Online video is here! ComScore measures more than 11.5 billion online videos that are being viewed each month. In the first quarter of 2008, The Kelsey Group released a study that shows that 33 percent of auto dealers use online video on their Web sites and that 59 percent of them expect to do so in the next 12 months. Research company eMarketer predicts online video advertising spending will reach $505 million this year and grow to almost $6 billion by 2013. These are some big forecasts.

Wait a second, though. Don’t pull out your video camera quite yet. Just like you would not want me working on your car, I don’t want you producing your videos. This seems like common sense, but I cannot tell you the number of people who think that just because you put a video online or on broadcast, air a radio commercial, or run an ad in the newspaper, people will respond. It simply does not work like that. I can take the same exact product, produce two different ads, place each ad in the same exact place, and generate two completely different levels of response. I know this because I am a direct response marketer and we measure the response of everything we do.

I personally think online videos are great, and I think you could benefit from figuring out how to incorporate them into your advertising and marketing strategy. How do you do this? First, let’s talk about how not to do this. Many companies that advertise on TV repurpose their commercials online. That is okay to do, but I think it makes more sense to make your online video an extension of your advertising message.

As an example, let’s say you are advertising a zero percent offer. You air a 30-second commercial and run a print campaign that matches the TV campaign. You can post that television commercial on your site, but why? Why not post testimonials of satisfied customers or a message from the general manager talking about the offer? If you use a spokesperson, have that person do a “walk and talk” on your home page. This way, a person who sees the commercial will better relate to you when they come to the Web site. The association will keep them there longer. That will give you a better chance to convert that visitor into a customer.

It is important to realize that not all people will be good at producing video that will sell. When hiring a company to do your work, find someone who can produce video that looks good. More importantly, however, make them prove their videos can sell.

Once you know who will do the work, figure out what you want to accomplish. Set some goals, but be more specific with your goals than just saying, “We need to sell more cars.” Obviously, you need to sell more cars. Do you want to make your online presence match your offline message? Do you want to drive traffic to your site? Is your purpose to be different and establish a unique marketing position? If you have an expectation, you will be able to measure your success.

This brings us to measuring your results. Online videos are advertising. They may not be expensive. They may not take much to produce. You may only air them on your site. It does not matter. If you are selling, it is advertising. If that is the case, you need to measure the desired result.

I will give you the example of our latest online video. It is on the Web site There is no sales number behind this site. This is a site dedicated to you, the dealer. FOCUS created it to draw attention to the fact that dealers need help, too. We are gathering names to send to Congress, asking them to federally insure dealer floorplans. Go check it out and sign the petition. It is for a good cause—your livelihood. At the start of the campaign, we established goals. We wanted to get a certain level of media exposure. We wanted to get a specified number of  views on YouTube. We wanted to get a certain number of people to sign the petition. All of these goals can be measured and we do measure every day. Your goal should be to have the ability to do the same thing with your online videos.

In conclusion, online video is here to stay. Sure, I am a little biased because selling through video is my life. The numbers prove it, though. Like any new technology, however, it takes people time to figure it out. This is mostly because they wait for someone else to do it. Then, they copy them. Don’t be that person. Be the leader, not the follower.

Special Finance Insider Vol. 3, Issue 1