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Online video should be a critical component of your marketing toolkit. Affordable, accessible and effective, it creates dynamic, visual vignettes that invite viewers into more community-like relationships. By supplying content in a robust, visual manner through video, you can engage audiences on a whole new level. More importantly, if deployed optimally, it can help you meet your business goals.

For those still on the video fence, below are three ways that successful companies are leveraging video to acquire and retain customers and generate revenue:

Using Video to Acquire New Customers
Acquiring customers is never easy in any climate, none more so than today, and one point of contact is not enough to close the loop with a customer. Video can be a fresh pathway to would-be customers. You shouldn't think of video in traditional terms--highly produced 30-second ad spots. You don't even need to produce your own video--instead, recruit your existing customers to create and submit theirs. As we all know, user generated content can be extremely popular.

The biggest online video sites, such as YouTube, DailyMotion and Vimeo, provide great tools for distributing professional work and UGC and for attracting millions of users on a daily basis. These sites also optimize extremely well for search engines, such as Google, CastTV and VideoSurf, which all catalog video better than ever before.

Distinctive videos push people to your own site, where you can convert that visit into a purchase. Consider the success BlendTec has enjoyed with its "Will It Blend?" web series. Despite featuring an otherwise bland product (a blender), BlendTec has created an engaged audience riveted by the prospect of what will be blended next.

Social media tools like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter have become increasingly effective in helping companies acquire new customers because of the viral sharing elements built into their products. By posting video at these sites and encouraging your followers to share it, you can introduce your brand to millions of potential customers--and the best part is that your customers have done all the work for you. It doesn't have to be costly, time-intensive or laborious.

There's no reason to buy a 30-second TV spot when you can create and leverage your own content on the cheap! The great thing about the market today is that everyone has access to the tools needed to produce video. You just need a good idea.

Imbed Video in the Browser to Increase Retention
Every time someone visits or buys something on your site, they have a choice: Will they do it again, or not? Since customer retention is so important, you should consider using online video as a way to bring customers back to your site.

How and where should you grab their attention? Try the browser window. Every time a customer goes to the internet, they go through a browser; as a result, browser add-ons have become very popular.

Consider DailyMotion's recent move to further engage its customers with its toolbar add-on. The add-on offers a complete extension of the company's website and services in the browser window, with direct access to streaming videos and DailyMotion's user services. With that toolbar add-on users can see breaking news, watch videos, upload videos and search for videos by title and category--all directly from the browser without navigating to the page. You don't have to be a social networking or online video company to make this work for you. You can run video off of any number of gadgets that live in the browser window and are persistently available, no matter where the user travels on the internet.

Making Money with Video
In addition to serving as a promotional method, video can help your business make money. There are three ways video can effectively serve as a revenue generator, and all three models can be broadly applied to a variety of businesses.

  1. Subscription model: If you have content that is very valuable to your audience, you should consider a pay-for-access or subscription model. For instance, Major League Baseball, charges for watching games online in real-time or on-demand at MLB.TV. To enhance the value, MLB offers eight different camera angles, real-time highlights and Twitter integration so fans can interact while watching. Video can be accessed from its website or from a browser add-on. You could apply this model if you had, for example, "how-to" videos that demonstrate a coveted skill (advanced functionality on your product, teaching people how to make money) or content of immense value to a specific community.
  2. Converting traffic to purchase: Use video to drive traffic back to your site and entice visitors with a coupon, reward, discount or other special offer. A good example of this is the popular "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas" campaign. Land on the homage VisitLasVegas.com and you'll instantly see a montage of special offers.
  3. Eyeballs and advertising: Undoubtedly, the most common model for video marketing is driving traffic to a website for advertising or sponsorship revenue. More "eyeballs" equals more revenue. OpticGaming, for example, has loaded hundreds of videos of game play on YouTube. The videos keep gamers engaged and coming back, thereby increasing the value of the sponsorships and other advertising on OpticGaming's games and site.

Adam Boyden is President of Conduit. Conduit enables web publishers to distribute their offerings directly and through a global network of more than 200,000 publishers and 60 million users. As the inventor of the SaaS platform, Conduit allows web publishers to create and distribute their content and products on a custom community toolbar. The free, powerful Conduit platform has earned the prestigious TRUSTe Trusted Download certification.