Everything you wanted to know about creating great B2B video (but were afraid to ask)

Highlights from our no-holds-barred Advertising Week Europe panel on B2B video strategies

May 23, 2018

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Unless you plan your B2B marketing campaigns from a cave, you’ve no doubt noticed that something pretty big is happening where video is concerned. It’s not that B2B marketers have never used video before. Some of the most memorable moving pictures you’ve ever seen were created by B2B brands (think Volvo Trucks and Jean-Claude Van Damme). What’s changed is the frequency and the versatility with which B2B marketers are now using the format. You only have to glance at your LinkedIn feed to get a sense of the many different objectives that video is being applied to – and the many different styles that brands are adopting when creating it.

If you’re a B2B marketer exploring the value that video can add, then all this variety raises plenty of questions. Just because everyone else is doing it, should you be doing it too? How much video should you be creating? What objectives should you set for it? How long should it be? And how do you measure its success?

Some of the questions on what makes an effective B2B video are best answered through data – and new research that we published as an Infographic on Friday answers plenty of them. We surveyed over 3,200 professionals about what triggers them to watch video in their feed and the results provide a practical framework for anyone planning B2B video campaigns.

However, there are other questions that are best answered by those with practical experience on the frontline of video marketing. That’s exactly the type of experience that we were able to draw on in our Advertising Week Europe panel Beyond the Talking Head, which explored the opportunities and pitfalls for B2B video.

Our panelists included Nissan Motors’ Chief Producer Coco Masters, VICE Media’s Head of Strategy Vicky Chen, Contented’s Chief Commercial Officer Alex Cheeseman, and Ball Street founder Matt Wilson: video marketing pioneers, who have long experience finding where and how this format works best within B2B marketing strategies.

You can watch the session in full below – and scroll down for our panelists’ quick answers to those five crucial questions:

How do you tell when video is the right format?

Matt Wilson channeled Jurassic Park to point out that, just because you can create video content (and you’ve got more options for distributing it than ever before), doesn't mean that you always should. For Matt, the decision to create video should always be an audience-centric one – and being led by what makes sense from an audience perspective is also the best way to address questions such as which platform to distribute video content on.

For Alex Cheeseman, the question of whether or not to create video is actually the wrong question. If your content is mediocre, then turning it into a video isn’t going to improve things for anybody. If the content is exceptional, then you should absolutely find a way to bring it to life as video – but you should also be leveraging it as written content and audio as well. It’s not a choice between video and other formats; it’s a choice to create average content or exquisite content.

Can you tell an impactful story in six seconds? And do you need to?

Nothing gets video marketers fired up quite so much as the debate about how long their content should be. My personal view is that most of the opinions being thrown around about the perfect duration for video content are so arbitrary that they are effectively meaningless. Everyone seems desperate to prove a point by chopping off a few extra seconds from the recommended video length. At the moment, there’s a lot of buzz around six seconds. By the end of the year, it will probably have dropped to three – just for the hell of it.

For Vicky Chen, there’s no specific, one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on the nature of the content, your relationship to your audience, and of course the expectations of the platform you’re on. VICE features a lot of successful editorial content that’s at least an hour long – and lots of successful commercial content that’s thirty seconds or shorter. Alex Cheeseman thinks agencies that tell their clients they must create content of specific lengths are just proving they don’t get it. Every member of your audience happily watches both two-hour movies and 30-second ads. Their attention is elastic. Marketers need to stop second-guessing it, focus on creating something that's important to your audience, and then experiment with formats and lengths to provide different ways to access that quality.

How do you measure video effectiveness?

One of the biggest dangers for marketers when working with video content is the temptation to look at metrics in isolation. We’re often encouraged to see the number of views as the only number that really matters, regardless of how much those views cost, or what they lead to. Our panelists were brilliant on this all-important subject, with practical insights drawn from their own experiences. The upshot is this: marketers should demand more from their video metrics. They should make sure that they can put those metrics in context.

Vicky Chen explained how quality of engagement, as measured by time spent with a video, is often far more important than views – especially when you’re talking to an audience of potential influencers with the power to amplify your content and drive discussion of it. Coco Masters stressed the need to adopt your own benchmarks rather than judging your content against the numbers achieved by others, who might have very different brands, audiences and budgets. Alex Cheeseman stressed the importance of focusing on metrics that you have the power to change. It’s worth remembering that you’re measuring video so you can improve your video strategy, looking at metrics with a sense of purpose rather than just as a way of keeping score.

What does mobile-friendly video look like?

There’s a lot of discussion of the concept of mobile-friendly video, but far less meaningful guidance on what that actually looks like. Matt Wilson set that straight during our panel, with a brilliant description of what it means to create video that feels natural when viewed on a phone. He argues for moving away from the formal, TV show-like structure that marketers instinctively graduate towards for video, and producing something organic and more immediately intimate: the content equivalent of a Facetime conversation.

What’s the most important element you should be paying attention to?

There are so many different dimensions to video – and as new platforms and formats emerge, those dimensions keep multiplying. So which element of their video content should marketers be focusing their attention on? Where are the biggest gains to be made? Alex Cheeseman argued that the biggest area of improvement is actually the soundtrack. Make sure that the audio elements of your video are the highest quality that they can possibly be and you will significantly improve the experience of those who engage. With voice increasingly important to how people find and experience content, investing in these elements now will deliver significant returns for your brand in the future.

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