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.
“Motion provides meaning,” according to Google’s Material Design language for mobile applications. Motion guides our interactions with mobile devices. Motion is equally central to the experience of watching videos. Motion tells the eye where to go. That’s why it makes sense to give a lot of consideration to motion graphics in technology business videos.
Four golden words: “Here’s how it works” (again)
In a recent post, I mentioned that engineers watch video to find out how stuff works. But the main reason anyone watches marketing videos is to find out how some new solution works. Or, more precisely, how it might work for me. They’re looking for a concise answer, free of hype. Video, especially animated video, can be a remarkably efficient way to explain how concepts or things really work. The Danish 3D animation company PinkSquare has put together an interesting and effective demonstration showing how much faster animation can put across a concept — even compared to a live action video demo.
The animated motion graphics version of this explanatory video by Danish 3D animation house PinkSquare gets rid of clutter. What comes across is the essential idea — no more, no less.
Of course, animation can also take you places like the inside of a machine or organism where you can’t go in real life. And it can bring abstractions like business processes and business models to life.
Engaging with engineering staff is a challenge tech solution videos share with all other kinds of content. That’s clear in the table below from Engineering.com It shows the degree to which engineers rely on video compared to other marketing content. But think about this: all the non-video content in this table could be enlivened, clarified, summarized, and promoted with video. Video can breathe new life into a content marketing strategy aimed at these buyers. At every stage in the customer journey.
This is particularly true when the focus is on how your solution works. This, of course, is something an engineer wants to know. If you’re trying to make a case for how the parts of your solution fit together to create an efficient and effective machine, there’s nothing like video for making your case efficiently and effectively. I’ve long felt that “Here’s how it works” is music to the ear of most viewers of tech solution videos. It’s a phrase the sounds forthright and raises expectations at the same time. It will be a big disappointment if the viewer doesn’t find your explanation convincing — but an important inflection point in the buying process if she is satisfied and seeks out more information.
Harnessing the power of tech solution videos
Of course, engineers are accustomed to diagrams, drawings, and other kinds of visual explanation. The advantage of an “executive summary” video based on written content is that you can step the viewer through a process or model. You’re making things easy for the viewer at the same time as you’re controlling the message. And not just the message. In a skillfully made video, you’re actually controlling where the viewer is focusing her attention. Use your powers wisely.
Video content managers and technology marketing analysts say that many solution marketers complain that they just don’t understand how to use video. They like it. Sales teams like it. They know it’s effective. They want to use it more. But they don’t feel confident deciding just what kind of video to make.
Videos for the middle of the buyer’s journey
The table below is adapted from an excellent article, What’s a Successful ABM Strategy Without Killer Content?, by content marketing consultant Rebecca Smith of Heinz Marketing. It’s designed to help marketers develop a content strategy for account-based marketing. I’ve adapted this model to show how different kinds of tactical video might serve to advance the typical technology business buyer’s journey.
Styles of tactical video that provide meaningful content throughout the technology buying team’s journey.
Differentiator video. A short video that describes one differentiator persuasively with a comparison to something the viewer already knows.
Explainer video. A short video overview that demonstrates how a solution delivers results. Different viewers may value different results (e.g., operational vs. financial vs. compliance) — so it’s often cost-effective to produce several explainer videos as a package or a series geared to different personas.
Content Enrichment. It’s easy to embed or hyperlink video in any online document. It’s surprising that few marketing teams take advantage of the power of video to enrich and enliven text. This is especially the case for technical documents that describe processes and relationships. For most people, it’s easier to follow a step-by-step animation than it is to puzzle things out from captions and callouts.
FAQ. It’s equally surprising that so few marketers create short videos to answer the questions that prospects repeatedly ask. Not that everything is best explained with video. But there’s no doubt that many visitors arrive at websites with specific questions and want quick, credible, answers, not sales-y overviews.
Demo. Most software demos are recorded screen captures. If the presenter is enthusiastic, most viewers will keep watching. If not, they can be hard to watch. I’ve seen a lot of them, but I’ve never seen one that wouldn’t benefit from a little editing. A demo longer than, say, five minutes should be broken into chapters.
Testimonial/use case. Prospects are eager to take in testimonials and use-cases, especially if they are leaning toward a decision in favor of your solution. The purpose in either case is to demonstrate third-party endorsement of the product. Obviously, video is the best medium for putting a human face on something. You can increase the credibility of a testimonial by providing additional information about the customer’s application.
Interactive Tech Talk. Tech talks, webinars, and other recorded presentations almost always scatter valuable and interesting ideas amongst a lot of stuff (like speaker introductions) that is, well, not so interesting. Most would benefit from editing and the addition of explanatory graphics. All would benefit from clickable chapter headings that summarize topics covered and allow the viewer instant access to information she cares about.
Executive summary. It’s reasonable to assume that everyone presented with a business document scans the Executive Summary, if there is one. Short videos can summarize blog posts, research reports, white papers and almost any other text content. An “executive summary” video can makes content more accessible and draw in new readers, extending the reach of the document in social media, for example.
Personalized video. There are numerous options for personalizing video content. A video call, of course. Record and edit a message with your webcam or smart phone. Vidyard has a free Chrome plugin called GoVideo you should check out. They also offer very impressive facilities for personalizing professionally produced video content like explainers and executive summaries. A Google search for personalized video will turn up lots of options.
RFP. Companies often use video recordings to provide evidence of top-level executive commitment to a project. And, of course, video can provide convincing evidence for assertions made in an RFP. It’s worth pointing out that a lot of the video content types mentioned above, such as FAQ videos and executive summaries, will fit very well into an RFP because they are focused and not sales-y.
Killer video content and the user experience
What all these different styles of video have in common is that they are designed to increase engagement by focusing on what the buyer wants to know.
The extensive use of animation in “explainer” videos can be explained by the fact that 2-Minute Explainers originated in 2004 as computer files authored in Flash, a vector-based program widely used for web animation and games. Not “real” video — small file size was important. Real video — 15-30 massive bitmaps per second — wasn’t really practical for technology business video.
For technology businesses, this was not a problem. Animation is well suited to making things that are hard to explain easy to understand. That is what is needed for technical/conceptual topics like process automation or API management.
In the early days, animated explainers were a welcome alternative to text. Customers and prospects who just wanted to get a quick overview of a technology product or service appreciated a concise elevator pitch that helped them quickly figure out whether or not a solution might be right for them.
Animation and motion graphics in explainer videos today
Today, hundreds of online companies offer the make short animated explainer videos. Prices range from a few hundred dollars to $20,000. For animated/motion-graphics videos, these prices indicate how much labor goes into the production — materials costs are low.
The best explainer videos are the result of a lot of thought, planning, and rewrites in the scripting phase. They use animation to walk the viewer through a process or tell a story. They may use animated characters (as in the video depicted above) — though enterprise technology companies tend to be cautious about linking their brands with “cartoony” graphics.
Motion graphics is a nebulous term for visual effects that put words or objects in motion in order to draw attention. They don’t often depict actions taking place in space or time as animation does, though they can reinforce concepts, as in this remarkably clear explanation of gravitational waves from TEDEd, where it’s hard to differentiate motion graphics from animation.
Viewers quickly tire of motion graphics that are merely decorative. At the very least, motion graphics in an informational video should guide the viewer’s eye to something worth knowing.
Animation combined with “real” video
Many types of video — testimonials, use cases, product demos and the like are best suited to live action “on camera,” which feels objective and credible.
Longer form documentary-style videos are essential to a robust video strategy that engages buyers throughout the buyer’s journey. You need videos to demonstrate the expertise of your people, to elaborate on use cases, to tell more expansive stories.
Most of your spokespeople aren’t polished performers on-camera; animation and motion graphics can make editing easier. It can and add meaning and zest to video footage and give talking heads visuals to talk about, or create callouts that point to salient features of products.
Technology business video animation shouldn’t be limited to explainer videos. It can help you explain almost anything better.