Lights, Camera, Action!

YouTube turned ordinary people into TV stars. COVID-19 will turn your average retail business into a TV studio.

If you are one of the fortunate few deemed an essential business by your state, you have the luxury of your front door being open for visiting customers. For everybody else, it’s time to convert over to “The [your business name] Show.”

If you read my last post, you know the growing importance of the webcam.

The webcam is the portal to your customers in the age of virus-induced lockdowns. They are available at any electronics retailer. The technology has advanced exponentially since its introduction. At this point, you don’t need a name brand to get the job done. There are webcams with microphones, ring lights, and privacy shutters. They are compatible with all operating systems. Just pull it out of the box and plug it in and you’re good to go, right?

Wrong. Your journey is just beginning.

If you build it, they will come

It’s not enough to have Facetime or Zoom to communicate with your customers. There are pre-teens on TikTok making movie studio-quality productions and raising the bar. To properly construct a retail cyberspace, you will have to take a few cues from television. You need to build a set, and you need to light it.

The build

There are two fixed rules when working with the camera:

  • The camera loves you
  • The camera sees what you want it to

These rules are somewhat related. Whatever you place in the camera frame will be shown in exquisite, or painful, detail. Be consciously aware of what you present for the camera. A white, painted wall is the safest option. Otherwise, you’ll need to invest time and resources into set decoration.

If you have a part of your shop that you are proud of, that’s your set. Your goal is to make the area the camera can see the most beautiful, immaculate retail presentation ever. The rest can be a functional space. You might find that what was once a large customer waiting area can now be dedicated to storage, samples, and supplies. Your set is all anybody needs to see.

Let there be light

The first and only rule of lighting for the camera: the more, the better. If you search for images of stage lighting, you’ll see that every theater performance, movie set, and talk show has an overabundance of lighting—way too many lights. When you see celebrities on a talk show, they likely have “stage makeup” on, designed to enhance your features under stage lights because the amount of light will drown out every detail of their face. You want your new live stream space (aka TV studio) to have as much light as possible. Good lighting will help with customer service, proofing samples, and presenting the final work for approval. Human eyes let in a lot more light than a camera, so it’s crucial to create an environment where you are bathing in light. I repeat—you want a monsoon of light on whatever is in front of the camera.

And action

After you build your set and light it, you’ll be ready to interact with your customers again the way you used to. You can show examples of other jobs you’ve done, showcase details of specific types of jobs, and show off any equipment or tools you think would help you get the job.

Think about it. Which purchase scenario would you feel more comfortable with? A low price over the phone consultation or a visual walkthrough of the process? When evaluating competing options, customers will always go for the one that makes them feel more confident in their purchase decision. We try on shoes and test drive a car before we buy. Your business is no different. Showtime!

Dana Curtis

Dana Curtis


Dana Curtis is the founder and CEO of Biztools, a strategic consulting firm that helps small businesses multiply revenue through improved customer experience and pivot to new markets.

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