Lights, camera…wait, is this thing on? A primer on B2B video marketing

If you’ve had your eye on the B2B marketing landscape recently, you’ve probably noticed the explosive growth of video as a chosen medium. We’ve all grown accustomed to absorbing information this way, and B2B marketers have picked up on the trend. In fact, 81% of B2B marketers have used video in 2021, up from just 63% in 2020; 91% feel the pandemic has made video even more crucial for reaching their audience.

All of this makes sense–video is dynamic, engaging, and easy-to-digest. But, for a new startup, or even a more mature company unfamiliar with the process, the cost and complexity of producing a video can seem overwhelming.

This post will hopefully demystify some of these things. We’ll talk about the current standards in production, some concrete steps you can take to get a good ROI, and finally, some fun ideas and examples of video success. You’ll see that there’s a range of strategies and techniques to fit your budget and your timeline, from quick animated product explainers to longer webinars and live action promotional videos with actors and a set.

By the end, we hope you’ll feel more informed and ready to ‘press play’ on this exciting and engaging medium.

What are the elements of a successful video campaign?

While you don’t need professional actors, state-of-the-art equipment, or an actual studio to make a video these days, that doesn’t mean you can slack on the planning and execution. Even though it’s technically more accessible than ever, the large volume of video content that people consume means standards have actually gone up, and not just for production value, but also for how engaging and convincing the content itself is. The pandemic has only intensified this: nearly half of marketers say competition amongst video campaigns will be tougher because more companies are making videos. The result: without some planning and cost-benefit analysis, you could end up missing the mark. To avoid embarking on a low-ROI video journey, here are some key considerations to keep in mind when creating a video campaign:

#1 Consider what you’ll spend:

Obviously this will vary depending on the campaign and the client, but it’s always good to think about how to reduce costs in order to increase ROI. One way to do this is by leveraging the people around you: your own team and even your customers. For example, your graphic designer might have a hidden talent for motion graphics. And your customer might be willing to do a video testimonial or present themself as a case study for your product. 

Another cost-saving trick is to shoot more footage than you immediately need, with the intention of creating multiple videos. This can help stretch bigger expenses like professional talent, equipment, and studio rentals. On the high-end, these things can run up to $10-20k for a full day of shooting, so thinking about where you can afford to save is key. And it’s worth keeping in mind that you can forgo all of these things and create something great with tools you already have for far less.

#2 Your editor is your MVP:

One thing all good videos have in common is a good editor. Why? The vast majority of marketing videos clock in at 2 minutes or less. There are situations where a longer video is warranted (and we’ll discuss those in the next section!), but in those cases, an editor is even more important. That’s because with a longer video you have to work extra hard to win and keep your audience’s attention. The editor could be you, someone on your team, or somebody you hire; once you’ve identified the most important things you want to communicate, they’ll help amplify your message by making transitions crisp, and cutting unnecessary dialogue and dead space. 

Just keep in mind: while simple iMovie-based editing is relatively easy to teach yourself, anything involving motion graphics or lots of audio/music cues is probably best sent to a professional. If there are no video editors in your network, Upwork can be a great place to start to find skilled, affordable editors.

#3 Think beyond the video itself:

Like with any marketing campaign, it’s not just about the content. You need an airtight distribution plan to ensure people will actually watch your video and absorb your message. This is a lesson Blue Seedling learned when we produced a few short videos for a virtual conference our client was attending last year, thinking a well-produced video would attract visitors to their booth. The problem wasn’t the video itself–it was a quick greeting from the CEO that made the company seem more personable and engaging–but the fact that only a small handful of people actually visited the booth. In retrospect, a setting like a virtual conference required a unique promotion plan (e.g. emailing the videos to attendees ahead of time). The takeaway: don’t fall into the trap of believing “if you film it, they will come”. Think about where your audience is and how you can meet them there.

Another consideration beyond the video itself: additional assets and metadata that maximize SEO. Search engines like Google actually favor video over other types of content because it’s informative without asking for too much commitment from viewers. But this doesn’t happen automatically…good keywords, rich metadata, captions, and attention-grabbing titles and thumbnail images are all ingredients that will make your video shine and boost SEO.

#4 Keep your priorities straight:

As we said earlier, professional talent and equipment can certainly elevate and differentiate you, but they’re not required, and they shouldn’t come at the expense of the content itself or the promotion plan. Take our client Oriient, a startup and pioneer in indoor GPS technologies as an example. They had two videos explaining their product, one that was slick and “professional”, and another that felt more amateur. It turned out that viewers strongly preferred the amateur video. Why? Because it did such a good job of showing their product in action, in a way that viewers could relate to. The lesson here: your story is always going to be the most important element. A valuable, well-edited video filmed on an iPhone is better than a boring video filmed on a high-end 4K camera.

So how do you make your video brilliant and valuable to your audience? In the next section, we’ll walk through some proven ideas (with examples!) to get you started.

Some tips, tricks, and examples to kick off your first video campaign

  1. Use video to boost other content: Not sure where to start? Try taking a look at the content you’re already producing, and how video could bring it to life. One example is to create a short summary video that accompanies a blog post, e-book, or white paper. We actually used this strategy for a client SkyPoint Cloud recently. We made a short product explainer video, which played at a tradeshow booth and drew attendees in. Once people had seen the video, they could jump straight into engaging with the rest of the content in a more focused way. The takeaway is that not everyone has the time or the energy to sift through in-depth content, but if the video piques their interest, they’ll make time (and if not, at least they’ll come away with the main points).
  1. Be entertaining: We already know that what makes video so great is that it can be highly engaging. To achieve this, you’ll need to avoid being overly corporate and dry, and think about how to tell your story in a creative, memorable way. One trend we’ve noticed is the use of humor in B2B marketing videos. This makes sense: effective humor often relies on a finely-tuned combination of visual, aural, and contextual cues— something video is uniquely suited for. Although it’s a few years old now, the “So yeah, we tried Slack” campaign epitomizes this approach. It introduces viewers to many of Slack’s features in a well-paced, lighthearted way, and is punctuated with both subtle and not-so-subtle jokes. 
  1. Go ‘behind the scenes’: Video is also an opportunity to make your customers feel like they have access to something exclusive: a ‘behind-the-scenes’ view of your brand or product. This could be a virtual tour of the premises that shows the product development stages, or you could focus on the human side with a ‘day in the life’ type video. This strategy works because you don’t have to go over-the-top with sales pitches and marketing speak to communicate what makes you special. On top of that, you’ll be signaling to your audience that you value transparency, which will help build trust. Although it’s not technically a B2B video, this video tour of the P.F. Candle factory utilizes this approach particularly well, making the brand feel laid back and fun, but also highly dedicated to their craft.
  1. Show solutions: At the end of the day, people want to know that you can solve problems for them. One way to do this is to let your success speak for itself with video testimonials from existing clients. This is a win-win for you and the client, since they’ll get the opportunity to plug their own brand in the process. This example from HootSuite and their client MEC does this really well.
  1. Consider the whole customer journey: As we mentioned earlier: when in doubt, keep it short, but there are times where a longer video can make a real impact. This is typically after your prospects have already engaged with you, or have become actual customers. Like with any other medium, your video marketing strategy should consider the whole customer journey: what the goals, problems, and questions might be, and how your video can speak to these things at each phase. Longer content like webinars, in-depth how-to videos, and product demos can be very useful to your customers when the time is right. Example: this webinar from our client TrueAccord that goes deep into the subject of digital debt collection and features a case study by a high-profile client.

The Bottom Line

B2B video marketing is a trend that’s here to stay. While you no longer need a huge budget or access to specialized equipment to produce a video, careful planning is still essential to making sure that your video campaigns lead to marketing success.

Further Reading

Marie is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Blue Seedling. She’s also a runner, a painter, and a grad student.

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