Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO podcast. I’m your host Steve Gordon, and today is going to be a lot of fun. We are going to cover a topic that we have not covered before on the podcast. And, for those of you who are looking for a new and effective way to market, you want to stay tuned and probably take some notes as we go. I’m talking with Jason Hsiao, he’s the co-founder and chief video officer of Animoto, an award-winning online video maker that makes it easy for anyone to create professional quality marketing videos.
And, I got to tell you I’ve used their service before, it is ridiculously easy. If you think video is hard, this is for you. They really bill it as the tool that allows you to create professional quality marketing videos, even if you have no technical skills. Even, if you’ve never created a video before, which is why it’s the perfect tool for me. They’ve got a mission of empowering everyone to create powerful videos, regardless of age or experience. Jason founded Animoto with his high school and Dartmouth College friends back in 2006, and they have just had tremendous success ever since then. Prior to that, he was a producer with MTV, and with Comedy Central, and just got a wealth of video experience. I’m excited, Jason, to be talking to you today and looking forward to some insights, hopefully you can share with folks on how they can better use video in their marketing.
Absolutely, thanks Steve. Thanks for having me on the show, this is a real privilege.
Yeah, this is going to be fun. So, I know we touched on a bunch of things in the bio, but why don’t you give everybody just a little bit of background on what got you to this stage of your career.
Video Is an Essential Part of Marketing Today
Sure. Really our whole world is about trying to empower people with the power of video. I’ve always been obsessed with video, since I was a kid, just the magic and the power of video. So, this is probably, maybe like 15 years ago, when we were working, on TV and film, which for us was kind of, a dream job. But, we saw how fast everything was changing around us, with the internet, and these mobile devices. And, mind you, this was before the iPhone, right? So, like these things are getting smaller, and smaller, and seems like they’re going to fit in your pocket and might even have an internet connection and maybe a camera on it. And, it just seemed with cloud computing and all these social networks, it just seemed inevitable that the landscape was going to change quickly, and that video had to be at the forefront of that at some point. And, we just couldn’t stop thinking about that, and we wanted to be a part of that. So, long story short, we spend nights and weekends trying to prove out this technology idea of rendering video real time in the cloud. It was very nerdy, but we were so obsessed with it.
It was basically about 10 years ago, that we launched the company. Along the way, we got super focused and realized that probably the biggest need out there, is businesses, particularly small businesses using video to drive awareness and credibility for their business. So, here we are today, we’re about 100 employees, we’re based in New York City, and we’re doing everything we can to help businesses embrace video, and really realize the potential and value of video.
Yeah, and you guys really were into video, and into video for the masses, before the technology was as easy, as it is today. That could not have been an easy process. I imagine there were a lot of frustrating late nights trying to figure things out. What did you do, to keep going and push through? I imagine in a lot of ways, you were developing technology along the way that didn’t exist.
Absolutely. I’m going to address that in a couple of ways. One from kind of, a business strategy perspective of somethings that we learned the hard way. And, then maybe a personal story that I think was a part of all that. From the business perspective, you can tell from the way I set that up. But, we were technology and product nerds, and I think maybe, not unlike a lot of entrepreneurs and folks starting businesses. They’re in love with a particular product or idea. But, I think what we realized along the way is there’s a difference between being in love with technology and products, and really understanding the market and your customer. And, as it kind of, turned out in the early days, we had a lot of faux success. We actually had a lot of, a little bit, of everyone using us. Which you think would be super great, but as it turned out, we realized, it actually was really difficult. Because, we had 50 different masteries. We had all these different people trying to pull us in different ways. We didn’t really have a focus, we had a lot of different people using us. It became really hard to understand how to prioritize our efforts.
And it had other negative impacts, I’d say. When you’re trying to do a little bit of everything, for a lot of different people, your service, your whole customer experience becomes muddled, and even confused. I think, at some point our big learning, was like, “Listen, would we rather be best in the world at one thing, or just kind of, good at a lot of things?” I think obviously, we decided to let’s get really focused and be best in the world on one thing. Like, what’s the one challenge in the world that we think, we can be best in the world, at addressing. So, for us, as we got really focused, it was really all about businesses needing video, particularly on how to stand out on social media. But, that was certainly an interesting learning along the way.
You know, everyone talks about being customer centric, but what does it really mean to go from talking the talk, to walking the walk. Really being focused on your market opportunity and your customer.
You Can’t Be All Things to All People
Getting that focus is not a trivial thing. We work with businesses all the time, and that’s almost always the number one thing, that’s holding them back, is that they’re trying to be all things to all people, or at least all things to all people who will pay them, right?
And, look, I get why you want to do that, because people are paying you and probably your number one problem in business is cashflow. And, you need the cash. So, it’s totally understandable, however, I also think it’s the number one thing that holds businesses back. Smart of you and your co-founders to figure that out, and pick one. It takes a lot of courage to do that. Because, as you said, you had customers in lots of different areas, that you all of a sudden, even if you weren’t going to cancel their accounts right away, all of your outbound communication was no longer going to speak to them.
Yeah. If, you’re looking at things by the numbers. Let’s just say for example, there’s 10 different types of customers, each making up like 10% of your revenue mix, or whatever. You’re not going to just turn your back on 90% of your revenue. And, the math wasn’t really at all like that, that extreme. But, if people are paying you, why would you ignore them, but I think what we learned, was just because you have a focus on a customer, doesn’t mean that … Let’s just say, for us, there’s a bit of an umbrella. Even, though we’re laser focused on a particular type of customer, by doing what that person needs really well, it doesn’t mean that other folks aren’t going to find value in that. So, there is a bit of an umbrella effect.
But, I think one of the best things for us, in terms of, the service and the product experience, that we’ve been able to deliver, really feeling much more cohesive and focused. Even, with our team here, I’ll say the culture and moral of things, for everyone to feel like they’re all pointed in the same direction and contributing toward the same goal. There’s just this real feel of empowerment here, whereas I can remember back in the day, everyone was doing all these different things, but no one really knew whether, what they were working on was actually, the most important thing. The fact, that everyone here, all 100 employees feel like we’re laser focused in the same direction, it both feels empowering, and then we know by definition that we’re having maximum impact in that one area versus 100 people slightly pointed in the general direction, but maybe not exactly in the same direction.
Yeah, it really is an extreme shortcut in business. And, for a lot of different reasons, and that’s actually a really good one, that I haven’t thought about before, it focuses and consolidates the effort of everyone on your team. As you were grappling with that decision, was there anybody on the team, that was like, no, this is a crazy idea?
Oh, certainly. For every decision we make, there’s always healthy discussion and debate. Sometimes those types of strategic discussions can get pretty heated. I think for us, one benefit we’ve had and maybe in part because we started the company with friends, is we have a culture of we can get into things, we can get into some pretty heated debates, but at the end of the day, we know it’s not personal. Someone has to make a decision, and it’s our responsibility to make sure we lay out the various options and really discuss things thoroughly. But, at the end of the day, we have to choose a direction. We might not get everything right, but in general, if you’re making most of the decisions as best you can with the best information you have, you’re going to be making forward progress.
Yeah, absolutely. I want to take a quick break, and when we come back Jason, I want to really dive into how the listeners can take advantage of video today. And, what some of, the trends are, that you’re seeing with video marketing. So, we’ll be right back with more from, Jason.
Welcome back, this is Steve Gordon, and I am here with Jason Hsiao, and he’s from Animoto, and we’re talking about video marketing. Jason, for our listeners who are mostly in service businesses, a lot of them are in professional services, where maybe they need to be a little bit more buttoned up in the way that they present the business. I’d love to talk in our remaining time, about how they can begin to think differently about using video, where they might be able to plug it in to what they’re doing marketing wise?
Creating Videos Is Easier Than You Think
Absolutely. What we basically see, I think we’re all seeing, right? Is that video is just everywhere right now. It’s really changing everything, and in some ways it’s clips in things at a faster pace now that mobile has taken over everything. But, a lot of folks, particularly small businesses and entrepreneurs we talk to, they’re basically saying, “I kind of, know I should be doing this, I mean, I see video everywhere, but how do I catch this wave? And, oh, by the way, I have no experience, no time, and I don’t have extravagant budgets, like these big companies do.”
So, really that’s where Animoto comes in, we provide folks tools, to make it basically like, drag and drop easy to create professional videos. And, the biggest need that we’re, hearing today from businesses, is they’re trying to figure out how to stand out on social media with video. Because, that’s kind of, where everyone is. Basically, at Animoto, we’re a video making tool, on web and mobile. We have this drag and drop interface, that’s like using building blocks. You can’t actually screw up a video, it’s almost like a toy, right? It’s almost fun, right? You’re just kind of, moving around these blocks.
And, that’s pretty amazing, yes.
And, the other thing, I think where we’ve been able to help businesses out a lot, a lot of them just don’t know where to start, or what type of videos, to even start making. We created this whole collection of starter templates, that we call story boards, and essentially we’ve been able to core everything we’ve learned about what makes for a successful video, into these starter templates. And, so you can open one of these story boards up, you can tailor it to your business, you can swap in your own photos or video clips, change some, of the text. You can make it longer or shorter, you can change the fonts, and color, if that’s important to your brand. You can include your logo anywhere in the video, or in the corner of the whole video, and really make it your own.
So, that’s been really good, because a lot of businesses, are like, “I’m not one of these creative professionals, I don’t know how what to do, or what story to tell.” So, we just have all sorts of different types of videos, whether, it’s company overviews, or how to’s, or interview testimonials, or announcements, or teasers. Any type of video, that you kind of, see out there to really engage with your audience.
I think the most intimidating thing, that I hear about video, well, there’s two really. Number one is, what do I say? That’s, I think probably the first big barrier, but then once you decide that, the next thing that comes up, is how do I capture the video? It’s one thing to be able to go and edit it, but how do I capture it, so it looks good. Because, it seems like the bar keeps getting raised on the quality of video online. A few years ago, you could get away with a really poorly shot video. How do you help people get past both of those obstacles?
Leveraging Existing Content to Create Pro Videos
Great question, and we hear that all the time. One thing I like to impress upon folks thinking about how to get started with video, in many ways video is actually not a whole new type of marketing. I think that’s what makes it feel real intimidating to a lot of folks, or create a lot of anxiety. It really is just kind of, a way to amplify what already works for your business. So, in terms of what to say, if you think about as a business owner, or entrepreneur, there are things that you are saying over, and over, all the time. And, they often have to do with, what is I that you offer, tell me more about your service. How are you different from other folks doing this? Why did you create this business in the first place? Which often, kind of, translates into what are the benefits? There are certain messages or stories, that we as business owners, are always telling. And, those are the perfect place to start. Because, you already know that message is important, what you do, why you’re important, the benefits that you offer. You could start with that.
Sometimes I say, imagine this, “Someone, literally just walked right into your office, and wanted to know more about what it is, you’re doing, what would you say to them?” Another, kind of, interesting way to start is, as I said, what already works for you? I know, some businesses, for example, have a bunch of great content or thought leadership content, or blog content. So, this one business, I was chatting with, they were like, “Well, we’re trying to figure out how to get into video.” And, they have all this great blog content, that they’re known for. They just sorted their blog content by the most popular, and they just started making videos that either, captured what that blog post was about, or it created a video, that was a teaser to that, to point them out.
So, if you’re in the business of producing any kind of content, or if that’s part of what makes you successful, whether, it’s written content, or audio content, or anything. You can certainly leverage what content is already there. And, then I think you know, it’s certainly there’s this anxiety about, “Well, how do I actually capture this video? Oh, and then by the way, I actually am terrified of being in front of the camera.” Well, when you look at a lot of the videos on social media, or if you go to Animoto and you look through the collection of story boards. A lot of these things, don’t actually even feature, any people, or the actual business owners, these types of videos. You can certainly capture the benefits of your business, or why you’re different, without having to actually be in the video.
You can use the photos or images that you already have on your website, or that you already use as part of your marketing. You, don’t even have to use any imagery, there are certainly a lot of videos out there, that are all text. Like, three ways you want to consider 401k, or whatever it is that you offer. So, you don’t have to actually produce any original assets or video content, to create some of these marketing videos. Of course, it’s great, especially for folks that provide a service. We definitely encourage folks to put a face on their marketing, because when you humanize your marketing, I think it really contributes to that sense of trust and authenticity.
There’s this great quote, “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust, they’ll do business with you.” And, I love that quote, and I think part of that is just making your marketing more human, and there’s no better way to do that, but with video, right? But, that certainly is not a requirement to get started. So, yeah take what you have, start with what works, whether, that’s a specific message, or content, or certain images, or stuff that you already have. Once, you start seeing how easy it is to make these videos, I think you’ll quickly have that confidence to just try doing more.
Yeah, and that’s one of the things I think you guys do particularly well. I found it hard to find anywhere else, you can go onto Animoto, and you can create a video just with images, and put text on, and do all this other stuff, and actually end up with a finished product, fairly easily. Whereas, I run a Mac, which is pretty media creation friendly, but even on the Mac, if I wanted to do that, it’s a bit of a project. So, you’ve made that kind of thing easy. What you just said, is really brilliant, because it’s a great way for a business owner, who hasn’t done any video before, to get started. Often times, I think that, that’s the most important things. If you can just figure out the easiest possible way for you to get started? Once, you get in the flow of it, you’ll begin to see, what the other possibilities are.
Absolutely. I think one of the big benefits of video on social media right now, is, as business owners, I know we’re wearing 20 different hats, we have so many, different things to do. It’s like where should video fall on this list of things, that I’m supposed to do. In terms of marketing, and really driving awareness and sales, The amazing thing about social media right now, is the ability to get super targeted of getting your video out there to the exact audience that should actually be interested I your world, or your service. Because, they all provide these tools, that you can get really focused on the exact audience, that you want to target.
So, if you think about, the old way, it’s not really the old way, because it still happens, but like traditional marketing, where it’s much more hope and pray. It’s almost spray and pray, or playing by the numbers. Like, “Maybe, for every 10,000 emails I sent out, X percent will open it and read it, and X percent will click there. Or, for every 100 of phone calls I make, maybe, three will pick up. That’s a lot of wasted time and effort. With video, you can, not only allow that video to do a lot of the work for you, because, it gets seen all over the world and shared. But, you can really get laser focused on the folks that care about what you have to talk about. As I kind of say, you don’t have to wait for people to come and discover you on your site, you have the opportunity to really take the conversation to where it’s happening, and that’s on social media.
Well, yeah. And, you bring up such an important point, for those of us who’ve been in business for a little while, it’s hard to get out of that mindset, that I need to get this in front of every possible person, who might even remotely be interested. One, of the things that … You know, it’s interesting, we made this shift a couple of years ago, to really focus on very small markets, both on social media and on email. Kind of, subdivide, so that the people who are getting a message, hopefully if we’ve picked right, are the ones who are most radically interested in that particular message. And, I think for everybody listening, the take away is, with a tool, like what Jason and his team have built, you have the ability to really easily create variations of messages. So, if you’ve got two or three different types of ideal clients you go after. You can test, and tweak, the message for each one and then laser focus it. And, that’s going to work way, better, than trying to get the least common denominator message across, all of them. And, you need an easy tool, if you’re going to do video, you need a really easy tool, to be able to that. Yeah, I think that’s the right thinking, Jason. And, I appreciate you sharing that.
So, if folks want to get started in video marketing, or if they just want to take what they’re doing and find out how your tool can help them? What’s the best place for them to go? Where should they go to learn more about Animoto?
Animoto is at Animoto.com. But, what I thought I’d do in case folks want specific information about how to get started in some, of the stuff I talked about. I set up a page for folks too, it’s at Animoto.com/unstoppableceo, and I’ll have my contact information there, and some links to some useful information. Whether, you’re just getting started, or trying to figure out how to take your marketing effort to the next level. Don’t be shy about getting in touch, I’m happy to chat, I love talking to fellow business owners, and entrepreneurs. So, I put all my contact information there, so don’t be shy about getting in touch. So, Animoto.com/unstoppableceo, we’ll set that up.
That’s awesome, thank you for doing that, very generous offer, too. We have used Animoto for quite a number of years. I think maybe even, going back to, I think we used it in my first company, back in ’08, ’09, somewhere in there. And, I’ve always been impressed with what you guys are doing. So, I’m glad we finally got you on the podcast, and had a chance to talk about these things. This is a huge, huge trend and for a lot of businesses, can be a really effective way to get the message out there. Jason, thanks for investing some time with me today, this has been a lot of fun.
Absolutely Steve, thank you so much for the opportunity, it’s been a real privilege.