A video strategy for ‘boring’, b2b brands

As the news broke that Kylie Jenner has launched a $900 million dollar business from her Instagram account, it seems like a tough time to be marketing a brand whose assets are mainly intellectual.

Attention is scarce. Images seem the only way to capture it. 75% of internet traffic is video, and watching them takes over a third of the time we spend online. Even Google says it’s time for search marketers to become video marketers.

This can be worrying for industries where the product is complex and not visible. In particular financial and professional services in niches such as derivatives, analytics, data, indexing, reporting, advisory to name just a few.
If you are in a similar B2B business, how do you unlock the shareability of video to reach prospects?
How do you translate your sales pitch into moving images?
When sharing your thought leadership and expertise, does it have to be entertaining to be engaging?

marketing a boring businessStorytelling and selling

The buyer’s journey can be long and complicated. Even more so if you provide complex, enterprise solutions. However, there are some milestones in that journey which are common across industries. Leaving the critical aspect of price and relations aside, here are some common milestones from the buyer’s point of view:

  1. The product/service is great and fits our needs
  2. It is used by other companies in their field
  3.  We will also get added-value services and expert advice

It is very tempting to directly address that buyer’s milestone with a video that “makes them” prospect do just that.

  1. Make a video that pitches your product or service and all its benefits (or “promo video”)
  2. A testimonial filmed on a client’s premises
  3. A tutorial or a thought leadership piece, with an expert, talking to the camera

This simplistic approach may be common, yet it is unlikely to bring great results.

Why you can’t  re-package your marketing message in a video

Very few people chose to watch testimonials, even fewer are interested in your marketing pitch. On YouTube, which dominates search for tutorials, there are probably thousands of videos on your topic. You can promote it of course but unless they are willing to watch more, you will only get seconds of their attention.
In the B2B space video is both a very powerful medium and a challenging one. It requires marketers to adapt, to leave “business as usual” and get into “show business”. Creating intelligent content is not enough. You need to enlighten or entertain.

Here are a few rules from the movie industry which will make you a more efficient video marketer:

You need to find the right story

In B2B marketing your customers do not care about your story, your mission. It has to be about them. The only way you can be a part of it is to help them to complete their own.

Looking at my browser as I write:

I don’t know why our cloud storage supplier started their company but I know it saves me from searching documents as I switch computers. I don’t care if our conferencing system is driven by a disruptive mission, I chose it because it is more reliable than the previous one.

The “Hero’s Journey” is a reference for a broad category of stories.

The structure is applicable to both ancient myths and modern blockbusters, and corporate video as well. Based on this framework, remember your brand is not the hero. It can, however, play the role of a Helper or a Mentor or the hero’s sword. You can help the Hero fulfill the Mission.

Your brand is not Luke Skywalker, but if you manufacture lightsabers you have a commercial interest in sharing his story.
You are not Frodo, but you can be his Samwise and contribute to his success from the sidelines; committed, reliable and grateful to be part of a bigger tale.

Visuals are not optional

There was a time where the concept of having a video was exciting by itself. Now viewers need more than just moving images.

You don’t need Hollywood-style shots, however, the basic interview or “talking heads” is unlikely to make you stand out. If you analyse data: think charts, then animate them. If you are consulting on a country-specific regulation, consider sourcing local footage. Custom graphics are also a good in adapting your branding to moving images.

Great content is not enough

Did you know the Nobel Prize has a YouTube channel, with exclusive content from his winners? Arguably one of the brainiest channel, it has 75,000 subscribers and its 1000 videos average 13,000 views. A decent performance which makes it the 105,000th most popular channel.
Compare it to the Numberphile channel, dedicated to maths and calculus. It boasts over 2.5 million subscribers and billion views, with half the video content.
Why it dwarfs the Nobel channel can’t be explained by content.

The reasons can be found in the format, the style, and the optimization efforts across videos. Those elements are too often neglected by brands, while YouTubers obsess about them.

This may sound like bad news for your next promotional and testimonials videos. The good news is that there is an easy way around it by applying these rules to transform your content, here is how.

Video content as part of the sales process

In a technical B2B environment, the buyer’s journey is likely to go through close scrutiny, involving pricing sheets and detailed specs, which can’t be about visual entertainment. Yet video should be an integral part of the sales process that brings you there. Here are a few ways to do it:

Transform your promo video into a demo video

A demonstration (demo) video is the closest thing to a live demo of the actual product or free trial before purchase. It is based on the point of view of the audience.
It is different from a promo video, which is a pitch, and from the very common “explainer” video. Explainers are usually animations and often structured like this: “Meet Jo. Jo has a problem, but one day he discovers {our product}. With A, B , C, D features our product solved all JO’s problems and now Jo is thriving / happy.”
A demo video is a visual teaser of the product capabilities, it shows what can potentially be done. There are advantages over a live demo. It can be edited and fine-tuned to show your product at its full potential, not what the average user will make of it. It is your product on a very very good day (and maybe on steroids but you want to stay authentic).

Here is a compelling example from Leap Motion, a hand tracking app, that doesn’t require any explanation.

The reviews indicate that the experience may differ from that video but they only matter to people who are no longer ignoring the brand.

Optimizely, a beta testing tool for apps, offers another example of clear demonstration.

The role of this type of content in the funnel is not to “buy now” but to trigger interest, start a conversation.

Testimonials: Getting the story right

The Hero rule above is useful to keep in mind when approaching testimonials. Showing that company X uses your product is reassuring but a logo on your website is enough. Think of what could be interesting for the viewer while showcasing the use of your product (the lightsaber).
The testimonial becomes the story of your customer’s adventure and success. Google offers many powerful examples.
In the “Grow with Google” series it focuses on the emotional side. The product is discreetly mentioned although there is a clear link to Google’s product suite.

In the “Gone Google” series the product reference is clearer but the client is still the hero. They use all the cinematographic tricks in the book to emphasize that (slow motion, tight shots, custom music, etc.)

These B2B videos serve as a validation, just like a logo on your website. Yet they also strike an emotional chord, which appeals to a different part of the buyer’s brain.

Expertise: beyond the content

Adding value by sharing your expertise is generally a good content idea. Here the strategy is probably is more search driven and it is more about the facts, less about the stories. YouTube, the second biggest search engine behind its parent Google, is the destination of choice for that.
Even in a niche, competition is likely to be very strong (for example a search on MIFID II, a new regulatory framework for trading, brings over 13,000results).
To rise above the rest, proper video SEO and optimization for YouTube are a crucial first step. Yet it is just the beginning, the challenge of talking about a dry subject done in a dry way remains.
This is where the format and style matters. Moz, an SEO company, delivers instantly recognizable whiteboard sessions.

L2Inc, a consultancy, relies on the personality of its founder, Scott Galloway, combined with cool graphics.

There are many ways to replace talking heads. Try to find one that defines your brand and shows its personality. Experiment as much as possible, then make it a series just like L2Inc and Moz. Remember you don’t need to blow the budget nor to dumb down your content.

Unlike Kylie Jenner your brand may not be born on Instagram. Yet even non-visual, technical, niche, B2B brands can achieve fantastic results with video marketing. It’s not about the type of business you are in, it is about framing the content in the right way. It does require a dose of creativity but one that is guided by your analytical skills in testing, measuring and iterating with different types of content.