Gartner, the leading supplier of categories to the Information Technology Industry, has come out with a new one: Buyer Enablement Tools. “Today’s buying journey isn’t just hard — it has reached a tipping point where it’s become nearly unnavigable without a significant amount of help,” according to Brent Adamson, principal executive advisor at Gartner. “Much like sales enablement, sales organizations must focus on what we call ‘buyer enablement’.”
Gartner research indicates that two-thirds of any B2B buying journey is devoted to “gathering, processing and de-conflicting information.” Customers appreciate suppliers who provide information that makes the buying process easier. “Buyer Enablement Tool” is not (yet) a Gartner Magic Quadrant category, but whether or not a piece of sales content fits into the category seems consequential to me now. If you start out to make content that makes the buyer’s job easier, you may well end up discovering new types of effective content that work for you.
Buyer Enablement Video
Take video, for example. What is a logical objective for a video designed for buyer enablement? It might not be “describe key features and benefits” — not all members of a buying team care about the same features and benefits. More targeted objectives might be:
Clear up common misconceptions
Answer a frequently asked question
Show how easy it is to do an important task
Explain why we think the way we do
Provide reassurance on a key issue
If meeting objectives like these is really going to help out the buyer, you don’t want to keep her waiting. You’ll want your video to come to the point quickly, and stop there.
You can increase engagement and provide superior customer experience at the same time by making interactive videos out of your ordinary “passive” videos. I mean, wouldn’t you, as a viewer, like to start up a webinar and see clickable “chapter headings” — so you can skip ahead to the interesting stuff? Wouldn’t your sales team like to enrich product videos with new options — like seeing more in-depth info — right there in the video window?
The advantages of interactive video for you and for viewers are clear:
The viewer is thinking about your content, not just watching it
Viewers can navigate to what interests them most
Learners learn more when they get to ask and answer questions
You can add more than one call-to-action
You can verify viewing
You can collect feedback and interaction data
Interactive video tools designed for business users
OK, you say — but doesn’t that take heavy-duty tech and video skills? It does not. Now, interactive video tools designed for business users are available on many video platforms.
If you want to get a good idea of the process, I recommend trying the free, open source platform H5P. Here’s a demo of what you can do with H5P. You can test-drive their software to make your own interactive video, as well as other types of interactive content.
H5P is a widely used learning management solution that’s well-suited to injecting fun and games into any long-ish marketing video. With plugins for popular open-source content management systems WordPress, Joomla, and Moodle, H5P is easier to use than PowerPoint. You start by selecting a video on the web — your website or a video hosting platform like YouTube.
Host the video on your website — or make interactive videos from your videos previously uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, etc.
The DemandGen 2018 B2B Buyers Survey Report is out. Among the findings that might surprise you is this: the role of sales is critical early in the sales process. Yes, buyers are spending even more time doing research on their own, and the buying team is bigger, and the purchase cycle is longer. Nevertheless, a month or two into the purchase process, buyers look to sales to deliver the content and additional information that speaks to their specific needs, industry and business challenges. The survey doesn’t differentiate content types, but snackable video content should certainly be in the mix.
Buyers’ top concerns
Respondents’ top concerns were ‘deployment time/ease of use’ (77%), ‘features/functionality’ (72%) and ’solved a pain point’ (71%). Deployment tends to get little coverage in product videos (beyond assertions that it’s easy). Clearly buyers have an appetite for details about deployment. There ought to be video on the subject.
While most technology companies do have text and video content that speaks to industry-specific features and pain points — much of it is the opposite of snackable. For every buying team member who wants to spend 40 minutes with a webinar, there are undoubtedly several who would watch five minutes of highlights.
“Are Salespeople Relevant to the Modern Buyer?” is the question posed in an article by Tamara Schenck about about CSO Insights’ 2018 Buyer Preferences Study. At first glance, its results seem to say “Not really.” Most buyers only engage with salespeople after they have identified their needs. Many buyers have already identified a solution before engaging with sales. So, what are the implications for sales communication content, and for video content in sales communication in particular?
Salespeople are playing catchup
Most buyers only engage with salespeople when they have fully identified their needs — and many identify solutions before they engage with sales. Source
Schenk’s most telling point is that the later salespeople are engaged, the more they have to catch up. Differentiation becomes difficult because “there is less time and space to inspire with creativity.”
What can inspire with creativity? Well, there’s often a great deal of creativity packed in blog articles, white papers, research reports and the like — traditional mid- and late-funnel content. But it may go unshared. It may go unnoticed because buyers never see this content or don’t immediately recognize its relevance.
Sales enablement: the case for video in sales communication
Sales enablement programs, Schenk argues, should ensure that salespeople have individualized “value messages” — inspiring ideas about the buyer’s issues — for each phase of the customer’s path, and relevant to buyer roles and industries.
That’s a tall order, but it helps make the case for video in sales communication. After all, not everyone needs to read the complete article or white paper to be inspired by its best ideas. Video is one of the two most effective content types later in the sales process, according to sales enablement research by Seismic’s SAVO Group. The other is case studies. And video makes it easy for a champion to share information as part of an internal evangelization effort. (Here’s a ~30-second video that makes the case for sharing videos later in the sales process.)
When Gartner technology marketing analyst Todd Berkowitz evaluated his “10 Fearless Predictions for B2B Tech Sales and Marketing in 2017” at the end of the year, he decided that he had been “completely right” in predicting that “Tech Providers Will Pay Far More Attention to Sales Enablement.” He deemed the prediction “Content Creation Will Re-Balance With More Focus Towards Mid and Late-Funnel” only “somewhat right.” While Gartner clients agreed that influencing buyers later in the process is critical, most admitted they had not significantly shifted the focus of content creation.
The need for mid- and late-funnel video for sales enablement
In the course of arguing the need for mid- and late-funnel content, Berkowitz writes that top of the funnel content is still going to be important, but there should be more emphasis on case studies, white papers, implementation and how-to guides because “you can only create so many eBooks and videos.” Relegate video to the top-of-the-funnel? For one thing, most tech companies already publish webinars and subject matter expert presentations that some buying team members are willing to watch later in the sales process, however dull they look to the rest of us.
But, according to research by sales enablement leader SAVO Group, video can potentially make a much bigger impact. In their study What Content to Build for Sales, SAVO (now part of Seismic) makes it clear that tech providers who intend to “pay far more attention to sales enablement” should pay far more attention to video.
Clearly, video is highly valued by prospects later in the sales process. For every buying team member who needs to study the implementation guide and delve into case studies, there are several other buying team members who would prefer the high-level view video can provide. Source: SAVO Group
The report also notes that, in spite of the impact of videos late in the sales process, videos are 10 times more likely to be shared by sales reps at the beginning of a prospect’s journey. Why? Presumably because there is a scarcity of video sales content aimed at late-stage buyers. In any case, there is ample opportunity for companies to gain a competitive edge with effective video for sales enablement.
Building a business case with video
There is no stage of the buying process where buyers stop liking video. But later in the buying process, prospects don’t need marketing videos that are stuffed with product information. They need to build a business case. Your sales people need to help them.
Marc Brown, who analyzes digital marketing strategy, trends and practices at Gartner, argues persuasively that the differences between B2B and B2C are are rapidly disappearing. This trend has important implications for sales and marketing video production, and for content marketing in general. And it supports the case for new types of video for technology marketing: video that improves the customer experience.
The commoditization of products
I’ve loosely paraphrased and simplified the disappearing differentiators cited by Brown in the form of hypothetical survey questions. The big driver of customer experience in B2C these days is commoditization. Consumers don’t see much difference between brands and product until they interact with them.
Weighing the differences. To the extent that B2B and B2C both focus on the individual customer journey, the requirements are very similar. Channels and touchpoints are complicated in B2C; buying committees complicate the nature of the customer experience in B2B.
Commoditization is not a term used by Brown, but that’s what he’s talking about when he observes that customers “aren’t interested in ‘market leading’, ‘state of the art’, or ‘best in class’.” These phrases imply that the differences among competing products are actually pretty hazy. The rapid growth of sales enablement, account-based marketing, and similar technologies to keep up with customer wants and needs is evidence that customer experience should be increasingly important for B2B marketers.
If your product is perceived as a commodity, why would anyone watch a video about it? Yet product-centric videos are the norm in B2B. Brown refers to product-centric content as “corporate selfies.” A typical technology product video promises to deliver capabilities like visibility, scalability, and security to achieve productivity, cost savings, and customer satisfaction.
You have to ask yourself, how different from these are our competitors’ promises? If the customer can’t distinguish your features and benefits from the ones promised by your competitors, shouldn’t you be looking for new types of video that deliver what customers are looking for? As Brown puts it, “they’re looking for ways to be more effective at their jobs, save time, and avoid pressure from their management team.”
If you’re calculating, or recalculating, this year’s video content marketing strategy, Vidyard’s 2017 Video in Business Benchmark Report contains some interesting stats from which we can infer some useful technology business video guidelines . The report’s insights are based on a year’s worth of data covering 500 businesses and over 600 million video streams on Vidyard’s hosting platform.
On average, tech companies publish 21 videos per month.
High tech companies put out more videos than anyone else — 21 per month. Manufacturing companies put out 20; the average is 16. Video libraries are doubling in size every 16 months. Your video output is much lower? Growing your video library is easier than you think. Look at your existing library and see what can be repurposed. Snag a subject matter expert and record some FAQ answers on a smart phone (will probably need some editing, though). Maybe some of your blog posts could be livened up and attract new readers if you add some video snippets to share in social media.
Desktop browsers rule
86% of views of business-related videos take place on desktop browsers. This is important for technology businesses because it means you can add value with interactive features like chapters and branching without worrying overmuch about whether these features will work on mobile devices (probably not). There are plenty of options for turning static longform videos (e.g., webinars) into navigable videos customers will appreciate. Maybe that should be your first repurposing project. It’s not hard to do. There are plenty of online options.
Wednesday is the day with the most viewing
Wednesday between 7AM-11AM PST is the most popular viewing time. This is interesting, and might be worth considering in scheduling email campaigns that link to a video, or planning live streamed video. But viewing actually varies very little across the work week (17% ±1%). Weekends account for 15% of views.
“Okay, I know what we are talking about. I get it.”
That’s the only response you want to your positioning statement, according to Gartner research analyst Hank Barnes, who has conducted more than 1500 positioning reviews in the last five years.
You don’t share your positioning statement? Neither had we. Neither do lots of companies. Positioning, as Hank points out, is not messaging. Positioning statements are supposed provide a framework for messaging, but they tend to be formulaic and not very interesting. The canonical structure is along these lines:
Who the target customer is
What they need
What you offer
Reason(s) to do business with you
A competitive differentiator
It’s hard to turn this structure into enticing, snackable text. But it’s not so hard to do it with video.
Why would you want to make a video positioning statement?
You certainly wouldn’t be following the crowd. A Google search turns up lots of videos about writing positioning statements online, but no videos that communicate an actual positioning statement.
30-second rebranding announcement for Technology Business Video.
We created the positioning statement video here as part of our recent rebranding effort. Like many technology solution providers,
On average, it takes nine months to onboard a sales person. Surprised? I was, when the sales and social selling expert Barb Giamanco mentioned this when we spoke recently about using videos in the sales process. She noted that video could — and should — be used more effectively, because an interval of nine months spent not contributing to the bottom line is distressing for salespeople and sales managers alike. Wouldn’t you would be grateful for any videos that liven things up and shorten the time until you start generating real revenue? It’s not just a matter of getting people to watch videos — I’m talking about actually using video for sales onboarding.
Of course, onboarding is not a subject that comes up frequently in planning sessions for technology solution videos. As Barb noted, marketing folks are charged with product promotion and lead development — so they tend to focus more on producing content than looking for additional ways to use it.
Better sales-marketing dialog
I’m not suggesting the marketing staff, who most often control the video budget, should be strategizing about video for sales training or or video for sales onboarding. But sales and marketing, working together, could spin off useful content tailored specifically to sales from just about any marketing video.
I know from experience that a starting out with a wide-ranging sales-marketing dialog always results in more effective video scripts. That’s why we always suggest involving sales in the marketing video development process. Developing a conversational storytelling script from messaging documents and PowerPoint decks is hard. We get a much better script when we chat with salespeople.
It’s also easy for us, as producers, to edit video in different ways to tailor it to different audiences. The interests of the customer audience and the audience of sales newbies may be widely divergent — but it just takes a little planning, and not much work, to tailor videos that appeal to both.
An arresting Biznology article by Ruth Stevens, “How do you sell when your buyers can’t buy? Mounting dysfunction in the B2B buying process” has interesting implications for creating videos geared to the customer journey. The article recounts an interview with Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor on Sales, Marketing, & Communications at Gartner. The cause of the “mounting dysfunction” Adamson identifies is the growth and complexity of buying groups, averaging 6.8 individuals (up from 5.4 just two years ago) and representing 3.4 functions.
Yikes. The probability of getting any decision drops dramatically as soon as the second member joins the buying team. And — bad news for vendors — it takes just about as long to reach a decision as it does to end the buying process by deciding not to decide. Adamson recommends trying to understand what makes it hard for the customer to buy. If you can identify the issues that prevent them from reaching agreement, if you can pinpoint when “analysis paralysis” takes hold, you may be able to offer help — a workshop, for example, or decision analysis tool.
A different kind of video for the customer journey
“When customers are considering a purchase, they receive an overwhelming amount of content from vendors. So designing information and deploying content in a way that makes buying easier can be just as powerful as prescriptive selling,” Adamson notes. Most videos, of course, are designed to prescribe what a solution is for, not to address issues that people disagree about. Marketing content, including video, designed to knock down competitors‘ claims is not unusual, of course, but I’ve seen very little content that acknowledges and seeks to resolve internal conflict. Yet, video storytelling thrives on conflict. Overcoming obstacles is essential to the “hero’s journey” structure of most storytelling in literature, film and video.
So, at the very least, next time you think about making a video, you may want to ask “what do buying committee members disagree about?” It could make a good story. At least, we plan to add it to our list of good questions to ask subject matter experts.