Can technology marketing videos have empathy?

There’s little doubt that video as a medium can have empathy. Reality TV shows may increase empathy and bring out the best in us. But let’s consider the kind of videos I know best, technology marketing videos. These are mostly short, high-level solution overviews for lead generation or account management.

What is empathy in marketing?

The production of marketing content — video in particular — focuses on packaging messages efficiently. How often does anyone ask, “How do you think the person who looks at this content will feel about it?”

Brian Carroll at B2B Lead Blog writes interestingly about humanizing the sales and marketing processes. In “How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline” he notes that customers are deluged with so many impersonal marketing messages through so many channels, they are just worn out. We can all empathize here.

But the idea of empathy in marketing is that people warm to a message that addresses hopes, fears, and other feelings we all have. For example, if yours is a complex sale, Brian suggests focusing on the risks perceived by your customer. That’s a fruitful idea. I would add that, with a buying team, you need to address multiple kinds of risk-averseness to help encourage consensus.  I’ve written previously about contending with group dynamics.

How to add empathy to technology marketing videos

In terms of video, empathy doesn’t necessarily mean trying to take hopes and fears into account. I really like Carroll’s formulation that “the best marketing feels like helping.” Customers aren’t looking for solutions.

Make a better tech marketing explainer video. Start with a diagram.

In a previous blog post, I recommended diagramming the structure of your tech marketing explainer video using a tool built into Microsoft Office. That was about putting across all the essential messages. Another good way to come up with a story about a technology solution is to find the diagram that tells the story and extract what you need. By “the diagram” I mean the one that’s probably on Slide 9 of the sales deck or Page 6 of a white paper.

Making technical concepts visible

Diagrams of solution architectures, processes, even the vision behind a strategy, make a great starting point for developing a video. These illustrations — whether professionally created graphics or napkin sketches — are the distillation of hard thinking by bright people who know the subject. This is the best they can do.

A tech marketing video should not get bogged down in technical details — unless they are central to the messaging

The solution’s technical details are shown in this diagram. But most of them didn’t make it into the video below.

How you turn a diagram like the one shown here into a story depends on your storytelling purpose. In this case, the message about “DevOps style automation” is a key pillar of the messaging. But it the technical details are not central to the story here. The video on the left below is based on the diagram, but it shows where the benefits of DevOps apply, without showing how it works.

Tell B2B video viewers you take them seriously

Malcolm Gladwell has said that, for him, the key to a good live presentation is to keep in mind that the audience wants to be taken seriously. This struck me as pertinent to the development and production of B2B video for inbound marketing and sales engagement. We imagine the audience browsing our collection of marketing content like bees collecting nectar. We plant messages they’ll take back to the buying committee. But how much effort goes into making them feel that we take them seriously.

Support every claim

In a short video, there’s usually a requirement to put across several key messages, sometimes for different audiences. That can lead to adjectival overload — a string of phrases like “powerful features,” “unprecedented scalability,” and “advanced technology.”  You’re probably don’t find such claims compelling. Neither will your buyers.

Anticipate questions

Many of the videos we produce deal with technology product introductions and upgrades. Most of these solutions have been pre-introduced to existing customers or user groups. If you can get a fix on what these groups are most curious about, you’ve made a good start on figuring out how to frame the story for a larger audience. Even if you’re required to deliver information on a set number of features, if you start with one you know people will have questions about, you’re audience knows you’re serious.

Remember how they got here

You’ve probably heard that B2B video needs to grab the viewer’s attention in the first 15-20 seconds.

Five webinar worst practices to avoid. Please.

I’m no expert on producing webinars, but I’ve sat in on lots of them. We use them to collect background info for technology solution webinars as background for the marketing videos we create. We sign up for webinars to video trends in general. So, maybe these are just pet peeves, but I think there are lots of fellow-sufferers who would agree.


1. Introducing the presenters

The presenters make or break your webinar.

What got me to sign up for the webinar in the first place was an email outlining the topic and the guests’ credentials. So they really don’t need much introducing.  I signed up for this webinar to learn something, and I want you to get to it. I’m not alone. Interactive video expert Randy Tinfow says “if we break a 3-1/2 hour video into chapters, and call one of them INTRO, 47% of viewers skip it entirely, assuming it’s boring and useless.”

Of course you don’t want latecomers or anyone else wondering who they’re listening to. Put up a slide with a photo and credentials when the presenter starts talking. Maybe even leave an image in the corner of the screen.


2. Talking about what you’re going to talk about

It’s OK to remind me of the topics you plan to cover. But please just say, “Here’s what we’re going to talk about”  and show me a list. Make it an enticing list. Maybe include some juicy subtopics.

Don’t read it to me.  Stop talking about what you’re going to talk about. Just get on with it.


3. Talking about the bullet point(s) I’m looking at

My brother maintains that no idea worth having ever appeared on a PowerPoint slide. He’s an academic, so allowances must be made. But I can’t imagine that anyone  really likes bullet points.

Should sales or marketing produce your videos?

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.

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

the Journey Sales Smart Room solution Their "Smart Room" solution opens up many new ways to use video for sales engagement.

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.

Most companies are better at bringing in leads

Videos for lead nurturing? They can do a lot more than you think.

I’m talking about actual nurturing here, not creating leads or tipping them over the lip of the sales funnel. According to SiriusDecisions, 80% of unqualified leads today — understandably ignored by sales — will go on to buy from someone within the next 24 months. According to Jeff Cohen, a blogger for Oracle Marketing Cloud, nurturing is making sure your brand is in front of them when that happens. Cohen recently posted a five step plan for lead nurturing that struck me as comprehensive and useful. He never mentions video — so here’s an outline of the plan, with the some ideas about videos for lead nurturing filled in.

1. Understand your buyer

That’s the hard work that goes into developing personas, mapping the buyer’s journey, discovering the pain points, creating the messaging and all that. It should all be done before you make your video.

But it never really is done. Videos can help you better understand the people who watch them — good leads by definition. Just add some clickable objects to the video and capture data on what gets clicked — easy!

2. Pinpoint what motivates your buyers

This is a great opportunity to zero in on which pain points matter and which features matter most. Simply repurpose old videos with chapter headings and count which ones get clicked. Old videos in new bottles? Surely worthy of a spot in your lead nurturning plan.

3. Whiteboard the ideal user experience

The idea here is to adapt the flow of communication to the customer’s behavior and engagement with your content. Your video library

Don’t miss out on this new kind of video for business development

In tech companies, business development goes hand-in-hand with innovation. It’s about getting people to try something new, namely your tech solution. Usually, a video helps to launch a tech solution. Is that enough video for business development?

Business development for technology solutions is often a drawn-out process where you’re trying to nurture a group of buyers. Every buyer appreciates the time-saving immediacy of video communication. But they’re all not interested in the same thing.

A better user experience for business development

You’re not talking to a lot of people. You don’t care about audience size. You do care about engagement. You want viewers to do something — take another step in your direction.

Interactive web videos for business development present clickable objects on screen. The viewer can make choices. Instead of watching a video, they get a personalized user experience. Clickable objects in an interactive web video can be chapter headings that allow the viewer to jump right into the feature or value proposition they’re most eager to understand. Clickable objects can be pop-up buttons inviting deeper exploration. They can be markers that allow the viewer to take their own path through the experience.

Anyone in your company can improve your videos

Anyone in your company is capable of adding interactive controls to existing video for business development. It’s that easy. Need a lot of customization and fancy branding? Your web dev team will have no problem with that — the technology is all HTML5, CSS, and Javascript.

User engagement you can measure

Interactive web video for business development collects data on user interests and behavior. Use it to plan additional sales engagement content, refine your messages, measure video effectiveness.

New life for old videos

The explainer video can direct viewers to more detailed information in existing videos, such as webinars. Or, interactive sales training and similar learning applications can include webinars and subject matter expert videos.

New ways of using existing content and web apps

Use interactive videos to run meetings or book demos. Integrate existing web forms and other web apps such as shopping carts, calculators, and polls.

Time to get started

There is not likely to be a better time to start experimenting with interactive video. It’s easy. It’s not expensive. All that’s required is imagination and editorial skill. And a desire to see more customer engagement coming out of your marketing video investments.

Marketing video’s big fail. And how interactive web video succeeds.

Explainer videos explain. Marketing videos create awareness. And then what? What do viewers actually do after they click the “Play” button?  Who knows? This is marketing video’s big fail — an impersonal user experience that captures no user data. The big opportunity is interactive web video.

This used to be specialist technology. It didn’t really scale. It didn’t work on iPhones.

Now it’s HTML5 and works in a browser. That’s instant scalability. With the release of Apple’s iOS X, it works on iDevices. That’s big.

Lack of click-thru is a big problem for tech marketing videos. Interactive web video solves this problem, generating data and click-throughs..

No clicks means no data. It’s scandalous that marketers make do with so little data about how viewers respond to their videos. Even YouTube only generates 0.76% click-throughs. But the 16X improvement with interactive video represents a big breakthrough for marketers, opening up new opportunities to engage with buyers and use real data to improve performance. Source: HapYak

Interactive web video: a new kind of personalized user experience

Why is this such a big opportunity? Because instead of one-way passive communication,  you can provide customers with what are, essentially, video web apps. Users have control.  They can choose their own path. They can give you feedback right in the video. They can learn on their own, in the bite-size chunks eLearning experts recommend.

They are also generating data that tells you how specific leads and prospects engage and interact, data you can send to your CRM or sales/marketing automation tools to guide further interaction.

Better user experience

Let’s say your product has three major differentiators, X, Y, and Z, and you usually pitch them in that order. Some viewers are really interested in Y. Others care more about Z.

Now you can let viewers skip ahead — they’ll like that. (And why do you care if they skipped X? Unless everyone skips it.)

If they skip to Y, you can pop up a button offering to show even more information about Y. Now you’re guiding the buyer’s journey.

Better video content management

Product explainer videos are usually under two minutes long. Important details always get left out. Now they can be “included” in the video production process, so viewers who want to learn more can do it with a click. It’s never going to be cheaper or easier to create that additional content than it is when you’re producing the video it’s additional to. It’s like planning — then using —  what otherwise would have been left on the cutting room floor.

Another way to create additional related content on the cheap is to record subject matter expert interviews conducted during pre-production, as you write the script. “More info” links can then guide viewers to additional relevant content.

Interactive web video opens up numerous such opportunities to develop well-coordinated video content strategies.

5 questions you should ask about explainer video animation

“Animation” means breathing life into something. Explainer video animation is popular because just about any subject can be explained — without the need for actors, crews, and cameras. But what style of animation is best? Here are five must-ask questions to help guide your choice.

What is the hook?

If your video is chiefly about your brand, or your product really makes life more enjoyable, you want to make an emotional connection. You need to figure out exactly which emotion you want to evince in the very first scene — sympathy, envy, pride, etc — and build from there.

However, if your solution is one technology buyers are researching online, they may resist having their heartstrings pulled. (Though customer success stories are always effective.) Buyers who are doing their own research value insight above all else. Try to start off with something they’ll be glad to know.

Do I need characters for explainer video animation?

If it’s emotion you want, animated characters deliver.  Animated characters can use body language, facial expression and take actions viewers will identify with.

On the other hand, talking characters can get in the way of delivering insight. Visual explanations, such as animated diagrams, models and charts, are usually more efficient and leave a more lasting impression. Of course, characters can interact with other kinds of visuals and their environment. If they’re not adding emotion or information, they may be just getting in the way of the story.

What kind of characters should I use?

In fiction, most of us prefer character-driven stories. Of course, character 

Men vs. women? Which is the best explainer video narrator

We’re often asked whether there’s any reason to prefer a male or female explainer video narrator for tech-oriented videos. Our answer has always been “not really.” However, Ben Lebay, a researcher at ConversionXL.com, has published a nice study of the perceived “trustworthiness” of male and female narrators, professional and non-professional. It’s called Which Type of Voice Actor Should You Use for Your Explainer Video? — which piqued my interest, of course.

Women narrators more “trustworthy”

In this survey of explainer video narrator preference, women's voices were preferred.

Women’s voices were preferred in this recent test of an explainer video video narrators. (Sample size: 200). Source: ConversionXL

Not to keep you in suspense, Ben’s study found that the women’s voices were considered more trustworthy, with the professional having a slight edge. As far as I can tell, the study was statistically valid and well-designed. The samples being compared were less persuasive. For one thing, the “professionals” were from Fiverr. Real professional voiceover talent gets upwards of $300 for a two minute video — and deserves it.

If an explainer video is actually explaining something, the narrator should be describing action taking place on-screen. There needs to be something visual to be trustworthy about.  The example used in the study kicked off with pretty humdrum visuals that did little or nothing to help out the narrator.

Direction is also important. I direct all recordings of our videos, with attention to the cadence