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.
How do you differentiate your technology solution? Make a list? That’s what most marketers do, according to Gartner distinguished analyst Hank Barnes. But tech buyers don’t respond to these laundry lists. Give prospects one thing to remember you by is Hank’s prescription. Spotlight your differentiator by comparing it to something the prospect knows. Hmmm. Shining a light. Making a comparison. Sounds like a job for a “differentiator video.”
A new way to develop your video content strategy
Of course, there’s no “differentiator video” in the vocabulary of most marketers. But let’s ignore the usual categories and concentrate on the things video is good at. Certainly one of them is commanding short attention spans long enough to put across one thing. And video is good at is making comparisons.
Differentiator video comparing two styles of source code maintenance for mainframe applications.
Explainer videos can be differentiator videos. Compuware, for example, has made numerous webinar-style videos comparing their source code manager to the competition’s. The explainer video here summarizes them in two minutes.
Are you one of those marketers wondering where and how to use video effectively? You’re certainly not alone. Here’s an easy way to round out your content marketing strategy with videos that that increase engagement at lots of different spots on the customer journey map: convert blog posts into videos.
Beef up your video content
Your blog reflects your content marketing strategy — right down to the keywords. In the case of tech solution vendors, blogs are full of middle-of-the-funnel stuff that responds to customer concerns with a minimum of hype and marketing-speak. Smart people have put a lot of thought into that blog. It’s the kind of real-life, forward-looking content that buyers in the consideration phase of the buying cycle are eager to consume. Video can bring it alive and generate new returns on the considerable intellectual capital invested in the blog.
It’s approved copy!
This was pointed out to us by a client: published blog copy has been blessed by the appropriate authorities. What’s more, an editor probably worked hard to make this approved copy clear and accessible. Maybe they even used photos or diagrams. Sure, it will take editorial skill and visual imagination to convert this copy into a video. But it’s not going to take a lot of production meetings to refine the messaging.
Your choice of formats
You could create video “trailers” to promote blog posts. Or make a video executive summary to get the point across to non-readers of your blogs. Or a video that drives home just one key point — to enhance the blog post itself and spread the news in other channels. You may not even need narration — just on-screen titles. However you choose to “convert” the blog post, you’ve created valuable new video content that can stand on its own, as well as increase the value of existing content.
Easier than product videos
Assuming we’re working with a well-written entry, it will be relatively easy for an experienced video hand to come up with a video version of a blog post. That’s very different from producing product videos, where there’s usually a lot of negotiation about which features need to be presented and in what order. With a blog post video, it’s largely a matter of selecting the most interesting, persuasive, or visually arresting elements and building the video around it.
More shareable than product videos
Buying committee members don’t like to appear to be advocating too hard for anything new. As noted in the HBR article on Making the Consensus Sale — most people think taking a position on anything new is taking a risk. To overcome this reluctance, sales and marketing need to work together to “help stakeholders see their shared interests and find common ground.”
What’s this got to do with video? It’s lot easier to share a link that says “I think you’ll find this interesting” if what you’re sharing is, in fact, interesting, as many tech blog posts are — and not just a list of reasons to buy.
There are doubtless more reasons to convert blog posts to videos. Check out our example to see how they work together on this blog.
Are budget constraints keeping you from producing as much killer video content as you’d like? Maybe, like most marketers, you tend to think about video as the product-promotion content you need when you roll out something new.
Try thinking about video as something the customer wants on the buyer’s journey, and why. Whatever the content, he will prefer to sample “quick and easy” before delving into “detailed and difficult.” That’s an argument for making videos available at every stage.
The table is designed to help marketers develop a content strategy (not just video content) for account-based marketing. According to Smith, content at the top of the funnel should be designed to help an audience who doesn’t know much about you and your solution. No hard sell.
In the middle stage, you want to distinguish yourself from competitors. But still no hard sell. That doesn’t come until you’ve developed trust.
At the bottom of the funnel, buyers now want to know all the reasons to buy.
If this approach makes sense to you, it will also make sense to think a little differently about product overview videos. It takes storytelling and visual pizzazz to hold the viewer’s attention throughout a recitation of features and benefits — how else could you deploy those creative skills?
Brainstorming killer video content
Most product overview videos (including the ones we make) attempt to dash through at least half the “funnel stages” listed in the table in under two minutes.
There’s no getting around the fact that that text is cheap and efficient. That’s why most online “content” is text. To scope out a solution, you can skim text. You can skim video, too, if it’s interactive, or offered in bite-size chunks. (I wouldn’t call anything longer than a minute bite-size). But most video content for sales engagement (or any other purpose) is not skim-able. You may need to watch a entire video to find out whether it contains any information you care about. And most people don’t watch marketing videos all the way through. So, what are the odds that the intended takeaways get taken away?
One way you can increase the number of short, high-impact videos in your content library is by looking for opportunities to add video to non-video assets. That is, instead of producing videos that stand on their own, make video snippets that amplify or explain specific features and benefits featured on web pages, in white papers, slideware, or webinars. You can animate diagrams and timelines. Instead of screen shots, use screen sequences that illustrate a task accomplished or user control.
2. Make more targeted persona-based and industry-specific videos
Video is a relatively high-cost medium, but the relationship between length and cost is not linear. Some “scenes” are more elaborate, and cost more to make. A talking head can talk for hours without significantly increasing production cost.
Accordingly, it can be very cost-effective to create a package of videos. For example, two 90-second videos may cost about the same as one 2-minute video. Packages can be built around personas, industries, or the specific concerns of the target audience. Of course, cost still depends on the style and the content. But leveraging creative resources across multiple videos is a very cost-effective way to reach different audiences and reinforce your messages in different channels.
Vidyard recently published an infographic that cleverly maps 12 types of video productions (explainers, product info, chalk talks, personalized, etc.) to the customer lifecycle and suggests appropriate levels of production values for each genre. It’s worth a look. But this “generic” approach to video is mostly geared to marketing content that is essentially promotional. I don’t think this approach works as well when it comes to video content for sales enablement.
Marketing content vs. sales content
CSO Insights research director Tamara Schenk, an authority on sales enablement, has noted that salespeople often complain that the content they’re given to work with is too product-oriented. She says “it doesn’t help them engage on the level of business challenges, and doesn’t help them engage in different industries.”
The CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study backs this up with the finding that the quality and quantity of content has a remarkable impact (±15%) on quota and revenue plan attainment, adding that it’s a dangerous illusion to reduce the required sales content to only “marketing content.”
Sales enablement content types
Here are the types of content used in sales enablement considered the survey.
Needs analysis template
Customer case studies
All these items are used throughout the customer journey. Templates and white papers (65.3%) are the most used items during the prospecting phase. The others tend to be used more in later phases of the customer journey.