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B2B video strategy needs a rethink - so much potential, so much stale output

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed August 17, 2023
Summary:
B2B video has enormous potential - and yet there is bland/overproduced B2B content all over social channels. During this illustrated recap of our recent show, Brent Leary shares the secrets to his portable video kit - and what makes B2B video content great (or not).

Brent Leary's impromptu video setup - with gear
(Brent Leary's impromptu video setup - with gear)

In my Reaching the B2B Inforrmed Buyer d·book, I deconstructed tired approaches to reaching B2B buyers. I contrasted two compelling/potent alternatives: opt-in communities and AI-for-context.

But I ran out of time to delve into different content modalities. Why does B2B video stand out?

  • Video can be repurposed in multiple ways, from podcasts to articles to slide decks to highlight clips (AI for video editing opens up even more options)
  • When it comes to interactive events without physical proximity, live video events are about the best you can get.

And yet, most B2B live video falls well short of that mark. As Brent Leary of the Playaz Production Network told me during our AI for video editing session:

    The best part of these conversations are the organic parts that aren't guided.

Why B2B video falls short - too much "content control"

Leary explained:

It's because there's a need for folks to feel like they're in control of the content. And because of that, they don't trust the people in front of the camera to deliver compelling, interesting on-point content. They feel like they have to try to guide it. And the best part of these conversations are the organic parts that aren't guided. They just come out from the give and take the normal interaction.

But there are ways to overcome that. Breakthrough realization: B2B content should compete on relevance, not entertainment. Why does that matter? Because when brands obsess about video entertainment, they obsess about production values. The unscripted gold gets lost. As I told Leary:

I remember doing an online speaking production; every rehearsal was more focused on the lighting and the sound and the setup. And: every conversation that we did during each rehearsal got blander and blander. The best one was the first one, when we were just winging it. By the time we got to the live version, it was so canned. The production values were a lot better. But the conversation itself had become so stilted. I felt like we lost a lot more than we gained.

Hold up - does that mean video production values are irrelevant? Far from it. I've spent obsessive hours upgrading to audio mixers, and higher end microphones. Leary's video production values are well beyond mine. But, as I asserted during our show:

The fact of the matter is that for enterprise video, the first tier is you just have to get to the point where the production values are not a distraction.

But that's not all: production values are also about portability. At on-the-ground events, being tied to one video set is limiting - especially when you want to capture the moment with impromptu conversations. Leary pulled off some great ones this year, including a terrific outdoor shoot (more on that shortly).

Our AI for video editing conversation (podcast version below) hit on these issues:

  • What are the elements of strong B2B video content? Where do we go wrong?
  • What level of production values are needed?
  • Can AI for video editing help with repurposing content, and issuing highlight clips? (Answer: yes).
  • Why does portability matter, and what does Leary's portable video kit look like?

In the process, Leary walked us through some cool sets and gear.

B2B video competes on relevance, not entertainment value alone

When I say enterprise video isn't about entertainment, I'm exaggerating a bit. But as I said in my Informed Buyer d·book, B2B content also competes with the likes of social media platforms (e.g. baby pictures), and streaming content (e.g. "Succession" or "Game of Thrones"). That's a high entertainment bar for enterprise marketers/content producers. I see too many brands throwing big money at video, when they could earn attention in more jugular ways: unscripted (expert) conversations with maximum engagement.

In one of our video highlight clips (generated mostly by an AI service called Opus Clip), Leary pointed out the engagement value of live audience interaction:

In the clip, Leary cited Tracy Webster, one of the vocal audience members, whose questions were being answered in real time:

The other component that has become increasingly more important, particularly if you're doing shows like this, is being able to incorporate people like Tracy into the conversation. Because as we talk, you have questions. I have questions. We both have perspectives, but bringing in the voice of the folks that are checking it out - they add another piece of the puzzle, and it doesn't become like a passive show for the audience.

Yes! That's the live immediacy (and unpredictability!) that puts butts in seats; you can't press your questions on a replay. But this kind of live engagement isn't about big budget production values. It's about live facilitation skills, and a flexible format that puts your audience at the center of the conversation, not your brand's talking points. It's about taking questions throughout the video event, not just squeezing one question in as an afterthought. Guess what? Being a part of such open conversations is a great reflection on your brand. Your relaxed confidence, fielding questions on the fly, speaks volumes.

The virtues of portable video gear

It's handy to have a video set at a show. But these days, you can also have a nice portable kit without lugging unwieldy boxes. That's a big change. Here's a closer look at Leary's setup: 

Brent Leary's impromptu video setup - with gear
(Brent Leary's impromptu video setup - with gear)

Brent Leary's gear backpack
(Brent Leary's gear backpack)

10+ years ago, when Den Howlett and I had a pre-diginomica video business, our necessary gear was so ridiculous. We were shipping boxes ahead of time, and humping massive duffles through airports.

Leary has an impressive kit, with high production values, that all fits into one compact (though not light) backpack. He explains that gear setup in our video; most of that gear conversation is in a shorter highlight segment:

 

My gear limitations are more hardcore than Leary's. Due to my plane changes, I can never check a bag. I'm still in withdrawal from past lugging; I want to move lightly on the show floor. As a result, my portable production values aren't as high as Leary's. Leary totes an audio mixer, streaming video converter, and a much better camera. I use portable lavalier mics and a high quality webcam, which gives me the option of taping podcast audio on the ground, or going live on LinkedIn on the fly. My Dell XPS laptop serves as the streaming/recording device.

Brent Leary - outdoor video shoot at Genesys
(Leary's outdoor set)

But hold up - why would brands want more than a static video set? Because getting footage in different locations changes the video vibe. On our show, Leary explained a nifty outdoor set he created at Genesys Experience in Denver, while interviewing Brett Weigl, GM at Genesys:

I've known Brett since his days at Salesforce; we've always had good conversations. I wanted us to be casual. I wanted us to not be in that structured environment of the conference, and we were able to come outside. You can't see it, but people are out there playing cornhole...  That's the setup I decided to go with, and Brett was game for it. That little camera and little lav mic setup was very lightweight, very easy to put together.

The image you see here is the image we got for that shot, and very little effort. It didn't take a lot of time to set up. It allowed us to focus on the conversation.

My take

Obviously, I haven't covered every type of B2B video use case here. Instead, I emphasized the types of video content vendors generally struggle with. This does not mean all B2B video content is mediocre; some vendors are getting quite good at the video game. Enterprises are also getting smarter about utilizing fresh video approaches on site.

But: I stand by my view: much of this video content is mediocre (including, alas, most keynotes!) The more video content that comes out, the higher that bar gets. Things like session replays are a different animal; those sessions also earn attention via expert relevance, but in a more subtle way. That's about educational material - though educational sessions could stand to be more interactive also. The biggest problem vendors have with session content? Not taping enough of them (inventory), not making those content assets available, and not repurposing them usefully, via highlight clips, blog posts, and best-of-show anthologies.

If you want to take this further, see how your video approach contrasts with our views - check the full discussion. The best video content is part of a larger theme your brand will establish. I call this project authority. In the d·book, I explain why. Also see my post: Reaching the informed B2B buyer - our new publication explains why marketers are getting it wrong, and what to do about it.

 

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