Everything else is data-driven these days. Shouldn’t software demos have plenty of data, too.
A recent BtoB Magazine article showed that 47% of B2B marketers favor product demos as a lead generation strategy. This may be effective in generating leads — but what about conversions? B2B story telling videos or software demos? Where should your organization be investing your marketing budget?
Through our work with 100 or so technology companies like BMC, Brocade Networks, UPS Logistics, Sterling Commerce (an IBM Company), Taleo (an Oracle Company), we have seen a lot of software demos can only be characterized as lame.
We most often think of short videos in the context of outbound marketing as they are included in most product introduction packages. After all there’s no quicker way to communicate essential features, benefits and points of differentiation. But, what about using short B2B content marketing videos to change perceptions – instead of focusing on features and benefits. Below, we show how two companies are building video marketing content around ideas.
Compuware Creates Videos for Featureless Technology Solutions
Not all technology solutions are products with features.
Sometimes the marketing task is to introduce an idea, or to get an existing customer to think about solutions in a different way. Compuware, a large (~$1B sales) U.S. software company, has been a top provider of tools for mainframes since the 1980s.
Now, Compuware is big in mobile solutions, application performance management, cloud computing, services, and lots more. The company now puts a good deal of effort into thought leadership campaigns. Their “thought leadership” video was designed to divert thoughts toward Compuware solutions and capabilities the viewer may not be aware of. Hence the diverting style.
This particular video saw its first use at Detroit’s OpenCo Business Conference and will find its way into many other venues and content collections as time goes by.
The most important constraint on the length of a video message is the number of words spoken. But it can also be helpful to consider different shapes for the message container. Here are some ways that we condense our clients’ product information and marketing messages in a two-minute or less video.
1. We Tell Stories
Stories draw people in. With a lifetime of watching TV commercials behind us, most people know that two minutes is more than enough time to tell a pretty good story.
Of course the story in TV commercials is usually about love, happiness, or, having a good time. Payoffs that are appropriate to B2B solutions — ROI, agile operations, customer satisfaction — don’t resonate in the same way. This may be why music tracks in B2B videos often sound inappropriate or even cheesy.
This article will share what I think is the essential information to include in a two-minute B2B video.
Because short videos play such an important role in inbound marketing, it’s probably safe to assume that:
1) The viewer is pressed for time
2) The viewer wants to know right away “What’s in it for me?”
So, first, it’s important to define the “me” you’re talking to. This is often done with a character (“This is Mike, the CIO”). This works particularly well if the solution you’re pitching is to a problem that is subtle or overlooked. A more general way to enable a person to see himself in the picture is to indicate the common pressures and problems your solution addresses.
Watch this 2-minute explainer video to see how our client identifies with key decision makers right away:
Promises such as “increased productivity” and “lower costs” are tough to deal with because they are among the benefits of technology in general, and all B2B technology products I can think of promise them. On the other hand, if those are the main benefits, you cannot not mention them.
But if you’re aware that you’re dealing with what goes without saying, you’ll put more effort into graphics and animation. Showing specific costs being knocked down, or employees reassigned to more mission-critical work (e.g., from maintenance to develop and test) is more interesting and persuasive than mere talk about productivity and savings.
2. Telling people what they already know
Let’s say your target audience is compliance officers. The last thing they need to hear is that the consequences of ineffective compliance include loss of company reputation, customers taking business elsewhere, failed audits, heightened regulatory oversight, fines, penalties, and possibly people going to jail.
I was asked in a LinkedIn group discussion, “If you don’t use storyboards, how do you develop the finished product, particularly if a team is working on it?”
A creative process and a business process
B2B video is as much a business process as it is a creative process. Like many business processes today, there’s an ad hoc team on the case. Good teamwork comes about when everyone on the team is doing work they are good at. So I prefer a process that is as close as possible to WYSIWG, where everyone can respond based on what they know, not what they can envision (based on, say, storyboards).
B2B videos are always a team effort. So it’s best to have a process that gets the most out of teamwork.
Who is on the team?
Teams we work with generally consist of one or two marketing execs, a product manager, and several subject matter experts (SMEs).
According to a recent survey conducted in the LinkedIn B2B Technology Marketing Community, the three most important elements of effective content are “audience relevance” (71%), “engaging and compelling storytelling” (56%) and “triggers a response/action” (56.7%).
These were the only categories more than half the marketers surveyed agreed upon. “Effectively delivers a message” got 40%, no other category scored over 25%. Only 6% considered for “low cost” important — good news for B2B video producers like me.
Speeding the B2B technology buyer on his way
The value of video in speeding people on their technology-buying journey is simple: there’s no faster way for a person to pick up a high-level understanding of a subject that would otherwise take a lot of hard work to understand. Animated B2B videos, in particular, can make difficult subjects very approachable. With a B2B marketing video, you can dramatize the problem your solution addresses — and catch the attention of your most qualified prospects — very quickly. If you do present a problem dramatically, and the viewer is not familiar with the problem, chances are he wouldn’t turn out to be a qualified lead, anyway.
Exactly who in the business are you talking to? So, the first step in explaining a solution that’s hard to explain is to define the audience as narrowly as possible. Settle on the most obvious problems they have in common. They should be those problems that almost go without saying, because those are the issues that are giving your best prospects sleepless nights.
It’s inbound marketing
Here’s a question we often ask our clients’ salespeople about things they include in their own sales pitch: “Doesn’t everyone you talk to already know this?”
Suppose you want to use a short (under 2 minutes) video to introduce a specific value proposition or product. How important is style? How much effort should go into showcasing your cool company and cool brand with cutting-edge graphics, dazzling animation, and offbeat narration? And how much to “education” facts, unfamiliar concepts, technology differentiators?
Perfect balance is not necessary, but it’s important to remember how easy it is to go too far in either direction.
How cool should you be?
No-one wants to look uncool, of course. But I’m not persuaded that being cool is a significant differentiator in technology sales. Certainly, the people and companies we do business with are all pretty cool. There is also the matter of getting your money’s worth.
One way or another, creative talent (including in-house talent, and you) is paid by the hour. If your budget is, say $10,000, that’s 100 hours of creative talent at $100/hour. What percentage should be devoted to dazzling effects and transitions that maintain the momentum, but don’t convey any actual information?
Why make a video, anyway?
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