With so many DIY video tools and cheap production options for “explainer” or other type of tech solution marketing video, it’s reasonable to question the $5,000–$15,000 cost of a professional production studio. Here’s how professional specialists earn their fees.
Viewer-friendly tech solution marketing video
You’re involved in sales and marketing. That makes you an advocate for your solution.
The video pro is an advocate for the viewer. They’ll look at your messaging, personas, and customer pain points with fresh eyes. They’ll ask questions like “Doesn’t the viewer already know this?” and “Are these the same pain points your competitors talk about?” as they work to make sure your video story is fresh and interesting for the viewer.
The video pro is thinking about how to hook the viewer in the first 30 seconds. While your messaging documents describe the product in context, the writer of your tech solution marketing video will start by trying to nail down how much knowledge — context — the viewer brings to the video. This is good discipline that comes with experience. It’s worth paying for.
Communicating technical differentiators
Marketers sometimes fear getting too technical or “down-in-the-weeds.” A good video producer will be confident in their ability to depict technical values clearly. And will give you confidence, too.
Why is this more important? Because IT buyers, in particular,
“Agility makes smaller agencies appealing” according to Gartner marketing expert Jay Wilson. Agile businesses want agency partners who are flexible, collaborative, and responsive. Here’s why you might want to demand these qualities when you’re selecting an explainer video production company.
1. You’re introducing a new product
New technology products are often in still in development — and the messaging is still being defined with feedback from customers — right up to the launch date. What do you do if you find that messages baked into your video script aren’t resonating? An agile explainer video production agency will take pride in their ability to come up with an effective way to work in the new hot button without busting the budget — and still deliver on time.
2. You haven’t written the script
Lots of explainer video companies offer fixed (sometimes astonishing low) prices, which they can do because they will simply put the message you deliver to them through standard production processes in standard styles.
But if you haven’t already written your story down in a way you’re sure will make a good video, the script will probably take more hours to write. The more technical your solution is, the more drafts it will take. You want a writer who is willing to create as many good drafts of the script as needed in order to come up with a video that comes across like a good conversation about a topic the viewer is keenly interested in.
3. There are lots of stakeholders involved in the explainer video production
An agile agency can help you balance and accommodate different points of view. How? They’re well accustomed to
Tech marketing videos are often seen as “top-of-the-funnel” infomercials. They’re intended to increase awareness in the early stages of “the buyer’s journey.” But the technology buyer’s journey is different. LinkedIn research on the tech marketing buying committee discussed in a previous post lists these stages. (Note that it’s a cyclical process.)
Defining specifications, defining a budget or securing funding
Account based sales and marketing
Everyone agrees that buying committees do a lot of research before they contact sales. The point at which they do reach out varies by type of solution (e.g., storage vs. security). This is interestingly discussed by Forrester’s Lori Wizdo in Myth Busting 101: Insights IntoThe B2B Buyer Journey. The problem is, the vendor may find out too late. If an RFP at the vendor evaluation phase comes as a surprise, that’s too late. Now, it’s all about whether your features and pricing fit the buyer’s solution definition better than your competitors’ . But what you really wanted to talk about is how you redefine the problem.
Account based sales and marketing
Account-based sales/marketing strategies are increasingly seen as an effective way to avoid this problem. Sales and marketing work together to
get in front of buying groups early
influence “problem definition” and “solution identification”
follow up consistently with relevant messages.
The role of tech marketing videos
Most planning sessions for targeting specific accounts probably center on relationships. Who do we know? Who should we get to know?
This is the time to raise questions about existing content relevant to the account. And what content could be repurposed/repackaged. Or, what new followup content should we create?
A video expert in the planning session might suggest some of the following:
Review existing tech marketing videos, including explainer videos, for content that could be extracted and “bookended” with account-specific opening and closing. This could be something as simple a personal message recorded on a smart phone.
Make existing webinars and other long form videos interactive with chapter titles that are relevant to the account you’re targeting. This is the easiest and cheapest way to add interactivity to your videos. I’ve written about this, and some other cheap forms of interactive video, previously.
Prepare links to specific segments of video that salespeople can share. If it’s on YouTube, for example, just specify a start and end-point in the URL, like this link https://www.youtube.com/v/xyJ_ZbU046I?start=45&end=57, which shows, in just 12 seconds, the most essential feature of Quantum’s new Artico storage platform.
Create a package of videos aimed at the personas identified as key buying influences. We call these Buyer’s Journey Video Bundles™. Usually there is an overview about 90 seconds in length, plus several shorter videos that address specific concerns on the buying committee. Because some ideas and video segments are re-used, the Bundles are quite cost-effective to produce. More information here.
Develop a library of excerpts that can be assembled into account specific videos. This is a much more ambitious undertaking, previously described here.
Put tech marketing videos to work for in your account-based selling. It just takes imagination
An imaginative video producer will be able to come up with ways to generate account-specific video content cost-effectively. This can be done by repurposing existing tech marketing videos, or by creating new videos (and other content) that can be easily adapted to targeted accounts. It will all take a significant amount of editorial skill. But there’s no reason it should cost a lot of money.
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?
The 1970 New York Transit Authority graphics standards manual widely considered the standard-setter in this peculiar genre. Shown here are standards for space between characters in in subway signage. See the brilliant reproductions at http://standardsmanual.com
Most companies we do business with publish comprehensive graphics standards manuals setting forth guidelines akin to those in the classic New York Transit Authority manual of 1970.
These manuals set rules for trademarks and logos, typography, advertising, and web publishing. Many provide guidelines and PowerPoint templates for presentations. Some attempt to provide a visual language of images and diagrams relevant to specific technology solutions and customer business drivers.
Why no standards for marketing videos?
But I’ve never seen one with standards for marketing videos, or any sort of motion graphics. (I’d very much like to, if you know of any.) It’s not hard to think of historical reasons why this should be so, at least for technology marketers.
Marketing videos are relatively new tools and are still viewed as exotic or luxury items in some companies
Video production tends to be ad hoc, as in “Hey, we need a video!”
There are all kinds of videos — webinars, demos, testimonials, slide show recordings, etc.
Every “producer” has his or her own aesthetic preferences and ideas about who the intended audience is, and what they’ll respond to.
There’s a lot of turnover in marketing departments. Producing a video that looks different from what your predecessors created is a high-visibility way to make your mark.
Here are 5 more ways to make better technology videos than your competitors.
1. Skip the intro
I don’t care.
Interactive video expert Randy Tinfow contributed this to our LinkedIn discussion group: “if we break a 3:30 video into chapters, and call one of them INTRO, 47% of viewers skip it entirely, assuming it’s boring and useless.”
Start with your best story or most significant benefit or coolest diagram. People are used to watching TV and movies that plunk the audience down in the middle of an event. As long as the things stay interesting, we keep watching.
2. Count every word and make every word count
The hard sell it is!
In two minutes a narrator can speak about 250 words. Of course, he or she can get in more words. The fast-talking world record, 603 words in 54 seconds, extrapolates to over 1300 words in two minutes (if you could keep it up). How fast a delivery needs to be before it becomes an unbearable hard sell is impossible to say. You should be headed in the opposite direction, regardless.
The best way to control the word count is to let the pictures do the talking. Instead of saying things the viewer can see for himself, tell viewers what you want them to see.
In one of the generally excellent HubSpot blogs, I recently ran across this bit of advice:
Compiling an explainer video isn’t much more complicated than putting together a slide deck in a PowerPoint presentation. You decide what to say and find some relevant graphics to jazz things up.
Leaving aside the question of whether your video should be like a PowerPoint presentation, this might be the case if all of the following apply:
Your technology solution is easy to explain on the phone
There are no competitors with similar solutions
Your prospects’ preconceptions and levels of interest are all pretty much the same
If you ticked all three boxes, stop here.
It’s hard to decide what to say
The 30-or-so words you say in the first 15 seconds of your video are critical — attention spans are short. So, exactly who are you talking to and how do you greet them?
If you need to talk to people who will actually be using your solution, you may want to start off by talking about ease of use. If you’re talking to their bosses, you could start with the staff productivity gains your solution provides. Or an interesting use case.
Meanwhile, their bosses may be impatient to learn about the risks associated with adopting your new solution, or how it differs from others they’re evaluating, or where the ROI comes in.
If you’re in doubt about whose concerns matter most, you should consider splitting your video into several shorter videos for different audiences.
How long we can realistically expect someone to watch a marketing video that doesn’t speak to their own specific need or interest?
Is video like a cold call?
Ryan Hamer pointed out that a salesperson has about 10-20 seconds on a cold call to “break through” the reluctance of the person on the other end to hear a spiel. Video, he noted, has the advantage of being a richer sensory experience, but
Consumers are accustomed to the Facebook/YouTube mentality of a short, shocking, or funny video that they will want to share with someone else. It isn’t easy to pull off but it is something every business should explore.
I pointed out — and Ryan agreed — that “funny” is iffy in a business context and, of course, exceedingly difficult to be sure of in any context.
Another participant, Randy Tinfow brought up his experience studying viewers of corporate videos:
As you mention with cold calling, nailing the Interest Step in the first 10 seconds is crucial to retaining audience. It’s shocking how many videos drone on for 45 – 60 seconds of canned intros without any promise of revelatory content. In fact if we break a 3:30 video into chapters, and call one of them INTRO, 47% of viewers skip it entirely, assuming it’s boring and useless. 😉
What is the first thing viewers see?
When we write short video scripts, we always try to get salespeople and other subject matter experts to tell us how they think we should begin the video — what words and images should appear first in the very first scene. After all, immediately after clicking the play button, viewers are most keen to exercise their perceptual skills and determine what you’re showing them. (Not long after that, viewers tend to go into a “trance state” and will misunderstand a lot of what the video is telling them anyway, according to research discussed here).
Who should be responsible for producing a sales enablement video for technology solution vendors? Well, marketing usually controls the budget, and has responsibility for inbound content marketing and lead generation. So, marketing is responsible.
But how responsibly do they fulfill the sales enablement function? As noted in a previous post, formal agreements between sales and marketing (budget commitments, for example) are pretty unusual in B2B companies. Marketing works hard to generate leads, which sales hopes to transform into “opportunities.” But marketers tend to think of video in this context as advertising or collateral, not as a tactic for capitalizing on sales opportunities.
What is an “opportunity”?
From the technology sales point of view, an “opportunity” is frequently a team of individuals evaluating solutions, each from his own point of view. Or an “opportunity” may be the chance to increase penetration in existing accounts. Or to cross-sell or upsell solutions marketed by lines of business the salesperson doesn’t work for directly.
Today’s technology buyers have specific interests and specific questions. They want guidance, not product-centric, sales-y, overviews with something for everyone.
When we started making 2-Minute Explainer® videos in 2004, what seemed to need the most explaining was what businesses do. We prospected for new business by reading news releases about new products. If we couldn’t understand the product or service on first reading, we called up the executives quoted in the release and pitched them on the idea of making their value proposition clear with a video. Just about everyone we talked with agreed that video would be a great way to introduce their product or service — far superior to web text. The idea caught on — and nowadays just about every technology solution is associated with a video overview, many of which we produce. This article will explain how using explainer video for buyer engagement pays off, all along the buyer’s journey.
The opportunity: buyer engagement
But what of the people who have actually embarked on “the buyer’s journey” and made progress toward a decision? Do they still need an overview?
Consider the following situations:
You are trying to cross-sell or up-sell to a prospect who is already a customer for some of your solutions or services.
The buyer has a clear idea of the solution, but needs help sorting out the differences between competing versions.
The individual “buyer” fits one of the following categories (suggested by Gartner research director Hank Barnes)
Business Buyer – does this solve my business problem? Financial Buyer – do the overall costs make sense vs. potential return? Technical Buyer – is the technology is sound? Risk Buyer – are the potential risks worth taking? User Buyer – how will we actually use it?