Our specialty is explainer video production for enterprise technology and software solution providers. That means there’s usually a lot to explain in a short time. And the explanation should respect the fact that many technology buyer’s are doing their own research and would prefer not to be “marketed” to.
Best practices for planning production, getting the most out of subject matter experts, making videos visual, storytelling techniques, and using music are a few of the topics under consideration here.
In developing marketing videos, we usually start with a script — that is, words on paper. This is a sensible and congenial way for technology marketers to work, since most of us spend a lot more time dealing with text in various forms than the do with video. Better-written scripts help assure better video narrations. But the spoken words of a video script needs to be looked at differently from the way you look at written text. On the page, human expressiveness doesn’t look like corporate messaging. It’s easy to overlook how every single spoken word will increase the length of the video. If they’re the right words, spoken persuasively, they’ll also add to the video’s meaning and its success. Wasted words add length, even as they subtract from the message.
1. Count the words
Every word adds to the length of a video. That’s why it’s so critical to make every word count. “All the logistics” takes up about 1 second.
Many smart people who write well have trouble converting the number of words they write to the length of time needed to say the same words aloud. If your aim is to write a video that’s 60 seconds long, your first draft should contain about 125 words.
Yes, you can say more words than that in 60 seconds. I, myself, normally speak about three words per second when reading aloud. But if you listened to me — or James Earl Jones, or Scarlett Johansen, or anyone else — rattle on about a technology solution at 180 words per minute — well, you wouldn’t listen. No one would.
Sentences need rhythm. Viewers need time to absorb what is being spoken and the visual storytelling. If you want to keep your message short and understandable, you need to be an implacable word counter from the get-go.
2. Talk the talk
Another consideration marketers are apt to overlook is that the narrator needs to talk the way people talk. Industry jargon may be a big plus. On the other hand, marketing-speak,
If your content marketing strategy includes white papers, blog posts, videos, etc. you might want to rethink it. Video isn’t a content type like the others. When a customer clicks on a link to a white paper or a blog post, they have a pretty good idea of what to expect. But video, not so much. Sure there are different types of videos: webinars, thought leadership, explainers, tutorials, and so forth. But if you manage the video budget along these lines, you’re leaving money on the table. To realize the full value of video, think video content management.
Who benefits from video, anyway?
Why should a B2B company make videos at all? Not because people like to watch a lot of video. Not to create buzz or convert someone. You benefit from a video only if customers benefit by learning something that helps them make or confirm a buying decision.
A good starting point for video content management, then, is to ask, “What content should we be creating to help the customer?” This will open up new ways of thinking about video and its uses:
Could we make this white paper easier to understand if we turned a complicated diagram into a guided tour?
Could we help ensure continuity of operations (a customer benefit, for sure!) with “knowledge transfer videos” in which old hands share hard-won know-how.
Could we personalize videos? Or help sales personalize messages to customers by explaining why a particular video is relevant to a particular customer’s business.
Could we work with sales to make sure we have a quick and authoritative response to each frequently asked question. Not every response needs to be video; but, as a visual medium, video is frequently the quickest and easiest medium for customers.
Video content management for distribution, production, data, and search
Clearly, every video you produce is content that needs to be managed along with all the text, presentations, and other stuff you produce. But digital video has heftier technical production and distribution requirements than other media. Video platforms, like those on this top 15 list, are useful for distribution and for collecting viewing data to feed into CMS and other sales/marketing systems. If customer education or capturing tribal knowledge is a high priority, take a look at Panopto. Developed at Carnegie Mellon and widely used in education, it offers lots of tools for turning expert knowledge into consumable video.
A video content management platform might also include tools, such as transcription, for making video content easier to find and share. The obvious customer benefit is the ability to find the answer to a question buried deep inside a webinar or demo. But sales teams will also be able to find more relevant video material to share proactively.
A fascinating new research report by Forrester’s Laura Ramos finds that companies waste a ton of money on content that “buyers don’t want and sellers won’t use.” The survey of marketing decision-makers reveals that few of them think they have a complete understanding of exactly what content sales needs, although they recognize that the sales process is a crucial channel for content distribution. She identifies a number of practices that have helped companies create marketing content that satisfies both buyers and sellers.
This worth-your-time Forrester report Modern B2B Buying Experiences Require a Singular Content Strategy can be downloaded from content hub provider Folloze.
The report does not single out video as a content type, but the best practices she recommends suggest some new video tactics for a modern B2B buying experience. Here’s my take on five of them.
Produce content that is modularized for industry or role
A company that supplies robotics software, uiPath, pairs industry-savvy copywriters with marketing channel specialists to produce content modules that sales can mix and match by topic, idea, or industry. Video tactics might include bite-sizing webinars and demos — a fairly simple editing task. Bookending product videos with different intros and outros is another way to target an industry or role without creating a whole new video.
Augment content with resources that bring messages to life
The reference here is to “big rock” content assets (e.g., eBooks) that will be divided into digestible bits like blog posts, infographics, and videos. The most successful programs include additional sales enablement content to help salespeople understand the marketing content from the buyers’ point of view. One way to help sales get more out of marketing videos is to create an interactive version augmented with examples, objection-handling suggestions, quizzes, etc.
Use content hubs to put sellers in the spotlight
What do content hubs do? Here’s 2-Minute Explainer video we made about the Journey Sales content hub solution.
Content hubs are microsites customized for a prospect company’s convenience with relevant content and collaboration tools. Journey Sales, a client of ours, provides “Smart Room” software on SalesForce. Other vendors include Folloze, Triblio, and Uberflip. Content hubs are supposed to foster engagement between buying teams and sales teams. Clearly, they should be stocked with lots of different kinds of content.
“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.)
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.
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.