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

 

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,