Though there is something akin to a mania today for embracing online video as a marketing tool, the truth is that video is a mixed blessing.
In some instances, it is the ideal medium for grabbing attention, engaging interest, and communicating information and sales messages. But there are many things that video does not do well, and times when its contribution to the marketing mix is minor or even nonexistent.
My primary qualification for writing a column on this topic is that I have been writing video scripts for nearly four decades — longer than almost anyone else in the business today.
Anyway, for what they’re worth, here goes….
To begin with, we have long known that video has a medium has enormous attention-getting power.
The evidence most often cited is this commonly observed phenomenon: If you are playing video on a TV monitor, whether in a trade show booth or in a store window or a kiosk, people will stop and watch the video, often without much regard as to what is being shown. Rather, people are just mesmerized by video; they are more powerfully drawn to it than to almost other medium.
Many B2B products and services are marketed to engineers and other technical buyers. Engineers are visual communicators. Watch engineers talking around a conference table during a meeting. When the talk turns technical, they invariably take out a pad and pen, or a tablet, and start making drawings and diagrams to illustrate their points. Video therefore has special appeal to B2B audiences in industry.
In B2C, especially information marketing and consumer products, whiteboard or “sketch” videos are all the rage today. But when making a B2B video, consider combining live photography with animated schematic, process, or exploded-view drawings. Technical buyers want to see what the physical product looks like, much more so than a consumer buying a dietary supplement, information product, or stock market newsletter.
B2B videos ideally should have footage showing the product being manufactured, inspected, tested, assembled, delivered, installed, and in operation. Animation can show operational details live video can’t, such as the inner workings of the inside of a machine.
Now, in consumer marketing, video can often do the entire selling job; examples include TV infomercials and long-term video sales letters. But B2B prospects need text, data and print documents, not just images, as part of their buying process: whitepapers, brochures, catalogs, data sheets and proposals. Video alone almost never is enough to close a B2B sale on its own.
Prospects consume information in four different modes of learning: reading (text), watching (video), hearing (audio), and experiential (seminars, workshops). Because you don’t know the preferred or even secondary mode of any individual customer, you should ideally use all four in your communication.
Alvin Eicoff, an early pioneer in direct response TV commercials, felt that the most powerful technique in video, and one that was often neglected, was demonstration. I agree with him that video is perhaps the best medium for both product demonstrations as well as product comparisons, and it is far underused in today’s video world dominated by white board illustrations, most of which never show the product in action.
By comparison, direct response TV commercial producers well know the power and value of demonstration. My favorite is the spot for Flex Tape, where the advertiser demonstrates the power of his adhesive tape by cutting apart a small boat with a chain saw, then taping the halves together with Flex Tape, and taking the boat out for a ride on the lake.
With the growing popularity of streaming video today, marketers are increasingly putting videos online and not so much on DVD. In direct marketing, however, this is an error. When you are doing lead generation, the offer of a “free information kit” as the lead magnet increases response. And including a physical DVD in the kit increases the perceived valuable of the lead magnet. A spot graphic of the DVD disc and its label, or even better a hand holding the DVD, further boosts requests and conversions when pictures on a landing page or postcard.
Yes, it’s easy for the prospect to share the link to your streamlining video with others in the organization who need to see it. But I have found that DVDs get passed around a lot. Also, when fulfilling inquiries, inserting a DVD into an envelope or box makes it less likely you’re your mail is thrown away and more likely it gets opened. Here’s a trick: When mailing a DVD, put in large, bold, red stencil letters on the outer carrier the words “Magnetic Media Enclosed.” Videotapes were even better for direct mail because they were lumpy, while DVDs are unfortunately flat and therefore lack the beneficial bulk.
Video can be profitably recycled from one channel to the next. Say you produce a series of seven 90-second educational videos and post them on your YouTube channel. Consider burning the series onto a single DVD and offering that along with your product brochure as part of a free information kit.
According to new research from Wyzowl, 78.8 percent of marketers surveyed said YouTube is the most effective platform for posting online videos, with Facebook coming in number two at 58.5 percent and webinars third, with 37.9 percent of marketers finding them to be effective. IAB SmartBrief reports that video ad spend in Facebook and YouTube will reach $37 billion by 2022.
Videos used online today range from 30-second “explainer videos” embedded in emails to “video sales letters” with run-times of a half hour or more used to promote consumer products. For the main video on your website home page, designed to either encapsulate the brand message or as an attention-getting device, figure a run time of one to three minutes. More educational or technical videos on a separate video page can run three or more minutes each.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.