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.
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.”
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.
In a recent post I wrote about three B2B Video Marketing Trends I’ll be watching for in 2017.
More conversational. Less advertorial.
Actually, I’ll be doing more than watching. I’ll be working with clients to find ways to take advantage of these B2B video marketing trends. All three lead toward more engagement and a better customer experience. And that’s where all business is headed.
More conversational. Less advertorial.
This is in line with the trend toward a “video-first world,” as envisioned by Mark Zuckerberg. The more pervasive personal video streaming and messages become, the less relevant categories such as webinar, slideshare, explainer, tutorial, and commercial become. Video is simply part of the sales conversation.
Here are three things you can do in 2017 to make videos that are more engaging:
Get subject matter experts to record answers to frequently asked questions instead of making presentations. Add titles and graphics.
Record Skype conversations with customers.
Add video animations or slides to SME blog posts
Did you know that vertical video ads on Snapchat have up to 9 times more completed views than horizontal video ads? With more and more video being viewed on mobile devices, is makes sense that people aren’t going to want to turn their phones horizontal to view every video that comes along. If you’re just trying to explain a value proposition and or teach a customer something useful, there’s no compelling reason to do it sideways.
In fact, one could argue that turning your phone sideways detracts from the customer experience. The vertical format favored by 200 million Snapchat users will become increasingly relevant as more web videos are viewed inline on iOS devices, courtesy of Apple’s iOS 10.
It’s certainly not difficult to record videos in portrait mode. Or to edit in graphics and animations. Give it try. Put some on your FAQ page. Re-use on Snapchat.
Here’s an example of a video that’s feels a bit more like an app than a video, simply because it allows the viewer to manipulate it.
In an interesting blog post, guru-to-the-startups Rita Baker makes a strong case that, if your product or the needs of your market are complex, it is sales, not marketing, who should run the show. On that logic, since most tech solutions are designed to eliminate or hide complexity, the answer to the question “Should sales or marketing produce your videos?” could well be “sales.” But that’s not the way it usually works. Marketing usually produces video and other content, which goes on the website and gets used in campaigns and sales automation. But what about video for sales engagement?
Is video for marketing, sales engagement, or customer experience?
Explainer video depicting a new view of the buyer’s journey advanced by Hank Barnes at Gartner. Many marketers use video to create awareness about a product or solution. But video can create a lot of customer engagement.
Current thinking about buyers and sellers puts the emphasis on the customer experience over time. In my favorite buying cycle model, from Gartner, there is an “owning cycle.” Most customer journey models for tech products appear to call more for empathy and hand-holding than for conventional content marketing. Marketing content may bring in leads, but the rest of the process depends on engagement.
Stalled opportunities in their pipeline
This Journey Sales explainer video on transforming SalesForce CRM into a collaborative engagement platform gives an idea of the many kinds of content needed for a personalized B2B buyer experience. Their “Smart Room” solution opens up many new ways to use video for sales engagement.
Knowledge transfer is the aim of most of the videos we make. When you begin an explainer video production project, the “knowledge” you want your prospect to take on board resides in the minds of subject matter experts — salespeople, product managers, marketers and engineers. Some subject matter experts (e.g., salespeople) are invested in the success of the video. Others may resent having to invest their valuable time in a marketing initiative that’s not central to their real job.
We like to keep our “interviews” short, informal and conversational because what we’re really trying to discover is, not how a solution works, but how it’s best explained. Here are a few questions you can ask your SMEs that will help make the knowledge transfer go smoothly.
What do people have the most trouble understanding about your solution?
This question helps to focus the conversation on learning needs and away from video content. It can help in structuring the explainer video production content, too.
What do you think should be the three most important takeaways from this video?
This is the third of a series of posts on how to tell a video sales story. Here’s where to see Part 1 and Part 2
How to tell a video sales story? At one time or another, everyone who has ever had a job has probably wished “to bring about a major change in the organization.” According to this OpenView B2B Buyer Insight survey, it’s one of the main reasons buyers reach out to salespeople, and one that many salespeople fail to take into account.
Obviously, this is a motivation that should be taken seriously by solution sellers, because just about every software solution promises to effect a major change — higher performance, better security, increased customer satisfaction, better user experience, and so forth.
You seldom see an explainer video that addresses this motivation directly, but we’ve made a few.
“Here’s something you can change right now” (vs. “Here’s what we can do for you”)
An opportunity for ambitious government agencies who want to make a difference.
Here’s an example intended to appeal to would-be game changers in government who want to increase citizen engagement. It assumes right from the outset that the viewer is an IT executive motivated to bring about change, and demonstrates the straightforward, yet innovative, Software AG AgileApps live solution for governments (there is a UK version, too).
Did you know about this opportunity for change?
Any time you’ve got a solution most people in the organization don’t know they need, you have a big challenge, and an opportunity to reach out to the innovators who want to “bring about a major change.”