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Everything You Need to Know About Creating a Jaw-Dropping Movie Trailer on the Cheap

This guest post is by Jon Morrow of boostblogtraffic.com.

Ever look at those snazzy movie trailers Hollywood puts out for their latest blockbusters and wonder how you could make one of your own?

Maybe you’re starting a new blog, and you want to launch with a bang. Or maybe you’re coming out with a new book, and you want to create some prelaunch buzz. Or maybe you’re even launching a new online course, and you want to build anticipation up to a fevered pitch in preparation for launch day.

Whatever the case, creating a trailer seems like a good way to do it. There’s only one problem:

You can’t possibly afford it, right?

Movie trailer

Image copyright Deklofenak - Fotolia.com

Hollywood routinely spends $50,000 or more putting together their movie trailers. They assemble crackerjack teams of animators, story borders, musicians, video editors, and directors, all of whom work for weeks on the trailer alone.

These aren’t folks aren’t exactly begging for work, either. If you want a great trailer, you have to hire the best, and the best comes at a premium price.

So, you’re screwed, right? I mean, maybe you could scrounge around in the couch cushions to find a few bucks, but that’s not going to get you very far, now is it?

Actually … you might be surprised.

How I created a jaw-dropping movie trailer for under $50

Yep, it’s true. The movie trailer I created for my blog launch only cost me a grand total of … wait for it…

$34 US.

Granted, I already had a copy of Adobe After Effects, which saved a few thousand bucks. I’m also an exceptionally geeky dude, so I figured out how to do all the necessary work on my own.

But it’s easier than you might think.

You see, I bought this template from VideoHive for $20. It’s basically a ready-made movie trailer, where all you have to do is fill in the text.

From there, I bought this music for $14, which was actually recommended by the designer who created the After Effects template. So I bought a license, added it to the trailer, and then exported the whole thing to a movie file.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Don’t believe me?

Well then, let’s take a step-by-step walk-through of how to do it for yourself.

Step one: choose your Adobe After Effects template

Before you do anything else, head on over to VideoHive and browse through the trailers. There are several ways to do it:

  1. Just type “trailer” in the search box, and then look through everything that comes up.
  2. Browse category by category, starting with “After Effects Project Files,” and then drilling down to exactly what you want.
  3. Click “After Effects Project Files,” and then sort by “Sales,” showing you all the most popular templates on the site.

The third option is my personal preference, because it allows you to familiarize yourself with all the different types of templates and start thinking about what might work for you. When I first started working on my trailer, I spent hours and hours looking through them, dreaming about what I could do, and it took me weeks to finally settle on one.

The reason I finally chose Ivory is because it has an epic feel, but it’s not an overly complicated trailer, so it was really easy to modify. All I had to do was change the text, slip in my own videos, and it was ready to go.

That’s important, because if you’re doing it yourself, you should know Adobe After Affects is one of the most complicated pieces of consumer software in existence. I’m a technical dude, and it still took me hours to figure out how to change the text. If I’d used anything more complicated, I probably would have been tinkering with it for weeks.

That’s not to say you can’t use a more complicated template, of course. If you do, you probably just want to hire a professional to edit it for you, which we’ll get to in a minute.

But if you do want to do it yourself, stick to the ones with quotes. You can find them by searching for “quotes” or “text.”

Whatever you decide though, you’ll soon discover that none of the templates come with music. They often provide recommendations, but you have to license and integrate it on your own.

Let’s talk about that next…

Step two: license the music for your trailer

There are lots of different places you can license music online, but most or all of the templates on VideoHive use music from another site in the Envato network, AudioJungle. You can use any music you want, of course, but the selection at AudioJungle really is quite awesome, and the licenses allow for trailers (I’m not a lawyer, so consult one, if there’s any doubt).

You can search it the same ways you searched VideoHive, and if you’re looking for a few hours to kill, it’s a good way to do it, but you could also argue it’s a waste of time. Here’s why:

Changing the music will skyrocket the cost.

The majority of the templates are created with a certain piece of music in mind. The animation changes with music, and key ideas pop up at just the right time to create a dramatic effect. If you change the music, everything will be out of sync, and so you will have to redo the timing of the animation.

Unless you’re an Adobe After Effects guru, that means hiring a pro to do it for you, and I would guess the change of music, along with the necessary changes to the animation, would cost you anywhere between $500-$1,000. If you’re working on a big product launch, it might be worth it, but for a blog or book or any other project where you’re not making lots of money, you probably want to keep it cheap.

It’s up to you, but my advice: stick with the music the template creator recommends.

From there, all you have to do is…

Step three: assemble and render your movie trailer

Here, you have to make a decision, and it will dramatically affect the cost of your trailer, as well as the time it takes you to create. You can either:

  1. Assemble and render your movie trailer all by yourself.
  2. Pay a professional to render and assemble it for you.

As I mentioned earlier, I decided to do myself, but … well … I’m a weirdo. I actually enjoy learning new software and tinkering with it days on end, and so the 20+ hours it took me was, in a word, fun, where most normal people would’ve already turned their computer into a flying projectile.

Maybe you’re a weirdo too, though. If you are, you can absolutely do it. Buy or borrow a copy of Adobe After Affects, pray your computer is powerful enough to run it (hint: 4 GB of RAM, bare minimum), Google up some After Effects tutorials, and start working.

On the other hand, maybe you would rather be water boarded than try to do it yourself. If that’s the case, cough up a few more bucks, and hire a pro.

It’s not as expensive as you might think.

Most of the uber-talented designers on VideoHive will put everything together for you for $250-$500. You don’t get any changes to the template, and they are probably not going to do multiple revisions, but if you hand over your text, music, and any photos or videos, they’ll put them in and send you a completed trailer.

If that’s too much money, you can also go the cheapskate route and post the job on a freelance site like oDesk. You can probably get it done by somebody in India, China, or Eastern Europe for $100 or less.

And if you think about it, that’s still pretty cheap. Sure, it’s a lot more at than the skimpy $34 I shelled out, but it’s also a lot cheaper than the $50,000 or more Hollywood movie studios spend.

It also makes you look like a rockstar. So if that’s all that’s standing in your way, don’t cheap out, here. Save up a few hundred bucks, and get yourself a nice trailer for your launch.

It’s totally worth it

No, you probably won’t pick up 1740 subscribers in a week like I did, because that takes some killer connections, but what if you get a couple hundred? Or what if it convinces a major TV or radio show to interview you? Or what if it sells just one more copy of your $500 course?

You don’t have to blow the doors off for your trailer to pay for itself. Truth be told, you can probably screw about 90% of it up, and it will still beat any other type of launch lead in you could do.

Next week, I’ll have another post here on ProBlogger giving you some strategies on how to get the most out of your trailer. In the meantime, start digging through VideoHive, get some different ideas rattling around in your head, and let your subconscious do its work.

All the technical tomfoolery in the world is no substitute for creativity. And really, that’s what we’re doing here. We’re packaging up our ideas into a 30-180 second trailer, but the strength of that trailer isn’t the animation or the music or even the video itself. It’s the ideas.

So get thinking.

Be creative.

And more than anything, believe in yourself. Yes, you might be an upstart blogger, scrounging around the couch cushions to pay for your trailer, but you can do this.

And you know what I think?

It’s gonna be huge.

Jon Morrow is also on a mission to help good writers get traffic they deserve. If you’re one of them, check out his upcoming blog about (surprise!) blogging.

How to Generate Massive Traffic, Excitement, and Even Jealousy with a Hollywood-Style Launch Trailer

This guest post is by Jon Morrow of boostblogtraffic.com.

You know that feeling you have when you’re onto something big?

Your heart is thump, thump, thumping, your mind races down the roads of future possibilities, and you drift through the day with strange grin plastered on your face, like someone shot you up with happy juice, and you’ve yet to come down. It’s a wonderful place to be, and if you’d come looking for me on October 7, 2011, it’s exactly where you would’ve found me.

Seven days into the launch for my new blog, I already had 1,740 email subscribers. I’d picked up over 1,000 new twitter followers, hundreds of whom were enthusiastically gabbing about me to all their friends. I also had 673 likes and dozens of comments on a new Facebook fan page.

Oh, and did I mention I didn’t write a single blog post?

It’s true. My blog consisted of two pages, a video, and over 200 comments from readers who were so excited they could barely sit still.

What’s more, a half-dozen A-list bloggers sent me the direct messages on Twitter, telling me how impressed they were. One of them even said he was jealous. I was shocked. My baby blog was only seven days old, and already people were envious.

Sounds impossible, right?

Normally, it is. For many bloggers, getting traffic and respect is an incremental process, built one blog post at a time over a period of months or years.

It takes patience. It takes perseverance. It takes lots and lots of hard work.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way?

What if you go from a nobody to the center of attention in your industry in a matter of weeks?

What if you could become an authority without writing a single word?

What if you could get hundreds or even thousands of people talking about you, generating a massive tidal wave of traffic that carries you for years to come?

In our world, it’s unheard of. Blogs just aren’t built that way.

So, to learn how, I had to visit another world, a world inhabited by the brilliant and the beautiful, a world where billions of dollars are won or lost based solely on the strength of an idea, a world where nobodies transforming into superstars isn’t just normal but routine.

What is this strange place?

Chances are, you’ve probably heard of it.

It’s called Hollywood.

The Hollywood guide to blog promotion

At the movies

Copyright itestro - Fotolia.com

Have you ever really paid attention to the way Hollywood creates blockbuster movies?

Yes, they spend gazillions of dollars on advertising. Yes,
they have an opening night where the cast turns out in all their glitz and glamour for a showing of their film to the Who’s Who of the movie biz. Yes, they have an army of crackerjack marketers creating special promotions, building strategic alliances, and merchandising everything imaginable.

But it all starts with a trailer. Editors chop two or three hours of film into a 30-150 second spot designed to leave you spellbound and begging for more.

And the stakes are high.

A good trailer gets millions of people excited about seeing the film, where a bad one confuses, or worse, bores viewers into believing the film will suck. A good trailer captures the attention of the media and creates a blitz of free publicity, where a bad one is ignored or even made fun of. A good trailer is the starting gun for a blockbuster movie that rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars, where a bad one is a bullet to the brain of a project doomed from the start.

Good or bad though, every movie has one, and that’s because people need them. Nobody wants to go into a movie having no idea what it’s about. They need you to condense it down for them. They need to make it easy to decide. And so they give you 30-150 seconds to do it.

In the movie business, it’s accepted, but I couldn’t help thinking…

What if it’s true for other media too?

If you’ve ever looked at the percentage of new visitors who subscribe to your blog, you’ve probably been shocked by how abysmal it is.

The average blogger only gets 1-2% of new users to subscribe, and even the rock stars who do everything perfectly only get about 5%.  To improve the percentage, there are several things you can do, like creating landing pages, offering incentives, or installing pop-up reminders to subscribe, but there’s only so far you can go.

Here’s why:

You’re making it too difficult to decide.

Visitors have to figure out what your blog is about, they have to read your content, and they have to decide whether or not it’s interesting to them. The whole process takes ten minutes or more, and that’s too long. The truth is, Hollywood has figured it out: you only have 30-150 seconds, and after that, they’re gone.

So how can you make the whole process shorter?

Well, you can’t. The problem is, you’re asking people to watch the movie before they see the trailer, and most of them decide it’s not worth the trouble.

To make it work, you really need to reengineer the process from the ground up. And that’s exactly what I decided to do.

How I got 1,740 subscribers in seven days

When I launched Boost Blog Traffic, I built my whole strategy on an insane idea:

In the beginning, the best way to get subscribers is to publish nothing.

No blog posts. No podcasts. No content at all.

Instead, I would offer a short video trailer, very similar to what Hollywood releases for movies. I would give visitors the bare minimum they need to subscribe. I would spend several months promoting the trailer before writing a single blog post.
Pretty much the same way Hollywood does it.

If you look at the trailer, you’ll see Hollywood’s fingerprints there too. It has dramatic music. It has slick animation. It has shamelessly over-the-top quotes from social media big shots.

And then it asks for a decision:

Will you subscribe, or will you leave?

A lot of people resist asking that question, because the answer is scary. What if they decide to leave? What if you end up with nothing? What if everybody thinks you’re an idiot?

I wish I had some comforting truism to offer in response, but the truth is, it happens. You could fail. But what’s worse: finding out your idea sucks after only a couple of weeks or waiting three years before you finally face the facts?

Personally, I’d rather do it fast. Rip off the Band-Aid, have a good cry, and then get back to business.

If it works, it’s worth it. If it doesn’t, it’s still worth it, because you learned some valuable lessons without paying too high a price.

But this whole idea of starting slow and waiting for things to snowball?

It’s silly. You’ll wait months or even years to find out if your idea is going to work.

A far better approach is to put up a simple website, release a snazzy trailer, promote the hell out of it for a few weeks, and see if you can talk anyone into signing up. If you can, you’ve got a winner, and if you can’t, cut your losses as quick as you can.

Here’s why:

You either go big or go home

Some people are going to get pissed at me for saying this, but I believe the blogosphere is changing.

Gone are the days where anybody can build a successful blog. Gone are the days where you can start writing and expect anyone to pay attention. Gone are the days where you can tinker around with it on your lunch hour and expect it to become a full-time career.

The new rule is, “Go big, or go home.”

To be successful, you need big talent. To be successful, you need big connections. To be successful, you need a big launch event that makes everyone sit up and pay attention.

You can be releasing a movie, a blog, a book, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Regardless of the media, the rules are the same.

If you want to be big, start big.

Launching your blog with a trailer is one way to do that. It creates buzz, excitement, maybe even a little jealousy, because let’s face it, putting together a Hollywood-style trailer is hard.

If you’re wondering about the technicalities of how to do it, I’ll tell you everything you need to know next week. In the meantime, go watch the trailer, study how the subscription process works, and then copy it.

Nobody gets bonus points for originality. Success is about doing what works, period, full stop.

And by getting 1,740 subscribers in seven days, I’d say it works pretty well. So give it a shot.

We’ll talk more next week.

Jon Morrow is also on a mission to help good writers get traffic they deserve. If you’re one of them, check out his upcoming blog about (surprise!) blogging.

You’re Losing Subscribers, Here’s How to Get them Back

Today Glen Allsopp a Personal Development blogger at PluginID shares a great technique for capturing lost subscribers to your blog. You can subscribe to his blog here.

A few months ago, I was messing around in feedburner and noticed something pretty drastic, I was rapidly losing subscribers on a regular basis. I bet that you are losing subscribers too, even ones that have signed up for your feed. Since this discovery I’ve been regularly ‘getting them back’ and I’m going to explain exactly what I mean today.

What brought me to remember this (and decide to do a guest post for ProBlogger) is a new tool I’ve been testing out called BLVD Status, it’s brought to you by a team of internet marketers and includes some awesome features. My favourite: live analytics.

So, on a normal day my blog was receiving quite a lot of traffic from StumbleUpon as shown in the screenshot below:

blvd.jpg

The panel for BLVD Status is very simple, giving you a brief overview of what is going on in your site at any one moment. I particularly like the outgoing links section to see where I’m sending traffic too, this also includes people subscribing to your RSS feed. I noticed quite a few of the StumbleUpon visitors were opting to sign-up for my email feed:

outgoing-links.jpg

And then BAM! I instantly remembered the little area of Feedburner where I noticed that I’ve been losing subscribers, lots of them.

Lost Subscribers

Firstly, if you aren’t using Feedburner then I highly recommend that you do. It comes with a host of features such as:

  • Seeing how many subscribers you have
  • Seeing where your subscribers are coming from
  • Simple email subscription set-up
  • A chicklet that lets you show off your subscribers (great for sign-ups)
  • and much more…

Now then, once you’ve logged into your Feedburner account, click the ‘Analyze‘ tab then click ‘Subscribers‘ on the left navigation menu.

Next, scroll down the page to see your email subscriptions through Feedburner. You should have this enabled if you don’t as not everyone will know how to use normal RSS feeds, especially if you don’t have a tech savvy audience. I’m not sure if you get the same options if you use a different email provider within Feedburner, but if you go directly to them I’m sure they’ll be able to give you similar information.

feedburner.jpg

If you click on that link you should then see a list of all your email subscribers. My site is quite new (~ 3 months old) so there are only 41 right now but every subscriber counts.

Once there, you should see a list that looks a bit like this:

feedburner-2.jpg

Of course, I’ve blurred out the actual email address’ for privacy reasons, but your account will show them clearly. Now then, on the column on the right hand side you can see subscribers which are ‘unverified’. What this means is that the person has entered their email address in the box, and gone through the captcha process.

However, they have never actually confirmed their subscription which should have been sent to their inbox and therefore aren’t being ‘counted’ as a subscriber. If you have a big site, you might find quite a lot of people who are unverified, these are people who want your feed, but for whatever reason didn’t finish the process. Some possible reasons:

  • They didn’t receive the email
  • The email went to their spam box
  • They received it but forgot to confirm
  • They changed their mind (possible)

Getting them back

Luckily, all is not lost. Just because somebody didn’t verify their address, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to. It would be great if there was an option within Feedburner to re-send the activation email but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

However, you do have their email address so all I recommend that you do is send all unverified subscribers a quick, friendly email to let them know that they can try again, or ask if they had any problems. If you want some pointers on this, here is the email I sent:

pluginID.jpg

If you are sending this to multiple people at once, make sure you add them to the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field of your email client so they can’t see each others email address.

The result: about 40% of people got back to me and said they had either not received the email or received an error when they tried. I simply took 10 minutes to enter their emails for them and they activated their subscriptions. For some bigger sites this might be a job that takes you a day, but subscribers are an important factor in any blog, and not something that you want to lose.

I would not recommend doing this more than once as you will annoy people, but check regularly for new people that sign-up but are unverified. Hopefully, you’ll get a lot more subscribers back that you actually (kind of) had before.

Glen Allsopp writes on the subject of Personal Development at PluginID. You can help him help you by subscribing to his feed, here.

How to Drastically Increase Subscriber Numbers to Your Email Newsletter

Two weeks ago I was seeing 40 new email subscribers per day to my photography blog email newsletter. This week I’ve been averaging over 350 new subscribers a day. In this post I’ll share the story of how I did it.

newsletter-subsriber-numbers.png

In this months ProBlogger Newsletter I gave subscribers some inside information on how I’ve increased the daily newsletter subscriber rate to my photography blog almost tenfold in the last couple of weeks.

Before using this technique I was averaging around 40 new (and verified) subscribers a day to my email newsletter (I use Aweber to manage my email newsletters). To be honest I was pretty happy with that. 40 a day is over 14,000 per year – who would complain about that!

However last week I decided to experiment with a feature that Aweber offers its publishers that I’d resisted using previously – the ability to collect subscribers using a ‘Pop Over’ subscription form.

Most bloggers with newsletters put their subscriber form in a sidebar like this:

normal-newsletter-subscription-method.jpg

This is a good and prominent position above the fold and in a place that people notice.

The Pop Over on the other hand is a form that appears, hovering over the content on the page, after a certain predetermined time frame. Here is one of the versions that I’ve been testing:

newsletter-subscription-form-pop-over.png

These Pop Over subscription forms are of course much more intrusive to readers than a sidebar form – this is the reason I resisted using them for so long. My fear was that they’d annoy readers, page views per visit would drop and that I’d end up with a lot of angry emails from readers.

Aweber gives different options to limit how many times these Pop Overs appear on your site – you can show them to every visitor, limit them to show once per visitor or have them show every ‘X’ days. You can also use what they call a ‘lightbox’ which allows you to have the rest of your content fade and for the form to fade in, slide in from above, below or a side etc. I’m testing the Lightbox against the PopOver at present and my early tests are incredibly positive and are increasing subscriber rates even further than pop overs!

So what was the result of my testing?

I think this chart of my subscriber numbers says a lot:

newsletter-subsriber-numbers.png

I think it is probably pretty obvious when the test started. The last days results are still incomplete but look like being similar to the day before.

Average confirmed subscribers per day have risen to over 350 per day (over a year this would translate to over 125,000) so at least on that front it has been successful.

But what has the reader feedback been?

To this point I’ve had two readers email me to complain about the Pop Overs. One saw them multiple times (I suspect because the cookies associated with them seem to be associated with different versions of the Pop Overs). The other complaint came from an iPhone user who said that the Pop Over took up the whole screen and was impossible to close (something Aweber might want to do some testing on).

Did Reader Engagement or Page Views Suffer?

One of my concerns with Pop overs was that readers would be annoyed by them and surf away from the page. As a result I’ve paid particular attention to the ‘pages viewed per visit’ statistic on Google. Here’s how it looks (click to enlarge):

pages-viewed-per-visitor.jpg

Pages viewed per visitor has remained stable – in fact if anything they are slightly up since I began the experiment!

Considering page views per visitor didn’t go down and I’m adding 350 or so new potential weekly readers to my blog each day I’d say reader engagement has actually significantly been increasing!

Split Test for Better Results

One of the great things about AWeber is that they’ve built in the ability to split test different versions of subscription forms.

This means that you can design two different forms and have them each show 50% of the time to readers of your blog. Over time it becomes clear that one version out performs another enabling you to then test the best performer with another version of the signup form – making incremental improvements as you go along.

I’ve been testing on two levels:

1. Timing – you can test subscription rates on forms that have a short time before appearing versus forms that have a longer time before appearing. I’ve found that forms that take longer periods of time to appear have a slightly higher signup rate. However these forms show to less people as some navigate away from the page.

2. Copy and Design – the copy and design in your signup form impacts signup rates. I’ve found pictures seem to increase signup rates – also giving benefits and strong calls to action seem to increase signup rates also.

As a guide – I’m seeing signup rates of between 4-5.5%, depending upon the forms. I’m still playing with the split testing though – there is lots to learn!

Final Thoughts

Over all I’m pretty happy that I began to experiment with Pop Over signup forms. On DPS they’ve worked very well and are helping me to make first time readers loyal readers.

I don’t think that they’d work with every blog in the same way. For example to this point I’ve resisted using Pop Over subscription forms here on ProBlogger as I think the audience here will be more annoyed by them than on my photography blog as ProBlogger readers tend to be a bit more skeptical of intrusive marketing.

As always – it’s something to test and track. Pay attention to signals of how readers are receiving it and tread carefully. However don’t rule it out completely too quickly – you could be missing out on a significant way to convert first time readers into loyal ones.

One thing that I think would also be good to experiment with is targeting specific types of readers with Pop Overs. I think specifically targeting search engine visitors with these would make more sense than to target those coming from RSS Readers for example (or at least to be able to present different versions of the pop overs to different readers). Aweber didn’t seem to have plans for doing this themselves but suggested that it would be possible to do with a little coding (I’ll need to work out how).

PS: Tomorrow I’d like to follow up this post with the answer to the most common question that I get when I talk about newsletters – why should a blogger consider starting a newsletter? Stay tuned to my RSS feed for this followup post.