Video Marketing Starts to Make Its Mark

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The number of businesses using video on their landing pages jumped from 49 percent last year to 60 percent this year, and the number of businesses using video in email increased from 36 percent last year to 46 percent this year, according to research by online video hosting platform provider Vidyard.

Similar research from marketing firm HubSpot found that video plays an important part in many companies’ marketing strategies. In fact, 81 percent of businesses are using video for content marketing, up 18 percent in the past year alone. This makes sense, given all that video adds to the marketing mix: HubSpot’s research found that 85 percent of consumers would like to see more video from companies, and 81 percent have been convinced to buy products or services by watching the vendors’ videos. Video also does a great job of driving traffic to company websites, with 76 percent of marketers saying it helped them increase traffic and 80 percent saying it increased dwell time.

However, using video in marketing outreach doesn’t necessarily guarantee increased brand power, sales, or customer loyalty. Nor does the same video technique work equally when it comes to marketing to different industries and consumer groups.

“When online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos first started using video five years ago, it saw an immediate 70 percent jump in sales,” says Chris Haines, director of consulting at Ampliance, providers of a retail engagement platform. “Everyone jumped on the bandwagon. But what companies have learned since is that not all videos are created equally, nor do all videos work equally well in getting the marketing and sales results.”

Haines says that video works best when the consumer of the video sees immediate value for what she wants to do, and Luc Burgelman, CEO of NGData, a customer data platform provider, agrees.

“The companies that do well at capturing maximum business value out of video for customers understand the sales life cycle and the consumer behaviors that align with that sales cycle,” Burgelman says. “For example, when someone books a trip on a travel site, the travel site knows that the customer is not likely to do more bookings immediately after making the reservation. But seven days before the customer leaves on the trip, these companies take the opportunity to upsell restaurants, events, and other activities that are linked to the destination.

“Whatever you do, it’s important that your videos are relevant to your customers and that they are delivered at the right time,” he continues. “If videos are delivered at the wrong time or with mistaken information, the results can be terrible.”

But how do you know if you’re getting the right video messages out to your customers?

“Different audiences have different ways that they like to take in content, so it is important to understand that,” Haines says. As examples, he points out that for companies selling more complicated products and services, it is best to lead with a broad-based, short video that offers a link to more content if the audience is interested. For apparel companies, 30-second videos are long enough to show the merchandise. For home electronics companies, longer videos are probably better to appeal to customers eager to learn more about how to install or operate a product.

“At the end of the day, what really matters is the quality of the content, and that quality is determined by how much immediate value the customer finds in it,” he says.

An equally important part of the video value proposition is timing, which can be predicated on what time of year it is (e.g., the holidays) or where the customer is in the sales life cycle (e.g., prospect, new buyer, post-sales support, end of product life, or eligible to re-buy).

Depending on where the customer is in the sales cycle and the video content he wants to experience, marketing videos can be effective in all sizes.

“In many cases, all you need is 10 or 15 seconds to say what you have to say, and that’s all the consumer needs,” Haines states. “In other cases, you might have a very long video, but your customer is enthused and he or she wants all of the details and mechanics about how the product works so it can be self-assembled at home. Whatever size video you use or message you convey, it’s all storytelling. You have to have a beginning, a middle, and an end to the story.”

As a general rule, though, Haines suggests that the shorter the video the better. “Ideally, it should be under 90 seconds for videos at the point of a sales conversion,” he says. “If your goal is simply building brand awareness, the video length can be less than 10 seconds. On the other hand, if you’re assisting a customer with a video that tells him or her how to operate or assemble a product after they have purchased from you, instructional video might be five minutes long. Overall, in the tests we conducted, we concluded that 90 seconds is the benchmark-length limit for videos, unless the subject is very complex.”

One thing on which all marketers and video service providers agree is that more than ever, the consumers viewing these videos want to understand product and service benefits, but they don’t want to be hard-sold.

VIDEO LENGTHS AND LIFE CYCLES

But while there are no absolute rules of thumb that apply to video length in all industries and circumstances, one universal truth is evident: Consumers have increasingly smaller attention spans. If they don’t see what they want in the first few seconds of your video, you’re likely to lose them.

That said, customers do come with different expectations and attention spans for videos depending on where they fall within the normal sales cycle.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • for introducing your brand, videos of 15 seconds or less work well;
  • for introducing a product to a new customer, videos not exceeding 30 seconds work best; and
  • for teaching how to use a product or offering post-sales information, videos of five to 10 minutes might work because the customer expects to be trained and has set aside time for it.

And then the key is relevance and understanding what customers want.

“This is especially important if you’re personalizing video delivery to individual clients,” Burgelman says. “You first want to research where they are in their life cycles with your product. Understanding where they are helps you to remain relevant to them.”

Another important consideration: Which media channels are best for video? The answer can be complex, and it sometimes points to not using video at all, experts caution.

“If you can tell your story effectively in another way, like through words or pictures, do it,” Haines says.

Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube make it possible for companies to include video in their media feeds.

“Social media offers good channels for this, like Instagram, which excels when it comes to putting up still photos. But if you’re using video on social media, Facebook is one of the best social media channels because of its newsfeed and its opportunities to engage with customers. It even gives you format options for your video. You can also provide more details than with channels like Instagram.”

NGData’s Burgelman says that some of the most successful videos his company has seen have been on Facebook. “The other avenues where we’ve seen success is through email and text messages that contain links to the video,” he adds. “There’s even technology now in email videos that enable the videos to start playing as soon as the emails containing them are opened.”

All of these video outlets can work extremely well, especially if they are coordinated with videos that get deployed on companies’ own websites.

“You get the biggest bang for your video on your own website,” Haines says. “There you can integrate your video with your CRM tools and other elements of your marketing activity to automate workflows. You can track who watched your video, how long they watched, and if they came back to watch.”

VIDEO IN ACTION

Most companies are still very early in their use of video as a marketing tool, but there are also some that are getting great results with it. One example is Whole Foods Market, the Amazon-owned organic food retailer.

“Whole Foods has done a nice job of displaying still photos of tasty meals on Instagram,” Haines says. “It’s also used video that shows [actress] Jennifer Garner dropping in on a homemade baby food class. Videos like this aren’t overproduced, and they resonate with consumers because they are authentic.”

Telecom and utility companies have also had a lot of success. “Sales conversions are going up 4 percent to 25 percent in telecom with the right promotions,” says Burgelman, who’s also seen self-help videos deliver real value in many post-sales support use cases. “In one case, a utility company using these self-help videos dropped the call volume in its call centers by 30 percent,” he adds.

OUTSOURCE OR IN-HOUSE?

When it comes to video production, there are no steadfast rules on how to proceed. Some companies that are already using video choose to outsource this effort, while others prefer to keep the endeavor in-house. In many cases, formal brand and product presentations tend to be outsourced because of the level of creative development that is required. How-to-assemble or how-to-operate videos are often produced internally, because the focus isn’t on high video quality as much as it is on informing the viewer.

“Luxury goods retailers outsource everything because they want a very professional production, and they are protective of their brands,” Haines says. “In the past, they wouldn’t even allow user-generated content on their websites.”

Among younger consumers and more innovative companies, by contrast, videos and images are far less formal. A few younger salespeople have even been known to take pictures or videos of themselves and post them as a way to drive engagement.

And for industries with very complex products, homemade videos from subject matter experts are highly appreciated by customers.

“What we generally find is that most companies outsource their creative work in their videos, especially if they have well-established brands,” Burgelman says. “As a video vendor, we do video rendering, and we help our clients with scripts, but even we outsource the creative work.”

Mary Shacklett is a freelance writer and president of Transworld Data, a technology analytics, market research, and consulting firm. She can be reached at mshacklett@twdtransworld.com.

Video Recommendations for Companies

For companies wanting to focus more on video marketing, experts have laid out several key recommendations:

  1. Develop a formal video marketing plan. “A successful marketing video plan identifies the goals that you want to achieve,” says Chris Haines, director of consulting at Ampliance, provider of a retail engagement platform. “Is it soft brand awareness, or do you want to be more aggressive to where you present offers and convert these to sales? Do you want to build customer loyalty by providing helpful tips and training videos as a post-sales follow-up?”
  2. Once you identify goals, set revenue, outreach, and loyalty targets. You’ll measure the effectiveness of your video efforts against those targets.
  3. Align video lengths with your marketing and sales funnels. ?“This is where companies get hung up,” Haines says. “They get excited because they have produced a nice-looking video, but in the excitement, they forget what the purpose of the video was and how that affects length. Are you just trying to engage a customer? The rule often is that the video shouldn’t exceed 90 seconds. Are you presenting a full training video for your product to assure that a customer doesn’t get frustrated and that he or she will return to you in the future to buy? Then a longer length is warranted.”
  4. Focus on being relevant to customers. “If you’re not relevant, the customer is going to see your video as the wrong message, and you don’t want that,” says Luc Burgelman, CEO of NGData, a customer data platform provider.
  5. Finally, always remember that social engagement, not just videos, help sell customers. “Buyers are always going to trust what a fellow customer says more than they would trust a salesperson,” Haines says.

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