I'm a couple of months away from releasing my gradebook app for teachers, and will need a good promotional video. I'm bootstrapped and don't have much cash. Any suggestions? I can make a decent prezi or similar home-made video, of course - how important is it to have a professionally-created video?
I did some research on this topic and found that viewers of your presentation video care much more about the content than the presentation.
For now, make sure your content is correct, and do it yourself. You can write a good script, download intros from videohive.com and background music from AudioJungle.com. You can use a free tool such as windows movie maker, and take screen video captures from a program like camtasia studio.
Once you have the funds, and upon your success you want to polish your complete presentation. Although content is king, apple has proved over and over again the value of crisp, professional, and sexy presentation. If you got 20k + you can contact the folks at transvideo productions. If not, there are other AfterEffects designers that can help you out. Expect to budget 5k for a 90 second spot.
I say, the best promotional video is one that someone makes for you. Release your service a few select teachers early and then go back after they use it for a month and get their opinions. Try to pick more tech-y teachers and ask them if they would create on for you with how they use the app.
If you have zero cash, then find a buddy with Camtasia for software demos (for Pete's sake, please do not shoot a computer screen with your iPhone). After you get software in teachers' hands, grab your iPhone, Android phone, Flip cam, or Canon Zi8 and shoot some customer testimonials.
Depending on what operating system you are using, iMovie or one of the plethora of free Windows apps will do the trick for beginner editing. Whatever you do, DO NOT use images or audio tracks without paying for them. Copyright violations seem to catch up to startups at the worst time.
You can get stock images from iStockphoto (for 1st time accounts you can find a coupon out there) and stock music from several places too.
Once you have at least some cash:
Assuming you actually need a video (you may not) -- having a professionally-created marketing video is important. But not for the reasons you may think.
A professional will be able to deliver high quality audio and video, of course. This isn't the real reason a pro is valuable, though. It's the things you don't or can't think of such as concise writing, persuasive messaging, sense of pacing/timing, design, taste, etc.
I recommend that you keep your video targeted (know who the audience is) and short (no longer than one minute). Respect the viewer's time.