From the start of his career, Brent Leary’s professional passion has been customer relationship management or CRM. “Even in my first job out of school, representing pharmaceutical sales reps, I was interested in the importance of customer relationships,” he says.
Today, Leary is regarded and respected as an authority on CRM. Among other accolades, in 2004 he and business partner Michael Thomas were named most influential in the CRM field by CRM Magazine.
Despite his years of experience, however, Leary’s transition into video makes him feel like he’s just starting out.
Leary is the co-founder of CRM Essentials, a consulting and advisory firm. In conjunction with the projects he’s done for HubSpot, IBM, Intuit, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAP Verizon Wireless, and many others, he has focused on CRM for small and mid-sized enterprises, which typically don’t have the same access to collective wisdom as the bigger players.
With the goal of helping smaller organizations glean the most valuable insights possible, Leary has interviewed more than 200 CRM experts ranging from startup entrepreneurs to the founder of Travelocity to executives in Microsoft’s small business division.
The message from those interviews has remained almost entirely unchanged: Customer relationships make or break most small and mid-sized businesses.
While the importance of customer relationships has been a constant, the means by which Leary conveys the insights gleaned from his conversations with CRM experts has changed dramatically.
He initially wrote to his audience via Inc. Magazine and on behalf of CRM vendors such as Microsoft and Salesforce.com. His articles have been featured in Inc.com, American Express OPEN, Forbes.com, Direct Marketing News, CRMGuru.com, and DestinationCRM.com. He pens a regular business solutions column for various publications, including CRM Magazine and Atlanta Tribune. His interviews regularly appear on smallbiztrends.com. In 2005, Leary launched his blog and in 2006 his program, Technology for Business $ake, began airing on Business Talk 1160AM (Atlanta) and BusinessTechnologyRadio.com.
Today, he’s all about video. Unfortunately, for Leary, so is everyone else.
The Importance of Standing Out
In 2014, Leary’s radio program became a television show aired in Atlanta. Although he considers himself a video novice, he immediately started mapping out ways he could improve his content visually. “I wanted it to be more than you typically see posted on YouTube,” he says.
What he wanted was something more like the Gillmor Gang, a weekly TechCrunch program on which executives from Salesforce.com discuss and debate market trends. “I thought the way that show was shot is very cool,” Leary says. “The show covers important information but in a fashion that is much more consumable than the 5 o’clock news.”
The television show Leary developed and produces retains the name of his radio program – Technology for Business $ake – and airs on Atlanta’s AIBTV.com, which reaches approximately 1.6 million households in the metro area. In addition, he produces content for smallbiztechnology.com on topics ranging from how Google can be used as a CRM tool to how to truly leverage social media. While a lot of the content is written for audio, Leary is gradually moving into video, filming interviews, panel discussions, and live events.
“I needed a way to make things more visually appealing,” he says. “I also needed a way to produce high-quality video on my own without having to bring in another person to handle the technology.”
Most importantly, Leary needed an affordable and relatively simple way to create video content that stands out from the massive amount of programming that’s been made easy and affordable to create and post thanks to the tools that are now just one click away.
“The key to my business is building relationships with executives who share their expertise and who in turn use my analyst services,” Leary says. “If I can talk to them it’s one thing, but if I can create content that shows their knowledge that’s a great way for me to separate myself from others. That’s what people like me need to do – separate ourselves from the pack in a professional looking manner, with an exciting background, multiple camera angles, audience participation. It’s no longer okay to just put something up that was shot on a webcam.”
A Workflow That Delivers
To assemble a workflow he could use to create video content that would serve as a competitive differentiator, Leary asked people whose work he admired for suggestions. And he did a lot of research.
As a result of his research, he invested in a workflow that meets seemingly incompatible needs. For starters, it’s affordable. It’s also easy to learn and use: Using an Apple MacBook Pro 15” 2015 model with dual graphics cards, 16GB RAM, and a 512GB solid-state drive and a 27” ASUS monitor, the system is rooted in a sense of familiarity that made learning it – even for Leary, who describes himself as a video novice – relatively easy. At the same time, his system enables him to create content that’s more visually compelling than most of what’s published today using three GoPro Hero 4 Silver cameras, an old Panasonic HMC150 camcorder, a Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera, a Digital Juice Miniburst 128/256 3-point lighting system, and a Behringer Xenyx q1202 USB mixing board. His system also travels well. For videos produced away from his home studio, Leary uses a GeChic portable monitor. Whenever post-production editing is required, he uses Adobe Premier and other software from Adobe Creative Cloud.
To bring it all together, Leary selected the TriCaster Mini, a compact multimedia studio from NewTek. It was developed with an emphasis on ease of use and simplicity in order to give a single operator creative control over every aspect of the live show, including video and audio sources, virtual mix/effects channels, graphics, keys, digital and media players, multiviewer monitoring, virtual set capability and more.
Leary is pleased with the workflow he’s assembled.
“The people I asked about the products I bought gave me a thumbs up, so I bit the bullet earlier this year,” Leary says. “I’m not a video person. I don’t know much about video production. But the system I’m using makes it easy to get into it.”
Poised for More Success in the Long Run
Leary says he’s realized many benefits as a result of the workflow. First and foremost, it gives him a way to stay ahead of the pack. “A lot of people are doing video but they’re using webcams,” he says. “I didn’t want to start producing video until I could do exactly what I wanted and make it look the way I want it to. My system gives me the freedom to execute how I want to.”
For Leary, the result of good execution is good guests. “I want a higher caliber of guests,” he says, “rather than the people everyone is able to get. The product I put out looks and feels different. My workflow gives me the ability to attract a different kind of guest, which then attracts a different audience.”
In practical terms, his workflow lets him add visual variety by enabling multi-camera views rather than having one camera focused on one person for the entire video. He is also able to enhance his productions with broadcast-quality touches such as voiceovers or cutting to clips.
The most important benefit, he says, is that it gives his brand a professional look and feel.
“I don’t want my audience to associate me with amateur video with bad lighting and sound,” he says. “My goal is to get the right people to listen and watch. To do that I can’t stop at providing insightful content. It has to also look good and be accessible, which will make me more successful in the long run.”
At a Glance
- Brent Leary is co-founder and partner of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm specializing in tools and strategies whose mission is to help small organizations improve business relationships
- CRM Essentials’ current and past client include Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce.com, SAP, and other major technology companies
- In 2004, Leary and business partner Michael Thomas were named most influential in the CRM field by CRM Magazine
- Leary’s program, Technology for Business $ake, began airing in 2006 on Business Talk 1160 AM in Atlanta and on BusinessTechnologyRadio.com
- In 2015, Leary launched a television show with the same name on AIBTV.com, which reaches 1.6 million households in the Atlanta metro area
- Leary is a frequent speaker at Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual customer conference and has also spoken at SAP’s user conferences, Microsoft’s Convergence conference for business applications customers, and has spoken on CRM and mobility as part of BlackBerry road shows
- Leary has published articles in Inc.com, American Express OPEN, Forbes.com, Direct Marketing news, CRMGuru.com, and DestinationCRM.com
- He pens a regular business solutions column for various publications, including CRM Magazine and Atlanta Tribune
- His interviews regularly appear on smallbiztrends.com
- In 2009, Leary co-authored Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business
Leary is currently writing his next book, The Amazon Effect: How a New Customer Culture is Creating Crazy New Business Opportunities and Killing Companies That Won’t Adapt, due out in 2016 Workflow
- Leary uses cameras by Canon, GoPro, and Panasonic to record commentary; Skype is used for interviews with subject matter experts
- The content is stored within the NewTek TriCaster Mini, where graphics and guest-specific captions – such as company affiliations, names, and Twitter addresses – are also stored
- As Leary is conducting the interview or speaking himself, he integrates the graphics stored inside the TriCaster Mini, a capability that allows the conversation to continue while graphics are integrated in support of the narrative
- Leary enhances his content with motion backgrounds and free stock footage from digitialjuice.com and videoblocks.com, which can easily be imported into the TriCaster Mini
- Once the recording is complete, Leary imports content into Adobe Premiere for any necessary post-production work
- When the program is finalized Leary strips out the audio and has it transcribed by globaltranscriptionsolutions.com
Leary uses Hubspot.com as a marketing platform, enabling him to deepen engagement with specific segments of his audience by carefully targeting distribution and monitoring who views it and for how long Gear
- TriCaster Mini by NewTek
- Apple MacBook Pro
- ASUS Monitor
- GeChic portable monitor
- Canon DSLR camera
- GoPro cameras
- Panasonic camcorder
- Digital Juice lighting system
- Behringer Xenyz mixing board
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