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Four brilliant uses of video by start-ups

Friday, 10 August 2012 | By Oliver Milman

feature-crazy-videos-thumbTrying to sell a new product or service isn’t easy.


Not only do you have to take the time to educate the market about who you are and why your offering is needed, you have to battle hordes of other businesses looking to grab the attention of the same eyeballs.


So, what’s the best way for you to cut through to potential customers or investors? Increasingly, start-ups are embracing video as a winning marketing tool.


You no longer need expensive production facilities and a hefty media budget to advertise your business – just the right idea and an online sharing platform, such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.


Video can be used to lure customers or it can be used to impress investors that are looking to back start-ups.


The latter option has become popular enough to spawn businesses to cater for video pitches, such as Sydney venture HeyStartup, which features 60-second presentations to the money men and women.


“It’s a really great way to find out about start-ups. In 60 seconds, you really connect with the person… If you’ve got an investor looking for their next start-up, they can come to the site,” says founder Minbo Wang


“If they don’t like one pitch, they can move on to the next one… In a video that’s unedited, in 60 seconds you can see what kind of person you’re dealing with.”


But how can you stand out from the crowd? Here are five businesses that have achieved cut through in very different ways.



1. Use humour


DollarShaveClub.com doesn’t have a particularly earth-shattering business model. It sells razors online. For a monthly fee, you can get them sent regularly to your home.


The real magic is in its 94-second promotional video, which has been viewed more than 5.6 million times on YouTube.


The imaginative and fun video features company CEO Mike Dublin, who explains why you don’t need an electric shaver, all while standing on fork-lift trucks, throwing packages to someone in a bear costume and dancing with a leaf blower in front of the Stars and Stripes.


All this cost Dublin a mere $4,500, attracting countless new customers. Humour – when used properly – clearly works.



2. Demonstrate the potential


So, you’re going on national TV to pitch your idea to a tortuously hard-to-please group of investors.


To make matters worse, your idea isn’t one that exactly strikes people as exciting, desirable or even necessary. One of the investors even calls the concept “nonsense.”


How can you rescue the situation? The founders of Magic Whiteboard – placed in exactly this scenario on BBC show Dragon’s Den – let the numbers do the talking.


They explained that their invention – a portable, lightweight whiteboard on a roll – not only had huge international potential, specifically in Japan, but also had a Europe-wide patent.


The result? The duo left with a £100,000 ($148,000) investment from dragons Deborah Meaden and Theo Paphitis, in return for 40% of the business.



3. Buck against your industry


Good ideas are often stymied by a problem in the supply chain. For small US game development studio Double Fine, efforts to create an innovative point and click adventure game were halted by what they call “sceptical publishers that wouldn't touch the genre with a ten-foot pole.”


The business responded by sidestepping the normal production process and appealing for funding via crowdsourcing site Kickstarter.


By explaining the faults in the gaming industry, presenting itself as a creative yet struggling outsider and using a dash of humour, Double Fine was able to raise more than $2 million from more than 57,000 fans.



4. Use the feel-good factor


A key advantage that small businesses have over their larger rivals is their ability to appear more approachable and authentic.


Car sharing start-up RelayRides taps into the feel-good factor by using lovingly handcrafted scenes to describe its business model.


The idea of car sharing is one that’s been picked up by many different entrepreneurs in Australia and overseas, but the approach of RelayRides is likely to engender a warm feeling, as well as knowledge of key benefits, among customers.