Articles tagged B2B

Video is taking over the Internet, and I don’t just mean those annoying auto-playing ones. According to Cisco, video will account for 84% of all U.S. Internet traffic in four years. Facebook’s VP thinks the social network will be all video in five years.

Ok, mandatory opening stats out of the way, let’s get to the topic.

People on the Internet want to watch videos. So naturally, that’s what businesses are giving them. And it’s not just B2C companies trying to get people’s play fingers. It’s B2B using videos to help establish their brand presence and to explain their complex offerings simply.

In other words, if you aren’t making videos, then, well, I don’t know, I guess you’re just hoping that people will parse all the text on your website.

But I’ll tell you this: No videos are still better than bad videos.

Videos are high-end collateral: High impact, high level of complexity, and high cost. They are investments, commitments, and a powerful part of a marketing strategy.

Except that a quick Google search will show you that you can get videos on the cheap…at least the animated kind most often used for explainer videos.

But there are few things more damaging to a brand than a cheap animation video. Cheap anything is a brand-damager. Unless, I guess, you’re like Wal-Mart, and they don’t even do cheap videos. No B2B brand should be associated with stock characters, cartoony animation, and generic imagery. And it’s not just mere association, video will be your leading collateral. And if your leading collateral is shoddy, so’s your brand.

But you still have a budget and it’s probably not in the Pixar range, so what can you do with limited resources to make videos that enhance your brand instead of detract from it?

  1. The first thing is to understand that videos are not a one-off investment. No collateral should just check a box, and that’s triply true for videos. They should be part of a detailed, overarching strategy. That way, it’s easier to secure the necessary funds for a great video, while on the other, being a part of a broader strategy increases the reach, relevance, and shelf-life of the video. In other words, those videos will provide more value to both you and to your audience.

  2. Make your videos shorter. For brand videos, that’s easy. You can communicate lasting impressions in under 30 seconds. B2B explainer videos are more difficult. Two minutes is a maximum many people use for explainer videos, but even at that length you’re looking at walls of narration and a lot of points to remember and connect. In reality, your audience will already need to be vested to even try to watch that length of video, and then they’ll probably only watch it once, and probably not all the way to the end. It can be tempting, when explaining a complex challenge or solution, to say everything in a video instead of just the absolute most important things. And even then, you should cut those things in half. Maybe by 90%. Break them into multiple videos is another option.

  3. Discuss a concept in advance with your vendor that will be less expensive to produce. In the same way that a $2 million indie flick can be more compelling than a $150 million Hollywood blockbuster, so too can a simple concept do more than a complex one. Google has told entire brand stories with four colored dots and a search field. And, again, those commercials were part of a larger, strategic story and were well polished.

Of course, we’re only dealing with half the battle here. Just because videos are priorities in the budget doesn’t mean they’ll be great B2B videos. Throwing money at something never guarantees quality. But that’s a different topic. Like a great video, I’ll keep this post short.

In the end, certainly make sure you’re making videos…but only if you’re making them smart and making them right.

Posted by Jason Ocker and Michael Colombo

Alien Names

Aristotle called metaphors “alien names.” He meant that they are words reserved for one thing that are used to describe another. You know, like “all we are is dust in the wind.” Literally speaking, we’re not dust, and we certainly don’t act like dust in the wind. People are people, and they act like people. Dust in the wind is dust in the wind, and it acts like dust in the wind. But using that phrase in an alien way tells us something about the human condition. Like, we apparently all recognize Kansas lyrics. When used appropriately, metaphor is a way to approach ideas differently, to make complex ideas clearer, and to make unfamiliar ideas familiar.

Metaphors are also sneaky bastards. Plato, I think, said that one.

We tell stories here. B2B stories. The way a novelist sits down to plot a book is the same way we sit down and plot a corporate message (and although novelists don’t always have to do that first, we do). In fact, we incorporate a traditional story structure in our proprietary framework for corporate messaging.

Metaphor is something we’re constantly tangoing with. After all, B2B is still human-to-human, and humans think and speak in a constant flow of metaphors. On top of that, the types of clients that we serve, the products they sell, and the sales processes themselves are all highly complex and highly technical. So metaphors are extremely attractive to help create succinct, compelling messages.

But there’s a fine line between using and misusing metaphor, and with B2B messaging, a real danger to the brand in that latter. So we’ve put together three basic rules for using metaphor in business messaging:

1. The Metaphor Should Clarify the Story. The point of metaphor is to tell a commonly understood story that is more accessible than the story itself. In other words, to clarify. If the metaphor makes the story less clear than the literal story—say, by being too convoluted or too complex—metaphor should be avoided.

2. The Metaphor Should Be Contained. Even a great metaphor can become a liability. If it’s used throughout an entire story, the metaphor becomes tedious and eventually breaks down to irrelevancy in the details (because nothing is exactly like anything else). A metaphor is a plot device, not a substitute for the plot itself.

3. The Metaphor Should Elevate Your Brand. The metaphors used by a business should be appropriate to the brand and the message. The metaphor leaves an image with the audience and that image should make a brand cooler, better, and more relevant, and never less so.

So that’s it. Treat metaphors like dynamite: powerful and useful but often dangerous. Use them when it makes sense to, use them sparingly to make a specific sharp point in your story, and use them to elevate your brand.

Too bad Aristotle wasn’t a marketer. He would’ve have just laid all this out for us already.

By this point in the technology cycle, the recent Cisco and IMD survey findings that four out of 10 top-ranked companies within their industries won’t last the next five years is not surprising. Even the study authors note that there is an “historical parallel to what occurred after the advent of the Web in the mid 1990s: Just 25 percent of the Fortune 100 top U.S. companies were still in existence 15 years later.”

We get it. Businesses need to reinvent what they do and how they do it, and they need do it at the speed of digital. But that’s hard, and there are a lot of reasons why businesses, and especially B2B ones, can’t just wave a magic app and “do” that. But there is a group within every B2B that doesn’t have any excuses for not innovating: The Marketing Department.

Consumer marketing is defined by its innovation, by its ability to come up with new ways to get to consumers, new ways to be memorable. B2B marketers should be sharing that same imperative to innovate for the same reasons.

But B2B marketing is often stuck in the same old dinosaur tracks, doing the same old things and hoping to Warren Buffet that the status quo will hide them. That’s why B2B marketing is often just a factory for quick collateral, amateur presentations, emails, and conference booth wrappings. In other words, things that are low-risk and expected.

But as a marketer, it’s your job to make your company stand out—and to stand out inside your company while you do so. And today, there are all kinds of ways to do that.

We’re in the experience era, where everything must be contributing to a unique, high-quality, brandable experience, whether that’s a simple microsite or a PowerPoint presentation. We’re in the apps era, where new tools are being invented every day to aid the sales force. We’re in, well, a lot of eras. So there’s no reason to not jump in and start experimenting and innovating. Well, there is a reason, it’s called “hide, squirrel away budget, and hope to survive.” But that’s not a good one.

When B2B companies inevitably tighten belts, it’s often the marketing department that’s sliced. Why? Sure, it’s partly because in the B2B world, it’s easy to mistake marketing for a luxury as it’s not easy to gauge its impact on sales. But mostly, they’re in danger because it’s extremely obvious that the marketing part of the business isn’t innovating, so the loss is a minimal one that can be remedied later in more liquid times.

The marketing department is there to help make the sale, either indirectly through brand awareness or directly through how it equips its sales force. Just like the digital business, to continue to do that effectively, the marketing department must disrupt itself. Before it gets disrupted.

Photo credit: Karen Roe

A couple of weeks ago we discussed Google Cardboard, that clever, inexpensive way to get virtual reality (VR) into the hands of the masses and into massive acceptance.

The one thing we didn’t discuss was, “Who cares?” After all, it’s got a nice novelty factor to it, but here in the B2B marketing world, novelty has only a small place. So does Google Cardboard belong in B2B?

Honestly? I’d say it was custom-made for it.

The Size of the Solution

In B2B, the solutions being sold are often, well, big—a large piece of equipment, a suite of equipment, an entire facility. Things you can’t just lug around in a bag or mail to a conference. But with VR, you can do exactly that. Take a prospective client on a tour of that facility. Let them interact with that massive piece of equipment. Even better, you’re showing them those things in an extremely controlled environment, where every pixel has been designed to contribute to a better, more sellable experience.

The Complexity of the Solution

While not all B2B products and solutions are physically large, they’re almost always extremely complex. The technology that goes into them, how the elements of a solution fit together, how they interface with client infrastructure. Visualizing those solutions and how they work in a clear way that communicates value is everything a sales rep wants. And with VR, you can evolve past the confusing, boring tangle of color-coded boxes that adorn most PowerPoint slides. You have a new dimension and level of interactivity to tell your story.

The Intimacy of the Sale

B2B sales are often one-on-one, whether it’s in the boardroom, during a private meeting at a restaurant, or in a conference booth. It’s the perfect environment for, “Here, let me show you something cool” and then pulling out a phone and the Google Cardboard viewer. In those situations, you have the benefits of the previous point, but also the meeting stands out as memorable to the prospective client.

The Size of the Budget

It’s in the dollars where Google Cardboard really seems to be custom-made for B2B. Marketing budgets in B2B are notoriously small or, even when they’re large, notoriously constrained. Those dollars have to be accounted for. And the investment in Google Cardboard is extremely low: $20 per viewer and however much you want to invest in the app itself, which is extremely flexible and allows you to develop as simple or as rich an experience as you need.

The Potential for a Platform

Another big selling point for Google Cardboard in the B2B world is that, despite the viewers basically being made of trash, they are far from throwaway. Cardboard can be a platform for a larger and longer-term marketing strategy that encompasses expandable apps or a growing a suite of apps that can be used in all business situations, from direct-mail to the convention table and all other forms of sales outreach. You’re really only limited by the creativity of your marketing teams and agencies on this one.

Conclusion

The real beauty of Google Cardboard is that all the money goes into the experience. Once the novelty of the cardboard and the immersive world wear off, the content is still extremely valuable and allows for wide levels of differentiation. It wouldn’t surprise me if soon we’ll start seeing Google Cardboard viewers at every booth and in the bags of every sales rep.

As you can see, we’re pretty excited by the potential of Google Cardboard, so drop us a line if your interested in exploring the possibilities with us.