Technology Solutions

Is Video Worth It?

From shoes to cars to houses, industries are embracing product videos. They give consumers a chance to view before they buy. For businesses, videos provide an opportunity to control the marketing message, are easily shared, and provide details beyond pictures and words.

So why hasn’t commercial real estate embraced video? Slashed marketing budgets are partially to blame. Less expensive options — photos, Google Maps, and text descriptions — are available, which can make it tough to justify additional spending. “If you can price it like a sign we’d be interested,” was the response Daniel Duggan, deputy managing editor for Crain’s Detroit Business, got when he pitched his paper’s commercial property video tour service to a broker.

More importantly, commercial real estate is a handshake business, and it’s difficult to get chummy with a video viewer. But industry professionals contend that video can increase handshakes and business.

Video’s Advantages

“We’re really starting to see this shift in the commercial real estate space where people are using technology,” says Nick Romito, whose company, View The Space, creates video tours of clients’ commercial property to generate and track leads.

Romito says one of the challenges his company faced early on was convincing brokers that video would not marginalize them but make their role more important. “Brokers would tell us ‘there’s no way a video can sell the space better than I can,’ and we said you’re absolutely right,” he explains. “We’re not trying to replace the in-person experience but improve it.”

In fact, View The Space clients actually see more in-person interaction. “We ran some numbers on spaces with videos and spaces that don’t,” Romito says. “The ones with video have three times the number of in-person visits.” Although brokers typically want to spend less time showing space and more time closing deals, more in-person visits with qualified leads could lead to shorter sales cycles, he adds.

Video also gives more detail than text and shows spatial relationships, which are difficult to convey in pictures. “Each building has its own personality, which is what you’re able to get across on video,” says Kevin O’Reilly, founder of Buildings On Demand, a video production company that specializes in commercial real estate. With video, owners or landlord reps have a controlled medium to piece a property’s characteristics together to tell a story, which is difficult to accomplish with photos and text.

Unlike print marketing, video can easily be shared and tracked. “If a sales rep sends me something in the mail, I can’t rewrap it and send it to a client,” O’Reilly says. “But if you create a high-quality video I may forward that in an e-mail to my client.”

Video sharing is now easier for LoopNet users. The property listing service recently added a video upload feature to premium listings. Users can now supplement the text and photo descriptions with videos that can be viewed by the site’s 4 million monthly visitors.

Getting Started

If the advantages of video outweigh the disadvantages, the first step is deciding whether or not to use a professional videographer. Freelancers can be found via Elance, Guru, or a simple Internet search. Freelance videographer rates can range from $50 to $150 an hour, and the total cost will depend on the video length and editing complexity.

O’Reilly also suggests contacting local colleges or high schools. “If you’re in a city with an arts school or even a high school that has a class with a video project, they can create floor tours,” O’Reilly says.

Those who go it alone don’t need to spend the entire marketing budget on a camera. “A lot of our guys use DSLR cameras that cost about $2,000 to $3,000,” O’Riley says. DSLRs can not only shoot professional-quality video but also take high-resolution still photos.

The other important piece of equipment is a tripod, which stabilizes shots. A rolling tripod is useful for creating floor tours.

Developing a script and shot list is necessary with or without a freelancer. O’Reilly says most of his company’s scripts include four parts: location, amenities, other unique features or selling points, and contact information. Videos should be concise to accommodate viewers’ limited online attention span. View The Space and Buildings On Demand videos range from two to four minutes.

To keep a video in that range, each shot should be unique. “You don’t need to show every nook and cranny,” O’Reilly says. Close-ups or panning — moving the camera from left to right to show a wider angle — add variety. If the building has a view, it should be included too, O’Reilly says. On building tours, “the first thing a client will do is look out the window,” he explains.

Lighting can make or break a property video. “The cleaner and brighter the better,” O’Reilly advises. Natural light works best, but artificial light and video editing effects can compensate for dimly lit space.

Here to Stay?

However a video is created, its benefits are clear. Potential space users and buyers get a comprehensive look at a property, which helps them decide whether or not to visit in person. And leasing reps and owners have an opportunity to market properties with a controlled message.

That said, adoption of video is still in its infancy. “Some of the more sophisticated landlords are doing video on their websites, but I don’t see anyone doing it at a high quality,” Duggan says. But given video’s potential to increase transaction efficiency that may not be the case for long.

Dennis LaMantia is interactive marketing manager at CCIM Institute.

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