Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

The Smarter Team is made up of business and technology journalists who write to offer insights to small and medium businesses about technology, business know-how and emerging trends.

Video technology has helped a lot of businesses deliver their services – and remain operational – throughout COVID-19. And for many, adopting this technology is not a Band-Aid solution: it’s becoming a permanent part of their business.

Here, we speak with businesses from three different industries about how they have been using video to deliver a service.

Zoe Klein teaching a yoga class

Zoe Klein, founder of Zoga

Zoe Klein has been teaching yoga since 2015 in various studios throughout Melbourne – all of which were forced to close due to COVID-19. Zoe was quick to act and started producing online classes and workshops for her solo venture, Zoga.

First steps: Zoe had an established social media presence, including Facebook and Instagram, and initially offered classes to her followers via Zoom to stay on par with others in the industry. “I noticed straight away that that’s what everyone started doing. I just realised that if I wanted to keep up, I was going to have to start getting myself out there,” she says.

Investment: Zoe researched what other teachers and instructors were using to create content and invested in a new smartphone, a microphone and lighting. “It was all relatively inexpensive, and it ensured that the quality [of the videos] would be sufficient.”

Challenges: Initially Zoe offered her online classes for free, but as social distancing restrictions stuck around, she realised this wouldn’t be financially feasible long-term. So she decided to put a price on most of her content. “I trusted that there’d be enough interest in what I had to offer, but I had to be sensitive to the current economic situation.” Her tiered pricing offered her students viable options. “Some people couldn’t afford to pay, so I gave content to them for free. People who wanted to support me, and were in a position to do so, were happy to pay more. I found it to be an effective strategy,” she adds.

Benefits: Delivering video classes has given Zoe the opportunity to progress – both professionally and personally. “It’s been a really beautiful growth opportunity for me. I was kind of sheltered by the studios I taught at, but now I’m really having to step into my own brand. It’s opened up new doors and opportunities. It gives me a platform to teach without the investment of owning a yoga studio or creating something in brick and mortar,” she says.

Tips: Seek help where you need it. “No one teaches you how to manage video file sizes and how to get an hour-long video from your phone onto a computer. I was trying to do it all by myself and figure it all out. Ask for help with the tech stuff – no one expects you to know it all.”

Matthew Pillios filming a video

Matthew Pillios, director and auctioneer at Marshall White

Matthew Pillios is a real estate agent in Melbourne’s bayside suburbs who has been successfully using pre-recorded video in his business for years. But because of social distancing restrictions and lockdowns in Melbourne, he has adopted live video to auction properties and to communicate on a more personal level with his clients.

First steps: With a background in TV and live sports commentary, Matthew is comfortable in front of the camera. He uses video walk-throughs to promote properties as part of his digital marketing strategy, but the volume has recently increased – largely due to client demand during COVID-19. “I’ve been conducting more property videos than ever. We share these on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and the website. It’s become an imperative way to communicate the product,” he says.

Investment: Matthew hires a professional videographer to capture his property marketing videos, because in his experience, potential buyers expect high quality when they’re considering a significant purchase. “We spend close to $1,000 to get a video filmed and then edited,” he says. An equally important investment is time: “We plan the walk-throughs in advance. We record about three or four pieces to camera in different rooms, then the videographer will spend 30–40 minutes filming the rest of the home. Then there’s editing time. So it’s a fair bit of work for the company to come out with a good-quality two-and-a-half-minute video.” On his social media, Matthew complements the polished marketing videos with on-the-fly Instagram stories. He believes it’s important to have this contrast – and doesn’t rely solely on big-budget content to engage his audience.

Challenges: A new element to Matthew’s business is auctions via live video. “It’s helped the momentum of our business,” he says. However, it’s been difficult to match the excitement of a crowd at a street auction. “The reason you have an auction is to motivate people to bid, with competition and emotion. Video auctions, as successful as they are, haven’t had the clearance rate of street auctions. But that’s also a reflection of the market due to COVID-19,” he adds. He’s not sure how video auctions will continue after COVID-19, but he’s open to the challenge and keen to see the process evolve.

Benefits: Matthew believes that video is necessary to meet his clients’ expectations. “I see video as a must. It’s the way of the present. I think anyone that’s not producing video is going to be behind the play, and below par.” Video has helped him remain at the forefront of his industry, maintain an engaged social media following and nurture client relationships.

Tips: Authenticity is key. “Try to be as authentic as possible, because if you’re likeable, then that’s half the challenge.” Matthew adds his personality to every video – watch one of his property walk-throughs to spot his signature strut.

Cork and Canvas online art class

Melinda Janiszewski, director at Cork and Canvas

Cork and Canvas is an art studio with 30 employees across several New South Wales and Victoria locations. They also regularly host events all over Australia. When COVID-19 affected their business, they saw an opportunity to offer classes via video – where customers could order art supplies to accompany a session.

First steps: Melinda and the team have tailored two online options: on-demand and live-stream sessions. Both options let customers buy a ‘creativity kit’ to enhance the experience, and these are generally delivered within 1–3 working days. “Our on-demand sessions are not date-specific, so they can be watched at any time. Our live-stream sessions work off a calendar,” Melinda explains. The live-stream sessions can be booked as little as one hour before they start, “so if you need a last-minute creative idea, we’ve got you covered”, she adds.

Investment: Offering both on-demand and live-stream sessions required a significant investment of time and effort to make sure all videos met a consistent high standard. The team had a lot to think about – from lighting to sound and editing. “We invested time to research and learn new skills to produce quality videos for our customers,” says Melinda.

Challenges: Adopting video was a big learning curve – especially because the team were located across various studios. “It did require us to learn new skills, to operate new platforms and to use equipment we hadn’t used before,” Melinda says, “but it was a fantastic opportunity to upskill ourselves.”

Benefits: “Our virtual offering has kept our business operating throughout the whole pandemic. Without switching what we do, we wouldn’t have been able to keep some of our artists working and our customers creative,” says Melinda. Video has also allowed the business to expand. “Our online sessions have been so successful with people overseas and in regional areas. We’re reaching people who we wouldn’t usually be able to. Our Cork and Canvas family is growing,” she says. “The feedback we’ve received has been fantastic. We’ve had customers who’ve booked every single live session we’ve hosted, and that’s been quite a few since March.”

Tips: It’s worth investing time and effort. “Fine-tune what you want to offer, do your research and don’t compromise on quality.”

 

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