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Column: Tipping point -- B2B video is going mainstream

Denis Pombriant explains how video can help marketers -- and who in the CRM industry is doing it well.

Video as a means of communicating with customers for sales, marketing, education and providing service is being quietly adopted by some important companies including SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, RightNow and Perhaps if you surf the Internet a lot you are familiar with the culture’s migration to online video, or perhaps you’ve seen a few examples and took what you saw in stride, but the implications are significant.

If each view is just two minutes long, it’s like adding 46 hyperefficient sales reps on the phone. 

Denis Pombriant

The poster child for video done well in our industry may be They’ve amassed a storehouse of 1,463 short videos on YouTube on all things Salesforce. Starting at a mere 22 seconds, the Salesforce videos can reach an hour in length if they are being used for education.  But many are of the five-minute variety that tries to make a point about a single subject.

There is a good deal of variety in how the Salesforce videos are put together, and each type can provide some insight into what looks good. For instance, when attempting to educate or inform, the company often uses a series of animated slides with a voiceover. True, this is not the stuff you might be accustomed to in a movie or TV, but it gets the job done well. 

Think about Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. Back in the 1860s they barely had black and white photography, yet Burns was able to make riveting documentaries by moving his camera across a picture or other object, giving the sensation of motion even if the reality was different. That’s a powerful approach to filmmaking that significantly reduces the production costs and results in a quality effort that is sticky.

Of course, Salesforce also offers more standard video capture of a speaker on a stage giving a demo, and that’s valuable too. Increasingly, the cost of producing that type of video is declining, also.

Interestingly, the company is sharing its enthusiasm for video development and it has produced one titled “How to Use Online Video for B2B Marketing,” which might sound a bit stiff, but the five and a half minute short is a school for marketers. From it we find that the company’s YouTube daily view metric has grown from 300 per day to over 7,500. But here’s the kicker: Salesforce estimates that if each view is just two minutes long, it’s like adding 46 hyperefficient sales reps on the phone. 

Actually, that’s not the kicker; it’s just a teaser for the next bit of information. YouTube, which is owned by Google, has become the second-largest search engine, passing Yahoo, and 72% percent of video streams go through YouTube. It’s a virtuous circle: Videos become search-engine friendly, Google Analytics reports on their uptake and people are more prone to watch and share them. 

What boggles the mind is that Salesforce is producing how-to videos for its customers and anyone with an interest -- over 1,400 titles, remember. One 10-video playlist is titled “Social Media Strategy.” But enough, go watch for yourself. Let’s talk about the downside.

Most of the videos I’ve seen have been viewed less than 1,000 times, and a good haul would be 700 views -- Dreamforce 2010 has 46,000 views and counting. It’s hard to argue with putting in the effort to make a video if you can reach 700 people. It’s a lot harder to justify if you have a bunch that get 36 views, but it shouldn’t be. You have to keep in mind that while this number might be small, if each view represents a sales call not made to deliver similar information, the cost avoidance can be substantial. The point is that you don’t know how many views a piece will get, and once they’re up, videos have a life of their own. They keep doing their jobs without additional input.

Some out-of-office meetings can’t be avoided, but if you can substitute a percentage of them with video, then you’ve made selling a more sustainable business process without having to take any draconian steps. And that’s not even counting the extra work a video might do through a search engine simply because it’s there.

All the talk these days seems to be about social media, and while it’s important, it’s not the only bright spot on the horizon. Social media might be a great way to attract eyeballs, but once you’ve got some attention, what information are you going to provide? Increasingly, the answer is video.


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