A bad video — one that is poorly lit, that you can barely hear or is deafening, that rambles or doesn’t make a point — is worse than not having any video on your website (or YouTube). So to help you create a video that will get customers talking and clicking are 12 helpful tips from the experts.

1. Know who your target audience is. “Think how your video can help your end user, the customer,” says John Sarkisian, CEO, SKLZ, a sports training product manufacturer. In SKLZ’s case, its how-to videos, which showcase its sports training products, are geared to customer representatives at sporting goods retailers. That exposure – or brand awareness – led to SKLZ getting increased shelf space at national sporting goods retailers, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, which boosted sales.

2. Script it. “A script for a video is like a blueprint when building a house,” explains Edward Schlesinger, script writer, OnlineVideoScriptwriting.com. “It will let you see what the finished product will look like before you start.” In addition, “changes on paper are much easier and cheaper to do than once production starts.”

3. Have a clear call to action. “What do you want people to do after they’ve watched your video?” asks Schlesinger. No matter how short your video is, “make it clear what you want people to do – pick up the phone, sign up online, walk through your doors. Don’t throw away this opportunity to convert potential customers.” (For a great example of how to get your message – or call to action – across in 1:34, see Dollar Shave Club’s recent viral video, which was viewed over 2 million times in just over 48 hours, and is prominently featured on Dollar Shave Club’s home page.)

4. Shoot in a quiet place. “Always try to shoot in a quiet place away from machines, large crowds and traffic noise,” says Rob Ciampa, vice president of Marketing, Pixability, a video marketing company and the authors of Video Marketing for Dummies. Also keep in mind that “putting the right [or wrong] microphone on your subject can make a big difference.”

5. Light it well. “Make sure you are using all available light sources,” advises Ciampa. Remember that right – or wrong – lighting “will shape the mood of your video.”

6. Choose the right music. “A widely ignored but great way to move the needle for brands through video marketing is to integrate music,” argues Bryan Boettger, Chief Creative Officer, The Buddy Group, a digital engagement agency. Brands “should budget at least 5 percent of their video spend on professional music,” he argues. Though that doesn’t mean you need to feature The Who or One Direction; someone no one’s ever heard of is fine – better even – if it’s the right song to help get your message across. “By choosing the right music, brands have an opportunity to not only… engage consumers, but they also come across surprisingly relevant if they break an artist who has yet to connect with a larger audience.”

7. Less is often more when it comes to effects. “Building a story is the editor’s number one objective,” explains Ciampa. “Stay away from snazzy effects and [focus on delivering] a professional and polished story.”

8. Keep it short. Try to keep your videos to around a minute and a half. Although if it takes 30 seconds or two minutes more to properly demonstrate your product, use the extra time. Just remember that many (if not most) of the people you are trying to reach are at work, and have short attention spans.

9. Use your customers – especially if they are well known and/or social media influencers. Do your customers love your product or service? Ask them to star in a video for you. In order to reach its target demographic, young first-time home buyers, Oak Mortgage Group of Dallas, Texas, shot video testimonials of every loan it closed with clients who fit its target market. Then the mortgage bank inserted the video testimonials in its newsletter and posted them on its Facebook and Twitter pages (with the customers’ permission). Clients loved it and shared the videos – and told their friends about Oak Mortgage Group. Indeed, because of the customer video testimonials, “word of mouth grew and Oak Mortgage Group became a leading mortgage bank in Texas,” says Merrick Pickens, PR & Marketing director, Oak Mortgage Group.

D’Artagnan Foods, an international fine foods purveyor, also has enthusiastic customers, many of whom are well-known celebrity chefs. So in order to help promote D’Artagnan, its owner and founder, Ariane Daguin, a personality and chef herself, enlisted fellow chefs Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert and Marcus Samuelsson (among others) to star in a series of how-to videos with her – showing food lovers how to recreate some of their favorite dishes, using D’Artagnan products. To date, the videos have been very successful, helping to increase brand awareness and sales for the company.

10. Use humor – if or where appropriate. To advertise the fact that its food is fresh, not microwaved, Moe’s Southwest Grill created an entertaining video titled “Microwaves Ruin Everything.” The video reached more than 1.5 million views on YouTube in only a few weeks, going viral faster than anyone anticipated. Soon after the video’s release, sales jumped 8.5 percent. And while Moe’s Southwest Grill cannot directly attribute that increase in sales to the video alone, the company believes it definitely contributed.

11. You don’t need to hire James Cameron to produce (or direct) your video. While it’s a good idea to work with a professional videographer or video production agency that knows what they’re doing, if you don’t have someone on staff, don’t go overboard. “Too many organizations feel compelled to produce Hollywood-grade corporate videos,” says Ciampa. “Unless you’re a luxury brand, most prospects not only don’t care,” they may be turned off by over-produced, overly slick videos. “Focus on great content and clear presentation while ensuring the proper lighting, audio and camera techniques. With this approach, you’ll be able shoot more video much more economically,” he says.

12. Include a video sitemap on your website. “Ensure videos are indexed by Google by submitting a video sitemap,” says Melody King, vice president of marketing for Treepodia, a provider of e-commerce video solutions. (Instructions for how to do this are available on Google’s Webmaster Tools’ page.)

For more information about video making and marketing, read my article, “How to Make Video Marketing Work for Your Business.”

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