Since COVID-19 pulled the rug out from under our collective feet, many businesses are recalibrating and scrambling to come up with new go-to-market strategies. For many, video is the answer to creating much-needed streams of revenue.
Of course, this doesn’t apply only in crisis situations. Having multiple sources of income helps bring stability and growth to businesses no matter what’s going on in the world.
In this post, we’re looking at what it will take for you to generate income with video, with recommendations for specific platforms and tools.
Plan Your Content
The chances you can make just one video, strike it rich, and call it a day are extremely slim. Even if you managed a viral win, in our fast-paced world, the excitement would be over almost before it began.
To develop a sustained, scalable source of income for your business, your investment in content needs to also be sustained and scalable. That doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of money. It means you need to develop a series, or several of them, that people would be willing to pay to watch.
Choosing a Topic
If you’re a subject matter expert, a fitness fanatic, or an excellent cook, you might have an easier track to follow than others. Still, you need to find a unique angle and style that will help differentiate your content from competitors.
It comes down to knowing your audience, and your own expertise. Where can you provide new insights, new ways of doing things, or a unique take on common problems? What does your target audience struggle with, and how can you help?
Another option is to try and replace a service you used to offer in-person with video. For instance, workout classes can easily move online. There’s almost always an angle that will work. For example, this enterprising farm came up with Goat 2 Meeting to replace in-person farm tours.
If you’re planning on live streaming or creating standalone content, try to make sure your concept is repeatable. Rather than a one-off class, create a weekly schedule to attract more customers over time.
Otherwise, ensure your idea can be serialized. If you can’t think of at least five episodes you could create around your chosen topic, you probably need to go back to the drawing board.
Even if you’ve never filmed a single video in your life, you can still create content you can monetize. In fact, our How To Video series is designed to help people of all experience levels learn how to produce amazing videos.
At the outset, try to develop your own style of video. What do we mean by style in this context?
Everything – from what you wear on camera and where you film, to the background music you choose and the types of transitions or cuts you use when editing. All of those factors contribute to the style of video you produce.
The reason that a distinctive style is important is because the market for online video is crowded in most areas. You need to stand out if you’re going to get some traction.
It’s important to align your content with any existing branding you might have developed for your company. Your videos should be a recognizable part of your company’s products.
Bear in mind that how you plan to sell your videos will have an impact on how you plan and produce your content. For instance, if your strategy is to go for pay-per-view sales, your videos may turn out differently than someone targeting subscriptions. More on that below.
Selling, Sharing, and Safeguarding Your Videos
After all that investment in your content, it’s time to get your videos ready for their grand debut. You have a few big decisions to make which will dictate some of your video settings, and impact how you share them online.
The main question here is how you’re planning to sell your videos. Will they be part of a subscription that renews every month? Or will you just allow viewers to rent them for a specified period of time? What about downloads – can viewers download to watch offline?
For many businesses, subscriptions are the way to go. Why? Because of the snowball-like effect by which they grow.
Assuming your customers are happy campers, they’ll likely stick around and continue to pay for your content going forward. This enables you to grow your revenue in a scalable, sustainable way as you continue to add new customers.
Rentals / Pay-Per-View
This option is best for videos that have a short shelf-life, or live content. It also makes sense for videos that standalone without being part of a larger series. For instance, performances, documentaries, events, interviews, or feature films all make sense as pay-per-view or video rentals.
If you’re planning on releasing videos on a frequent basis, this could be a good choice for your business. Otherwise, it might be hard to grow your revenue over time.
It might be tempting to offer downloads to viewers who are willing to pay for your videos. However, we generally don’t recommend it for paid content.
That’s because once a video is downloaded, it’s nearly impossible to control how it might be shared. Your videos are your intellectual property, and are worth a lot to your business. To retain the most control over your videos, you should only enable access to paying customers for streaming online.
Allowing downloads is a reasonable decision to make if you know your customers on a more personal basis. For example, if your viewers are your fitness clients and you normally work with them one-to-one, it might be safe to allow them to download your videos for offline viewing.
Next, you’ll need a website where you can share your videos. At a minimum, your website should include the following:
- Public marketing pages where you can provide information about your videos
- Forms to capture visitor information as leads (e.g. to add to an email list), or for purchase
- Customer management tools
- A secure way to share your videos
Popular website hosting providers like WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, and others are a great place to start if you need to build a website quickly.
If you already have a website, you have a nice head start on the process. It might just be a question of adding the next item you’ll need: a way to manage payments and customers.
Customer and Payment Management
Depending on the platform you select to host your website, there are plenty of options that handle both payments and access to paid content, with handy tools for managing subscriptions and users as well.
No matter which solution you use for your website, the basic concept is the same.
- Use the public marketing pages of your website to attract leads and customers
- When a customer makes a purchase, process the payment and register them as a user
- Provide access to your videos in a secure section of your website, or direct customers to a secure video portal
For instance, if you’re using WordPress, several plugins enable you to process payments and manage users. Some of the most popular WordPress plugins include MemberPress, LearnDash, and WooCommerce. For Squarespace, there’s SentryLogin, MemberSpace, and AuthPro.
While certain features vary across these different plugins, the core functionality is similar. Each allows you to register users, charge customers, create products or subscriptions, and process payments. Some require an additional integration with Stripe, PayPal, or a similar payment processor. And, some, like LearnDash, are specifically optimized for courses.
Handling Payments in the Player
Another option is to handle payments in the player itself. This is ideal for rentals or pay-per-view content. Cleeng or InPlayer are both great options for in-player payments. In this instance, the video embed code is wrapped in another iframe, which prevents it from loading until the viewer enters their information or makes a payment.
User Management Alternative
Let’s say your website is difficult to update, or does not support plugins like those mentioned above. In that case, your best bet is to just find a way to process payments. Then, after processing the payment, direct your viewer to a video portal or landing page hosted on another platform.
For instance, SproutVideo offers basic video websites and landing pages that can easily be used for such a purpose. You’d use your main website to attract customers and handle payments. Then, you’d simply grant viewers access to your videos using password protection or login protection, and direct them to your video website or landing pages on the SproutVideo platform. You can even automate the creation of viewer logins using Zapier.
The final piece of the puzzle is making sure your videos are secure. Protecting your video content is essential. You wouldn’t let someone walk off with a physical product from your store, and digital goods should not be treated any differently.
The first step is to select a video hosting provider with professional video privacy tools. While some website hosting platforms also offer video hosting, it tends to be very insecure, and lacking in features most viewers want when viewing videos online.
At a minimum, you should look for the following features in a video hosting platform:
- Domain whitelisting – ensures your video embed codes cannot be shared on other websites
- Private videos – only appear where they are embedded
- Viewer engagement tracking – identify viewers and track their behavior
Domain whitelisting prevents anyone from copying your video embed code and publishing it on another website. If the URL is not whitelisted, the video simply won’t load.
Keeping your video set to private is somewhat self-explanatory since you simply want to make sure your videos do not appear anywhere else online. That way, they can only be accessed by paying customers.
Finally, engagement tracking serves two purposes. First, it allows you to identify and track viewers, which can be helpful if you want to make sure your viewing activity is all legitimate. You can use the information to see if people might be sharing passwords, for instance, because it includes IP address and location information. Secondly, it can also help you improve your videos by showing you which parts of your video were most and least engaging for viewers.
Other features that you might want to look for include video marketing tools to promote your website and videos, live customer support, and the ability to set download permissions.
Ready, Set, Watch
When all these pieces are in place, you’re ready to start making money from your videos. Of course, attracting customers might turn out to be the hard part compared to building and launching a subscription video website.