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).
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.
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,
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.
“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.
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:
On-demand product demonstration videos
Explainer and tutorial videos
Thought leader interviews
Project reviews and case studies
Live and on-demand webinars
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 isthat 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.
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
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.
“Agility makes smaller agencies appealing” according to Gartner marketing expert Jay Wilson. Agile businesses want agency partners who are flexible, collaborative, and responsive. Here’s why you might want to demand these qualities when you’re selecting an explainer video production company.
1. You’re introducing a new product
New technology products are often in still in development — and the messaging is still being defined with feedback from customers — right up to the launch date. What do you do if you find that messages baked into your video script aren’t resonating? An agile explainer video production agency will take pride in their ability to come up with an effective way to work in the new hot button without busting the budget — and still deliver on time.
2. You haven’t written the script
Lots of explainer video companies offer fixed (sometimes astonishing low) prices, which they can do because they will simply put the message you deliver to them through standard production processes in standard styles.
But if you haven’t already written your story down in a way you’re sure will make a good video, the script will probably take more hours to write. The more technical your solution is, the more drafts it will take. You want a writer who is willing to create as many good drafts of the script as needed in order to come up with a video that comes across like a good conversation about a topic the viewer is keenly interested in.
3. There are lots of stakeholders involved in the explainer video production
An agile agency can help you balance and accommodate different points of view. How? They’re well accustomed to
“The Customer Buying Cycle”, the “Buyer’s Journey”, and similar models of how the technology purchasing process works have inspired countless blog posts, ebooks, and analyst research reports in recent years. Among the most insightful writers on tech marketing has been Hank Barnes at Gartner.
Technology customer buying cycle graphics
I’ve long subscribed to the idea that there’s graphic solution to explaining almost anything. So I’ve been especially drawn to Barnes’s efforts to develop graphics depicting the technology buying process. I wrote about Hank’s graphic of the buying process as streams of activities shortly after its 2013 publication. We even put together an animated version of the story.
Technology customer buying cycle videos
I read that post at about the same time that a head sales guy with our long-time client CompuCom (IT services and outsourcing) told us
Tech marketing videos are often seen as “top-of-the-funnel” infomercials. They’re intended to increase awareness in the early stages of “the buyer’s journey.” But the technology buyer’s journey is different. LinkedIn research on the tech marketing buying committee discussed in a previous post lists these stages. (Note that it’s a cyclical process.)
Defining specifications, defining a budget or securing funding
Account based sales and marketing
Everyone agrees that buying committees do a lot of research before they contact sales. The point at which they do reach out varies by type of solution (e.g., storage vs. security). This is interestingly discussed by Forrester’s Lori Wizdo in Myth Busting 101: Insights IntoThe B2B Buyer Journey. The problem is, the vendor may find out too late. If an RFP at the vendor evaluation phase comes as a surprise, that’s too late. Now, it’s all about whether your features and pricing fit the buyer’s solution definition better than your competitors’ . But what you really wanted to talk about is how you redefine the problem.
Account based sales and marketing
Account-based sales/marketing strategies are increasingly seen as an effective way to avoid this problem. Sales and marketing work together to
get in front of buying groups early
influence “problem definition” and “solution identification”
follow up consistently with relevant messages.
The role of tech marketing videos
Most planning sessions for targeting specific accounts probably center on relationships. Who do we know? Who should we get to know?
This is the time to raise questions about existing content relevant to the account. And what content could be repurposed/repackaged. Or, what new followup content should we create?
A video expert in the planning session might suggest some of the following:
Review existing tech marketing videos, including explainer videos, for content that could be extracted and “bookended” with account-specific opening and closing. This could be something as simple a personal message recorded on a smart phone.
Make existing webinars and other long form videos interactive with chapter titles that are relevant to the account you’re targeting. This is the easiest and cheapest way to add interactivity to your videos. I’ve written about this, and some other cheap forms of interactive video, previously.
Prepare links to specific segments of video that salespeople can share. If it’s on YouTube, for example, just specify a start and end-point in the URL, like this link https://www.youtube.com/v/xyJ_ZbU046I?start=45&end=57, which shows, in just 12 seconds, the most essential feature of Quantum’s new Artico storage platform.
Create a package of videos aimed at the personas identified as key buying influences. We call these Buyer’s Journey Video Bundles™. Usually there is an overview about 90 seconds in length, plus several shorter videos that address specific concerns on the buying committee. Because some ideas and video segments are re-used, the Bundles are quite cost-effective to produce. More information here.
Develop a library of excerpts that can be assembled into account specific videos. This is a much more ambitious undertaking, previously described here.
Put tech marketing videos to work for in your account-based selling. It just takes imagination
An imaginative video producer will be able to come up with ways to generate account-specific video content cost-effectively. This can be done by repurposing existing tech marketing videos, or by creating new videos (and other content) that can be easily adapted to targeted accounts. It will all take a significant amount of editorial skill. But there’s no reason it should cost a lot of money.
Linked-In has updated their research into the technology buying process, who’s on the buying committee, and how the technology buying committee proceeds along on their buyer’s journey. (I previously wrote about the earlier study here). The takeaway is this: thinking about journeys, or even committee meetings, is not helpful. Marketers need to envision random walks through their content. As they amble along toward a purchase decision (or non-decision), buyers choose their own paths because they have their own goals. There are occasional contacts with sales and sales support.
The new survey canvassed more than 8,000 professionals, nearly half of whom said they had purchased, implemented or managed business technology solutions within the previous three months. That’s a lot of expertise and experience to draw on, so I set out to extract the findings that might guide us in producing more effective explainer videos.
The buying committee and technology buying process
The study looked at four kinds of buying decisions: hardware for end-users, software for end-users, hardware for data-centers and software for data-centers. Not surprisingly, data-center buying committees are slow to come to decisions (up to 35 months) — but there is a great deal of overlap in committee membership.
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