More “delightfully nerdy” explainer storytelling styles

Technology buyers who are looking into a solution value insight on the buyer’s journey. That’s something video can deliver faster than any other medium. That’s why I’ve been advocating getting down in the weeds with a “delightfully nerdy” style of explainer storytelling — most recently here and here.

Typical messaging about superior product features and benefits seldom delivers “aha!” moments because it aims at completeness, not surprise or delight. Video animation and motion graphics, on the other hand, can deliver insights with surprising completeness.

“It’s like this. It’s not like that” explainer storytelling

High-tech explainer video storytelling about data center infrastructure optimization.

Even though (or maybe because) it delves into robotics theory to make its case, this video qualifies as an example of delightfully nerdy explainer storytelling.

Cirba is a Toronto-based solution provider of software for optimized VM placement in data centers. Among the insights they want buyers to absorb is that there’s a lot more to “optimization” than moving VMs around in response to real-time events. Optimization involves many variables (policies, licenses, utilization patterns) that can only be accounted with sophisticated analytics

“Delightfully nerdy” storytelling styles for high-tech marketing videos

In the twelve years we’ve been making high-tech marketing videos, we’ve occasionally mediated disputes between marketers and product managers over the question of what makes a video “too technical.” We like featuring as many technology differentiators as possible — probably not more than three or four in a short video — because we believe that buyers are looking for insight. Who better than a technology buyer to appreciate your technology solution’s technical achievements?

The delightfully nerdy style

It's ok for high-tech marketing videos to bring up complex topics like storage problems in virtual infrastructure without really "explaining" them. They are familiar to the audience.

The ‘noisy neighbor’ and ‘blender effect’ are two problems of virtual infrastructure depicted in this ‘delightfully nerdy’ Quantum video. The animation actually depicts the problem with a fair degree of accuracy.

If your offering overcomes well-known technical problems, a “delightfully nerdy” style is effective. Quantum’s QXS hybrid storage addresses several well-known problems that often arise in virtual infrastructure, including the “blender effect.” In the video example here, we assume that many viewers will be familiar with the problem.

The animation depicts the effect with enough technical accuracy to be credible to viewers who are familiar the problem. For those who are not, the animation is just delightfully nerdy — something you can appreciate without fully getting on board.

Here’s how it works

Link to high-tech marketing video explainer about how slow-drain devices affect storage area networks.

How “slow drain” develops — and what Brocade technology can do about it. “Here’s how it works” is a great approach for high tech marketing videos designed to satisfy buyers who want insight.

I love this expression. Hearing it makes me happy that I’m about to learn something.

The future of tech marketing video is closer than you think

Perhaps the most powerful driver of “digital transformation” has been the smart phone. And perhaps the most notable “transformation” as been the rise of video as a tool for discussion and social interaction.

In a wide-ranging report, The Future of Video, Feng Li of London’s Cass Business School, writes that “video is not simply an important part of the online experience increasingly — video is the internet.” Yet, he writes, “most consumption of online video remains very similar to watching TV via the internet.”

The future of tech marketing video will be shaped by the different viewing experiences available. Google Cardboard represents a somewhat primitive, but still revelatory, option.

YouTube HD videos can be viewed on a smart phone using Google Cardboard, allowing for a more up-close video experience.

360° video is becoming a standard tool for journalists.

360-degree video is becoming a standard tool for journalists.

Virtual Reality video, which I wrote about recently, does provide a new kind of video experience for mobile viewers  — made possible by the compass built into your smart phone — that is very different from linear video. It’s increasingly popular, as evidenced by the growing number of VR videos on YouTube.

Interactive video for tech marketing: pity the salesperson

Another type of video experience new to most smart phone users is “interactive” video where the viewer can take charge of the video experience by clicking objects on the screen. That’s not quite as natural as just looking around, as you do with VR. But it forces you to think. Though much-used in eLearning, interactive video has been widely ignored by marketers for more than a decade. That may be about to change.

Why? Well, up to now, interactive video has not been easy to deliver on the iPhone. You needed to create an app — and get the viewer to download it. That’s fine for eLearning, where the viewer is motivated (or required) to learn. But for consumer or B2B buyers, it’s not very practical.

Put yourself in the place of a salesperson trying to get a prospect to interact with a video that contains clickable chapters or other opportunities to choose content. If you send a link to that video via email, there’s a high probability that the email (and its links) will be viewed on a mobile device. And, if it’s an iOS device, Apple’s QuickTime app will take over from the browser to display the video — but none of the clickable objects.

Why hire a pro to produce your tech solution marketing video?

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,

Does Virtual Reality have a place in IT marketing videos?

I’ve always thought of making IT marketing videos as a semi-journalistic exercise — there’s no pretense as to objectivity, but the video certainly ought to communicate something true and worth knowing about. I recently attended a panel discussion at the New York Times on the future of virtual reality in traditional journalism. The Times preemptively grabbed the leadership position in VR journalism in November 2015, when it added a VR experience to its wide assortment of graphics and video options. What caught everyone’s attention wasn’t so much the video — the Times has lots of that— but the distribution of more than a million Google Cardboard viewers with the Sunday paper.

The history of this skunk-works style project, brought off without conspicuous upper-level management support, is an interesting business case you can hear about in this Times Insider podcast of the event. What came across most forcefully was these editors’ conviction that VR can support the institution’s journalistic mission. That’s why they insisted on tying their first VR project to the biggest story at the time, millions of people displaced from their homes and homelands. What made this VR experience feasible in the first place, of course, is that Google Cardboard was the only “technology” the Times needed to distribute. They could count on subscribers’ smart phones to deliver the VR content. That’s why I think what the Times is doing with VR videos could be relevant to IT marketing videos.

IT marketing videos need stories. VR, maybe not.

The small team at The Times continues to struggle to define the role of VR in a journalistic enterprise. VR editor Jenna Pirog (the first, and still the only editor in journalism with “VR” in her title), agreed that VR by itself isn’t very efficient for story-telling. You don’t control the point-of-view, commentary is intrusive, and VR takes up a lot of the reader’s time. (Difficulties with fictional VR storytelling are discussed in this blog post).

NY Times VR App and Google Cardboard. Is this relevant to I.T. video marketing?

NYT VR app and Google Cardboard. NY Times journalists agreed that one of the best applications for VR is to share an experience of place. That may be what’s best for I.T. video marketing, too.

Share the enthusiasm in subject matter expert videos

What made Candace Payne’s Chewbacca Mom video so irresistible was sharing her enthusiasm. Shared enthusiasm obviously plays a big role in day-to-day buying decisions, too. Consumer marketing gets a big boost from customer video reviews, “influencer” tweets, tutorials on enthusiast websites, etc. B2B subject matter expert videos can share enthusiasm, too.

Why don’t we see a lot of this contagious emotion in B2B marketing videos? Well, it’s not that technology companies lack employees who are enthusiastic and savvy advocates for their solutions. Or that these people can’t talk on camera — most of them probably use FaceTime, Skype, or online video conferencing software.

The value of subject matter experts

We research and write scripts for our 2-Minute Explainer videos by talking with subject matter experts. That’s the best way to hit the right conversational tone, use the right words, and most important,

“Socializing” technology solution videos (Part 2)

In a previous post, I suggested some ways to generate technology solution videos that feel like the kind of everyday video we’re accustomed to seeing in social media. And as unlike TV commercials as we can make it, because buyers who are researching a solution want to be informed, not sold to. Here are a few more options.

Technology solution videos as FAQs

If people are visiting your website to research a solution, wouldn’t it make sense to have your best people answer the questions they are most likely to ask? — in a user-friendly video format? It wouldn’t bother most viewers if the video looked like a recorded FaceTime call.

Answers to questions that are “Frequently Asked” can be found in tutorials, webinars, online demos,  and other traditional video genres  Extracting and repackaging them is just a matter of imagination and editorial skill.

Skip intro

“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.”
— Randy Tinfow,
Interactive Video Technologist

Have you ever attended a live webinar and sat through ten minutes of introductions while staring at the same boring slide? Of course you have. But at least there are real people on the line, and they promised to say something interesting. That’s why your watching. And you can’t skip ahead.

That’s not the case with video. Many, fearing boredom, will skip out. Many others will skip ahead.

“Socialize” your video content for tech buyers

Most video content for tech buyers seems to ignore the fact that regular people spend more than 100,000,000 hours every day watching video on Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg has said he expects that Facebook will soon be 100% video. In other words, video is a medium used for everyday social communication. That makes sense — it’s just another thing we do with a smart phone.

By comparison, however, most video content aimed at tech buyers doesn’t feel at all like social communication for regular people. It feels forced and sales-y. Kinda like commercials on TV. So here are some ideas for using more video content that fits more naturally into the way today’s buyers communicate.

Use video to activate other media

Marketers surveyed by Ascend2 ranked the importance and effectiveness of common video types as follows:

  1. Customer testimonials
  2. On-demand product demonstration videos
  3. Explainer and tutorial videos
  4. Thought leader interviews
  5. Project reviews and case studies
  6. Live and on-demand webinars
  7. Video blogs
  8. Event videos

This list makes sense. But look at it from the buyer’s perspective. Buyers don’t want thought leadership, they want new ideas. They don’t want testimonials, they want to find out how your solution works for people like them. So why not enrich your other content with ideas from your thought leadership videos and anecdotes from your testimonials? You can incorporate snippets from existing videos in emails. Brighten up your product sheet PDFs with testimonials. Use video or animated gifs to describe your procedures and methodologies instead of lame PowerPoint animations.

When is branding really necessary?

Scrolling your newsfeed past the stuff in that isn’t super-appealing accounts for a lot of social media activity. One of the things most likely to be scrolled past is the spiffy opening animation for your corporate video. Or your spokesperson earnestly addressing the camera.

The opening frames of a video need a great hook to stop the scrolling: something, alluring, funny, or surprising. Captions combined with graphics or live action video tell the viewer a lot right off. So does a great title. Your animated logo, probably not so much. 

Remember the context

Another aspect of branding worth noting is that most B2B videos will viewed on the brand’s website, YouTube, Facebook, or somewhere else with brand identity to spare. No need to spend those critical few seconds of viewing time on it.

Five ways to make watchable technology videos

Tech buyers don’t want to be marketed to. But they do appreciate the speed and accessibility of information delivered in watchable technology videos. Here are five ways to make your marketing videos more watchable.

Turn off the sound

According to the ad tech company Unruly, videos that work with the sound off are among the most effective types of video ads. If your tech marketing video depicts features and processes in ways that are visually interesting and absorbing, minimizing the talk puts the viewer’s full attention to the screen. If the video focuses on software, for example, you don’t need to say “point-and-click” or “ease-of-use” — it should be obvious.

Take a conversational tone

Most videos need narration, which should be upbeat and positive. But not sales-y. Words poured out at a rate above 125 wpm can become annoying before the first minute is up. Keep in mind

7 signs you’re a video content marketing underachiever

Video content marketing is about providing viewers with many opportunities to engage with your company through its videos. Here are some signs you may be missing out on some opportunities.

1. You think you just need a video.

Maybe you’re introducing a new product. You want a video that gets people excited, right? But if your glitzy product video leads the viewer to content that is flat and quickly abandoned, you have reduced the ROI of the your centerpiece video. Makes no sense. For video content marketing to work, every video needs to deliver value.

2. You’re not repurposing videos.

I keep banging on about this. Your existing videos almost certainly contain a great deal of good stuff that could be re-purposed to make other good stuff. Maybe it’s the “demo” section of a recorded webinar. Or just the part of the demo where the user clicks through to find the right information. A good way to make an old talking head video new again, is to add graphics.

3. None of your videos measures viewer engagement

The leading producers of branded video (mostly B2C companies) are increasingly relying on engagement metrics, not views or viewing time, to measure performance. It’s easy to add calls-to-action in YouTube and other video sites. It’s easy to add interactive chapter headings to video.