How to create an Oscar-worthy B2B video strategy on LinkedIn

Want to win big at the B2B Box Office? Then start planning your video strategy the way a Hollywood studio would…

November 13, 2018

How to create an Oscar-worthy B2B video strategy on LinkedIn

Contrary to what some best practice blog posts might claim, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating compelling and effective B2B video – on LinkedIn or on any other platform.

The approach that you take, and the techniques that you adopt will always be guided by the particular audience you’re targeting, the stage of the buying journey that you’re seeking to connect with, and the type of video experience that’s going to be most relevant to that stage. A B2B marketing video strategy doesn’t involve producing one type of video over and over again, any more than the strategy of a Hollywood studio involves creating only one type of film.

The moving image is one of the most impactful and versatile content formats ever invented. As a marketer with different objectives related to different audiences at different points in the funnel, you owe it to yourself to make the most of that versatility. Plan, execute and promote your video content the way a Hollywood mogul would and you’re far more likely to generate the engagement levels, completed views and measurable impact on lead quality and conversions that add up to significant ROI. You’ll win at the B2B Box Office – and you’ll create content worthy of marketing’s equivalent of the Oscars.

What does this look like in practice? Let’s take a look:

Consider the creative options that matter

An Oscar-worthy B2B video strategy starts out with considering your options around creative techniques, styles and formats the way an arthouse film director would. That doesn’t just mean choosing between filming an event, a webinar or a case study. Those are potential subjects for a video, sure enough. However, when dealing in video, how you treat those subjects makes all the difference. You wouldn’t claim that Skyfall starring Daniel Craig and Johnny English Strikes Again starring Rowan Atkinson represent the same film strategy because they are both films about British spies. Your video strategy isn’t just about what you film; it’s very much about how you film it, and how you edit, distribute and promote what you capture.

When my team and I think of our video options, we try to start with the audience experience that most aligns with what we want to achieve. Is this going to be a teaser that leaves them intrigued, tantalised and determinedly wanting more? Is it a short-form piece that delivers the message, blows the bloody doors off and is gone in 15 seconds or less? Is it a lovingly produced long-form film that persuades audiences to sit back slightly, stop looking at the clock in the top-right of their screen and enjoy spending time with you and your brand? Is it a fly-on-the wall, moving camera, ultra-real experience that leaves you feeling closer to the person on-screen? When it comes to designing a video strategy, it pays to think in these dimensions rather than just thinking about what you’re pointing a camera at.

The decision to interview someone on camera isn’t the creative idea where video is concerned. The creative video idea is deciding to break that interview into 5 second teasers, shoot it in the back of a cab racing away from the event where somebody’s just delivered a keynote, or ask the subject to answer each question in 10 words or less. The creative idea isn’t the decision to film a webinar. It’s the decision to film it in an unconventional way, set the discussion in a restaurant, on a boat or as part of a shopping trip, cut and frame it into a video series complete with behind the scenes footage.

That’s how you get creative with B2B video – and that’s how you stand out in an increasingly competitive headspace in your audience’s feeds. Video is a visual medium and that means style is often a big part of the substance.

Start with a script – and a storyboard

This isn’t to say that the subject of video content isn’t important. If you don’t have a worthwhile message to communicate then even the most creative approach to delivering it can’t help. That’s why it’s impossible to overstate the importance of a script. It’s the scripting process that captures what you need to get across, and enables you to start playing with different ways of doing so. After all, it’s a lot easier to edit a Word document than to edit film footage.

Our own video content often starts with text-based content: blog posts, infographics or eBooks that have already driven strong engagement with audiences, and which we know deliver ideas that are relevant and add value. However, that’s just the starting point. The script itself is the opportunity to strip written content down to its core and explore ways to communicate that core message faster and more visually. It morphs naturally into a storyboard, through which you start to match the elements of the idea you’re expressing to images and camera angles.

It’s the scripting and storyboarding process that lays the foundation for great video content. It drives the pace and rhythm of your video, and ensures you communicate what you need to in the amount of your audience’s time that it’s appropriate to take. The shorter the creative format you’re working in, the greater the importance of scripting and storyboarding in achieving the impact you need.

The marketing speaker and bestselling author Andrew Davis is one of the most successful video influencers on LinkedIn at the moment, with episodes of his Loyalty Loop video series regularly generating over 10,000 views. Those episodes are almost always under five minutes long and they feel like they’ve been effortlessly confided to camera. In truth, they take around 8 hours each to script and develop. Generally speaking, the more time and effort that you make available for the scripting process, the better the results.

Embrace strategy-driven constraints

Different B2B video formats naturally suit different points in the buyer journey. This gives you a strategic framework for the types of video content you need to produce in order to achieve your objectives. Each type comes with its own creative constraints and the real secret to an Oscar-winning B2B video strategy is embracing those constraints like a film director looking at his big break. They should be a spur to innovative thinking – and they’ll help you get far more value and drive far greater ROI from the footage that you film.

Here are the creative options that I believe you should be constructing your B2B video strategy around. Make sure you’re deploying these formats at the most relevant stages of the funnel, and then challenge yourself to find creative approaches to video content that can get relevant ideas across quickly in the format you’re working in:

B2B teaser video (0-15 seconds)

Hollywood studios know all about the value of teaser video content, especially when it comes to promoting films designed for a younger audience whom they want to reach while they’re scanning through their social media feeds. The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games are both masters of the compressed trailer: fast-cutting images that fill the screen for literally a couple of seconds, communicate little more than the arrival of a film and confirmation of who’s in it, but do that job brilliantly well.

Can similar several-second teases play a role in B2B video strategies? Absolutely they can. Any video that can communicate its entire message in the time it would take for someone to scroll down their screen is a powerful asset. It’s a particularly powerful asset if your objective is to drive broad awareness of a clear, simple message at the top of the funnel. If you’re buying Sponsored Content for Video on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis, then a teaser format helps to ensure that more of those impressions represent people who’ve seen your video in full.

Using teaser video effectively for B2B involves recognising its strengths – but also its limitations. You can’t communicate the depth and detail of a complex B2B solution in 15 seconds or less (the length I’d define as teaser video); you can’t provide reassurance by walking through a solution in detail, or establish authority by delivering the definitive take on a subject. However, there’s an awful lot that you can do in that timeframe – and a lot of creativity that you can apply to doing it.

Nanographics, animations that focus on a single compelling statistic, are a great example of using teaser B2B video formats to communicate a single, clear idea with impact. Storytelling in a few seconds can be challenging – but it’s certainly possible. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn” and ““Wrong number,” says a familiar voice” are just two examples of heartbreaking six-word stories from the website of the same name – and if you can cram that much emotion into six words, you can certainly achieve it in a few seconds.

Of course, one of the most powerful uses of teaser B2B video formats is to tease. We used them to fantastic effect for the launch of our recent Read Me series of no-nonsense, straight-down-the-line guides to LinkedIn: simple text animations that were designed to intrigue people through oblique references to Oasis lyrics and drive interest in content that had been designed by the band’s art director. It worked spectacularly well, driving our most successful launch of a content asset to date.

Teaser video content doesn’t have to be produced from scratch of course. If you’ve invested in creating a longer video, set yourself the creative editing task of breaking it down into segments of a few seconds that make a single, coherent point each. Then release them in waves, preparing audiences for a longer version – or prompting them to click through to watch in full.

Short-form video for B2B (15-60 seconds)

Short-form video sits in the sweetest of sweet spots for engagement with video content in the feed. When we surveyed LinkedIn members about the characteristics of video they chose to engage with, 62% replied that they were happy watching videos up to a minute long – and that included 54% who were happy watching for longer than 10 seconds. That statistic highlights the short-form video opportunity. This format can invite the type of conscious engagement that produces more definite benefits for a B2B marketing strategy, while doing so within a timeframe that most audiences regard as reasonable and non-imposing. Whereas teaser videos capture attention, short-form videos earn it. There’s a challenge in that – but also an opportunity.

The trick to making the most of this opportunity is to get the value exchange right. You’ve got the time and space to do more with your content – and the responsibility to do so as well. Keep short-form video focused, ensure that it’s delivering a relevant reason to watch for your target audience, and tighten your script to make sure you’re signalling that reason at the start, and reinforcing the value of watching throughout. If your video is a minute long, challenge yourself to find a way to hook the audience’s attention in the first three seconds, then engage your audience’s emotions over the next 12. Bringing to life a problem or an opportunity in a way that resonates should help drive engagement through the rest of your short-form running time.

Short-form video content is inherently flexible. You can use a running time of up to a minute to share your take-aways from a conference or panel session or turn an infographic into an engaging animation. Make the brevity of the running time a focus of the content and demystify a product or service by proving that you can explain it in 60 seconds. Challenge yourself to tell an impactful customer story with real pace. Short-form is also a natural format for well-branded video series. Why not take words of wisdom from marketing luminaries and explore why they’re still relevant today? Or even record marketing thoughts for the day while walking to work (as LinkedIn’s VP Marketing Solutions Penry Price did recently)?

Long-form B2B filmmaking (60 seconds or longer)
As marketers, we can’t assume that audiences will automatically give us their attention for extended periods of time – but we can certainly aspire to persuade them to. In fact, the ability to drive extended engagement through video becomes extremely valuable if your audience is made up of prospects that you know are considering your business and have a relevant reason for spending time with your brand.

Long-form B2B video creates the opportunity to explain complex solutions in depth, establish thought leadership around important issues that can’t be fully treated in shorter formats, and humanise your brand by inviting prospects to spend time hearing from a relevant expert or an inspiring leader. The importance of such extended engagement increases further down the funnel, when buyers are looking to form more detailed judgments about your brand and solutions. However, you have to work hard to earn the extended attention that makes these things possible, because long-form B2B filmmaking is the most demanding format of all. It requires discipline, tight scripting and editing, deep audience understanding and creative verve and ambition. If you’re serving up videos of several minutes just because it’s easier than editing them down then you’re asking for trouble. You need a clear, strategic reason for going long.

It’s important to bear in mind the crucial difference between long-form copy and long-form video. An in-depth blog post (like this one) can be consumed at a reader’s own pace, skimmed quickly and digested in detail at different times, saved and returned to. Video content imposes pacing on the viewer. It’s consumed passively and this can test patience quickly if there aren’t sufficient rewards for continuing to watch. When you create long-form video content, it’s vital to embed these rewards as part of the script. Keep asking yourself: what about your film will compel people to keep watching? Does it have a narrative arc that they’ll be driven to watch through to its conclusion? Will you raise new questions or take things in unexpected directions throughout your runtime? Is the information or perspective that you’re sharing so valuable and original that they will want to learn more?

In my experience, the most memorable and successful long-form B2B videos use all of these tricks and more. The best episodes of Andrew Davis’s Loyalty Loop, for example, tell compelling and carefully scripted stories while interspersing moments of humour or visual demonstrations of ideas to keep people interested. HP’s The Wolf film series uses cinematic production, big stars and dramatic storytelling to communicate fairly complex technical messages around cybersecurity without ever feeling like they’re taking up too much of your time.

Live video in B2B marketing

Live video events – or video that’s recorded as live and then distributed later – is a form of long-form video that’s worth treating separately within your strategy. It has some significant advantages to offer. Production costs can be lower and production time reduced when you film an event (such as a webinar, panel or keynote) that’s unfolding naturally. Genuinely live video events present an opportunity for prospects to interact with your internal experts in the crucial middle stages of the buyer journey when many don’t yet feel ready to reach out to a salesperson. And this has real value on both sides. In the latest Demand Generation Report survey of B2B Buyer Content Preferences, 48% of buyers describe webinars as the most valuable form of content in the crucial middle stages of the funnel. Recording live video for distribution later delivers that same feeling of interaction, addressing customer issues and providing reassurance at scale.

However, it’s a mistake to assume that just because you captured an event in one continual piece of footage, you can only distribute it that way. Consider cutting keynotes or webinars into soundbites for teaser video content, framing them with graphics to help set the scene and add impact. Try running these as a series, inviting audiences to click through to watch your film in full.

How to sponsor video content for different stages of the buyer journey

Because a strategic approach to B2B video involves planning different formats and creative approaches to suit different objectives through the funnel, it should also involve different approaches to paid media. When sponsoring your video content on LinkedIn, tailor your bidding approach to fit the role that each video is designed to play.

For teaser B2B video, that you’ve created to drive brand awareness at scale, define your target audience relatively broadly. You can then bid on an impressions (CPM) basis, and consider bidding relatively low in an ‘always-on’ brand strategy that spends your budget more slowly and delivers a relevant audience for a lower cost. If you’ve designed long-form video that addresses issues in depth for a relevant audience in the later stages of the funnel, then it makes sense to target more specifically. Use LinkedIn Matched Audiences to leverage your website data for retargeting, for example, and raise your bids to secure the audience that you want. You’ll find more useful tips like this in our Confessions of the LinkedIn Insiders eBook guide.

Bringing your Oscar-winning strategy together

As I’ve outlined here, the most effective B2B video strategies develop video content at different lengths, and in different formats. This variation enables you to engage target audiences with different experiences that reflect their relationship to you – and where they’ve reached in their journey with your business. It also enables you to multiply the value of any single piece of video content that you create.

This is why I couldn’t agree more with a memorable quote from Alex Cheeseman, the Chief Commercial Officer at Contented, who told a panel that I was hosting at Advertising Week Europe to, “fire anyone who tells you that your video content must be under six seconds.” As I’ve discussed here, it’s healthy to impose relevant creative constraints on individual pieces of video content, so that they can play a particular role within your strategy. However, it’s hugely counterproductive to impose arbitrary constraints on your entire strategy. If you only produce teaser video – or only produce long-form video – then you are massively restricting what you can say, which audiences you engage, and what you can achieve throughout the funnel. Be clear about the role each video is playing, and the length and format it needs to adopt in order to play that role.

The most successful video campaign that I’ve been involved in so far was The B2B Dinner for Five – a piece of content that succeeded by leveraging every one of the formats that I’ve mentioned in this feature to maximise the value of a shoot, and drive engagement with different audiences throughout the funnel. We created a piece of truly long-form video content, inviting B2B marketing influencers to join us for dinner, plying them with wine, starting conversations about the hot topics for our profession, and filming the results. We’d borrowed the idea from Swingers creator Jon Favreau, who used it to get Hollywood A-listers to drop their guard when being interviewed. It was a format that had natural visual interest, and which kept providing new reasons to watch as the conversation took new turns – so it ticked a lot of the boxes that we needed for long-form content to work. The discussions were very relevant to B2B marketers, which fitted the more involved role that long-form naturally plays in the buyer journey. We edited it tightly into a 25-minute episode to make the most of these advantages.

But just because we had a great piece of long-form content didn’t mean that was all that we had. We promoted our film the way a Hollywood studio pitching to Oscar voters would – and in the process we found ways to engage different audiences, through different formats, but through the same core piece of video content. We created a dozen short-form films, with edits focused on specific themes, that we released in a series. We created teaser-length ads to release in the feed and give people a taste of what we were doing. We hosted a live video premiere, where we reassembled the cast, talked through a showing of the film, and took questions from a live audience. As a result, we generated over 16,000 video views, were able to link those views to our business pipeline, and achieved a projected ROI in Year 1 alone of 966%.

That’s the kind of B2B box office you can generate when you approach your video content the way a Hollywood studio would: with an audience experience that’s strategically calculated, executed to relevant constraints with creative verve, and then promoted for everything it’s worth. If you take video content seriously, and plan your formats and buying plans accordingly, that’s what you can deliver.

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