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.
The first rule for keeping videos for IT decision-makers short, is “Don’t tell them what they already know, just tell them what they want to know.” Maybe that’s two rules, but enforcement is hard either way. It’s particularly hard to say what each person on a buying team starts out knowing or wants to know. Not everyone is out to acquire “product knowledge.” Some good general guidelines on what IT decision-makers want to learn can be gleaned from the wealth of statistical factoids in IDG’s Guide to engaging IT decision-makers in the digital-first age, an infographic which summarizes the findings of several recent in-depth studies. Here are a few of the findings worth taking into account when you plan video content for customer engagement.
It takes a whole semester
The average sales process is 4.8 months, during which you’ll need to reach 16 influencers, half of them from IT, half from the business. You want to avoid “marketing hype/buzz words” — most IT decision-makers (56%) have problems with that. 90% put a high value on “tailored” content — by tech platform, industry, or company size.
Many decision-makers (78%) say end-users are playing an increasing role in process. 71% said they would like to have”more educational resources” from vendors, tailored for non-technical functions. 85% are “more likely to consider a vendor who educates them in each stage of the decision process.” The average decision-maker downloads five “educational assets.”
Keep in mind that not every learner needs to master the subject. For some, it’s enough to tick a few boxes.
Many B2B sales and marketing leaders regard “interactive video” — if they regard it at all — as an exotic form of communication that won’t interest their buyers. This is surprising. In 2017, 41% of B2B buyers said they prefer interactive content (DemandGen). Recent technology improvements have made interactive content pretty easy to create. And so much of it — e.g., personality quizzes — is surefire clickbait! In other words, interactive video represents an opportunity to make irresistible content that can improve your B2B customer experience.
Facebook recently-announced interactive live and on-demand video features that let creators add quizzes, polls, challenges and gamification. “Video is evolving away from just passive consumption to more interactive two-way formats,” says Facebook’s VP of video product Fidji Simo. Facebook sees this as fitting into the broader trend toward interactive content in general.
Better CTAs (and more of them)
Responses to a CTA (Call To Action) is a much-used “conversion rate” metric, especially among marketers of big-ticket technology solutions. A study by Forrester Research found that putting CTAs inside a video (as opposed to CTA’s outside on the web page where the video resides) increases the conversion rate 5% -12%. As Persephone Rizvi at eLearning Industry points out in Interactive Video Revolutionizes Role-Play Training. with interactive video, there are lots of actions the viewer can take, and every response generates customer data that can help improve your understanding of the customer, and your sales/marketing content.
Interactive video plus
It doesn’t need to be an “interactive video” to take advantage of the richness video brings to sales and marketing communication. Just about any type of interactive content can incorporate video, along with text, graphics, buttons and anything else that can be displayed online. Here are a couple of ideas from SnapApp.
Quizzes like this arouse curiosity to drive home differentiators.
Quizzes. Quizzes let buyers quickly get their bearings, and give the marketer an opportunity to put across some eye-opening differentiators. Here’s a example of an interactive quiz from Boston Scientific. Interactive quizzes can provide the marketer with data on customer interests, messaging appeal, and levels of knowledge. And, being interactive, the quizzes can easily guide users to other content they’ll be interested in.
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.
You can increase engagement and provide superior customer experience at the same time by making interactive videos out of your ordinary “passive” videos. I mean, wouldn’t you, as a viewer, like to start up a webinar and see clickable “chapter headings” — so you can skip ahead to the interesting stuff? Wouldn’t your sales team like to enrich product videos with new options — like seeing more in-depth info — right there in the video window?
The advantages of interactive video for you and for viewers are clear:
The viewer is thinking about your content, not just watching it
Viewers can navigate to what interests them most
Learners learn more when they get to ask and answer questions
You can add more than one call-to-action
You can verify viewing
You can collect feedback and interaction data
Interactive video tools designed for business users
OK, you say — but doesn’t that take heavy-duty tech and video skills? It does not. Now, interactive video tools designed for business users are available on many video platforms.
If you want to get a good idea of the process, I recommend trying the free, open source platform H5P. Here’s a demo of what you can do with H5P. You can test-drive their software to make your own interactive video, as well as other types of interactive content.
H5P is a widely used learning management solution that’s well-suited to injecting fun and games into any long-ish marketing video. With plugins for popular open-source content management systems WordPress, Joomla, and Moodle, H5P is easier to use than PowerPoint. You start by selecting a video on the web — your website or a video hosting platform like YouTube.
Host the video on your website — or make interactive videos from your videos previously uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, etc.
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.”
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