5 Ways for Your B2B Video to Compete with Hollywood

Doing B2B video? Congratulations. Your company is now in the entertainment business. Not only are you in the entertainment business, but you’re competing with professional directors like me, big companies like Time-Warner and the New York Times and CBS and Fox, and the millions of individuals who busily upload 48 hours of video every minute to YouTube.

Hollywood director provides B2B video tipsYou’re competing for attention — for the focused time to get your message across to a potential customer. It would be great if customers were sitting quietly in front of their laptops for your message to arrive, but they’re not. They’re drowning in the same tsunami of video that you are.

The good news about the video glut? People only have to watch the good stuff. They’ve learned how to ID a lame video in under 10 seconds and click it off. The bad news? Your customers have this skill too.

Which brings us to why nobody watched your video: You bored them. They didn’t want to hear the VP of marketing talk insincerely about how people-oriented you are. They didn’t want to see charts and graphics. They didn’t want to take 10 minutes to appreciate your sales process. And let’s get really truthful here: You didn’t either.

Great video cuts through the clutter. People watch it all the way through. It gets tweeted, linked and passed around all by itself. Bad video gets turned off.

Yet boardrooms overflow with chatter with about how to shoot video economically, how to get more video posted, how to propagate video and SEO it to the world. They forget to talk about how to make B2B video that anyone will actually want to watch.

My advice? Stop worrying about equipment and SEO, and start worrying about what matters — shooting video that doesn’t suck. Here are my top 5 B2B tips for great video:

1. Entertain or Die

Watching your video is optional for your customers. To get them to do it, you need to reward them for their time. In the entertainment business (which you’re now in, remember?) the expected reward is actual entertainment.

Your job is to deliver enough intrigue, motion, emotion and story to keep customers glued to their seats. If you don’t, they’ll un-glue themselves as fast as they can and run to the nearest episode of “Family Guy.”

“But…but…but…” I can hear you whine from here. “But I have a revolutionary product! Our manufacturing process is second to none! We save customers money!” Yes, of course. You have a very important message. A very important message nobody will ever see if your video is boring.

Think it can’t be done? Check out this Corning video on the I-just-want-to-shoot-myself topic of “the future of glass.” You will see no charts, no interviews with the heads of R&D and no customers talking about cool new trends in glassware. And you will be entertained.

2. Say One Thing

Think of your video as a tight sentence with a noun and a verb. “Our Blenders Grind Anything” is a good, compact sentence you can build a whole video campaign around.

“We have great customer service and low prices and our customer service reps love their customers and we’ve been in business for 50 years” would cause Mrs. Zelermyer’s red pen to go into conniption fits on your third grade composition. Best to imagine her looking over your shoulder when you do video too.

3. Put One Person in Charge

In business, we tend to work in teams and committees. Teams and committees are about sharing ideas, which inevitably leads to compromise. Great to think about before you start your video project. But not while you’re doing it. You can’t design by committee.

Somebody — and perhaps it’s you — has to own the process. Make the choices. Love the good parts and cut the bad. To answer the question — forgetting colleagues and pressure from above: If you saw this video on your computer, would you watch the whole thing?

4. The Secret to Viral Video in Two Words

“Naked Celebrity.” If you have one, you’re viral. If not, it’s time to get real. “Viral” is not a kind of video — it’s a response by an audience that’s so excited by your video that they urgently and quickly share it with everyone they know.

A viral video is, in other words, a hit. Hits take skill, vision, artistry, marketing savvy and a huge amount of luck. You can hire all but the luck — but it’s expensive and still may not work. Rather than focusing your strategy on going viral, focus it on doing great, entertaining video. If you’re entertaining enough, viral has a chance to happen.

5. Hire Help

Do you assign accounting tasks to people who can barely count? Of course you don’t (I hope.) Don’t ask video know-nothings to do your video.

But have no fear. You may already have people in your company who love video and do it well. Odds are you’re paying them to do something else. You can often find these people by just by asking around.

If you’re a big company with a big product, hire big pros. If you have a fun creative challenge and a decent product, there are talented people out there who are dying to work with you. If you’re not that big, hire someone with experience to consult with you on video. They can guide you through the creative and economic pitfalls of the process until you grow your own in-house pros.

What has your experience been making B2B videos and sharing them online with your customers?


  1. says

    I disagree. Entertainment value, production value, getting the job done. These factors do not determine if a video succeeds or not. What does is this: A call to action. Does the video induce a prompt.

    Yes, it’s vital to have a good hook, compelling story, etc. But to say “entertain or die” is to over-emphasize the importance of a classic idea. That is, Dale Carnegie’s “dramatize your idea” (to earn approval, behavior).

    What is more important: How the video “arouses an eager want” (again, more Carnegie) in the viewer — to the extent that they take an action (visit a Web site and fill out a form, call a toll free number).

    Just my two cents. And I agree w/ Steve — “say one thing” is critical to success… and a few of his other points we agree on too. Well done.

  2. says

    Just missed out one key element – Timing.
    ie know what your audience expects from you where and when. What people expect on FB is different to Twitter or YT, BUT still related.
    PLUS make sure viewers can see it, too many companies are spending on videos that their key target audience can’t see.

  3. says

    I couldn’t help but laugh when I read this post. I’d already gone through these suggestions in the two company videos that we produced here at our office. The first one was purely entertaining but we did have a single sentence message “We’re never gonna let you down”. In essence it was various folks in our front office and the warehouse singing different lines from the Rick Astley song. I cut it together with the instrumental track and posted it online. Turns out that people actually get a kick out of it.

    The comments I’ve gotten on it aren’t just about its amusing quality. Instead I’ve had several customers and folks in our industry say that it was neat to see the folks behind the scenes that actually produce the orders. Others have said how wonderful it is to see us having so much fun on the video.

    To this day it still holds the most views of all the videos on our youtube channel. :)

  4. says

    I don’t know that we actually disagree, Jeff. Perhaps its just a matter of emphasis. To “Arouse eager want” is another way of saying “intrigue” which is not all that different, really, from “entertain” in its purest sense: giving the viewer some reward for the time they spend with your video such that they keep watching.

    I frame my point of view this way because it seems that many business people are at least passingly familiar with Dale Carnegie, but totally unfamiliar with Neil Postman (see his brilliant book “Amusing Ourselves to Death”) who was the first to note that job one for television (and web video) is to be watched. No audience = no response of any kind. Period.

    A strong call to action is great, but If your video doesn’t hold viewers you’re calling to an empty room. Attendance at the viewing of your video is strictly voluntary. Job one for your web video is to get them to volunteer.

  5. says

    Thanks, for the thoughts, Steve. I agree it’s a matter of emphasis. I simply see far too much belief in The Myth. That is, entertainment value = “viral success” wherein sales increases are blindly attributed to said entertainment. But selectively. In times where sales do not rise marketers are not so quick to attribute the entertaining video. I guess in B2B we see this less. “Branding” has less of a home here. I’m going to check out Neil’s book. Thanks.

  6. says

    Great tips here Steve—I too am sensitive to the entertain distinction, but what I hear you saying is that we must not think video will be entertaining simply because it’s video. I read this alongside your other point: “If you saw this video on your computer, would you watch the whole thing?” The great thing about video, especially as we live in a social media environment where engagement is so emphasized, is that someone can enjoy it a little more passively, which is not to say it won’t call them to action. Isn’t the point that a video stick with someone, so when they finally need a solution you offer, they will think of you?

  7. says

    Point well taken Ryo. But my perspective is this: In this age — with SO many messages and cute, funny or thoughtful videos — I, personally, will never remember a company based on a video they produced and I once watched. It just won’t happen. And I realize this goes against conventional, decades-old thinking about frequency-based advertising :)

  8. says

    I dunno, Jeff. If you watch the Blendtec or Corning videos linked in the article, I’m guessing you’ll remember them both for quite a while.

    Great video that makes a product memorable is rare, But it exists. And more of it will exist as we become more aware of the principles behind good video. Like good writing, it’s a teachable skill.

  9. says

    Hi, Steve…
    Actually, other than using it in my lectures as a bad example I’ve completely forgotten it. Which is probably why they keep dropping new gadgets into blenders — to keep trying to grab for my attention.

    I own a Vitamix and would never consider buying a Blendtec. Why? Because I think Blendtec’s video is novel at best. At worst I think it’s pointless. In the end, I buy high end blenders based on the outcomes they produce. Not on how memorable their Web videos are. And at that price I’ll bet a lot of other people do too.

    Ultimately I don’t know that we disagree. I sense we do. Because in the end I think the opportunity with social media/the Web is not to broadcast on it; rather to create measurable demand — capturing it and nurturing it to fruition. Blendtec’s videos rely exclusively on broadcast, a mass media construct: Recall.

    Blendtec isn’t offering me anything useful, solving any problems for me nor giving me a reason to consider a purchase. For instance, look at what Adagio gives customers/prospective customers
    http://oth.me/socialtea and how it literally serves an everyday need in a way that not only puts the brand in the customer’s face… it also captures a lead and nurtures it.

  10. says

    Or for that matter, look at how a global real estate firm uses talking heads to nurture six-figure leads.


    BO-RING for most of us. But the way they’ve treated these videos is key: as a way to “irritate” customers/prospects into taking action. By providing glimpses into the “sex and violence” of commercial real estate (opportunity and risk) they’re moving beyond being seen as a thought leader and into actual lead generation. Provoking action.

    None of this excludes well-produced, dramatic video. That’s where we agree. I think where I disagree is in relying on that as a primary means to induce a response (from the target).

  11. says

    Our company hosts, and often helps produce, corporate events using our nationwide cinema network (trainings, sales presentations, employee & customer celebration), so I found Steve’s article to be extremely informative and relevant – particularly since a video is often used in a larger hybrid or mixed-media event.

    I agree with Jeff Molander that you must understand your audience and know in advance what you want them to do, say, think and feel after experiencing your production. You must be clear, concise and compelling in your message and your presentation, and take steps to keep remote or virtual audiences as engaged as the folks in the “live” room. You must tell a good story and be memorable. I do disagree a bit with Steve’s passive approach to marketing – with events, at least, you can put training wheels on viral to help it along. Events can be promoted through multiple channels to maximize attendance, while at the same time being branded with a sense of exclusivity to make attendees feel part of something special. And once an audience has been captured by an event, how do you follow-up to keep them hungry for the sequel…? Steve notes that he’s a professional director; interestingly enough, we recently produced an infographic comparing event production to movie direction – I’d be curious to know what readers here think of it: http://bit.ly/kw7VDG.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *