4 Useful (Overlooked) Tactics Before Shooting Your “How to” Videos

by Sean Fay on Apr 13, 2016 12:00:00 AM Digital Marketing

4_Useful_Overlooked_Tactics_Before_Shooting_Your_How_to_Videos-089373-edited.jpgYou might be thinking, how hard could it be to shoot a “how to” video for your product?

No one knows it better than you, and with a half-decent camera and audio, making a helpful video isn’t rocket science, right?

Well hold on just a moment…

A Think With Google blog post revealed the importance of “how to” videos— and how they’re the first stop for searchers who have just demonstrated clear interest in your product’s solution.

Among Google’s findings in the post was the fact that “how to” searches have grown 70% year over year.

Whether it’s our natural DIY instincts or just looking for others to help out, people want to see answers to their queries.

In fact, they expect it. The same post showed that 67% of millennials are certain they can find anything they want to learn by hitting up YouTube.

Meanwhile, 91% of smartphone users who are trying to perform a task will look to that device to find help completing it.

If you take your “how to” videos lightly, your ideal prospects will likely do the same with your brand.

Knowing there’s a serious chance of a qualified lead- or even a buyer- on the other end of that online search, means you should put your best video marketing foot forward.

So here are some helpful hints to produce an engaging “how to” video that will improve your chances of moving that interested searcher onto the next step of your sales funnel:

1. Know What Your Prospects Really Want

You might think you know what your audience is interested in seeing… but do you know for sure?

That’s where a little keyword research helps. If you aren’t using keyword intelligence in paid search advertising platforms (like Google Adwords or Bing Ads), you can use free tools like Google Trends—or even a helpful paid service like Google Consumer Surveys—to zero-in on what people want.

(Of course, you can get the low-down from your existing customers and leads- who better to ask?- if you email them a quick survey or just ask for feedback to a specific question.)

Find out what’s bugging them. What do they want to learn how to do? What do they need to know about using your product?

You never know until you ask. For a more advanced, scientific way of doing this- and doing it well- you can’t go wrong with the advice in Ryan Levesque’s book “Ask.”

As an example, you may think customers want to know, generally, how your [XYZ blender] works. A reasonable assumption.

But all along you may have been missing out on helping your prospects answer more prevalent questions that could have led to more sales, like: “how to blend nuts in [XYZ blender].”

In fact, typing that last search into Google resulted in the following organic result, first on the page:


This begs the question: have you made the right video content to dissuade searchers from choosing a food processor over your blender?

This is a simple example, but it’s all too telling. Here’s a search that could have easily resulted in your blender’s “nut video” showing up for the given query, but instead, there’s a less relevant result that could very well steal a sale from you.

(Keyword targeting is a factor here too of course, but that’s a story for another time. For now, look at how to optimize keywords in your YouTube account to combat the above problem.)

This isn’t a conundrum to take lightly. Be sure you’re on top of what your prospects and customers want to know and make “how to” video answers involving your product to satisfy those questions.

(Not having enough—or having the right—“how to” videos can mean a much lighter bottom line—and an emptier sales funnel.) 

2. Map Out The Directions In A Script


So you’ve figured out what your prospects and customers want to know how to do.
Before rushing off to shoot a video around one of the queries, stop and expand on the question.

Don’t just “wing it.” Sure, you hopefully know more about the product than anyone else, but that very fact means you might take some aspects of it for granted.

Put yourself in your viewer’s shoes. Pretend it’s you asking how to do something, and you’d like the answers. The easiest way to do this is to think of an actual “how to” question you’ve asked Google, and your expectations for the quality of answer.

From there, write out a script. This is a draft which you can always go back and edit, but the point is to capture in detail a step-by-step demonstration or answer that clearly addresses the question.

Think of what you’d naturally say if you were talking to the viewer in person, but take more care to talk clearly.

If you have the know-how, are willing to pay someone for it, or just use annotations yourself, it’s also helpful to recap each of your steps or instructive sections by showing those directions on screen as you physically demonstrate them!

Of course, you can also add subtitles or closed captions throughout your YouTube video.

Bonus: once you’re satisfied with your script, finalize and edit it for public consumption. Then you can copy paste that script into the Description area below your YouTube video. This is helpful for people that might not be able to hear everything you say in the video, plus it gives more value to the viewer (and helps you optimize the page)! 

3. Be Detailed, But Focused

Generally, longer videos have lower engagement rates than their shorter counterparts (they keep a smaller percentage of their viewing audience watching to the end).

This isn’t a surprise, but that doesn’t mean you purposely create a shorter video. Make it as long as it needs to be to give clear, detailed instructions that answer the initial search query that brought up your website or video in search results.

Practically, this means get in and get out, but do a great job while you’re in.

If your video’s titled “How to make sushi”, you start with listing the ingredients needed, and then methodically walk through each step in the proper preparation of the meal.


Don’t follow it- or interrupt your flow- with instructions on making the soy sauce, how to present the meal, or where you got your ingredients and your experience doing so.

These things are great content for other videos, so leaving them out helps the natural flow of the current video. You’ll maintain engagement at a greater rate while being helpful. After all, it follows what your video’s title says it will show! 

4. Get Them Talking

Now, this one seems a little counterintuitive, doesn’t it? What kind of a tip is this?

Usually we think of the “how to” video as a one-way conversation informing the viewer on (naturally) how to do something.

But asking the viewer to get involved can actually get you better results from your efforts.

Here’s what I mean:
  • Ask for feedback. At the end of your “how to” demonstration, ask viewers for feedback or if they have any questions about what they just saw. Not only is it just good business, it creates the opportunity for you to glean more information about your prospects and what they really want to know (see tip #1 above). That means more video opportunities for your brand, and a greater number of engagements, which YouTube smiles on.
  • Place a call to action. This doesn’t mean you ask the viewer to buy every time (many might already own your product and just want further instruction), but you can use the end of your video to ask viewers to subscribe to your channel, share the video on their favorite social network, watch a related video you provide a link to, or even visit your website to get more information (and offer free resources). Again, it’s just good business and it can improve engagement- and conversions—while you’re at it.
  • Challenge them! Tell the viewer to share any advice or tips they think are more helpful than what you just shared. You might learn a thing or two yourself to publish for future video content, plus get new competitive insights or advertising ideas to test in your next campaign!
There you have it. 4 simple, but important, tips to consider before rushing off to shoot your next “how to” video.

Think of this as optimizing inside your video, not optimizing for search engines and customers on the page.

If you heed these suggestions, you’ll be able to capitalize at a better rate on the flood of new “how to” searches in your niche, while improving your video marketing.

What do you think? What tips would you suggest to make a more powerful “how to” video? Let us know in the comments below!

Opening image by Dollar Photo Club

Sean K. Fay is CEO of Envision Response.

The above blog post originally appeared on the Envision Response Blog.

Sean Fay's blog
New Call-to-action
Subscribe for tips on how to grow your direct response marketing business!
Subscribe Now!

Follow Us

New Call-to-action

Editorial Disclaimer

The statements, opinions, and advertisements expressed on the ERA Blog and other online entities owned by the Electronic Retailing Association are those of individual authors and companies and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Electronic Retailing Association.