My business often puts me in a position where I discuss how small businesses are generating sales. The majority of business owners seem to agree that a good portion of their business comes from referrals. It’s great if you are fortunate enough to have some customers and personal relationships out there, actively promoting your brand at no charge. It’s even better when their votes of confidence send (free) warm leads your way —  prospects who already trust you a bit because they were referred to you.

It feels wonderful to bask in that wave of referrals, but have you stopped to consider what portion of these warm leads you’re actually converting into actual customers? Could you be converting more referrals into buyers … and if so, how?

Of course, you need a website that looks great and is user-friendly. That’s where you showcase your expertise via solid content, compelling imagery and, ideally, a blog. Your website should be optimized well so that when someone searches online for the type of product or service you offer, you’re easy to find. And, if you’re not marketing your business on the social media sites where your target customers spend their time, you’re missing out on an opportunity to make a great impression — one that can help you convert warm leads into happy customers.

What about video?

Full disclosure: Video is outside my area of online marketing expertise. Like you, perhaps, I enjoy watching videos online but I didn’t realize how important they can be for converting referrals into buyers. It took some research and an infinitely insightful conversation with a videographer friend for me to grasp video’s influence within the buying cycle. It’s big.

Pre-shopping is a pivotal point in the sales cycle. The shopper has heard about a product or service and is engaged in learning more — checking out the company’s website, seeking online reviews, searching for coupons, asking social media friends for their opinions … and watching videos.

‘The humanizing effect’

Videographer Bryan Bakker, owner of Ontario-based Bizbio Creative, says there are two big reasons that video is a powerful online marketing tool for small businesses, especially when it comes to converting referrals into customers. Bryan boils the first reason down to a phenomenon he calls “the humanizing effect.” He explains:

“A properly produced video can help build a genuine connection between a business owner (or staff) and a potential customer. The video humanizes the business owner and brand, and builds a level of trust and comfort with the potential customer that’s critical when it comes to their decision to potentially do business with you. Fact is, humans didn’t evolve with video or photos; as far as our brains are concerned, the people we see digitally on a screen are basically as real to us as the people we know in real life — and we’re very good at making value judgements on their character and motivations, the building blocks of trust.

This effect is one where we can turn what would have been a cool lead into a warm one simply because they’ve watched a short video focusing on your human qualities before meeting with you in person.

Our clients tell us all the time how amazing it is to have someone they’ve never met call them up and talk to them like an old friend. It’s hard to quantify the value this holds, which is perhaps the reason why it isn’t articulated often, but instinctively we all know how powerful that is.”

This “interest video” — a type of longer-form video targeted at viewers identified as expressing an interest in the subject matter — does a great job of showcasing the humanizing effect. It portrays the business owner as sincere and passionate about helping his clients — which makes it a valuable element on the business’s website.

A competitive edge

“Video has a powerful way of allowing the little guy to go toe-to-toe with the big guy and win.” ~ Bryan Bakker, owner of Bizbio Creative

The second big reason that video can help convert referrals into customers is rooted in the nature of small business itself. “Small businesses, in particular, have all the things that bigger businesses always try to have and certainly attempt to emulate: small-town feel, local quality product and friendly service. Those are the things that define local small business — yet big-box competitors often seem to get the customers,” Bryan says. “You know the feeling: so many shops, so little time. Big box becomes comfortable, familiar and easy — even when there are reliable referrals to a local option floating around. That’s where a video can help.”

Remember pre-shopping? Studies show that more people would shop locally if they knew what they were getting into ahead of time. “Video can be used to showcase the wonderful hidden assets of a small business,” Bryan says.

A well-produced video can help bring in new customers by reinforcing all the good stuff they’ve heard from their friends. Small businesses can use video to show their local flavor, personalized service, quality wares, and friendly and knowledgeable staff. That’s just what a local sign company did in this video:


“This video is a great example of how the medium can be used to make people aware of your small business’s hidden assets,” Bryan notes. “McBain Signs is located well outside of any town and a long way away from any other business. Unless you have already decided to do business with them, how would you ever know how seriously equipped they are?”

A new way to view marketing your business

As entrepreneurs, we’re sometimes reluctant to spend a lot of time and money on marketing ourselves. What if something we try doesn’t work, and we’ve wasted valuable resources that we could’ve channeled into a surer bet? Naturally, we don’t want to throw resources at initiatives without a strong potential to boost sales.

Maybe it’s time to start looking at your marketing in a new light.

Forget everything you doubt will work. What IS working for your business? How did your current customers initially become aware of you? Is it often through a referral? If so, chances are they’re checking you out online as part of their pre-shopping process. What will they find? And what more can you do to encourage them to take the next step?

Video might be the marketing tool that transforms hesitant browsers into confident buyers. It’s worth a shot.

Image by PhotKing and Vancouver Film School