Smart marketing in stupid times, Pt.1

By Robyn Levin, President
R. Levin Marketing Group

OK — it’s no secret that we’re in the scariest financial times since the Great Depression, so how do you find smart ways to rise above it?

Ironically, I’m getting more calls than ever from financial firms for help with their marketing. Professionals are seeking new ways to reach more qualified clients. Traditional advertising, like direct mail, TV advertising and hosting seminars are expensive, immeasurable and not as effective as they were in the old days. I shared these new ideas and strategies last month while teaching MBA students at Wharton School.

First, I want to share some staggering statistics with you about new trends in the online and social networking world. If you are new to social networking, these are the sites like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube and the many others you constantly read about. Social networking is about making connections online, akin to networking at industry conferences and at the old Chamber of Commerce meetings. You make a profile, find friends and colleagues, share stories, contacts and continue the conversation — but it’s online instead of in person. is the No. 1 Web site for professionals and, recently I heard that a new person signs up every second — and they have more than 30 million users. If you haven’t signed up yet, I’d strongly suggest you take an hour to set up your profile and make connections. You’ll also find online groups to join that could help you network better.

Recently, I attended a YouTube presentation where the demographics revealed some eye-opening numbers. I think you’ll be very surprised to see the numbers too. YouTube is now the No. 1 Web site for video searches and the fourth largest Web site in the U.S., according to Alexa, a leading traffic ranking service. Here’s where it gets interesting: People are looking for “how-to” videos (like educational and/or instructional videos) by topic. That topic may be your particular specialty or area of expertise.

But, YouTube is not just about crazy videos our kids make. So, who else is watching these videos?

  • YouTube gets more than 100 million videos viewed per day
  • Median age for viewers is 33 years old
  • Sixty-nine percent are college educated
  • Median income is $74,000
  • Seventy-one percent are employed
  • Even the Queen of England goes on YouTube

So, what does this mean for you? Think of your own behavior when you are researching or shopping for anything. You turn first to the Internet to find what you are interested in. Now, more and more people are actually searching under “videos” and YouTube has an active search box where you can enter your keywords to find a related video. Additionally, Google (which owns YouTube) and Yahoo love videos, so your topic and Web site may come up high on an organic search (as opposed to pay-per-click ads.)

Viral video marketing
This is another way to get you and your video message seen and heard on the Internet — and that’s where everyone is these days. Viral marketing is a term used when lots of people spread the word about something in particular, like a video, a blog, or a virus that spreads quickly. An example of a very successful viral video campaign is the “Will it Blend” video — a $50 video posted on YouTube and featuring the CEO of BlendTec, a company that makes blenders. The video showed the strength of the blender and how it blends anything including rakes, cell phones, lumber and other challenging items just to drive home the point about their ultra strong blades. This video generated a 700 percent increase in revenue and was viewed 2,831,157 times through viral marketing — other people sharing the video link and talking about it everywhere. Check it out at: The CEO and VP of marketing of BlendTec are now keynote speakers worldwide and explain how a $50 investment and creative thinking fueled their success for a traditional consumer product company.

But back to you and your industry — what can you do to stand out? Here’s a big tip: make your video informative, shocking and/or funny to quickly grab attention and get other people to share your videos. That’s how to get that “viral” effect.

I’ve produced short educational video clips on my branded channel on YouTube, about how to use YouTube and Twitter (I’ll discuss that a little later) in your marketing. You can view them at

Getting started
Here’re some ideas to get you going. Why not take three- to five-minute video clips of you discussing what’s going on in the market today and what people should know about. Whether it’s long term care, annuities, retirement mortgages or some new product, explain how you can help people improve their situation — especially now. I said to make your videos shocking as a way to grab attention. Well, the numbers in the financial markets are shocking and scary these days. Fear and pain are the biggest motivators to get people to take action. When you can offer relief for the pain they are feeling, you’ll get their attention. Think about this for a few minutes and get creative. One example I often hear is, “Are you worried you’ll outlive your money?” You can use your video to demonstrate how to avoid this. You could even use real people like clients or friends/family in your target market as your cast. Illustrate a common scenario and how you can alleviate its fear. Online videos are most successful when they are unedited and illustrate real people with real-life situations. Authenticity rules on the Internet. You don’t have to spend a lot of money for a professional video shoot, as you can achieve the same results with a good camera, good lighting and some imagination. In fact, I use a Flip camera, made by a company in San Francisco that you can buy on for less than $150. It’s light-weight and super-simple to use. It has a USB adapter built in and it plugs right into your computer. The software is inside the camera and automatically loads onto your computer. After you view your video clips, you can instantly upload them to AOL, YouTube or even send them in an e-mail. It’s the easiest way to shoot videos on the fly, just beware the lighting isn’t great at night and you need to be close up to capture sound. Otherwise, it’s fantastic and I’ve shot more than 100 videos in a weekend. I take impromptu videos whenever the opportunity arises and when clients offer testimonials, I’m ready. It just takes two batteries, so you don’t even need cables, chargers or cords, and it’s great for the technologically challenged.

You can also post videos of your clients, though some of you have restrictions about testimonials. If not, people love to watch and listen to other people’s stories and experiences about products and services. is an excellent example of how powerful travel reviews are from other fellow travelers. Studies show that people will rely on each other’s experience over and above a company touting their products or services. When you do promote your own products, as long as you do this is in an educational format, it will be far better perceived. People subscribe to your channel too, which is another way to build a dedicated list of qualified prospects. Tell them to subscribe to your channel so they sign up. More than 57 percent of people will sign up for an offer if you ask them, according to a study I read a few months ago. Remember to ask.

Now you’re probably wondering who’s going to watch your videos and how you will spread the word. Here are 10 ways and three bonus tips:

  1. Send out an inexpensive press release using the Internet to leading sites like and If you need a press release template, grab a free press release template at my Web site,
  2. Create your own branded YouTube channel: it’s free and easy. Read my blog posting to learn how,
  3. Include your video channel and links in your e-mail signature, such as, “Watch our videos at the _____ YouTube channel,” you just created
  4. Add this on to your voicemail when someone leaves a message
  5. Announce your videos on your “on-hold” recording if you have one
  6. Send an e-mail out to your contact list
  7. Include your video links in your online newsletters
  8. Post your video link on your blog and Web site with a graphic or screenshot of your video
  9. Tell your whole professional network to view your video
  10. Include your video links in your marketing material
    • Bonus tip No. 1: Offer your video to major bloggers in your field, as they are always looking for content. They will also put a link back to your Web site,and that’s great to improve your search engine rankings.
    • Bonus tip No. 2: Put your city and state in the map section, if your geographical area is important. This will also help you get found faster online and attract more prospects on the Internet from your video.
    • Bonus tip No. 3: Get a free account on the micro-blogging Web site, and try sending out a message once or twice a day. Don’t spam the system. Educate your audience and give them links to your blog, Web site and YouTube channel to learn more. Also, post interesting news that’s relevant to your audience. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, watch my YouTube video on marketing strategies using Twitter and follow me on You’ll catch on after you follow me for a week.

Does this work? Yes! I started a branded channel on for one of my clients in May and they’ve received over 2,000 viewings, up from 50 the first month. A branded channel means I selected a name on YouTube for the client and posted their company profile on their dedicated page, along with many other features I utilized including search engine optimization. This is another way to use a social networking site to cost-effectively market your services. The ideas and strategies I’ve provided in this article are free, easy and effective so why not give it a try.

Final thought: Imagine, President-elect Obama raised $200 million online using social networking and had more than 60,000 followers on Twitter about half-way into his campaign. Everything I’ve mentioned is measurable, so you can track and see your numbers immediately. I was surprised to see that 70 percent of my viewers were women between the ages of 45-55. Baby boomers are my target market, so that wasn’t’ surprising; however, I thought more men would be interested.