Wouldn't it be great to live close to a woodworking tool dealer so someone could show you around the different models when you're ready to buy or offer "hands-on" advice when making adjustments and repairs? Unfortunately, many of us don't have that luxury. But Grizzly Industrial
is trying to create a "virtual" showroom that's open to anyone with an Internet connection, through a unique new series of online videos
featuring model comparisons and tool maintenance topics.
"Our technical service staff receives lots of phone calls every day from customers who want to know the particulars of specific machines to help them comparison shop," says Bill Crofutt, Grizzly's quality control manager. "And while we are always happy to help out by phone, we thought we could be even more effective by also providing free videos on our website that give people a showroom tour of our stationary tools."
Crofutt says the potential for educational videos started about five years ago when Grizzly shot a video explaining how to resaw on one of its horizontal band saws. It received good response, so two years ago the company produced a second video on gunsmithing. This time, the content focused on how to chamber a rifle barrel. "That one went over really well, too, so we began to knock a lot of ideas around for how we'd handle video production and what our possible content areas could be," Crofutt recalls.
While Grizzly already had a photo studio for shooting catalog images in its Bellingham, Washington, warehouse, the space didn't suit video production. But company president Shiraz Balolia realized the potential customer benefits that video could bring, "so he turned a corner of the warehouse into a woodworking video space, and we bought a high-definition camera."
An informal "audition" process took place within the company, and two employees were chosen to serve as video talent. "Our hosts, Shawn Wilson and Shawn Miller, have been with the company for a long time, and they know our products very well. They help to write scripts and appear in the actual footage. We also hired professional talent, an outside videographer and a video production agency."
About a year ago, Grizzly launched the first video that focused on comparing similar machines within Grizzly's inventory. Since that time, it has produced about a dozen videos of this kind, offering close-up overviews of 6-, 8-, 12- and 16-in. jointers, 14- and 17-in. band saws, various 10-in. table saw models, as well as 15- and 20-in. planers. It's an opportunity for customers to get a "nuts and bolts" look at how specific machines differ from one another with highlights of their distinguishing features.
Around the same time, Grizzly also began to offer videos that document helpful maintenance or upgrade procedures. For instance, one video focuses on the process for switching from a straight knife cutterhead on its 15-in. planers to a spiral cutterhead. The video shows an actual change-out on a planer to support the printed manual that comes with the new cutterhead. Other videos show how to align the tables of a parallelogram-type jointer, change the tires on a band saw, install the sandpaper on a drum sander, plus a number of other topics.
The complete inventory of nearly 30 videos is available either on grizzly.com or on Grizzly's YouTube channel. Crofutt says that over the past year, it isn't clear yet which videos are most popular with customers, "because they seem to be looking at all of them with about equal interest, and the feedback has been very positive."
Bill says the biggest surprise to embarking on video production has been the time commitment involved in scripting each segment. "It's sometimes staggering, because our scripts are carefully written, then edited by several of us and memorized by the hosts before we film them. We want these videos to be accurate and informative, and we hope they will have a long shelf life."
In addition to helping answer customer questions about machines and maintenance issues, the new videos are also serving as continuing education tools for Grizzly's sales team and technical service staff.
As machine models are added or updated, Crofutt says eventually some videos may need to be re-shot. And, the company is aiming to produce videos on new topics monthly to build the library. The range of potential comparison and how-to topics seems enormous, considering Grizzly's expansive stationary tool product line contained within what has become a 700-plus page catalog.
"We're very committed to this video effort for the long term. Our goal is pretty simple: we want to build customer interest in our tools by providing as much information on our website as we possibly can."
If you have ideas for future Grizzly videos you'd like to see, or feedback about the videos that are available already, the company welcomes your input. Just send an email with your suggestions to Grizzly's customer service department at firstname.lastname@example.org.