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The pros and cons of video as a B2B marketing tactic

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed October 4, 2013
In prior pieces, I laid out an agenda for B2B content marketing and poked some holes in failed tactics. It's time for a closer look at what actually works, starting with enterprise video.

Kind filmt und fotografiert mit DSLR und Kopfhörern
In prior pieces, I laid out an agenda for B2B content marketing and poked some holes in failed tactics like social media blasts. It's time for a closer look at what actually works, starting with enterprise video.

Video has its skeptics; there are still plenty of enterprisey folks who prefer to consume text content (I hear from them regularly, asking me why I devote/invest/squander so much of my time and resources to video).

The power of video - by the stats

I'm not going to attempt to eradicate these skeptics because their consumption patterns bring good lessons. But chew on these stats from a Social Media Today webinar on Getting Results with Video:

  • According to Forrester, videos are 53 times more likely to receive an organic 1st page search ranking than a traditional web page
  • YouTube is the world's 3rd most popular web site and 2nd most popular search engine
  • DoubleClick cites 400-700% higher click through rates with video
  • Engagement time for video is ten times longer than static content (flimp media)
  • 75% of executives watch videos and 50% share videos with their colleagues

Those are potent stats; it's the last one that packs the most wallop for B2B purposes. Anecdotally I have seen the same time and again with my own video content. When I run into executives at shows, they are more likely to give me an earful about a video than any other kind of content.

By the way, on the first point on search, it's worth noting that right now you can't separate the value of video from the relevance of YouTube as a web site. Google remains the dominant search engine and often prioritize YouTube content in search results.

Video has its cons

You probably expect a video dude like me to extol the virtues of video, instead - let me give you the cons as I see them:

  • video is labor intensive, with a steep learning curve
  • getting compelling video versus toxic marketing crud is harder than it looks
  • video is not everyone's preferred consumption option
  • people don't want to pay or sign up for most video (except webinars and virtual events)
  • paywalls/signups that marketers crave interfere with the viral sharing aspect of YouTube videos that is core to video's appeal
  • bandwidth remains a concern, watching videos from a strained airport or hotel Internet connection is a royal pain
  • video doesn't always display properly on all devices
  • offline video watching is still an unsavory option given download times and storage space
  • customer videos are most valuable but getting PR sign off and approval can be a long spank tunnel
  • video doesn't tolerate bad hair days

Turning the cons into pros

That's a fairly daunting list of cons. But as it turns out, most of them are pretty easy to overcome with a well-thought approach. Here's what I recommend:

  1. Multi-purpose your video content to addresses issues with consumption preferences and bandwidth. On diginomica, we frequently embed videos in a longer writeup that adds more context (see my recent example riffing on Den's video with Vinnie Mirchandani on customer innovation.) I still convert some of my longer video into audio for iTunes podcast consumption, which is easier to download on the go.
  2. Turn video into an asset by using embedded video to strengthen blog posts from those who are just learning to blog or who are time strapped and want to add more meat to a post.
  3. Use different kinds of videos for different parts of the sales funnel. Your video talent may be better at producing 'how to' content about your product. That can be powerful for prospects kicking tires or for customer support. Customer videos can be more commercialized case studies (powerful for some sales conversations) or broader 'industry' pieces that work well for drawing in new audiences. Videos that have broader industry appeal can be the toughest but you can work your way up to those and start with product videos and customer-focused 'results' stories.
  4. Incorporate customer video approval into an existing reference program. All growing companies need a customer reference and case study program. As a standard part of reference customer discussions, seek video approval if that customer seems a good candidate (much easier than trying to go back later and get a fresh set of permissions). Customer videos are well worth the effort. To see how Den and I frame customer video discussions, have a look at the customer video section on
  5. Minimize the red tape, learning curve, and initial cost by using consumer-grade equipment to start. Video devices are getting cheaper by the day, and sometimes the low cost devices also work best. Example: I had a client that was having trouble securing customer video studies. At their next trade show, they shot impromptu (and very short) customer testimonials on an iPhone with a microphone plug in. These short videos had some background noise but they were short enough for that not to be an issue. They got the job done.
  6. Overcome the "toxic marketing crud" problem by doing customer or partner videos that focus on real business problems everyone can relate to.  Companies have a way of making the marketing problem too difficult. Video is a great way to let passionate customers and partners tell your story for you. Video narratives can be simple: problem -> solution -> result - > takeaways/advice. That advice piece can be crucial to moving beyond a product discussion.
  7. Reduce the learning curve by throwing some money at your video problems. If there is some budget, video is a good medium to toss money at. Example: you film your own footage but you hire an outside editor to produce the content. Or the reverse: you hire a team to handle the interviews and filming but your internal production team produces. Video technicians can also go a long way toward solving the 'displays on all devices' challenge.
  8. Keep video budgets down by doing remote video filming. Remote interviews can work pretty nicely. I've had particularly good luck with Google Hangouts; it is easy to tape Hangouts on Air and the audio quality is often quite good (see my piece with Chris Kernaghan on DevOps for an example of a very impromptu taping that came out pretty well. Den also taped a recent video with Vijay Vijayasankar remotely on the subject of BW on HANA cloud trials).

Final cut

If I'm keeping score correctly, I've overcome every 'con' on the list except for two. One of them is the firewall/registration problem. That one is a real issue. Folks just don't want to sign up to view most videos, and you're hurting the easy distribution of video by putting it behind a registration wall.

I would suggest thinking of video as a way to drive content into your registration systems. If you count webinars as video, then webinars are an example of content people will sign up for if they find it compelling. It's a loss, however, that more companies don't flip this on its head and eventually release some or all of their webinars on YouTube.

Videos are more like blog posts - you don't usually require sign up for them, but you can drive traffic into sign up 'calls to action.' I'd argue this is less of a 'con' than the simple fact that different content plays different roles in the inbound marketing -> lead generation process.

But what about that last nit - that videos are labor intensive with a steep learning curve? Well, there's no avoiding that one. But that goes for any form of content creation. Good B2B content is hard work - period. Videos may put your flaws on particularly vivid display. After four hundred videos (and Dennis two or three times that), all I can advise is our informal motto - suck less each time.

And no, I didn't forget about bad hair days. I got a new hair dresser. And yes, I bought a comb.

Update 10/05/2013: After wrapping this post I realized it could use another installment with more examples of different video approaches that work well for different audiences and points in the sales cycle. It's also worth noting that even more creative online offerings are coming out, such as successes with MOOCs (massive online training courses). But one thing I wanted to note right away is that there are three things that separate enterprise videos from the pack right now: 1. authenticity/honesty 2. great storytelling and 3. creative/fun/imaginative approaches.

Obviously the first two can work well with customer and partner videos, whereas number 3 is best experimented with first with your own team. There is more to say but I felt I couldn't leave this part out, because the first response to video shooting it to tense up - creating fun and spontaneous shoots really loosens that up. You can always leave those forays on the cutting room floor later. The rest can wait till a follow-on post.

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