Do your marketing videos cause “Failure to Differentiate”?

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When buyers can’t figure out what differentiates a company’s solution, bad things happen:

• They rule out the company.
• They spend more time consulting third parties.
• They put off the decision.
• They just do nothing.

That’s according to a recent Gartner report titled “Failure to Differentiate.”

I’ve come to believe that the traditional approach to technology “explainer” videos may be contributing to the buyer’s failure to differentiate.

How traditional explainer videos can get in the way of differentiation

“Explainer” videos have been around for a dozen years or so. They started with IT solution and software vendors who needed to explain unfamiliar concepts that are hard to grasp quickly in text format — concepts like business process management, service oriented architecture, etc. These short video overviews became popular with tech companies and their salespeople as a way to engage prospects with content that was quick and easy to understand.

The traditional approach was straightforward: tell the viewer what problem you solve, how you solve it, and how it all pays off. This is still how most explainer videos are structured.

The trouble is that now there are many more technology solution vendors who claim to “solve” the same problem in different ways. And so many short videos are competing to get buyers to do something. The result is that the buyer is seeing lots of videos that start out with dramatizations of the same problem.

It’s true that animated characters coping unsuccessfully with problems have featured in terrific cartoons for more than a century [seek out Fantasmagorie (1908) on YouTube]. But in view of today’s short attention spans, the first 20 seconds or so of a video are crucial. If differentiation is your goal, you probably shouldn’t use those 20 seconds to tell the same story others are telling — even if you tell it better.

Stories around buyer motivations

A 2015 OpenView B2B Buyer Insight survey set out to find out what motivates buyers to contact salespeople. This is interesting from the standpoint of explainer video production for two reasons:

1. Explainer videos are generally viewed during the part of the buyer’s journey where the buyers are doing their own research and actively avoiding contact with salespeople.
2. The main purpose of a technology solution video is to get the viewer to seek more information — the same thing they do when they reach out to sales

Here are the main reasons buyers said they would reach out to a salesperson:

• To research a market
• To replace a solution that isn’t working well
• To bring about a major change in the organization

Keeping these motivations in mind as you plan out a video makes sense. You will develop the story buyers want to hear, and one that will immediately differentiate your message from the old problem-solution-benefits story your competitors are probably telling.

Videos for buyers researching a market

Buyers who are researching a market are probably not trying desperately to get out from under some problem — more likely, they wonder what cool new thing they might be missing. This calls for a cooler approach — like dramatizing the new possibilities your solution opens up for them.

For example, Cisco’s Workload Automation solution has been around for a while (as Tidal Enterprise Scheduler), but was recently updated to integrate cloud and big data workloads. This is good news, but it means different things for people with different responsibilities. If you’re responsible for Big Data jobs, you may be looking into better ways of getting data into and out of the Hadoop ecosystem. If your responsibilities extend across a hybrid data center, things would be better if you could integrate new kinds of workloads into the job schedule.

Cisco made short videos geared to these specific points of view, in addition to a traditional product overview. Same product, but different messages about big data workloads and hybrid cloud integration.

Buyers motivated to replace an existing solution

Many IT managers in non-profit performing arts organizations are looking to replace existing box office management and ticketing solutions because older solutions lack agility and don’t talk to software used in other parts of the organization — notably marketing and fundraising.

A video we produced for the software vendor PatronManager redefines the problem instead of dramatizing it. Instead of contrasting the confusion of siloed systems with the efficiency of integrated operations, the video simply shows how everyone can easily share quality data on the people who support the organization by buying tickets and making donations, and how that contributes to business success. You can see the PatronManager video here: http://www.2minuteexplainer.com/?xplnr=patron_overview

Buyers motivated to bring about a major change in the organization

Buyers who are eager to bring about a change certainly don’t need to be told what you think their problem is. You just need to encourage them to find out more about your better way of doing things. It’s “Here’s something you can change right now” (vs. “Here’s what we can do for you”)

So, for example, Software AG is a vendor active in the government market for solutions to help improve government service delivery. So their explainer video on the subject starts out “Sometimes, you just need an app.” It assumes that the viewer is motivated to make a big change in how things are done, and shows how new applications can be quickly assembled from pre-built components in the cloud. You can view the Software AG explainer video here: http://www.2minuteexplainer.com/?xplnr=sag_agile_apps

Thinking differentiator-ly

The examples here are not templates for videos or meant to be prescriptive. They do illustrate our conviction that if you want to differentiate your solution, you need to stop talking about problems your buyers already know about.

A good way to come up with different approaches is to think about some of the reasons buyers reach out to sales — which are probably the same reasons they have for visiting your website and watching your videos

• To learn about what’s new in the market
• To replace a solution that isn’t working well
• To bring about a major change in the organization

Giving buyers some of the information they’re looking for in a video will encourage them to seek more information. And we believe that should be the goal for a tech company’s videos.

Bruce McKenzie
Bruce McKenzie uses 2-Minute Explainer® videos to increase sales engagement at leading technology companies like IBM, Brocade, Compuware and many other B2B technology organizations. His free guide, "Creating Videos That Support the Technology Buyer's Journey", provides useful suggestions for communicating a technology solution's value proposition from several points of view, and designing videos for sales engagement. Download this free guide at: http://www.2minuteexplainer.com

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