Does the prospect of creating Web video fill you with fear? If you’ve never done it before, it can certainly seem overwhelming.

Well, relax. Because I’m going to walk you through the process.

Why should you be using video on your websites? Because it’s highly persuasive. A well-produced video can deliver your message in a way that engages and persuades site visitors to take an action that you want them to take. For example, my weekly WebTV show (www.HelpMyBusiness.com) attracts thousands of new viewers each week, many of whom buy various products and services I recommend to them. You can do something similar for your niche, regardless of the business you’re in.

The number one key to creating an effective Web video is one simple word: preparation. Unfortunately, most people dive in head first and end up with an awkward, disjointed mess. Preparation may not be the most fun part of the process, but it’s critical to success.

Here’s a simple, 10-step process you can follow to plan your video:

STEP 1: Decide on the primary purpose and objective of the video. What do you want to accomplish? Is it to sell a product or service? Is it to educate your audience about a commonly misunderstood topic? Is it a product demonstration? Is it to showcase results? The video must have a single overriding purpose, otherwise your audience gets confused. Try and state your objective clearly in one sentence. (“The video will overcome any negative perceptions toward hiring new staff from an online employment agency.“)

STEP 2: Who is your target audience? How much do they know about the subject already? What is their background, language, and ability to comprehend? Are they naturally interested in the topic? You would make a very different video for children under the age of 10 than you would for lawyers who specialize in divorce cases.

STEP 3: Decide on how you’ll present the topic. Will you use a documentary style? Dramatic? Humorous? Sensitive and factual, or lighthearted and lively? There are other considerations too. Should there be a presenter on screen, or an unseen narrator? Do you want to appeal mainly to intellect or emotion? At one end of the spectrum, you could present the information like an instruction manual – purely factual. At the other extreme, you could persuade the viewer more by feelings, emotion, and entertainment. A balance between the two is usually best.

STEP 4: Plan the structure of the video. It’s helpful to think of it as a story. It must have a beginning, middle, and end. The introduction must grab the viewer’s attention, the middle should balance emotion and facts, and the end should contain a powerful call to action that can’t be ignored.

STEP 5: Work out the best length for the video by boiling down the essence of the message and conveying that in the shortest possible timeframe.

STEP 6: Decide who’s going to “own” this project and follow it through to completion. It’s no use assigning it to a staff member who’s already over-stretched with other work.

STEP 7: Set a deadline. It might be a few hours or days for a simple video, or several weeks for a complex production.

STEP 8: Research and acquire information and elements to include in the video. Do you have any existing footage that could be used? Other elements might include artwork, logos, graphics, music, etc.

STEP 9: Write the script. A script is the blueprint for your video. It includes not only the words that are spoken but a detailed description of the visuals that accompany the words and music. Don’t expect to sit down and write the finished script in one session. It will evolve.

STEP 10: It’s time to record.

Can you now see the importance of preparation? The recording is the easiest part, where all the planning pays off. Even though it’s tempting to jump right in to record a video, there’s no substitute for preparation. A properly prepared video will always achieve better results for you than a video that was thrown together quickly.

[Ed. Note: Watch Andrew Lock’s highly entertaining weekly WebTV show, “Help! My Business Sucks!” at www.HelpMyBusiness.com. Andrew helps small business owners and entrepreneurs “get more done and have more fun.”

And get more great strategies and advice for using video for your online business from Andrew and Web video guru Mike Koenigs right here.]