Create HD Screencasts for Sales Tools

create HD screencastsTechnology moves quickly. It’s time-consuming to stay on the front edge of the wave, and tricky to figure out creative ways to use it to improve corporate marketing results. I Tweet, but do I generate leads? How come the fans on my Facebook page never buy?

It can be frustrating, and it can feel like a time sink.

But sometimes an A-HA! moment can reap rewards. My moment came in May, when I finally figured out how to use YouTube to be productive (instead of wasting time watching guys drop Mentos into 2-liter bottles of Coke – laughs, yes … work, no).

We sell subscriptions to software-as-a-service that mixes a lot of marketing content (both downloadable and served up in our app) with online marketing project management and document management. (You can check out both Marketing MO and Growth Panel if you wish.) Consultants and marketing teams use them for heavy-duty marketing planning and for executing marketing tasks.

But we’ve struggled to find a good way to allow prospects to view the marketing exercises in our Library before making a purchase. We have free trials, but we don’t allow users to download content – that’s reserved for paying customers.

Online demos have always been effective, but they’re time consuming and tricky to schedule with overseas prospects. We can give away a single exercise here or there, but it’s just a single piece of the puzzle and lacks context. Flashpaper worked for awhile but it’s becoming obsolete.

How about a screencast? Not bad, but the files are huge; they eat up bandwidth, slow down our site and require web redesign in order to add new ones. 

YouTube to the Rescue

Enter YouTube with their recent change to allow high definition video, 10 minute videos and up to 2 GB files. In their HD view, clarity and sound are substantially improved, and videos can be presented full-screen without looking like a fuzzy mess.

YouTube is great because it’s hosted on their servers (saving bandwidth); it’s in Flash format so it’s easy to embed and anyone can grab it; and people can find it via search.

If you have the type of offering you need viewers to see before purchasing–but not download or access directly (a special database, video training, or anything behind a password)–try an HD screencast. You could even try it with a presentation.

I’m no video production expert (or studio voice talent), but here’s what a solid afternoon of work produced. We’ll use this in our sales process for our free Preview account users who, when visiting our marketing library, want to see how the exercises in a complete subject work before purchasing a paid subscription.

Click the full-screen icon on the right to see YouTube’s HD quality.

I was pretty happy with the full-screen view on my 24″ HP monitor. Ok, I’m a realist – this could be improved with a tighter script, a professional voice talent, a recording-quality microphone, voice-sound editing (like snipping breaths and mouse-clicks), but for what we needed to accomplish (creating an informative sales tool)  – it’s great! Most of our viewers will already be interested in our offering but just need a little more information.

How to Create HD Screencasts

Here’s what I used:

  • Camtasia – screencast recording and editing software
  • A USB microphone plugged into a Windows Vista desktop
  • Some music to fill the dead zones and give it a little life
  • Some editing tricks in Camtasia

Upload to YouTube and viola!

I created both screencasts in a single afternoon – script writing, takes, editing, production and YouTube upload. And I probably wasted about 45 minutes producing at varying levels since I lack the expertise to get it right on the first try.

YouTube’s HD offering is still unpredictable and you have to wait until they review your video and decide whether it’s acceptable. For best results, produce in 1280 pixel-width with high quality settings. I used the following Camtasia production settings:

  • .AVI
  • 44.1 16-bit mono
  • 30 frames per second
  • 1280 pixels wide by 898 high

There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s pretty powerful once you get it. A few years ago it would’ve cost $5,000 to $15,000 to produce a basic 10 minute business A/V demo.

Come to think of it, while I’m pretty happy about our DIY results, some creative firm out there specializing in product demos is probably nervous. But the good ones will surely survive.

When we’re ready for some killer cool viral marketing videos I’m going to contact Common Craft!

 

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