How should a B2B marketing video feel?

“Feelings” in a marketing video? Nearly every B2B marketing video, including many we’ve made, begins by describing the buyer’s problem to be solved, and then goes on to extol the seller’s solution. The underlying feeling, if there is one, usually begins with unhappiness about the status quo. But most people are not eager to risk changing the status quo, either. So it’s worth looking for other emotional strings to pull.

Is marketing something we do to people?

Brian Carroll is a respected advocate of applying empathy in B2B marketing. He poses the question, is marketing is something you do to people, or something you do for them? The truth is that few of us relish being on the receiving end of marketing under any circumstances. But Brian’s question goes the the heart of the matter: we’re apt to market to people, with more consideration for our message than for how the person on the other end feels about it.

A B2B marketing video pleasure principle

Because we all live with video as a pervasive entertainment medium, we’re apt to evaluate any video on the basis of how entertaining we think it is. But who watches B2B marketing videos expecting to be entertained? And how well do B2B marketers understand customers’ entertainment preferences, anyway? All we can be certain of is that viewers don’t click on a video hoping to be bored. Beyond that, they probably expect useful information, not pleasure.

But one of the pleasures video is extremely good at delivering, besides entertainment, is the pleasure of understanding something we didn’t understand a minute ago. You’ve probably had the experience of watching an animation of some elusive scientific concept — space-time continuum, say — and feeling that, at long last, you’ve got a handle on it. That’s fun. And it’s fun that can be delivered in “marketing” content.

Editorial agility: how to make a lot more B2B marketing videos on a flat budget

Video as customer experience: watching with customer’s eyes

Is watchability the best frame of reference for B2B marketing videos? B2B buyers click on a marketing video expecting to get something out of it, and willing to pay for it in the currency of the Internet: their attention. To gauge video as customer experience, consider whether customers will come away feeling that they got what they paid for.

Video is just another way to say something

“What are we trying to say here?” is a question that sometimes gets overlooked in the course of building out a video. Video gives you many distracting ways to shape the message: animation, on-screen interlocutors, dialog, graphics, text, emotional cues (including voice, color palette and music). It’s easy to get caught up in the process of tweaking these variables when your focus is on producing a video that feels lively to you and your colleagues. But you need to step back from time to time and try to watch it from the customer’s point of view.

The customer arrived at this video expecting insight and useful information. It’s quite likely that uppermost in his or her mind is the question “how long will it take?” Even an explainer video under two minutes in length can seem to take too long to come to the point — especially if it starts out by describing things you already know about, or find uninteresting.

This is even more likely to happen if you think of video from the point of view of someone producing a TV show.

Take advantage of these 2017 B2B Video Marketing Trends

In a recent post I wrote about three B2B Video Marketing Trends I’ll be watching for in 2017.

  1. More conversational. Less advertorial.
  2. More formats
  3. More app-like

Actually, I’ll be doing more than watching. I’ll be working with clients to find ways to take advantage of these B2B video marketing trends. All three lead toward more engagement and a better customer experience. And that’s where all business is headed.

More conversational. Less advertorial.

This is in line with the trend toward a “video-first world,”  as envisioned by Mark Zuckerberg.   The more pervasive personal video streaming and messages become, the less relevant categories such as webinar, slideshare, explainer, tutorial, and commercial become. Video is simply part of the sales conversation.

Here are three things you can do in 2017 to make videos that are more engaging:

  • Get subject matter experts to record answers to frequently asked questions instead of making presentations. Add titles and graphics.
  • Record Skype conversations with customers.
  • Add video animations or slides to SME blog posts

More formats

Did you know that vertical video ads on Snapchat have up to 9 times more completed views than horizontal video ads? With more and more video being viewed on mobile devices, is makes sense that people aren’t going to want to turn their phones horizontal to view every video that comes along.  If you’re just trying to explain a value proposition and or teach a customer something useful, there’s no compelling reason to do it sideways.

In fact, one could argue that turning your phone sideways detracts from the customer experience. The vertical format favored by 200 million Snapchat users  will become increasingly relevant as more web videos are viewed inline on iOS devices, courtesy of Apple’s iOS 10.

It’s certainly not difficult to record videos in portrait mode. Or to edit in graphics and animations. Give it try. Put some on your FAQ page. Re-use on Snapchat.

More app-like

Here’s an example of a video that’s feels a bit more like an app than a video, simply because it allows the viewer to manipulate it.

B2B video marketing trends 2017

My favorite video marketing advice for the New Year is this: “Video Will Account for 79% of Global Internet Traffic by 2020 (So Increase Your Video Marketing Budget NOW).”  Cisco is the source of the percentage forecast. Tubular Insights (formerly ReelSEO) is the source of the conclusion inferred from it — and I hope marketing managers can convince their CFOs of its logic.  As it happens, when I googled  “B2B video marketing trends 2017”  and a few similar terms,  none of the results came up with predictions specific to video. I got articles about B2B content marketing, B2B digital marketing, B2B online marketing and the like. but no B2B video. Strange, because, an equally logical inference that could be drawn from Cisco’s “79% of traffic” forecast is that content in media other than video will be comparatively irrelevant. Just kidding. But, any way you look at it, video is getting to be a bigger deal online. Here are the B2B video marketing trends I’ll be watching in 2017.

More conversational. Less advertorial.

In mid-2016, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg announced “We see a world that is video-first, with video at the heart of all our apps and services.” The working out of this vision is quite obvious on Facebook’s apps and services like Facebook Live and Facebook Messenger. As this trend grows,  people will increasing value video as a medium of conversation, not just entertainment and advertising. Marketers who want to capitalize on this trend should think how they can make video part of the sales conversation.

More formats

B2B video marketing trends include less familar video formats

One inescapable B2B video marketing trend is the proliferation of formats we’re seeing in social media. Source: Social@Ogilvy Key Digital Trends for 2017

I highly recommend Key Digital Trends for 2017, a thoughtful and great-looking SlideShare from Social@Ogilvy. It has a lot to say (slides 45 to 56) about the “video first world.” (Unusually, it also deals with ethical concerns of marketing in this world.) Among the trends noted by Ogilvy is the proliferation of video formats. Especially relevant to marketers on a budget is the vertical format which will become increasingly relevant as more web videos are viewed inline on iOS devices, courtesy of Apple’s iOS 10.

More app-like

Did you know you can make just about any marketing content —  infographics, even white papers — interactive?  

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.