How to explain your B2B product using video

Most B2B companies do a poor job explaining what they do in videos. Here’s how to do it right.

September 9, 2022

One of the most common requests we get as a B2B video agency is: We need a video that explains what we do. Great! But then too many of these videos become two and a half minutes of software screens with droning voiceover. And at the end of it, viewers still don’t know exactly what it is you do.

On this episode of “Death to the Corporate Video,” Guy and Hope discuss the problems with the way most B2B companies explain what they do in video, and provide two alternate frameworks for creating something helpful and engaging for your audience.

Resources and videos mentioned in this episode

HPE IT monster ad

Umault’s “What we do” spot

Synchronized Planning & Fulfillment use case video

Previous episode: Using video throughout the sales funnel

Transcript

Hope Morley: I don't think it's getting harder to explain what you do. I think it's getting harder to explain how you do it, and that's the difference that we're talking about.

Guy Bauer: Ah, oh yeah, that's a good one.

Hope Morley: You can still explain what you do in a 30 or 60 second spot, how you do it is getting complex.

Hello and welcome to Death to the Corporate Video, a podcast with tools and advice for how to make B2B video ads your prospects actually want to watch. I'm Hope Morley. 

Guy Bauer: I'm Guy Bauer.

Hope Morley: In today's episode, we wanted to talk about one of the most common requests that we get from B2B clients when they're asking for a new video ad and what the basic request is, is we need to explain what we do. Most of our clients have rather complicated products and services, or they think they have complicated products and services, and they want to use video to help explain what they do to potential clients. So what we wanted to talk about were some best practices and start with a little bit of what not to do when you're explaining what you do with video. In our experience, a lot of the tropes around bad corporate video or bad explainer videos are caused by people not really knowing how to use the video ad medium to explain what they do. They use it poorly, in other words. So we're gonna help you make sure that your spots are not doing this poorly.

Guy Bauer: Yes, that's good. It's a good intro.

Hope Morley: Thank you. I wrote it myself.

So one of the biggest things to think about when you're thinking about explaining what you do with video and how to make sure that you're doing it properly is to understand the difference between knowing what you do, what your company or product does for people, and the actual functionality. And this is where the biggest area that we see lines get crossed.

Guy, can you explain what the difference is between what you do and functionality.

Guy Bauer: What you do is the problem you solve and the means you go by solving it. Your functionality is like what the home screen looks like. Or, you know, what the process is, if it's a service or what the deliverables are or where to click, what button and what page. 

Those two get conflated a lot where folks get confused and they start inserting functionality into what they do or how they do it. 

So the idea of explaining what you do is to explain what you do in the most efficient manner. So someone can self-select in or out of your funnel. It's meant to, in the earliest possible way, in the earliest possible time to get people out or in.

Hope Morley: Hmm.

Guy Bauer: And they shouldn't have to be digging through pages and pages of material to figure out what you do. It should really be up in that, you know, top ish area. Even if it's not totally clear how you do it.

So I'll use this little example, like if I was to explain what Uber does. Uber connects people that need a ride with people that are giving rides, using their own personal vehicle.

There's an app where Uber acts as the intermediary processes, the transactions ensure safety, make sure that the driver uses GPS to get where you're going. And that's it. That's what Uber does. Notice how I didn't say, well, there's an app that you open and if you're the rider, you click and type in where you want to go, then you press find car.

Then it takes like a couple seconds to find a driver. Then there a notification pops up with GPS of where the driver is. Like, I didn't go through a procedural of like how, like the steps. And so many people, especially in B2B, and especially as the products get and the services get more complex, they start turning.

And that's where you get these like four minute videos that show every single step of the process or every single nuance of the platform and customers don't care. That would be a great demo video further down the funnel. But if you just wanna explain what you do, you don't need to get into functionality or the steps or the process or anything like that.

You just have to get into the problem that you solve and then, how you fix it. But without going into, you know –

Hope Morley: The functionality.

Guy Bauer: The functionality. Yes.

Hope Morley: Yeah. I think the goal is to get people to understand the gist of what you do. So they need to know what problem you're solving and what results people are going to get after using your product or service. They don't really need to see the screens within your software solution at this point, typically.

And part of this too, is that, you know, I wanna throw this out there is that screens and functionality change really quickly and often, especially if you're a newer company and you're still in beta when you're doing some of your initial video ad work. So if you dive too deeply into the functionality and then six months later, you're rolling out new features or you've updated your UI and then you're going back and have to change these video ads.

But there was no reason to put those screens in there in the first place too. So that's something to think about. We've argued before that when you do demos for software to keep them low tech, you know, do actual screen recordings, have your sales people do that. And that's a way that then you can update them much more inexpensively than if you've invested in putting all of the functionality into your high level video ads.

Guy Bauer: Right. The sunk costs are not crazy when it's your own people doing demos. So how do we explain what we do 10 years ago? The answer was make an explainer video and those worked, but now companies, especially in B2B are getting more complex every day. And it's not easy to explain what you do in two minutes.

If you go by the general rules of an explainer video.

Hope Morley: So, wait, I, I wanna interrupt you for a minute because I don't think it's getting harder to explain what you do. I think it's getting harder to explain how you do it, and that's the difference that we're talking about.

Guy Bauer: Ah, oh yeah, that's a good one.

Hope Morley: You can still explain what you do in a 30 or 60 second spot, how you do it is getting complex because that's, you're using blockchain or AI or whatever new technologies you're using to accomplish your goals, which is great.

And I'm sure it makes your product more efficient, but what you do is the core of this, it doesn't really matter how you're using the blockchain to get there.

Guy Bauer: What she said. Yes, you're exactly right. And, and also a lot of our clients, especially in B2B are plumbing. Like a lot of what they do isn't the actual website, or there's no client facing UI, or even any, sometimes there's no UI at all. It's just like I said, plumbing. So when you go by just the explainer rules, right.

The typical explainer video, it gets really complicated, but you're right. You could still explain what you do. And we are here to tell you how to do that, right? That's the tease for later on this episode, but first you have to hear us talk more about stuff. What else do we have to talk about?

Hope Morley: We have a couple other points that we wanna make one thing. So. We've been talking about why you shouldn't dig too deep into functionality. There is a little bit of a caveat and a caution that you don't want to swing too far the other way and make something that's a hundred percent fluffy. And that really doesn't say at all what you do or what problem you solve, cuz then you end up with one of those corporate videos that you end up watching it, you can just slot any other company's logo on the end. You're like, what is there in today's economy with fast moving people, you need to connect your clients and their customers, you know, what do you, what have you even talking about?

Guy Bauer: Or you get people just laughing, walking and smiling and laughing, Hope and I always have this, we had this client I'm not gonna mention their name, but they made sinks and stuff, kitchen stuff. And basically, it was their idea to just have people like laugh. 

Hope Morley: Standing next to their product.

Guy Bauer: Next to their sinks.

So Hope and I, whenever we describe an ad, that is just, what's the word? Trite.

Hope Morley: Yeah, it's just laughing at sinks. 

Guy Bauer: Laughing at sinks. That's what we say is like, well, we don't wanna be laughing at sinks but, um, yeah, if you don't add in any gravitas, right? Yeah. Then you are, then you end up with an ad of people laughing at sinks or laughing at whatever. Just people laughing next to your product.

Hope Morley: At server racks or, or worse laughing while pointing at a computer.

Guy Bauer: There you go, well, that's, that's the thing, cuz if you have a cloud solution, you know, then they're laughing in server rooms. If it's some other AI thing, then they're laughing and pointing at computers or laughing and pointing at a whiteboard, which I, the good thing about tech is that the laughing at the whiteboard is now very passe, just because whiteboard is passe.

Hope Morley: Well, we've all gone remote. So.

Guy Bauer: So laughing at, so that's one unintended good consequence of the pandemic now there's no more laughing at whiteboard shots, but yeah, you're exactly right. The other thing I wanted to point out too, just because a lot of times companies go, well, how hard could it be to explain what we do? And what they'll do is they'll reference an Apple video. Or they'll reference some kind of consumer thing. Right. And the problem there is that a) they're Apple. So everyone knows the Apple logo, even my kids and B) They make things that are tangible. Like they don't play, but you don't play in the same roles of gravity as a B2B company as Apple does.

Going about it and just copying or like looking at the framework of an Apple ad of how they explain what they do is a lot different than what you're allowed to do. And again, a lot, I see a lot of companies attempt to do this and it ends up with people laughing at sinks or laughing at computers with a bunch of voiceover because they realized once they got into post production, they're like, wait, this doesn't say anything.

So then you get all that boring voiceover. So it's shot like an Apple thing with people, lifestyle footage, but then it's paired with a bunch of boring voiceover. So that's why it's like, we have a couple hacks for you. The prime hack is to use us, to help us do this for you. But we have a couple hacks if you wanna do it on your own, but yeah, that's, we're kind of setting the stakes, right, Hope? This is like all the things that could go wrong. Either you have too much explainer, too much procedural either you have not enough. And it's just people laughing at servers or computers, and then it's also, well, why don't we just copy Apple?

That doesn't work because they're Apple like, and they have tangible things.

Hope Morley: We talk all the time on the show about the importance of brand building and Apple has been building that brand for 20 plus years now. So they have the cache and they have the brand that can support the marketing efforts that they do. If you're coming in and just trying to take what they've built, they're not just making individual ads.

They are building on 20 years of work. So just keep that in mind, 40. You know, they've been building and building and building and building to get to the point where they can make those ads and be successful with them. So when you need to build your own foundation first, before you can think about even touching types of work that they do.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Okay. So we've set the stage. It is very hard to do. It's impossible to explain what you do with video. So you should just give up, is that the takeaway from this episode, Hope? 

Hope Morley: Yeah, the episode's over. No, there are ways that you can do it. And we have a couple, I guess you could call these

Guy Bauer: Tips and tricks.

Hope Morley: Tips and ways that you can approach this. These are kind of, 

Guy Bauer: Frameworks.

Hope Morley: Frameworks.

Guy Bauer: We're in B2B. 

Hope Morley: It's a framework. Yes. Frameworks that you can use when you're thinking about creative and scripting your own video, that explains what you do. So Guy, what is our first framework that people can use?

Guy Bauer: Okay. And again, these are just two hacks. They don't apply to all situations, but there are two ways to think about explaining what you do through video. So way number one is this is it's really hard, it's really hard when you're in B2B services and software as a service and all this stuff to distill your message down as an insider, as someone that works there, right?

Because there's so many cool things you do. So a way to do that, a way to, to get out of the treadmill is to punt it all together and just make an ad that illustrates your customer's problems. Just what is going wrong in their company, in their life, in their culture, because of this problem that you solve.

And then at the end of the ad, all you have to do, I mean, it sounds simple, but have a tagline. That's like we solve that. Like what we just showed you, we solve. And I'll give you a little example. So HP made this ad, we'll put it in the show notes, where there's for. It's like a 30 second ad and for 27 seconds, don't quote me, but you know, for 95% of the ad, there's this monster going around a company like a CG monster and like unplugging computers and tripping people with wires and just being really mean and like ruining things.

And I don't remember all the specifics, but just causing chaos in a company. Right. And the tagline is, something like we tame the IT monster or tame the IT monster: HP. And so HP didn't itemize. Now I don't know exactly what they do, but I can explain. What I think they do. What I think they do is they give you expertise. People, processes, equipment, they're gonna sell you all the stuff to tame your IT. And all the things they showed me, they fix. And that's a way for me to understand what they do. I didn't have to get a three minute video walking me through the process of how HP onboards me and uses their blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

In 30 seconds, they were able to convey exactly what they do through showing me just the problems and then a small little tagline at the end saying, essentially we solve these problems. Then I, people are smart enough to figure it out.

Hope Morley: And people who watch that and relate to it. And they're like, oh gosh, that's how I feel at work going in every day, my IT is a mess. Then they're gonna go learn more. And that's the whole idea that then they'll go to HP's website, they'll reach out to a sales associate and they'll say, Hey, my IT is a big, hot mess. What can you do for me?

Guy Bauer: Yep. And it's, and it you'll see the ad. It's very clever, it's entertaining. And if you're on the target market, it makes complete sense. And it's very efficient. The biggest problem is this is that audiences don't want to give you time. Like maybe when video first came out in the early teens, And video was out before then, but like–

Hope Morley: When it took off.

Guy Bauer: When it took off, maybe people and people did sit through two minutes because the medium of video online was so novel that a company had a video. You would watch it like, whoa. Now everyone has video, there's ads all around. So it's, you're competing against attention.

And it's not even attention spans. People have attention spans. It's just, there's so much stuff, just the quantity of stuff. So you have to do it shorter and shorter and shorter. And also if I can throw one of our examples, if you go to the main page of umault.com, I think our ad is 20 seconds and explains exactly what we do.

And it's this woman in a conference room says, why do all B2B videos have people in a conference room writing on whiteboards?

Hope Morley: Speaking of whiteboards.

Guy Bauer: And then use Umault, make a video people actually wanna watch boom, that tells you everything. We do what we stand for, what our philosophy is in like 23 seconds.

So it's totally possible. Even if you do some complicated blockchain, AI, human experience.

Hope Morley: Okay. So to sum up one of these hacks, one of these frameworks we can use is basically the show the problem framework. So you show the problem that you solve. A subcategory of that is kind of a, you see a lot of before and after ads as well. So you can show the problem and also show what life will be like once your solution has been implemented.

So it can be a little bit more of a, if you have maybe a more complex thing that you're showing, or you just really wanna show that afterstate where everybody is happy. That's a sub-category of this show the problem framework.

Guy Bauer: Mm-hmm but notice how Hope didn't say and then show the steps and like show your people like writing code and show, like people walking down server rooms. Your solution should not be front and center the client's problem. And then, after like their life afterwards should be the story, not your product, if that makes sense.

And a lot of people, what they do is they'll start with the problem and they'll do a little bit of the problem at the beginning, and then just go on this two minute thing, showing all the screens and all the cool features and stuff like that. 

Hope Morley: Yeah, I will do a little plug here. Just recently we did an episode on using video throughout your sales funnel. And we talked about having higher level awareness videos that are a lot more focused on the problem. And then once you get to consideration, decision phase, that's when you really show the product and dig into that.

So when you get into those product videos, lower in the funnel, that's when you can show a little bit more. So when we're talking about this explain what you do problem that we're seeing a lot. We are kind of talking about higher level. That people are trying to explain what they do to people who are more of a cold audience when we're fighting against this, like showing the functionality thing.

That's not to say that you're not gonna have any videos on your site or that your sales people are using that show functionality. That's not what we're saying. So go back a couple episodes. If you missed our one on funnels, I think it's a really great episode. We were really informed and informative for you.

Yeah. So framework one, show the problem. What is framework two?

Guy Bauer: What is framework two? Oh, framework two is write out a use case and bring that to life. And this is much different than show me all the screens. What's a B2B example? Okay. So say it's like industrial software as a service. It's industrial monitoring for people that make stuff in factories and they will show you exactly how much uptime, how much downtime your machines have and their value prop is that it's very easy to install. Like there's no big implementation. Like anybody can just install this tracking software. So a spot for them could be somebody turn, you know, clicks in the tracker, opens up their laptop and all the different machines in the factory populate. They show the efficiencies going up and down, maybe a machine has low efficiency. Then you see the person walking out and figuring out what the problem is. And then you see that machine's efficiency go up and you can do it silently without any voiceover in 30 seconds. And with a tagline, that's like, yep. That's what we do.

Hope Morley: Or maybe the time, you know, it's increased efficiency, make more money.