Hi Rick, welcome to the interview! You’ve done some interesting marketing moves, with video notable! For the uninformed, please tell us about who you are, what you’ve done (video background) and what you do.
RICK HOOGENDOORN: Well, I started out in television when I was 15. I volunteered as a floor director for a local cable TV show in the late 70’s and had my eye on being a sports broadcaster. By 19 I was working as a part-time TV news reporter for CKVU in Vancouver, I got to work on Sportspage, and produced the evening news at 22. I left that business in 1988 but always had a hankering “to do my own thing”. Now technology has reached the point where we can all do just that. Initially I partnered with a friend who had much more technical knowledge (with shooting, lighting and editing videos) than I did, but he moved to Korea so I was stuck. It was either learn to do it myself, or not do it at all. So I learned.
I am now a real estate agent in Victoria, BC, and I use video to promote my own business, and anything else I like supporting. For example, earlier this year I created a 60 video YouTube series for the Family Caregivers’ Network Society, a local charity.
What does marketing/educating the public with your business ‘products’ (houses for sale) look like?
RICK HOOGENDOORN: My video style varies considerably. For example, the first real estate video I did incorporated many of the impersonations I do. I used visuals of the home I was selling with a voice over description by Christopher Walken, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Sean Connery, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and others. My idea was simply to get exposure for the home. What I didn’t expect was that it would be noticed by the Social Media proponents in town and mentioned as “a game changer” in the video field. To be honest, I was just trying to make noise so the home I was selling got noticed.
Where did your ‘style’ originate?
RICK HOOGENDOORN: When I was a TV News reporter I loved doing those stories where I was able to be funny. For example, I’ve posted a video on my Facebook page of me visiting Studio 86 at EXPO in Vancouver. I made a complete hack job of the singing process but had a riot. I was the guy they’d send to cover the Polar Bear swim, with the expectation I’d go in myself! Or the reporter they’d send out to wear the protective arm gear that the police dog could attack in front of the camera!
I refer to it more as “playing video”. In the 1990’s, I helped Robert Fritz (author of The Path of Least Resistance) make a series of training videos for his company. In one of them, I played the roles of all three Maltese Falcon characters – Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, and Sidney Greenstreet. So I think it’s just a combination of the television background I have, along with my comedy / improv / wannabeanactor thing.
Your angle of attack is different than your competition – I’ve seen no one else doing videos quite like you in Real Estate! You’re not going for the polished, expensive camera work pieces, and don’t need it! You’re creating unique, memorable yet informational web video. Please explain how your business made the choice to use online video (versus sticking to text and images for marketing).
RICK HOOGENDOORN: I don’t have the technical chops to be able to pull off the polished, expensive camera work pieces. It’s that simple. So I’ve got to make up for it with story. So usually I wait to be inspired by a particular angle or approach to the property I’m thinking about promoting. In my Dunford Ave video, it was all about the numbers. The positive cashflow on that property was insane, and so I used it as a way to educate people about how to look at the numbers when investing in a property. I used to be a financial planner, and I’m also a real estate investor, so that interested me personally.
For my Allbay Rd video, I asked myself who would be able to buy this waterfront home. I thought about the people retiring from Vancouver and just happened to hit upon some statistics that showed how the opportunity to relocate from Vancouver to Victoria was a good financial move! The property also had incredible views, so I was out there at 4:30am getting video of the sun coming up over Mt. Baker. You can’t convey that with text.
My Mars St video begged for a Twilight Zone treatment. I had done a Twilight Zone video with Robert Fritz, and knew I could do the voice of Rod Serling. The hook was the fact that it was one of the only new homes in Greater Victoria where one didn’t have to contend with the HST, nor the Colwood Crawl commute. I needed more showings on the property and needed to grab peoples’ attention. With thousands of properties on the market, you have to do something different to get attention for your listings.
All of this began, though, by accident. There was no master plan to make video part of our real estate business. Rather I was making a few videos already and my McCallum Rd listing wasn’t selling. I had to do something so I thought – make a video. It has just blossomed from there partly, too, because of the great feedback I’m getting.
Are there any metrics you use to quantify video marketing as a success? Is it working?
RICK HOOGENDOORN: There are well over 1,000 real estate agents in Greater Victoria. Trying to stand out in that crowd by doing what everybody else is doing is bananas. So every time a person views one of my videos I think it’s a win. There is also no geographical limitation to this YouTube marketing world. What’s cool is that someone I didn’t know viewed my Dunford video in Terrace, BC, and we ended up working with them to buy a property in Victoria!
They liked my approach to explaining the numbers for real estate investors. Of course, that really makes it pay. But in all honesty, I make the videos because I love to. I also make the videos I want to make. My clients don’t have any creative input, or editorial control, though I do ask for permission to make a video about their property, and see if they want it to be serious or funny. I certainly don’t want to make a funny video, like the one for Mars St, for example, and then have an unhappy seller that wants it taken off YouTube. Aak!
Mostly, though, the videos blow them away.
Looking at the broader scope, what are some common missteps you see many businesses making when using online video?
NUMBER ONE: Most people play it safe. They don’t take any risks and they don’t let their own unique talents and abilities shine through. It happens because we don’t want to be criticized or laughed at or whatever. But what I’ve come to realize is that James Cameron can spend hundreds of millions of dollars making the cutting edge movie of the decade (Avatar) and still there will be millions of people who don’t like his movie. Some people aren’t going to like my videos, and they aren’t going to want to use me as their real estate agent. So what!? I don’t need everybody to like what I do. I just need enough people to like what I do. And I think the chances of that happening go up when you put yourself out there, instead of playing safe. I’m talking about the standard video tour, or the talking head. I really don’t think anybody wants to see my talking head!
- People need to be cognizant of the audience’s attention span. When we’re on our computers the slightest delay or lull will result in viewers clicking away from your video. You have to grab them quick, give them great information or entertainment, and end it. I know my own videos need to be shortened even further.
- I also try to make my videos worth watching even if the property I’m promoting has already sold. So try to make them so they won’t be dated, and they’ll have information / entertainment worth watching regardless.
- Stop making videos that just talk about you! Who cares! Make videos that either entertain, educate, or both. Sales videos that are all about the seller – suck.
Any advice out there for an organization looking to make use of video in a stylistic way like your business has?
RICK HOOGENDOORN: Start small. Make one video. Learn from your mistakes. Then do the next one. Most people don’t take the step they need to take because they are thinking about it too broadly. Get your camera out and start taking some shots. Play around. I’ll never forget being out with my partner getting our first video shots and eventually reaching the point where I said “can I try?” He was the designated cameraman but I thought I could see some shots he wasn’t seeing. After that, I went nuts. I was out with my camera all over the place. Playing. Practicing. Learning.
You don’t need to know everything to start. I ran into a video editing / software problem the other day and there was a YouTube video that helped explain the problem in 4 minutes! This world is AWESOME for the individual creator. I was so “in my head” when I found out my partner was moving to Korea. I wasn’t even sure I wanted the equipment and editing software we had. That’s how difficult I thought the learning curve would be for editing. Not! It turned out he tutored me for 45 minutes, I took notes, and that was sufficient. Beyond that it was just playing around. What I really needed to know was how to open a new file, how and where to save it, how to convert it for the web, and then upload it. Of course, one can also hire all this stuff out.
So many people are missing the incredible opportunity that the web and YouTube and technology represent. The barriers to the creative process, and particularly the world market, are non-existent. When I started in TV, a broadcast-quality camera cost $25,000, editing machines were probably $50,000+, and you needed access to a TV STATION! Now you can record video on your phone and upload direct to YouTube instantly, accessing the global marketplace. It’s insane! There’s a playground here without borders. What do you want to play at?
How does one know when it’s okay to add more humour, and how does one gauge if the mix of info + story are working?
RICK HOOGENDOORN: My first response would be “I don’t know.” I mentioned asking my clients about their preferences (humour vs. serious), but beyond that I’d say I just go with my gut. I trust my own judgment. People have always said I’m funny. But I do have this kind of internal meter that registers whether something I do is “off” or not. If I’m fretting or concerned at 3am about something I’ve written, I’ll remove it or change it. I’ve always had this “not quite right” radar. Having said that, viewers view what they watch subjectively. I had one friend insist that I should take my Mars St Twilight Zone video off YouTube immediately! He thought I was calling everybody who lived in the Western Communities stupid. Of course, that’s not what I meant, and I realize I can’t control if someone thinks that. He was well meaning, but that video is still on YouTube.
Rick, glad we’ve been able to highlight your style and business! Anything else you would like to share?
RICK HOOGENDOORN: Well, my YouTube channel is rickinvictoria1. All the real estate videos I’ve mentioned can be seen there, along with the video series for the Family Caregivers’ Network. Also, if you are stuck wanting to create videos and you’re not, I’ve written a book called “What Is Stopping You?”, which can be found online at the bookstore of www.seniorlivingmag.com. Finally, thank you for putting this together! Isn’t this sandbox fantastic?