Today’s podcast is all about building your business by harnessing one of the fastest-growing areas of the web: video.
Have you read a book called “Crush It!” by Gary Vaynerchuk? I read it a last year, and I found it incredibly interesting. I strongly recommend you check it out, as it is full of fantastic marketing tips and ideas that you can implement yourself.
In “Crush It!”, Gary Vaynerchuck talks about taking your passion, or a subject you’re an expert in, and building a business around that, no matter how niche that area is.
With that idea firmly in mind, I’m speaking to Brenton Ford, the brains behind Effortless Swimming. He’s a swimming expert, and he has created an incredibly successful online business that provides coaching and training to swimmers.
One of the secrets to Brenton’s success is how he uses video to publicise his brand.
In the four years since Brenton started his YouTube channel, he has had well over two million views. Brenton is the prime example of someone who is effectively using video to grow their business. During this podcast, you’ll learn his smartest and most effective ideas that’ll help you to build your brand online.
We’ll discuss his Melbourne video production marketing strategy, why his approach to web video has changed during his time marking them, and how he’s rapidly grown his audience by following a few simple tips.
Ryan: This is the Web Video Marketing Show. I’m your host, Ryan Spanger. Brenton Ford, welcome to the Web Video Marketing Show.
Brenton: Thanks, Ryan. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Ryan: It’s great to have you on the show. Now, you are a swimming coach, Brenton. I suppose, when people think about video production, they don’t sort of automatically think about swimming, but you’re using video in a really interesting way. It’s really one of the key things in your business. That’s why I wanted to talk to you on the show, to learn a little bit more about how you’re using video and YouTube to build your business.
Brenton: My background is in swimming. I started coaching in 2006. I always wanted to have an online business. I wasn’t too sure how to go about it, how to get started. Long story short, I basically started putting some videos up on YouTube and getting people going to my website from those YouTube videos. It’s just been the main driver of my business from the very start. I’ve found YouTube to be just such a great tool to use to market my business. Just putting together useful and helpful videos for swimmers and triathletes.
Ryan: That’s fantastic. It will be really interesting to break down that process. I’m looking at your YouTube channel now. You have nearly two and a half million views on your YouTube channel. Nearly 6,000 subscribers. That’s a pretty decent amount. I’m interested to talk through the process of how you got started, how you first got into the online world and started building the channel. By the sounds of it, initially, you were working as a swimming coach with not much on an online presence. Is that right?
Brenton: Yes, that’s right. I started out when I was in my teenage years. I started selling things on eBay and I kind of liked that online … the ability to be able to sell things online and not have to physically be there. Then, in unity I wanted to start an online business. I always thought the first thing I would do would have been swim, because that’s all I basically knew. I had a product in mind. It was going to be a free-style program, taking people through some drills and helping them improve their swimming. I started filming that. I got the product together, but I wasn’t too sure how I would sell it.
I set up a landing page, so just the website where people could swap their email address in exchange for some emails every couple of weeks, just helping them with their swimming. I didn’t know how to get people to actually go to that website. I thought, “Well, I’ve got these videos here. What I might do is just put together some two or three minute short videos, just providing some tips, just some questions that I get asked when I’m coaching or that pop up quite often around the poolside.”
I think I started with three or four videos. They’re very short ones, two or three minutes. I put them up on YouTube and they slowly started to get some visitors just from, I guess it was related views, just by putting the right titles and the right tags and descriptions for those videos. Just from people looking at other videos on YouTube, they came across mine. At the end of those videos, I said, “If you’d like more tips go to effortless swimming.com.” That’s how people started to slowly go to my website. That was in December 2008, when I put up my first video.
Ryan: Can I ask you, when you put those first videos up, did you have any idea of whether these videos were going to get any views? Was it a bit of an experiment? What was your thinking at that time?
Brenton: When I started, my thinking was very small. It was like, “If I can sell a couple of video programs that would be awesome. That would really blow me away.” I never thought that I would be in front of 2.4 million people, to date, of them watching the videos and having me in front of the camera and speaking. It’s just funny to think that you can reach that many people from shooting some videos and recording some videos, whether that’s at your office, at your home. To reach such a huge audience from such a sort of basic idea, I guess. In the start, when I hit 100,000 views, I thought that just unbelievable. Now 2.4, it’s crazy to think that that many people have watched the videos.
Ryan: Absolutely. I guess those goal post keep on changing. Where you look at that and you can really start to see the potential, where things can go to next.
Brenton: Yes, that’s exactly right. I mean, now, 2.4 million, 10,000,000 would be … is kind of the next goal. It doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of life. It’s great that they’re there. That’s a little bit of a vanity metric, but if you can reach more people via video, something that’s free to do basically, once you put your video on YouTube, it’s just such an important part of your marketing. If it doesn’t really cost you anything to put the video onto YouTube, you can miss out on a lot of traffic that way, if you’re not using video.
Ryan: When you started, you mentioned that you put the right description and title and tags. That’s all really important. Were you also on YouTube commenting on other people’s videos and networking and building connections, or was it really just an organic process of people finding your videos and then coming across to your website?
Brenton: I did a little bit of commenting on other videos. Most of it was organic, just from related views form other videos. I’m interactive with people who comment on my videos. If someone asks a question or they post something on there, I’ll reply to them, because I want to be accessible and to help them out. It’s a good way to build a relationship with people. I didn’t do too much commenting on other videos. I don’t know if that’s a successful technique or not. Mine was just organic.
Ryan: As people started to find you and they were commenting, what things were people saying? Obviously, they were liking what they saw. Were you able to, after a while, get a sense of what it was about you and your videos that people resonated with?
Brenton: I only sort of realized this in the last 12 months. I’m bit of a slow learner. It took me four years to learn what it was that attracted people to my videos in particular. I get probably an email a week, just mentioning that it’s the way I describe how to improve your swimming or the way I describe technique. People can really relate to it, because it’s very … I like to be very basic or very simple with how I describe it. You do get a lot of coaches using a lot of jargon and scientific terms and things like that. I much prefer something explained simply, so that people can understand it and use that information, rather than using all this jargon and sounding … It all sounds good, but I don’t think it’s quite as effective when it comes to helping people. My approach has just been explain it like you would explain it to someone who’s sort of just starting out and use analogies to help explain it.
What I’ve started doing recently is just talk, coming up with names and ways to describe things that other coaches haven’t described it before. For example, last week I put a video about the freestyle catch. This is, it’s sort of irrelevant for video marketing, but in terms of coming up, building up your community in your own space, coming up with names to describe things. I called this thing the “fake catch.” It’s just the way that the people are not pulling through correctly in their freestyle. That’s become really effective, because now people are going to use these terms to describe ways that people are swimming and they’re going to relate it back to me. That’s something that seems to be working quite well so far.
Ryan: Being conversational, accessible, down to earth, making things easy to understand, really helped. Then, starting to create some of your own terminology, so people could really understand what you’re talking about. Then, I guess, you can repeat that terminology on your website and in your products. In a way, you start to, I guess, take control of those ideas.
Brenton: Yes, that’s exactly right. You mentioned being conversational and down to earth. When I first started out on camera and just recording my first two videos, you can take a look at the Effortless Swimming video on the YouTube channel. The first two videos, I’m very bland, very boring. There’s no change in tone or anything like that. It’s all very straight down the line. That’s kind of how I generally am. I can be a bit straight to the point. Now, I’ve sort of learned to be a bit more conversational, smile a bit more and just lighten up a bit. People want to be able to relate to you and imagine that it’s just like a conversation between two people, rather than how you might explain it to a squad or something. That took a while to learn, but I think it’s a learning curve that everyone needs to go through. All it takes is just practice.
Ryan: Absolutely. It’s not really natural, sitting in front of the video camera and recording the stuff. Are you doing this by yourself or do you got someone there to help you to record it?
Brenton: I record all of my videos by myself. The videos that I do now, most of them are just me in front of the camera talking. I’ll use some footage that I’ve taken of swimmer in the water. When I’m filming products, so far it’s just been me recording other swimmers. I’m looking to probably get other people to help me film it now. I record one or two videos each week and it’s just me in front of the camera and I record it myself. It doesn’t need to be difficult. I think it’s more important to get things out there, rather than to make them perfect. It’s much better to have something there that people can actually do, than making the video perfect. Just get your stuff out there.
Ryan: I’ve watched a few of your videos. You’re sharing some really helpful information for people who are either competing or maybe they’re taking part in triathlons or just generally trying to improve their times. These are free videos and you’re sharing some really helpful information. Were you ever concerned about, I guess, revealing too much information to people, for free?
Brenton: I was initially. I still have that thought every now and then. I figure that if you can help someone, based on your free content and you can … I get, at least, an email a week from someone saying, “I watched your videos on YouTube and my time has come down 10 seconds or 20 seconds for 100. People have used this free information to already improve. If it can do that for someone, by them just watching some videos, and you’ve got a product or something that’s paid that can help them take that to the next level again, then you’ve got that trust and that relationship there. They know that what you’re going to provide in a paid product, that’s it’s going to be good and it’s going to help them even more so.
I’ve got no problems with sharing everything I know, I guess. I come up with my content based on what people ask me through emails. I’ll just give them the best possible answer I can. I’m not holding anything back. I’ll just tell it how it is and how I’d go about fixing that issue with their technique or whatever. I don’t think there’s much point in holding things back. Just give them the best you can and they can use the information to improve.
Ryan: Yes, and that’s obviously working. You’ve built up quite a following. I guess you could say, almost a community. How are you interacting with your community and staying in touch with them?
Brenton: I provide a weekly email. That goes out to everyone. That’s just a video that I’ve recorded for the week. It’s giving them some useful tips and useful content. Facebook’s a big one for me. I’ve got close to 30,000 fans on our Facebook page. I’m on there interacting with people quite often. That’s a good way just to build that relationship. The other thing I do, is when people reply to an email, I’ll always reply back to them personally. I won’t someone from support or anything to email them back, unless it’s a technical issue. I’m just interacting with people everyday through email. Also, in the YouTube comments and Twitter as well. Whatever medium that you’ve got that you’re using, I just reply to them and start that conversation.
I’ve built up some really solid relationships, just through Facebook and email. It’s working really well. Building that community around Effortless, to me, has really done good things to my business. In terms of products sold in the last four or five months, sales have doubled just from being better at building this community and relationship based around video marketing.
Ryan: That’s a huge growth over the last few months, particularly now. How are you able to track that video marketing has had such a strong effect?
Brenton: More so, just because of the emails that I get. Podcasting has been really good too. People always email me saying, “I’m listening to this podcast. I like what you said here.” The videos are the ones that get mentioned quite often. I get emails about, “You put out this video a few months ago, talking about this. I can’t find it. Do you know what video you mentioned it in?” People will say, when people join my membership, which my online coach is called Swim Proof, they’ll say, “I’ve watched your videos. I really liked what you talked about. I wanted to join Swim Proof so that I can continue to get better.” It always comes up in conversations. That’s how I know that it works. Plus, all the views and things like that. It’s really obvious that video marketing has been the best thing I’ve done for my business.
Ryan: You’re based in Melvin, Australia, but I’m guessing you must have viewers and followers all around the world. Is that right?
Brenton: Yes, that’s right. My biggest market is the States. Then, behind that it’s a mix between every other country I could name. I’ve had emails and people have bought products from all over Europe. The States, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, Australia. Then, if you look on Facebook, you can see how many people have … where the people are who have liked your page. There’s from countries I can’t even pronounce on there. It’s amazing to think that being here in Melvin, you can just reach anyone anywhere in the world. It’s incredible.
Ryan: Let me see if I can just break it down and summarize it, because it’s a really simple process. You’re basically making short information videos, putting them on YouTube, tagging and titling and putting the correct description. Then, essentially making them available. People are finding through search, primarily. They watch your video. They like what they see. They either subscribe to a channel or go across to your website. They then, maybe subscribing at the website and over time, building a relationship with you, getting to know you, maybe asking a question that you answer and becoming aware of your paid products and your membership. Is that pretty much the structure of how people find you and become customers?
Brenton: Yes, that’s exactly right. The way that people find me, a lot of it’s coming through word of mouth now, because of through that original base of people who watch the videos through YouTube. Related views are just huge on YouTube. When someone watches a video, at the end or on the sidebar, it recommends other videos for them. That gets a lot of views to the channel.
There’s two types of videos that I make. The first one is featured content or pillar content. They are videos that I know that people are searching for in Google and in YouTube. For example, the most popular video that I’ve got is one that’s titled, How to Swim Faster. After you think about it, obviously that’s what people want to do when they are looking for swimming videos to help them improve. That video has just shown up in the search engines and YouTube and Google when people type that in. That’s had the most views by far. Then, there’s other videos which I know that people are looking for these certain things, like how to flip turn and things like that. Then, there’s other content, other videos which are a bit more conversational and they aren’t necessarily answering these most common questions. They’re helping build that relationship and still giving tips, but it’s not that pillar content.
The pillar content has drawn in the most viewers. That’s drawn in probably, I’d say, a million and a half views to the channel. Then, the rest is through these other videos, which aren’t the pillar content, but they quite often make more sales and build that relationship better.
Ryan: That’s really interesting. You start broad, with topics that you know people are searching on, to make that initial connection. Then, you have other videos, which are more niche, which might be about solving very, very particular problems.
Brenton: Yes, that’s right. People, when they start out, they’re looking for these general things. Then, once you’ve got that relationship, they’ll watch the videos which they’re not 100% sure of what you’re going to talk about in it. These videos, it’s hard to put a … sometimes it can be difficult to put a good title that’s going to draw people in to watch the video. If they’ve seen your stuff, then they’ll generally watch the video anyway. It still provides good content, but you can’t provide as popular a title and name to the video. If that makes sense.
Ryan: Brenton, what are some strategy that you’re using to maximize the number of people that are signing up or going across to your website? Are you adding some text to the video or logos or watermarks or anything to kind of increase awareness of your website? What sort of techniques are you using?
Brenton: There’s four main things that I use. The first one is a watermark. I’ve got my logo in the corner of the video, so that whenever it gets embedded elsewhere, people know that it comes from Effortless Swimming. I also get a custom thumbnail done for the video. It’s usually a screenshot somewhere in the video. Then, it’s got the title of the video in that thumbnail. You’ll see all of the popular YouTubers do this and it works really well. I’ve started doing that. Then, I’ll have a link to my website at the top of the description. Then, I’ll have the description of the video below it. The description of the video below, it is just good for SCO or good for related searches.
Those four things are really good for getting people back to your website and getting your videos found. What I was doing at the start, when I started creating videos, which also works really well, is just putting a call to action towards the end of the video saying, “If you want more tips or more whatever, you can go to this website.” That works well, but you do get a big drop off in whatever videos you’re making, you’ll get a big drop off towards the end of the video. It might be down to half or a quarter. If you can make sure that you’ve got your logo or your website throughout the whole video, then people are much more likely to actually know where you’re coming form.
Ryan: YouTube sounds like the main place you’re promoting your videos, Facebook as well. Any other places or even offline?
Brenton: I haven’t done any offline promotion of the videos. My business is pretty much all online. I use Wistia for content in my memberships. Wistia is just a really good clean player that you can upload your videos to. You can put those playlist or those videos within your memberships or on your website so that people can watch them.
I was putting videos onto Vimeo and that was working okay. I lost the login details for that account and I just can’t seem to get back in, so I just haven’t used Vimeo. I think that’s a pretty good place to put your videos as well, because Vimeo is … I’m not sure in terms of visitors, but I know Vimeo is a very popular video player. That’s probably another place that if I was to upload it somewhere else, I would put them there.
I do get a lot of people embedding it on their website as well. That’s been a really good way for people to find me as well.
Ryan: If there’s people listening to the podcast who maybe have a particular interest or a skill or an area that they’d like to turn into a business and they’re thinking about using video, where would you suggest they start?
Brenton: It all depends on what their customer wants, what kind of information they want. You don’t need all of the best equipment to get started. I think I started with a foot camera, which is like $150. That did the job for a year, a year and a half. Then, I sort of upgraded. I got a cannon 60D with a good lens, which cost maybe $1,000 for everything. Just go out, get a camera, possibly get a microphone if you can, because audio quality is really important. If they can’t hear you, then they’re probably not going to stick around. If they can’t see you that well with the video, then I don’t think that’s quite as important as good audio. You really need good audio.
Just put together a couple of videos and get them out of them way. I know the first two videos I put out, they’re pretty average. You just need to get it done and just get started. I know if I hadn’t done video with my business, I probably wouldn’t be in business today, I don’t think.
Ryan: Wow. It’s been that powerful in your business?
Brenton: Yes. Especially for something as visual as swimming, it’s really important. Maybe not quite so much for other industries, but it’s really important for building a relationship. I think it’s the best way to build a relationship with an audience, is through video. They can see you and get to know you that way. Podcasting is also really good, because people can listen in the car and feel like they get to know you that way. Video, it just hits all the elements. They can see you. They can hear you. Then, they can interact with you on your website or on your YouTube channel.
Ryan: It’s interesting, because you would think that something like swimming is … I would have just assumed previously, that it’s something that if you wanted to work with a coach, you would need to physically be there at a pool with them. It actually translates to the web really well.
Brenton: Yes. That was one of the things I tackled early on, was that can you actually help people just through video. The answer is yes, because I get a lot of people saying how much they’ve improved. Another thing I offer is a video analysis. People will record themselves, upload that to YouTube and I will give them feedback. Just through watching that, I’ll record a video of myself, explaining the different … what they need to do basically. It’s basically like you’re there in person anyway. With a lot of this stuff, people can figure it our themselves when you explain it to them through videos. As long as you can still show them how it’s done, you don’t physically need to be there to help them do it.
Ryan: Are there things, looking back now, that maybe you would do differently or some advice for listeners of things that they should avoid or ways of them benefitting from possibly mistakes that you made along the way?
Brenton: The first thing, is I would post more regularly. Now, I post a video once or twice a week. I started out, I made a couple of videos and then didn’t do anything for probably six or 12 months. I just got caught up in everything else. Now, I definitely do it every week or if not more, if possible.
The other thing would probably be, just lighten up a bit at the start. Just try and enjoy the process as much as you can. At the start, I was so rigid with everything. I wouldn’t dare sort of make a conversation at all, it was just very descriptive and straight down the line. As much as you can, make a conversation. That’s what really engages people, I think, is if it feels like you’re having a conversation one on one.
Ryan: It definitely took me a while, and it’s early days for me with making my own videos. When I started I was very serious. Then, I tried to lighten up and I sort of turned the dial too much the other way. I sort of had this false kind of forced, like permanent smile on my face. Which kind of didn’t work either. Then, as a matter of just, I guess, making videos, watching them, getting feedback, refining it and slowly improving and evolving as you go.
Brenton: I watched a video promoting your … explaining how your business goes on to create creative video. That was the quality of that and how good you were in front of the camera, you could basically be a TV presenter. Who can relate to you can a bit more than a TV presenter? It just did such a good job. Have you found that just practice has helped you out?
Ryan: I found that when I started, I was very nervous and self conscious in front of the camera. I had to make a few. Then, look at them and get disappointed, become a little bit despondent. Think to myself, “Gee, can I actually do this?” Then, build up a bit of confidence, have another go, show it to some people and get feedback. Mainly, just practice. Presenters on TV make it look so easy. You just assume it’s going to be. It’s like any other skill. Like, playing the guitar. You’re not going to pick up a guitar and make it sound decent. If you practice every week, after a few months, you’re going to be able to play something that sounds okay.
Brenton: That’s right. It’s getting to that initial stage where you look at yourself and you think, “Gee, who’s going to want to watch this video?” It’s getting through that stage of not minding what you look like on camera. I think people see you differently than what you see your self on camera. The information, if it’s something that you’ve got expertise in, the information that you’re explaining is really good and helpful. You just need to know that what you’re talking about is going to help people. I think that’s the most important thing.
Also, when I started, I think I was making videos about topics that I thought I should do, because this is material that I should cover and my level of interest varied. As I focused more on making stuff that I really cared about and was quite interested in, I think I began to present better, because I was genuinely more excited about the material.
Brenton: Did you find that your passion came through when you were talking about things that you wanted to talk about, rather than what you thought you should talk about?
Ryan: Yes, much more. It was stuff that I had a real vested interest in or it was things that I knew my clients were actually having trouble with. By me sharing this information, was actually going to help them. Rather then, at first, sometimes I just had a sense of, “I should cover this, because this is the right thing to do” or “I’ve analyzed some search results and people are searching on this topic.” There are one or two videos where I didn’t have as much of a personal interest in. I think that showed through.
Brenton: Yes, absolutely. I did the same thing too. At the start, I looked at what are people searching for and thought, “I could better make videos about this.” I think those videos lost that persona touch and personal input on the content in the video. Now, I’ll just talk about topics that … they’re explained a little bit less extensive. They’re just in sort of general info. It’s more my personal slant on things. That’s what people want to hear. They want you to have an opinion and to have a way of doing things that you like to do it, rather than just a sort of generalist approach to things.
Ryan: There’s something unique. You’re showing people something unique about you and your videos.
Brenton: Yes, that’s right. I think people like to see a bit of personal flare there and have you put your input into something. Let’s say you post a picture on Facebook and it’s of a beach, for example. If you don’t put a comment there or say your opinion on it. Like, “I had a great day today,” whatever it might be. If you don’t provide a comment there, then people, I don’t think they tend to notice that picture as much. The same goes for video. If you just talk about something, rather than giving your opinion there, as well, then I don’t think it’s quite as effective.
Ryan: Absolutely. You are living proof that this YouTube style of video marketing absolutely works, providing you can give interesting engaging content. Which you definitely do. The results are there to see by the number of subscribers and views as well as people coming across to your website and buying your products. You’ve proved that it works. I believe you’ve now actually started to help other people through the same process.
Brenton: Yes. Based on the success of video marketing for my business, I’ve had a few people in different markets, but still going on the kind of expert business model where it’s based around them, they’ve approached me. I’m helping them with their video marketing and their online marketing. If you follow this type of system and you follow this video marketing, it works for pretty much any industry. I’ve had some people approach me and we’ve gone ahead with making some products and building up their video campaign. It really does work well.
Ryan: There might be some swimmers and athletes out there who’d like to check out your videos to improve their style and reduce their times. There might also be some people who are interested to learn more about how they can implement this. Where would be the best place for them to go online to find you?
Brenton: People can go effortlessswimming.com. They can see what I’m doing with video there. I’m getting the video transcribed and putting it together as a podcast, really leveraging that video content. The video is really the core of it. They can go to effortlessswimming.com and see what I’m doing there. If you’re a swimmer or triathlete, head there and there’s some quick tips, which will hopefully improve your swimming along the way.
Ryan: Great. I’m going to put a link to effortlessswimming.com in the show notes.
Give us a final thought to leave listeners with, who will be the start of their own YouTube channel and want to grow it or are thinking on embarking on this journey.
Brenton: I think, if you just started out in video or you’ve got a couple of months or a couple of videos under your belt, then look at building your email list and building that relationship with people through video and leveraging that into building your email list and your other channels as well. Video is really important. It’s pretty much the core of my business. Use it to fuel everything else and build the business outside of YouTube. Don’t be like one of those YouTubers that has everything based on YouTube, because if that goes away, then they’re left with nothing. Build up your other channels via your video.
Ryan: Excellent advice to finish off. Brenton, thanks very much for coming on the Web Video Marketing Show. You provided some great information. I’ve learned a lot. There’s things that I’m going to start implementing into my YouTube channel, based on this conversation. Thanks a lot for coming on the show.
Brenton: Thanks so much, Ryan. I have to say that the quality of the videos that you put out are fantastic. There’s a lot I can learn in terms of video quality. You’re the master when it comes to that. If people haven’t seen your stuff, then I highly recommend checking out your videos, because you do such a great job with them.
Ryan: That’s good of you to say. Thanks a lot, mate.
Brenton: Thanks, Ryan.
Ryan: That’s the end of the show. It was awesome speaking to Brenton. I hope you enjoyed the show and got a lot of useful information that you can implement in your business. Thanks very much for listening. I hope you’re enjoying what you’re hearing and I’d love to get your feedback. Please get in touch, connect with me through webvideomarketing.com. Let me know what you think. Are you enjoying the content that I’m covering on the show? Are you getting value from the ideas that the guests are sharing? Are there particular topics that you’d like me to talk about or guests that you’d like to come on the show? I always enjoy hearing from listeners and I’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch at webvideomarketing.com. I look forward to speaking to you guys again in a couple of week’s time.
Ryan Spanger is one of Melbourne’s most respected and sought-after video production professionals. Ryan founded Dream Engine in 2002, and specialises in helping medium to large corporates, government departments, and the non-proﬁt sector to connect with their audience more effectively by using video.