Video is Simply not Easy

How a Home Builder Designs the Best Website

I ended the previous chapter in this series with some thoughts about the difficulties builders experience when it comes to video.

Builders experience progress paralysis with video, not due to a lack of tools and know-how, but because they lack a clarity of purpose.

The purpose of your quest for video is what drives every other related decision. When your purpose is clear, the other pieces neatly fall into place. Let’s review a simple list of considerations for video.

What is the purpose of this video?

There’s that word again — purpose. And notice I said “this video.” All video is not the same, and all your videos do not have to have the same purpose. If you’re investing in video, it should be addressing a specific need for consumers, communicating a specific message from the company, or solving a specific problem.

Q. What do you want this video to accomplish?
A. Consumers love video and I heard it gives me all the SEO’s so I want lots of them.

***LOUD BUZZER NOISE***

There’s no purpose in that statement. There’s also no way to measure if the video accomplished its goals.

Below are some better alternative answers, but the possibilities are unlimited.

  1. Our Green Acres community has amazing amenities and a beautiful streetscape, but it’s far from the center of town. We want to use video to show off the community and encourage shoppers to make the trip out to visit us in-person.
  2. We have unfurnished inventory homes that appear small in photos. We think a video tour may help better communicate the space and scale to a consumer on our website.
  3. Our new community Grand Opening is coming up and we want to run an online video ad to promote RSVP’s and attendance that weekend.
  4. I want shoppers to get to know our OSC so they feel more comfortable starting a conversation when the time comes.

You can see how each of these scenarios would involve different planning and preparation. You can also tell there’s purpose in each because there is a discernible standard for success. Did the Green Acres video increase onsite visits? Did leads and appointments for unfurnished specs increase?

This is purpose.

In what mediums will this video be viewed by the target audience?

The purpose ( 😉 see what I did there) of this blog series is to help all builders design their best website. Your website is a critical place for consumers to experience your video content, but it would be a disservice not to encourage you to think of other channels you can and should be leveraging your video investment.

A non-exhaustive list of mediums:

  • Your website
  • In ILS syndication like Zillow, BDX, etc.
  • YouTube.com
  • As video advertising on Facebook, YouTube, or another network.
  • As a Facebook cover video
  • Instagram Live, Stories, or IGTV
  • On a sales center flat screen

The answer to the first part of this question may also lead you to consider the device(s) your audience will be using to consume the video. Could they be watching on a mobile device, a PC, a TV screen, or only in some other controlled environment? Not every situation requires special attention, but there are some.

Example Medium Considerations

Facebook Video Ad
If your video requires audio to achieve its purpose, it will fail as a Facebook ad. You can expect a significant percentage of users to have audio disabled by default. Facebook can and will add captions to your video, but if that’s not enough for the video to be a success, rethink the video.

If captions on the video meet your needs, be sure to the placement of other important content required for your purpose is not obscured by the overlay of the captions.

Call to Action
Videos with a direct response purpose often end with a call to action – Call Us, Visit our Website, etc. This is a good thing when the video runs on an ad network.

When these same videos are overzealously added to your website, no one takes into account the disconnect of telling the viewer to visit your website when they are already on your website. If the video has purpose on your website, spend a little more to produce a second version without the CTA, or change the CTA to one that’s more appropriate for someone on your website.

There really are limitless considerations. You’re not going to make the viewing experience perfect for 100% of people, and resist the urge to pivot based on anecdotal feedback. You may “never watch videos that way” and your salespeople may say “no one mentions those videos,” but let data be your sherpa. Monitor, measure, and adjust.

What is the budget?

Saying “How much does video cost?” is the equivalent to saying “How much does a new home cost?”

Whether you’re personally going to be the A-to-Z of this video, you’re outsourcing all the work, or it’s somewhere in the middle, a budget of time and money should be planned. Your time isn’t free. And even if your phone is your camera, hard expenses might still include software, microphone, lenses, props, etc.

  • Low-end: A number of local drone videographers and virtual tour contractors will produce something passable for $500-1,000. It is video, but don’t expect too much more.
  • High-end: Stopping short of a Superbowl commercial investment, a high-end professional video shoot can be expected to start at approximately $1,500-2,500 per finished minute of video. This means a two minute long video will cost $3-5,000, plus any additional talent and special production costs.

What will the content of the video be when considering all of the above?

Naturally, budget often determines the scope of the video content. The complex or complicated the content, the more expensive the video is to produce.

Here are some common video content considerations. As the number of these items are “checked”, production costs will also rise.

  • Motion camera work moving through a home
  • Drone footage of a home, community, or amenity
  • Drone footage of nearby area highlights
  • A copywritten voiceover narrating the video.
  • An on-camera tour guide
  • An on-camera host and interviewee discussing the home
  • Background music
  • Motion graphics
  • Stock video footage (People boating, children playing, etc)
  • On-property activity footage (Professional actors portraying lifestyle)

Are Matterport tours really video?! Stay tuned for the details…

How could this video benefit from professional involvement?

Naturally, budget often determines the scope of the professional involvement, too. And just as often, I find builders are not especially familiar with what spending more would get them in return. Ask these questions of video teams you’re interviewing. If they’re going to deliver a better video, their portfolio will prove it, but the details of their process is what will confirm it.

With this in mind, let’s consider the possibilities.

The low-end scenario is simple. Acme Drone Videos LLC bills you $799 per video. You give them an address and tell them “show the lot size” because that’s important to your buyer profile. A week later they send you a Dropbox link to a ninety second long video with forgettable background video. They added some text in the beginning of the video. The street name is spelled wrong, but at least they got the phone number correct. I kid, but just a little.

Home Builder Drone Video

The high-end scenario has the option to be significantly more sophisticated, but the budget only has to increase as far as you’d like it to increase. The professional attention to your video’s purpose, and the expertise to realize that purpose, is what your investment is buying.

Here are just some of the things a professional can do for your video. And, yes, it’s true that many of these skills can be learned. An eager marketing professional is a great candidate for your in-house “director.”

  • Storyboarding. Storyboarding isn’t just for movies. Stories stick to the memory, and even if the video includes no spoken words, a professional will consider all of the necessary aspects of your video. They’ll be ordered so your viewer feels like they’re being guided to what’s important, not left wondering why the drone is showing the backyard again.
  • Shot List. What shots do you want in the video? You told the professional you want to show the community clubhouse and tennis courts, but how are they best presented. Should the clubhouse be filmed from a drone? Is everyone aware that the family room needs to be filmed in the morning or else the sun will be shining directly in and destroy the shot? Should the fitness center be filmed from high in the corner, or does the camera need to point only in one direction to avoid the mirrors? Video crews often charge a minimum trip fee, so if the filming is complete and you realized you forgot to ask for footage of the walking trail, it’s going to cost money to send them back out. A shot list makes sure they get everything filmed, the right way, the first time.
  • Copywriting. If your video will feature voices on or off camera, this is a must. It’s a little easier if your only copy will be on-screen text, but important nonetheless. A video copywriter is a wordsmith whose appreciation of “words that sell” includes not just how the meaning of words makes people feel, but how those words sound when they’re read aloud in your video. A video copywriter works alongside your storyboard to plan the right words to synchronize with the right on-screen content.
  • Talent. Videos are better with people. Video featuring people on camera is ideal, but a good voice is a solid backup. Here are a few of the most common formats where professional talent makes an impact.
    • Solo Guide – A single person speaking to the camera appears on or off the camera, guiding the viewer through a home, a feature, a community, etc.
    • Host & Guest – A great approach to making novices feel comfortable in front of the camera, this format involves a more experienced host who asks questions of the novice. The host is responsible for making sure the conversation flows and prompting the novice with queues along the way. In most cases, the novice doesn’t look at the camera, which makes them more comfortable.
    • Voice-over – Here, voice talent reads your copywriting while the video plays. A professional voice artist takes emotional direction and hits their marks.
  • Project Management. Who schedules the video crew? Who makes sure the model is unlocked for them? Who makes sure the copywriters work is approved and delivered to the voice artist? The more complex your project, the more you’ll appreciate a project manager. You have homes to sell.
  • Music. I detest bad stock music even more than stock photos. Bad music can make a decent video unwatchable. Low-end videos use free video tracks from YouTube or one of a handful of songs they bought that gets recycled for dozens of clients; including your competitors. A professional will ensure your music is unique and well-suited to your message.
  • Lighting. Digital video correction is incredibly powerful, but it doesn’t yet fix everything. A professional camera crew will have lighting equipment that makes everyone and everything about your homes look their best. They can make that dark corner look bright, and ensure everyone notices the shine on the granite countertop.
  • Audio Quality. Heads up, your iPhone microphone sucks. You might look great, but the house you’re standing in sounds like is has the acoustics of a tin can — and no one wants to live in a tin can. For all the improvements made to phone cameras every year, the microphones seem to be ignored. Professionals will have microphones that clip on a collar or will isolate a voice from a distance. Ironically, I think high-quality audio is one of the easiest ways to improve your video quality.
  • Camera Quality/Stability. An iPhone on a gimbal can capture smooth motion shots that used to be nausea-inducing in the hands of an amateur videographer. A professional makes the same thing happen just a little better, and some key things are done way better. Professionals really show their value by “framing the shots” well. This means getting the people in the right spot, not cutting off people’s heads, balancing the colors so Mr. Blue Shirt is not standing in front of a matching blue wall. These details collectively elevate the video quality. The professional will make sure this translates into a more perfect version of your video’s purpose.
  • Editing. You may have heard a film crew say “we’ll fix it in post.” Post (post-production) can be thought of like fixing drywall damage during punch out. The process of finding the best pieces of video, removing the sounds of the concrete truck backup beeping, and seamlessly reassembling it is an art. By my own personal estimate, editing video requires “4x time.” If you have thirty minutes of unedited video footage, it will take approximately two hours to edit and create the best video it can be.
  • Accessibility. We’ve written a lot about the importance of home builder website accessibility. Video can create some unexpected tasks to help all visitors benefit from the content.
    • Captions. Even those without impaired hearing benefit from video captions.
    • Audio Descriptions. Visually impaired consumers rely on audio descriptions. Audio descriptions play alongside a video and describe the activity occurring on the screen. When a video camera shows kitchen with an island and a double sink, the visually impaired rely on the audio description — where a voice will speak “A kitchen island with 4 stools and a double sink.”
    • Transcripts. Having the video transcripts and audio description transcripts available for download also help those who use screen reading software.

Making it Happen

Video is not rocket science, and it is attainable for every home builder. I’ve gone into a fair amount of detail in hopes of getting you to think bigger, but don’t let that scare you away. We have more help coming on the topic of video.

In upcoming chapters of How a Builder Designs the Best Website, I’ll be sharing some samples of popular video formats, their levels of difficulties, costs, unique opportunities, and of course, purpose. For those of you in front of the camera or those that want to be, you’ll be getting insights and best practices from our Social Media & Content Manager, Julie Rogers.

In the meantime, get started!

  1. Define your video’s purpose.
  2. Determine the medium.
  3. Set a budget.
  4. Determine the content.
  5. Proceed with the most professional output possible.

Read the Full Series
How a Home Builder Designs the Best Website

  1. Introduction
  2. When is it Time for a new Website?
  3. Your Design. Your Values.
  4. Content. Great Content. Lots of Content.
  5. Video is Simply not Easy.
  6. A Guide to Not Being Awkward on Camera.
  7. Upcoming Chapters
    • Home Builder Video Examples and Inspiration
    • Mobile - First & Friendly is Not Enough.
    • Fast, High-Performance Search.
    • Lead Generating.
    • Search Engine Optimization.
    • Experience Beyond the Homepage.
    • It Makes You Money.
    • It Supports Your Business Operations.

Dennis O'Neil

Dennis O'Neil

President

Dennis has spent over 19 years using the internet to sell and market new homes. He blogs about internet marketing for home builders here, wrote a book about technology's impact on the sales process, and is a respected speaker on advanced internet marketing and the online sales process.