What is Documentary Marketing?

Documentary Marketing is Producing Videos with a Purpose.

Documentary Marketing strips away the highly produced, meticulously scripted messages in favor of a grounded, long-term approach. 

And when audiences are presented with consistently sincere and authentic content, they become loyal and enthusiastic customers. 

Why does Documentary Marketing perform better than traditional marketing?

Two words: Sincere Authenticity 

Documentary Marketing leans heavily on the founding principles of documentary filmmaking. No longer do you have to rely on made-up stories to keep attention. Authentic and real videos inspire people.  Documentary Marketing is a tell-it-like-it-is, approach to getting and keeping customers. Consumers want to cut to the chase. They don’t want to be sold, persuaded, or talked into anything. Most importantly they want to be enlightened by your messages and make up their own mind. They’ll believe what others say about you over what you say about yourself. 

  • Traditional video marketing is scripted. Documentary marketing is not. 
  • Traditional video marketing is typically shot in a studio. Documentary marketing is typically not. 
  • Traditional video marketing sells. Documentary marketing illuminates. 
  • Traditional video marketing requires a large team. Documentary marketing does not. 
  • Traditional video marketing must fit within allotted time segments. Documentary marketing does not.  

Documentary Marketing allows you to forge genuine long-lasting relationships with your customers. 

Table of Contents

Why should you use documentary-style marketing?

Improve Lead Generation 

With Documentary Marketing you are able to create beautiful branded content that will be recognized and tells your story while also generating qualified leads. If you’re not using video as part of your lead generation tactics you are missing out on a proven opportunity to grow. 

One of the best advantages is that you can connect with your audience in a more personal and inspiring way. Like we said earlier customers are no longer interested in being sold to. They want to feel personally invested in you. 

According to Adweek, 99% of marketers claim they will continue to use video marketing in their approaches and 88% are committing to devoting more dollars to such campaigns in the future.

If you are not utilizing video in your marketing, you’re missing out on driving more views, garnering engagement and response from your customers. They might be willing to skim your text or look at your image, but video has an advantage when it comes to capturing attention and driving leads.  

Increase Brand Awareness 

Brand awareness essentially is brand trust. How do you build trust with your customers? It’s definitely not by pushing a sale, or begging for them to support your cause. It’s about crafting a narrative and becoming a friend. By embracing Documentary Marketing, you are able to tell your stories in an authentic and impactful way and in doing so you are able to humanize your brand and give it depth. 

There are a few styles of documentary-style marketing videos that you can create to increase brand awareness. One could be how the business was founded,  or how you changed someone’s life. It could even be something small like the first amazing idea that became a big thing. 

Establish Thought Leadership 

One of the great things about Documentary Marketing is that it easily positions you as the expert.  These are a few of the types of videos that you can create: 

  • How-to-tutorials, these show your customers how to solve a problem 
  • Product demonstrations that walk them through your product or service 
  • And testimonials or interviews that show your expertise 

Documentary Marketing is one of the best options for educational content.  

In fact 95% of all viewers are able to retain a message when they watch a video. (Adweek)

Boost Website Engagement 

Another reason you should consider using Documentary Marketing is that these videos boost website engagement. You’ll encourage visitors to stay on your website longer because they are watching your video. 

People spent on average 2.6x more time on pages with video than without. (Wistia)

By incorporating Documentary Marketing your videos will energize the viewer to take action.  They are able to be part of the dialogue. 

It’s undeniable that having documentary-style videos on your website increases the value your customer gets from your content. Companies have been studying videos on websites for years now and all the data points to higher engagement and longer site visits.  

Improve SEO results 

If you use keywords strategically in your video’s title and description, they will start showing up in search results. By doing this your videos help drive traffic directly to your website and can reduce the need to invest in paid advertising. 

It’s not an exact science and the best practices are constantly changing. In short, Google continues to prioritize websites with video content so you don’t want to be left behind. 

But keep in mind that Google also owns YouTube which is only videos and  the second largest search engine. 

How to develop a Documentary Marketing Strategy

Now that we’ve covered some of the benefits of documentary video marketing let’s dive a little deeper into developing a marketing strategy. This step-by-step guide walks you through the process of planning, creating, and launching your videos. 

Step 1. Ensure you have the necessary equipment

Back to what we said earlier, traditional video marketing is typically shot in a studio or on a set. Documentary Marketing is REAL. And yes, you can even do it yourself with an iPhone! It’s a little harder to do things by yourself, but if you have an extra hand, it can be “handy”.  

There are three pieces of equipment you need to think about if you are looking to film a video. A camera, lighting, and most importantly a microphone.

  • Camera; you don’t need a state-of-the-art camera to record videos. A DSLR camera or mobile device is a great way to get started with videos. And don’t get hung up on 4k equipment. Find out why.
  • Lighting; natural lighting is always best. But it’s also a good video idea to invest in a small set of lighting gear. The quality has gone up and the price has come down on LEDs. 
  • Audio; all things considered Audio is the most important part of filming any video. The content may be great, but if you have room echo or outside sounds that make it hard to hear the viewer will stop and go elsewhere. Aaron discusses acceptable audio here.

Step 2. Put together an outline 

Before you start recording, it’s a good idea to research your topic and prepare a basic outline that you can follow to ensure that you stay on topic. Don’t worry about making sure you’re saying it word-for-word because you will lose authenticity. But by outlining your bullet points you stay on topic without sounding fake.

When creating outlines, make sure you keep your primary goal in mind. In other words, what action do you want viewers to take after they watch your video? That will allow you to craft an engaging call to action.

Step 3. Clean up and prepare

You don’t need a professional studio to create documentary-style video content. Make sure to eliminate the clutter that will look messy on camera. Sometimes a nice plant can be staged to add texture and grounding to your shot. 

When in doubt, do a test video before recording it all. Keep in mind that rugs, curtains, and even pictures on the wall will help reduce an echo.

And lastly, make sure to turn off your phone and any computer notifications. 

Step 4. Edit the Video 

This step is probably the most difficult for a novice to do. There are a few free tools like Vimeo Create and Canva that can help you navigate the process. If you have a Mac it comes preloaded with iMovie which is a step above Vimeo and Canva.

As professional video editors with years of experience we work within Adobe Creative Cloud and use Premiere and After Effects exclusively for our editing.

Keep in mind that you can’t copy images or music off of the internet. Everything holds copyright and you want to make sure that what you use is royalty-free. Otherwise, you will get takedown notices and you could be issued a cease and desist.

Step 5. Upload the video to a hosting platform 

There are a few choices here. If you want your video to be found on Google via search make sure that you upload it to YouTube. Now if you want more control over who can see your video then you should use Vimeo. Keep in mind that you will need a different format of video for each social media platform that you post to.

You can even host your video on your website. But be careful as it may slow down the speed of your site and negatively affect your search results. We recommend embedding the video from YouTube. Talk to your web designer to see if this is possible.

Now if you’re creating a background video for a website there are a few more things to consider including size and file types. Until recently, most mobile devices didn’t support video autoplay, in order to prevent users from unsolicited data consumption. Here are a few tips for optimizing your background videos.

Step 6. Optimize for organic search 

We keep talking about how videos help your SEO or organic search. So make sure to optimize every video by doing these few things:

  • Make sure to use the correct size and format for the platform that you are using.
  • Use keywords in the file name, title, tags, and description.
  • Create a thumbnail image for your video (this is the first thing someone sees).
  • Make sure you use captions and provide transcripts.

Types of Documentary Marketing Videos

Now we are down to the many different types of Documentary Marketing Videos that you can create. Each and every one of them has its place.

Customer Testimonials 

Consider reaching out to past clients and customers and ask them if they would be willing to record testimonial videos in exchange for a coupon or a discount code. Another way to record these videos is to make them a part of your client’s offboarding process.

Customer testimonials can take on several looks: by creating a documentary marketing video you can show how your company solved a customer’s problem, or they can be a before and after story, even better they can be an event-based video where you capture real-time reactions from fans who want to gush about your business on camera. 

When people see how your product or services helped someone they can identify with, they’re likely to seek the same results for themselves. Check out a couple of spotlight-style testimonial videos we created for Alcobra.

Product Demonstrations 

Another essential documentary-style video for your small business is the product or service video, like this one for JAN-PRO. If you only sell one product, this should be easy. Now if you sell multiple products, pick your top seller or one you want to promote and dedicate a video solely to that one item.

The purpose of this type of video is to engage online visitors and nurture prospective clients by summarizing how your product or service works. A product video is a vital part of your sales funnels and great for explaining how your product works on your Amazon or eCommerce pages, as well as your website and social media pages.


Behind-the-scenes videos are a great option for sharing on social media. People are curious by nature, and these feed the hunger. Imagine getting an exclusive look into what goes into making your favorite product. 

You can also film a behind-the-scenes video on how you get ready for your day or how you prepare before you begin working with a client. These videos can be used to grow your followers, build trust, and ultimately attract new customers. And when it comes to piecing together your outtakes it will be fun. Check out these outtakes from our friends the Riverkeepers.


Spokane Riverkeepers — Outtakes & Bloopers

Educational and How-To’s 

Have you ever gone to YouTube to learn how to do something? More than likely your answer is “yes.” 

Videos are a great way to learn how to do something online. They show you exactly how something is done and most people would agree they would rather watch one of these types of videos than one that is an ad.

Through a YouTube search, you can also watch a video on how to make a How-To video. That seems like a never-ending rabbit hole, right? When you utilize documentary-style marketing for your educational and how-to videos you will be creating highly memorable videos that your customer will continue to come back and learn from.

Check out this series of educational workshop videos we created for NOHVCC (National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council). These videos allowed the staff at NOHVCC to continue to do workshops while in-person restrictions were in place.

Live Videos 

If you really want to keep it real, start working in live videos into your social media mix. But remember when you are live, there are no second takes. Facebook and Instagram make it super easy to start and share live videos even if all you have is your phone. 

And when you receive real-time interaction from your customers it can spark ideas for future content.

We absolutely loved our time working with Hoffman Music to bring this idea to life. They even received a feature article in the Inlander, check out Hoffman Music’s Live Artist Series. Sometimes we go back to watch some of our favorite artists, like Andy Rumsey … he’s so unique and fabulous!


How to Promote your Marketing Videos

A wonderful thing about documentary-style marketing videos they provide you will endless amounts of content. Here are a few ways that you can multi-purpose a video. For more options check out our blog about creating 30-days of social content with one video.

Social Media Channels 

To grow brand awareness, you’ll also want to upload your videos to social media platforms. 

But before you upload your video on every social platform, you need to understand where your audience is. Because doing it everywhere is a lot of extra work with no return on your investment/time.

So where does your audience hang out? Are you targeting businesses? Then LinkedIn would be a good platform. But if you are targeting young consumers you might want to think about Instagram Reels and TikTok. Baby Boomers? Market research shows they do like Facebook. 

Start by asking your customers what platform they currently use. Or take a peek at your competitors. 

Website content (Landing pages, Blogs, Newsletters) 

Once you have your video uploaded to a hosting service like YouTube here are a few things you can do:

  • Embed your video on your website. It can be the star of a landing page, or product pages basically anywhere that it makes sense. Don’t forget to turn on the caption feature or include a transcript so you comply with the accessibility guidelines. 
  • Add it to your blog posts. Videos on blogs are great! In addition to a great SEO of a blog article the video may push your page closer to the top when you factor in your SEO optimizations.
  • Send it in your newsletter. Invite your readers to watch the video in a monthly newsletter. If possible, use the email to send them directly to your website. This helps increase your traffic. You can also send them directly to a social media post if you’re working on growing your audience there.

Repurpose longer-format videos by pulling segments, quotes, etc 

For example you can:

  1. Use the transcript as its own stand alone post.
  2. Pull out the audio for a podcast.
  3. Create multiple shorter clips for use on social (TikTok, Reels, Facebook).
  4. Use quote based graphics.
  5. Create a playlist of related topics.

How to Measure the Success of your Documentary Marketing Campaigns

So now that you’ve done the hard work of creating a video and creating an efficient marketing plan it’s time to measure the results and analyze them. 

Here are a few of the different KPI metrics you should be tracking.

Play Count 

Play count is the number of times your video has been viewed. It’s the easiest and the most basic metric to keep track of. However, this metric is a little tricky because each platform has its own metric of what counts as a “play.” On Facebook, a play is anything that hits 3-seconds, while on YouTube once a view hits 30-seconds it counts as a play.

Watch Time/Retention 

Watch time or retention measures how much of your video people watch. Are they watching the video in its entirety? Or are they dropping off before getting to the meat of the content? 

If you find that many people are dropping off quickly in your videos, you might need to adjust the way you present your topic. That can mean working on your hook, possibly shortening the length of your videos, or getting straight to the point. 

Click-Through Rate (CTR) 

Video click-through rate refers to the percentage of viewers who click on your video’s call to action and visit a specific page on your website.

To maximize the chance that your viewer takes action you can have a call to action at the beginning and end of the video.

Lead Generation & Conversion Rate

Last, but certainly not least, the conversion rate of your video demonstrates how many leads, prospects, or customers were generated from your video marketing. 

The more you optimize your video and improve the calls to action and metrics above, the higher your conversion rate. 


Final Thoughts on Documentary Marketing

Documentary Marketing is an excellent strategy for brands to grow awareness, increase engagement, and drive lead generation. Creating video content can take a bit more work, but keep in mind you can repurpose video scripts and snippets to reuse across all of your marketing and social channels. 

With the video marketing tips we gave you, you’ll be well on your way towards becoming a pro in no time.

The only thing left to do now is to start brainstorming how video can elevate your marketing strategy today. We are here to help. Schedule a Free Zoom Consultation with us today!

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