We live in a video world. People like to be presented information in a video format. Since search engine algorithms favor video, Internet videos draw eyeballs. Ultimately, this leads to more clicks, more top of mind awareness and more calls.

Video production does not have to be expensive and difficult. In the past that was true. However, video has never been easier or cheaper to produce than today. Unfortunately, easy and cheap doesn't necessarily translate into well done.

Your videos do not have to be perfect. In fact, great may be the enemy of good when it comes to video if it prevents you from getting started. By adhering to a few good practices, you can easily produce acceptable videos that will help your business.

Have an objective: Before you start, you should have an objective. The objective dictates much about the way you will compose your video. Some common objectives for plumbers include: brand awareness, generating calls, education, demonstrations and building relationships.

Entertainment is not an objective. Sure, you want your video to be entertaining to increase viewership and effectiveness, but that is not the objective. Years ago, Nissan ran a television ad where G.I. Joe jumps into a Z-car, swings by the Barbie house to pick up Barbie, while a sweater draped Ken sadly watches the pair drive away. It was very funny. It was also completely useless because the Z-car was not in production at that time. It does no good to entertain people while promoting a product that's not even on the market.

Topics to consider: Your objective is not the same as your topic, or subject for the video. Here are some topics you might consider:

• FAQs: List the 10 most frequently asked questions encountered by your call takers and plumbers. Each could be the subject of a short video.

• Product, service descriptions: What do you offer? What are your capabilities? Describe and/or show each in a separate video. Produce a video on jetting, on sewer cameras, on quick recovery water heaters, on the new types of faucets available, on the difference between a quality faucet and the type found in a big box, etc.

• Meet the team: A short video interview of each member of the team. Ask them about their job, but also ask what they do after work. What are their passions? What advice do they offer consumers?

• What's new: This is obvious as it relates to products or services. However, it could also relate to industry trends or changes. An example would be a video on a tankless water heater, showing the replaced water heater and the installed tankless one.

• Consumer tips: Offer straightforward suggestions for consumers on saving money, things they can do on their own, etc. You might warn consumers about the dangers of a water heater bursting, suggest how they can protect their outside faucets before a freeze, and so on.

• Company story: Tell how your company got started. Find some interesting facts or tidbits to work in.

• USP: What is your unique selling proposition? What makes your company different from everyone else?

• Endorsements: Get your customers to offer an endorsement on camera. Lacking that, simply read a few of their letters and review comments.

• Expert interviews: Interview local experts. This could be anyone from your service manager to a leading realtor to a vendor. Come up with three to four questions with the final one being, "Finally, what would you tell consumers about our company?"

• Truck tour: Take consumers on a tour of one of your trucks, emphasizing the inventory, unique shelving, etc.

• Home show booth: If you're planning on displaying a booth at an upcoming home show, give a video tour of your booth, what you're promoting and displaying, and who will be in the booth.

• Booking a service call online: If you offer the capability to schedule service online (and you should), show people in a video how easy it is and guide them step-by-step through the process.

Equipment, software: You do not need a professional grade camera to shoot video. In fact, for $100 you can get a flip cam with high definition capabilities. Internet videos are being streamed online so the quality of a professional camera will be lost.

Video software is also affordable. In fact, the video editing software that ships with Windows (Movie Maker) is more than adequate for getting started. Later you might want software with more special effects and corrective capabilities.

The script: Each video should be scripted. A good method is to title the script, state the objective below the title, and use two columns for the action. One column contains the dialogue or bullet points. The other describes the what’s happening visually (e.g., Action: John walks to his desk and sits on the corner. Dialogue: "Hi, I'm John with United Plumbing.").

If the script proves to be a barrier, skip it. Think through what you want to accomplish and get started.

The introduction: Each video should have an introduction. Typically, this is music coming up and a title for the video. Each intro should contain the company logo and website.

Call to action: What do you want people to do, after watching your video? This is called the call to action. You might want them to call for a free quote. You might want them to subscribe to your video channel. Tell them near the end of your video.

Outro: Every video should also include a closing outro. A good idea is to use the outro to reinforce your call to action.

Be authentic, real: It's OK to be human. In fact, it's preferred. Do not try to make an antiseptic, corporate masterpiece. Focus on being honest, authentic, and real.

Brand: Even though most videos won't be focused on increasing your brand awareness, branding should always be a secondary objective. Overlay your logo in the corner of the video, so that it's always present.

Quality: No matter how good your video, you will never be satisfied with the quality. And when you finally stop working on it, you will be completely sick and tired of it. It's okay for your videos to be homespun as long as it doesn't interfere with the message.

Length: For a consumer video, the maximum length is three minutes. In practical terms, limit all videos to 60 seconds or less. People bore quickly and won't put up with a lengthy video. Brevity forces you to focus. It's also easier to produce a short video.

In the next article, I'll talk about strategies to maximize your online viewership and use your videos to drive traffic to your website.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, a business alliance of plumbing, HVAC, electrical, and service contractors. Learn more about the Service Roundtable at www.ServiceRoundtable.com, or e-mail Matt at: matt.michel@serviceroundtable.com.