The Next Frontier in Customer Engagement: Streaming Video
LATELY on CRM Playaz, the weekly livestream show I co-host with Paul Greenberg, we’ve been digging into how technology vendors have been transforming into media companies in order to form longer, stronger relationships with customers. Salesforce, which launched the Salesforce+ streaming network, and HubSpot, which started the HubSpot Podcast Network, are two examples. Now, calling them full-blown media companies is a serious stretch, because their core business is still selling their software, platforms, and services to business customers, not to challenge Netflix and Disney+ in the streaming wars.
But there are lessons coming from these kinds of services that can help businesses of any size stay engaged with customers and prospects and stay connected with the digital-first/digital-native generations holding the purse strings today. Even if you aren’t a big tech company like Salesforce or HubSpot, you can understand the importance of increasing the amount of content needed to engage an audience long enough to build lasting relationships with them.
Between podcasts, livestreams, TikTok, Clubhouse, and a million other things, companies and content creators are falling in line to engage audiences in hopes of converting micro-engagements into digital transactions, whether that’s to drive subscriptions or individual unit sales. But just like previous forms of social media like blogging and old-school videos on YouTube, making the newer types of social content takes time, effort, and a consistency most folks still aren’t ready (or able) to commit to. And that last point may be even more important to consider as you get more deeply involved with figuring out where you want to play on the spectrum of transforming into a digital-first/media-second company aimed at engaging audiences on an ongoing basis.
In a recent CRM Playaz episode, our guest Molly Sullivan, vice president of brand, content, and creative at Pega, dropped a couple of gems that are incredibly relevant on this topic. People buy ideas before they buy products, and only about 5 percent of business buyers are actually ready to buy in any sales quarter, according to some recent research from LinkedIn. So being top of mind when they are ready to buy is incredibly important, and stringing enough of your ideas in front of potential customers to keep you top of mind is also, well, important.
Now many of us can’t start a full-blown streaming service or podcast network, and you don’t really have to. But you probably will have to use a platform or two to get your ideas in front of folks on a regular basis to build direct relationships with them. LinkedIn Live is a great platform that has allowed Paul and I to reach a specific audience regularly and inexpensively in a way we could not have just a few years ago. We’ve streamed a virtual roundtable conversation with over 400 people watching simultaneously and generating more than 1,100 comments in two and half hours. And we’ve livestreamed virtual contests where we announced winners, and if they were watching, we invited them to join us on the broadcast, all while posting hundreds of comments onscreen to make the show interactive.
Personally speaking, I think LinkedIn Live and video is a great way to get your ideas out and to regularly engage with the folks you want to work with. But there’s more to making it work than some people might think or want to do.
Many think there is less time and effort involved in streaming video than in blogging because of webcams and iPhones. Just point and talk. But the work can actually be very intensive because the bulk of it takes place after the livestream is over. It’s the postproduction that makes the livestream live after the broadcast ends. That’s because even though hundreds or even thousands of people might watch a livestream, there are way more people that didn’t watch it live, for a variety of reasons. And to maximize the visibility of the content you’ll need to process it—break it down into one- or two-minute clips to make it more consumable and hopefully make the longer-form video more likely to be watched after the fact. And the more video that gets created from livestreams, the more video there is to process, because those ideas must get out there consistently to build lasting relationships that can convert to transactions in due time.
Even if you aren’t building digital media empires, you might need to build or buy some media-production-like capabilities to build a direct engagement line between your content and customers/prospects. It takes a while to build it out and see the benefits because it requires consistently churning out content that is created with engagement in mind, not marketing messages meant for quick conversion. I’ve had two-minute clips from an hour-long livestream that created more than 13,000 total viewing minutes, even more viewing minutes than the complete livestream recording. But it takes time to find the right two-minute nuggets in that hour-long video, and then turn them into clips to distribute where viewers might consume them. And it is that part of video content production that is usually overlooked or under-accounted for.
You can get good-quality audio/video tech for a relatively small price. You can use Zoom and other platforms with little investment in time or money. And even with that, most people aren’t going to watch the livestream when it is actually live. You must do work after the livestream to get the stream in front of viewers, and you have to do that over and over again if you want them to think of you when they’re ready to buy something. Even if you aren’t trying to be Salesforce, HubSpot, Netflix, or Disney+.
Brent Leary is cofounder of CRM Essentials, an Atlanta-based advisory firm focused on small and midsize businesses. He is also the author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses.