Multi-level marketing is known by many names, including network marketing, direct selling, and occasionally word of mouth marketing. With the advent of social media and the ability to expand our “friendship” and network reach beyond our own physical locations, it’s no surprise that multilevel marketing was never far behind.
Multilevel marketing and Video Email
There’s a “plan” out there I’ve heard a lot about from local business people, called Talk Fusion, that allows you to send Video Email. It started in 2007, and boasts a large number of people all over the world using this as the next big thing. The product itself lets you upload videos you create and simply embed them in your email, saying that your email will be much more engaging and “add a new dimension to your business communications.” (They have other products as well, including video conferencing, video blogging, and more.)
This is intriguing to a lot of business folks, who want to see more results from their emails, bring in new business, and otherwise engage their clients. This can seem like a great idea, and maybe it is- but you have to ask yourself the following questions:
1. How do I track my current email response rates? If you aren’t looking at the effectiveness of your current emails, doing A/B testing, finding out when you have the best open rates, etc. How will you know if any videos you add in will enhance your engagement with email? Without a good baseline on your current email marketing efforts, how will you compare the addition of video?
2. Am I already using Email marketing best practices?
There are lots of great tips out there for using email marketing effectively. For example, here’s a link to a great post from the Blue Sky Factory Blog detailing 52 fantastic email marketing tips (Blue Sky Factory is now part of What Counts). If you are going to use email marketing, getting good at that first will deliver much more return than just sending a video in your email will- it’s a whole package of using email to reach your target audience first, let alone engage them with the bels and whistles. To use an analogy, you can be serving the best (and fanciest) food in town, but if you can’t get anyone to open the door, how will they ever know?
3. How and when/where are my customers receiving my emails? Many professionals read their email over mobile devices, including iPhones, iPads, Blackberrys, Androids and more. Only a portion of these platforms support flash players, and the videos in Talk Fusion are all flash-based. This means all your engaging videos will be invisible to anyone opening up your email on a decent portion of mobile phones and devices, and will defeat the purpose of using this nifty tool in the first place.
3. Do I know anything about creating good videos?
Regardless of what distribution method you use for videos created in house, is the content itself any good? I recommend you read Content Rules by CC Chapman and Ann Handley, discussing on how to create great and engaging content online first. (Amazon Affiliate link below) Whether your video is on YouTube or some other online hosting service or part of an email, it should be engaging, informative, and worth the time of anyone who sees it. Great content is great content, regardless of how you view it. But “great” will be in the eye of the viewer, so keep that in mind.
Interestingly, if you go to the Talk Fusion website, it’s as much about the process of signing up to distribute Talk Fusion as it is about the product(s) themselves. Google Searches for reviews of Talk Fusion lead you to reviews of it as a business opportunity rather than as a service you might want to buy and use in your business. This raised a red flag for me. Many of the reviews themselves on various MLM websites are also next to identical. This makes them all appear to be canned, copy and paste jobs, than authentic,useful reviews. This has worked well in generating SEO for reviews of Talk Fusion as a MLM thing, but again, gives us no idea what the “users” think about this solution for video email over, say, creating a YouTube channel and putting links in your email, etc. Nor does it give you any sense of whether or not video in email enhances conversions or business.
This would lead me to suspect that there are many folks who are concerned that this MLM plan is more of a pyramid scheme than a really useful business tool, especially since the reviews of “users” are again, geared towards those using Talk Fusion as a personal business opportunity, selling the service, than as end users using it to boost their businesses.
Ok, well this makes me suspicious of Talk Fusion’s business model, but the question that’s still unanswered is whether video email is a good idea or not.
Let’s try to answer that. Back to Google. Let’s start with Video Email Marketing Tips.
Benchmark has a great post detailing video email tips and practices. As we said before, it starts out with basic good email marketing practices. One key paragraph says:
Overall, video email marketing is untested waters at the moment, but the format is interesting and can open up many opportunities to make new sales and raise interest in your products and services. The key is to start small and not be discouraged if you get less subscribers than you’d hoped for. In time video email may be the standard format, but for now you’ll need to enhance your regular emails with video to help your subscribers make an easy transition over to this new style of email marketing.
So it seems that at least one provider states this is new and untested. Hrmmm. The rest of the tips from our Google search all come from, no surprise, email marketing companies, but none of the ones in the first page are Talk Fusion. That gives me the impression that Talk Fusion is more about selling itself than seeing people be successful using the product, but again, that’s only my opinion.
But let’s look under the hood. Other email companies, like What Counts, also offer video email. But they use HTML5 encoding rather than Flash, and to the non-geeks, this means the video is viewable on any device, including mobile, something the flash-based Talk Fusion doesn’t offer.
I haven’t used Talk Fusion myself, but I’m suspicious of the way the company operates more to promote itself than its actual products. I’m cautious about the results delivered by video email, especially if you don’t already have great email marketing practices to begin with, which would limit the effectiveness of any email campaign, video included or not. It seems like a shiny object. Cool, but what’s the real return on investment for your business? Maybe being seen as cool and cutting edge is part of the appeal, but the results will, again, depend on the quality of the video you produce, not the distribution channel alone.
Even the on-site hosting of your videos on the Talk Fusion “wall” seems to me to generate more traffic for Talk Fusion, not your own website, and does not allow the same sort of sharing that you might find via free services like YouTube. (Note: Some folks don’t like YouTube and recommend you create your own “branded” video player, but I would suggest getting your content out and shared is more important for most small businesses than worrying about paying money to create a branded player first. After all, social media and video is about sharing and making distribution simple, not more difficult.)
I’d recommend starting out with creating killer content. The better your content, in video, audio , emails, blogs, etc., the more naturally people will want to share it and spread your message. And in the end, whether you are marketing widgets, or trying to teach kids history, the more memorable and engaging your content, the more likely it is that your audience will respond.
And that’s true regardless of the package you wrap it up in.