Coming up with ideas for B2B videos is hard. The messages are usually complex and you have a plethora of different people to appeal to. We’ve developed a simple method for developing great B2B video concepts – it revolves around eliminating ideas instead of coming up with them.
Stock footage is a powerful tool for brands and marketers, especially if you’re in a situation when you can’t shoot original footage. However, as with any tool, it’s only effective when used properly.
This article will cover five tips for how to use stock footage effectively, especially in B2B marketing videos:
- Write your script knowing the limitations of the tool.
- Budget for high-quality stock footage.
- Keep it short.
- Consider mixing in existing footage or archive b-roll.
- Work with a professional colorist to give everything an even look.
1. Write your script knowing the limitations of the tool.
If you stop reading after one tip, I wanted to make sure to get this one front and center. When working with a stock footage video, keep the limitations of the medium in mind when writing the script.
For most people, that means remembering that stock footage, by definition, is not specific. You need to expect the footage to be vanilla. That doesn’t mean the footage is not beautiful or well-shot (see next tip for more), but it does mean that the footage was created to be a blank canvas for many users with many different purposes.
For example, say you want to create a customer testimonial for a client that manufactures pillows. You’re thinking you can write a script showing off all the efficiencies your product brought to their manufacturing processes and then pair it with stock.
The problem with this approach is that you will not be able to find stock that represents that exact client or your exact product. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to find stock footage of a pillow manufacturing line. You’ll be able to find lots of great factory footage, but the lines may have food products or toys or plastic storage bins on them. The footage won’t match the script talking about how your product increased pillow production by 12%. Because of that disconnect, the testimonial won’t feel authentic.
To avoid this problem, plan for the limitations of stock when you plan the creative, and see tip #4 below for a combination approach.
2. Budget for high-quality stock footage.
Stock footage is not always the cheapest option, at least not if you want the best quality. While stock footage sites will entice you with banners that say “Clips from $29!”, you’ll find that the best quality footage will run closer to $100 per clip, with high-end options going up to $800 or more depending on your usage.
The number of clips you need in a video will vary based on the creative idea, but assume your editor will not keep any one clip on screen for more than 5-10 seconds, and often much less than that. The length of your script can clue you in to how much you need to include in your budget.
We recommend Dissolve for high-quality clips at reasonable prices. Film Supply is the best quality with a wide variety of footage, but you’ll pay for it. For budget options or basic clips, Pond5 or iStock have solid options. Remember to filter by commercial use, not editorial, if you are creating marketing materials.
You can sometimes save money by purchasing lower definition versions of a clip. Determine your usage for the video before creating it, and talk to your agency or production company about whether high definition rather than 4K is acceptable for your needs.
Don’t try to get away with buying a lower usage license than you need to save money — they have fancy ways to catch you. Plus it’s not nice. Be nice to content creators.
3. Keep it short.
Keeping your stock footage video short has two benefits: one, you save money. Score! Second, it keeps your audience interested and engaged.
Usually the length of a live action video doesn’t drastically impact its cost. Going from 90 seconds to 75 seconds of something you already shot is just editing time. But going from 90 seconds to 75 seconds in a stock footage video can save you hundreds in licensing fees.
More importantly, the longer your stock footage video is, the more obvious it often becomes that you are using stock. Viewers likely won’t notice or care that you’re using stock footage (assuming the voiceover content is well-written and relevant to them) up to a point. Once you start getting longer than about a minute and a half, the limits of stock footage are likely to catch up with you. The “general-ness” of the footage may start to leave a bland taste in the viewer’s mouth. It becomes forgettable.
Keep your script short and sweet to keep your audience engaged.
4. Consider mixing in existing footage or archive b-roll.
A great way to personalize a stock footage video is to include some existing footage from a previous project.
To go back to our pillow manufacturer example, a video about them won’t feel authentic if you aren’t showing what the company makes. Repurposing existing footage of their factory along with supporting stock footage will give the video an air of authenticity, while the stock can breathe new life into the old videos.
Don’t worry about viewers remembering a specific shot of your factory from a previous shoot, even if you still use that video. If they notice, which they won’t, they won’t hold it against you.
5. Work with a professional colorist to give everything an even look.
We always bring in a professional colorist to finish our videos and make the colors pop. A colorist makes corrections to exposure, contrast, and a clip’s color tones to give a video an even, natural look.
A colorist is arguably even more important when you are working with stock footage. By its very nature, the stock footage clips you use will have different lighting temperatures (some clips will be warmer, some cooler), color tones, and feelings. To make your final video feel cohesive, bring in a colorist to even it all out.
In the current environment, we’re all learning how to make the most of digital and virtual events, calls, and meetings. While we aren’t able to congregate and create content together in person, there are still ways to make an effective marketing video.
As always, focus on creating a strong strategy and developing an effective creative concept with your current limitations in mind.
If a wrench gets thrown into your plans after a live-action concept has already been selected, go back and see where you can potentially use animation, existing company footage, stock footage, audio content, and motion graphics to create something just as effective but different.
Be true to the limitations you are working with and develop a video that fits your needs in the moment.
Sometimes, being true to the limitations of the moment means waiting to shoot your original video concept until you are able to execute it as planned. That’s ok! Use the tips below to fill the immediate marketing gap(s) and deliver on your shorter-term marketing goals.
Be honest with yourself about what can realistically be accomplished under the circumstances and create a video that nails it.
Maybe that means that this video isn’t as long as you originally planned, you need different interviewees, or want to add motion graphics to help keep the video moving. As long as your decisions to pivot are based on your realistic goals for your “new normal” and you consider how they can contribute to your long-term goals, you’ve set yourself up for success.
Here are three options for making an effective marketing video when you can’t shoot on set:
- Make an animated video
- Re-purpose existing video content – company footage, stock video and audio, and motion graphics
- Utilize virtual shoots, self-filmed or user-generated content
We’ll review these options in more detail below, so you can knock this one out of the park, and be ready to go when your next at bat comes calling (it will). You’ve got this.
1. Make an animated video
Animation provides a great opportunity to create an engaging and thoughtful video when shooting new live action footage is not an option.
Animations allow you to explain complicated or abstract information or ideas with visuals that may be easier for audiences to understand. Animations are particularly effective if your video is educational or includes step-by-step instructions, detailed product information, service tutorials, or charts and drawings.
Animations can also be easier to version or personalize from the start, ensuring you can make modifications to the video at a later point without requiring the high costs of crew and additional shoot days. Creative concepting for animation does, however, require the same dedication to planning as live action with an even greater focus on the animation style, timing, and talent.
For the right concept, animation can even deliver more engagement than live action (we’re talking 20% more).
Here are some great examples of the latest and greatest in 3D animation.
2. Leverage existing footage, motion graphics, stock footage and audio
When budgets, timelines, or travel restrictions prohibit you from shooting new content for a video you needed yesterday, auditing your existing video content is a great place to start identifying a new solution.
- Do you have b-roll footage on your server or in your archives that you haven’t really used or haven’t used heavily?
- Do you have existing videos that could be combined in a new way to tell your story?
- Could you break longer videos up into snippets or cutdowns to be used on social media?
In addition to leveraging existing footage from your content library or simply creating cutdowns, you can also integrate motion graphics to give your video a new twist. Using shorter footage clips interspersed with graphics can help extend the lifespan of the video or footage.
The “Disrupt Manifesto” from TBWA is a great example of pairing stock or existing footage with graphics to give a video more legs.
The combination of existing footage and stock audio as voiceover (like famous speeches or soundbytes) is also a great option to help mix things up.
The well-known “Farmer” Super Bowl 2013 ad from Ram Trucks pairs a 1978 Paul Harvey speech with previously unrelated stock and company imagery to tell a powerful story.
While high-quality stock footage and audio can be hard to find, a determined creative with a discerning eye and ear can create a beautiful piece that aligns with your brand and helps you take a stand. Dissolve and Film Supply are great resources for high-quality stock video footage and Internet Archive has tons of stock footage and audio that can be used for free or licensed, depending on the content.
The most important factor in using this option successfully is making sure that you take the time to fully outline the concept, create a script and/or storyboards that are authentic to your brand and that help differentiate you in a sea of brand video sameness. This will help you avoid creating a smattering of random footage that doesn’t connect with your audience or really say anything.
3. Virtual shoots or self-filming
When filming on set is not an option for either budget or travel restrictions, creating and executing on a concept that allows interviewees or participants to film or record themselves is a great option.
How to effectively use self-filming
In these challenging times, we are seeing talent agencies sending out requests for actors across the country who are willing to self-tape their scenes to be integrated into final videos. This approach can be utilized by big companies, production companies, and in-house teams alike with the right creative approach.
Developing a concept that relies on self-filming does require an understanding that participants are not professional production folks, so you should allow for the quality levels and preparation associated (e.g. Filming via iPhone with a director giving direction via webcam or providing participants with the necessary recording equipment to DIY).
Added benefits of self-filming or virtual shoots
The most obvious benefit of self-filming or virtual shoots is the ability to keep content production going while working within a new set of constraints.
Remote or virtual filming also opens up your talent pool to a wider geographic range resulting in more talent options or lower talent travel costs than would be available or required for shooting on-site.
A concept developed around self-filming can also provide an opportunity for the brand to appear more authentic, relevant, and aware of the challenges others may be facing during tough times. This is especially true for non-scripted pieces that involve interviews or participants taking the wheel and documenting their own experiences.
In addition to self-filming or virtual shoots, a video utilizing self-recorded audio can provide the same benefits. You can pair self-recorded audio with motion graphics and/or animation to create an engaging piece that leverages the authenticity and humanity provided by a real person talking with the flexibility and range of visuals provided by animation and/or motion graphics.
Making an effective marketing video when the future is uncertain
At the end of the day, creating a great video is all about a well-crafted concept and story.
While shooting a high-end live-action piece is often the desired plan at the start of a project, events outside of our control can throw a wrench into things.
Don’t let that stop you in your quest to create an effective video. Animation, existing footage or content, and virtual shoots can help you bridge the current gap and allow you to keep creating honest, relevant and valuable content for your clients and prospects.
Is there a “secret” to how to make a great sales video? What makes one video successful, and the other – not? Over the past few weeks, we’ve done research to try to answer those questions. We looked at not only our work but some of our favorite sales videos done by other agencies. We noticed most, if not all, incorporated some or all of the following elements:
- Beautiful -Most people like watching aesthetically pleasing videos.
- Human -“Human” is turning into somewhat of a cliche but we’ll use it anyway. By “human” we mean being authentic, vulnerable and emotional.
- Doesn’t answer everything -In fact, sometimes the best sales videos raise more questions than they answer.
- Short and sweet -Say what you want to say in as few words and seconds as possible. This demonstrates empathy for your viewer’s busy life.
- The customer is the hero -Taken from the playbook of Donald Miller at Storybrand, your video should position your company as the guide, and your viewer – the hero.
While it’s impossible to truly develop a rock-solid winning “formula” or “blueprint” for successful B2B marketing videos, these are the general patterns we noticed. Not all sales videos are made the same but more often than not, the videos that really move the needle incorporate one, a few, or all of these elements. Let’s do a deeper dive into each element.
Element 1: Make videos that have beautiful images
We found ourselves spending more time with better looking videos than those that looked, “meh.” Does this mean every single one of your sales videos needs to be shot on a $100,000 camera? Nope. But it does mean that if you’re trying to stand out from the crowd, a video that looks great may help viewers stick around longer.
Another thing we noticed is that the more beautiful the video, the higher the status we gave the brand who made it. This feeds into the notion of, “the medium is the message.” Because the video was beautiful, we believed the brand must be a better performer than its competition. It’s almost like we were judging a book by its cover.
Here’s an example of a sales video that incorporates beauty as a main component. Note: we did not make this one.
Element 2: Your video should embrace humanity
A lot of times we forget that while we use our adult voices during the day, and use words like “disparate,” or “integrated,” we’re all human when we go home. We like watching Netflix in our jammies while eating takeout. We don’t go home and watch “corporate video” with our significant other. No. We watch stories of vulnerable characters, who make errors and show their emotions.
To err is to be human. And a lot of brands forget about this and try to overly whitewash their sales videos. We say be vulnerable, be emotional, be authentic – be human. The problem with this is these words are now all cliches and most brands think it’s solved by simply doing a mini-documentary. And then they whitewash the mini-documentary and the whole thing peters out.
Being human means meeting your audience on a basic human level, not a corporate level. It means using words that your prospect uses on a Saturday with her family, not in a 2 pm meeting. When you act more human through your sales video, you will cut through the clutter and relieve your prospect from the deluge of bland sales videos from your competitors.
Here’s an example of a sales video that embraces humanity. Note: we made this one – you can read a case study about it here.
Element 3: Agitate questions that your sales team can answer
Think about your favorite TV shows. I mean, your favorite ones. Not the ones you like to watch to veg out. I mean the ones you think and talk about. Shows like “Lost,” “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” or “The Sopranos.” It seems like these shows raise more questions than they answer every week. Sometimes, you have absolutely no idea what’s happening, yet you watch every single episode. The reason you love these shows is that there’s a mystery to solve. Not everything is spelled out. The creators are making you engage with the show. They want you to use your brain a little. We love these shows because we’re part of them.
Would you say that you need a Ph.D. in Medieval Dragon History to understand “Game of Thrones?” Do you need advertising industry expertise to love “Mad Men?” The answer to these questions is, obviously, no. No, you don’t. In fact, you like getting to learn something new and putting yourself in the shoes of a New Jersey gangster. You like trying to figure out the real meaning of the island on “Lost.”
Don’t worry about spelling everything out to your audience. In fact, you want them to have questions because guess who they’ll ask those questions to? Your salespeople!
Here is a great example of a video that raises more questions than it does supply answers. But in the end, you totally get what they’re trying to sell you. Note: we did not make this one.
Element 4: Short and sweet
One of my favorite episodes of “Seinfeld” is the one when George walks out of the room the second he makes everyone laugh, like a stand-up comic would. He goes out on a “high note.”
This is what you should be doing with your sales videos. When conducting our research, we found we were clicking links or navigating to product pages if the video ended on a high note. We wanted more. You should be thinking, “how short can I make this,” rather than, “how many features and benefits can we cram into 90 seconds.” Your audience is not watching your sales video with a pen and notebook in hand. They will not remember much more than, “that was an interesting video,” or “that was a boring video.” Yes, in the end, your video is meant to sell something, but don’t go too long. Just cover the significant few, not the important many.
Here’s a great example of a short and sweet sales video from Lemonade Insurance. It’s hard to believe this video is only 30 seconds! Note: we did not make this one.
Element 5: The customer is the hero
This idea was taught to us by Donald Miller at Storybrand. We highly recommend you take his in-person course. It will change your life.
The idea is that your company is not the hero of your sales video, your customer is. Sounds simple but so many brands talk about being “family owned,” or “in business since 1958.” No one cares. Those chest-pounding statements ignore the main reason why the prospect is watching your sales video: to solve their problem!
You should be Yoda and your prospect should be Luke. You should be Gandolph and your prospect should be Frodo. You are the guide and your customer is the hero. You are merely helping them achieve their goals.
Here is a video we made for ourselves when we used to be called, Guy Bauer Productions. Notice how it positions us as a guide and our prospect as the main character, or hero, of the story.
Making a blockbuster sales video
If you keep these elements in mind when working with your video agency, you’ll be on the right track to producing a high-quality, engaging and thought-provoking video. Remember to be bold, take risks and try to go where no one has gone before.
While guaranteeing any particular video will be 100% effective is impossible, there is a way to guarantee a video will be ineffective. And that’s by making a video that’s been done before. Not 1 time, not 5 times, not even 100 times, but 10,000+ times. At Umault, we call video ideas that have been done ad nauseam, “Default Creative.” We use the word, default, because no critical thinking was done. The video idea, or creative, was sitting there, and it was picked up with no thought to strategy, audience personas, etc. Just like defaulting on a loan means no payments were made, using Default Creative means nothing new was made.
Here’s a list of videos, in no particular order, that we qualify as using Default Creative. By looking at examples of what not to do we hope you will start to see how to create a great marketing video.
- Interviews with executives paired with stock footage of cities at night with traffic sped up. Or shots of people “collaborating” in a conference room. They’re all smiling and pointing at a whiteboard or computer screen.
- Close-up shots of people picking up their name badges and eating coconut shrimp in an event video recap. Side note: it’s 2019, ALL events have name-tags and serve food. No one is seeing this event video and saying, “Holy crap! They serve low-grade fried shrimp at this conference!? I’m buying a ticket now!”
- An animated video that starts with an announcer saying, “Meet Bob,” with an animation of a man waving at the camera.
- Any video that uses that intersection in Tokyo with words like, “disruption” or “integration,” over it.
- Mini-documentaries featuring subjects talking about how great the culture at the company is.
- A sweaty-upper-lipped customer giving a testimonial – looking like deer in headlights. They typically use phrases like “top-notch” and praise how easy your company was to work with. They have been coached to say, “Company X Brand Facial Tissues” instead of what they would really call them, “tissues.”
- A stretched-too-thin metaphor that attempts to give larger meaning to the company’s purpose. While the VO rambles on we see shots of farmers on iPads looking at their crops and kids on a swing in slow-motion at sunset. HBO’s “Silicon Valley” did a great job of parodying this:
So why do brands continue to make marketing videos using Default Creative?
It’s easy to develop, to produce and to sell through to management. There is almost zero perceived risk because it’s been done a million times before. Everyone knows what the end product should look like because they can all point to a ton of examples on YouTube.
Videos using Default Creative are typically cheaper to make too. That’s because the video production companies brands hire to make them have literally made the same video more than a dozen times before. This may seem like efficiency at its finest but it’s the canary in the coal mine for an ineffective video.
Why Default Creative doesn’t work
If your video uses Default Creative, it starts off at a disadvantage because, by definition, it’s nothing new. As Gary Vee says, “You can’t beat what you copy.” Meaning the best your video will do is slightly less than the video you copied. It’s not adding new to the collective experience we call humanity. I might be getting hyperbolic here but you get the drift.
Default Creative ends up being white noise in your target customer’s feed. It’s nothing. It’s the soggy, bland airport sandwich of video. You could have gotten higher ROI putting your video budget on black in Vegas.
Now here’s the catch: at one time the Default Creative videos I point out, were not Default. The first time that kind of video was made, it was new. And it was effective. Because if it wasn’t, it would never gain enough popularity to enter what I call, “The Public Domain of Creative.” That’s what Default Creative is after all. It’s a bunch of ideas that have been out there for so long that the public is entitled to use them with no fear of copyright infringement. But think about it. Why are you now making a marketing video using a creative idea that was popular a decade ago?
Earlier in this article I said that there is almost zero perceived risk when making a video using Default Creative. Note that keyword: perceived. It’s perceived as not being a risk on the face, but once you’ve made your video and it doesn’t deliver, the risk becomes all too apparent. You’ve spent thousands of dollars on a dud. And lost your opportunity to make waves.
How to create a great marketing video
Your goal should be to make the next amazing video that will become someone else’s Default Creative. If that’s your goal, here’s how to do it:
Be risky up front. Reject things that have been done before. Push push push into uncomfortableness. As Lee Clow (the man behind Apple’s 1984 ad) says, “Don’t do the right thing…Do the brave thing.”
Now I’m not saying to go out there and make something totally crazy with no basis in research and strategy.
I’m saying you need to start being comfortable with being uncomfortable. When your video agency (hopefully that’s us) presents an idea that you’ve never seen before, don’t reject it because you’ve never seen it before. Think about your favorite band. When they release a new album, usually you hate the new songs. You hate the new songs because you haven’t heard them before. That’s what new ideas are like. You need to give new ideas the same grace you give your favorite band’s new album.
This article is starting to get a little “out there” so I’ll end it with this: extraordinary results require extraordinary measures.