesses have less experience with TV advertising, and now that video is accessible to everyone, solopreneurs are well positioned to enter the video marketplace and dominate it. And you can learn the YouTube formula without having to un-learn the TV formula.

One major strength of the solopreneur or small business is the public face of the business is the business – not a proxy for the business. Back to Flo. Flo earns $800,000 per year representing Progressive. But if the audience loves Flo, that doesn’t easily translate into loving Progressive the company. If Progressive was a one-person company and Flo was the owner, sales person, customer support staff and spokesperson – the audience wouldn’t need to transfer their love of Flo to a different person each time they call and get a call-center operator. They would be speaking directly to the person they already know, like and trust.

As a small business owner – you just need to learn the right way to create online videos. You need to ignore the commercials you see on TV, and also the advice you may get from well-intentioned, but more traditional videographers. Online video is a new ballgame – and you can win!

1. Your customers want to know, like and trust the people they do business with.

As I already mentioned, there’s a lot of room for different people to provide the same service in the small business world. But you need to stand out and attract “your people.” Are you energetic and committed to customer service? A twenty-something with a vision? A comedian who likes to wear wigs? Each of these personalities is attractive to someone – with video, you can be yourself and attract “your people.”

People like people – we even have a special part of our brain called the fusiform facial area that activates when we see another face. Although you can make online videos without ever being on camera – you should be in front of the camera at least once or twice in each video. Video will help people connect with you – while benefiting from the information you are providing. I like to read blog posts – because I can skim them quickly – but I make zero connection with the author of that post. Podcasts are better because I can at least identify the person’s voice. But video combines aural and visual communication – and you can embed the video into a blog post for people that only want to skim the content.

Most small businesses rely on referrals to grow their customer base – online video can help you make those personal connections with potential customers without needing a current customer to make that connection. Especially if you are starting your business, and you don’t have significant potential for a lot of referrals, video will provide that shortcut. Video allows potential customers to know, like and trust you before they come through your front door (or virtual front door.)

2. Your customers have problems that you can solve. Solve them on camera.

YouTube is the second most popular search engine (behind Google.) It’s the #1 search engine for people asking a question that starts with the phrase “how to…”

Your potential customers are looking for answers online, and you can answer those questions with video…with the plan that a percentage will convert into customers who purchase your product or service. Of course, you can also answer those questions on your blog or podcast, but not only are you missing out on the personal connection, you’re missing out big time on the search engine (YouTube) where your customers are looking for answers.

Trust is a funny thing on the Internet – it’s easy to gain and easy to lose. Big brands are being outcompeted every day when it comes to answering their potential customers questions.

For example, when I needed to hang a mirror last week, I searched YouTube for “How to find a stud?” MrDIYdork was the top result with over 130,000 views. Lowe’s was result number 42 with 15,000 views. The take-away is that 41 small businesses or individuals outperformed Lowe’s video. Although Lowe’s has name recognition and demonstrated expertise, people are going to MrDIYdork (or 41 others) to learn about finding studs.

Comparing big and small business on YouTube

What about “less visual” problems – where you don’t need to see MrDYIdork tapping on a wall? Talking head videos (where you just talk to the camera) are great even if the problem doesn’t “require” a video demonstration of your product. You can also use a PowerPoint type presentation or whiteboard on video, or share your computer monitor with your audience. I looked through the most recent Freelance to Freedom blog posts and found that each of these blog topics could be covered with video – and the author would have a much stronger connection with the reader.

3. You are the expert

You are the expert on your service or product – and the rest of the world needs your expertise. You can share your expertise via a blog post, or you can let people know who you are.

I want to come back to Flo. She’s not an expert at car insurance. The audience has no expectation that she’s an expert. And they have no expectation of ever interacting with Flo so there is a disconnect between the brand and the product.

But that’s different for the small business owner. If you make a video for YouTube, and your personality and expertise clicks with someone, when they reach out, they are motivated to hear the same person they met on video. If they see you around town, they feel like they already know you and they remember that you can solve their problems. And when they comment on your video and you reply, they feel special and develop loyalty when they know they are interacting with you.

What are you waiting for?

Online video is the most cost-effective small business tool for attracting loyal customers. Online video is the place where small business are out-competing big business. Create your brand, show off your strengths and connect with your audience. Creating great online videos isn’t difficult, but having a guide to help you will save you time and money. Lucky for you, there are dozens of us who specialize in online video (including Holly Gillen, Amy Schmittauer, Tim Schmoyer, Caleb Wojcik and me, Brighton West.) Look around and see who you connect with and start to learn from them.

Brighton West Brighton West helps professional coaches attract clients using online video. He’s been creating online video since 2005 (before YouTube.) He loves a great documentary – or a great parody – and even better – a parody documentary! Brighton has a passion for marketing and persuasion, and loves that his business allows him to bring his skills and passions together. Brighton produces weekly videos on his blog teaching people how to create better online videos – you can find those lessons at Find him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Oh my goodness, Brighton! This is so good! I love the comparison of Flo to a small business owner – it’s brilliant! I would have never thought about that! Thank you so much for reminding me to do more video 😉 Loved your post and can’t wait to see more from you!

    • Thanks Vicky – you are like a real live authentic Flo! Memorable, lovable – but you are also the person answering customer support calls! And you need to get back on video!

  • Hi Brighton,

    Great post ! Video is my weakest link so that was helpful.
    I wanted to ask you about softwares. Which is the best software which would allow me to film myself (fullscreen) and switch easily to my screen. Since I make tutorials, I would love to be able to make a little intro in person then switch to the screen then back to me..
    I’m using screenflow but apart from having a small video of me in the right corner of the screen while filming it, I think I cannot do what I want with screenflow..
    Any recommandation?


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