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Virtual reality vs 360-degree video: what’s the deal for B2B marketers?

It’s sobering to think it’s more than 20 years since a much younger version of me stepped, exhilarated and shiny-eyed, off that 3D ride in Disneyland, Paris. If you’d asked me then what the future looked like, I probably wouldn’t have used the terms “virtual reality” or “360-degree video”, but I’d have described immersive computer games, telepresence, and the chance to explore places I’ve never been (the entire known universe still being my favourite candidate).

Today the technology exists to deliver on those dreams, but the possibilities stretch way beyond entertainment. For marketers who have demand generation in mind, the latest technology offers the opportunity to create mind-blowing, shareable content.

So what’s out there that you might want to try?

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated experience that feels real: just as our decisions and interactions can influence the outcome of a computer game and the path taken through it, they can also influence a VR experience. Imagine, for example, being able to ‘place’ your customers inside a data centre that’s under attack from cyber criminals, and giving them the chance to respond in real time. A way to bring whitepaper content to life through gamification?

Often delivered via hi-tech headgear, VR can be expensive but, as is generally the case with new technology, it’s likely that prices will come down over time. Here are some great examples of brands using VR as a marketing tool.

And while we’re here, we should also mention augmented reality (AR), which superimposes VR over your view of the real world. If you want to know what that looks like, just ask any child to show you Pokémon Go!

360-degree video, on the other hand, takes you wherever the camera operator goes. So far, so like a traditional video, but the key difference with the 360 version is that you can look all around you and take in your surroundings — think of a guided virtual tour that goes at your own pace. The fact that 360-degree video can be viewed using most browsers and devices means your audience doesn’t need any special equipment, making it a more cost-effective and accessible alternative to VR. You still get a very real sense of being present though — check out these awe-inspiring examples.*

So, what can these new video formats really help you achieve?

Well, both VR and 360-degree video open up huge possibilities for storytellers. A 360-degree video takes people on a rich narrative journey; while VR immerses them in the experience you create and lets them influence the narrative. Both formats allow you to dive deeper into a topic and adopt the ‘show don’t tell’ approach that all video makers strive for.
Both formats can help with demand generation by allowing you to create content that is vivid, exciting and compelling — which can go a long way to boosting your overall awareness in the market.

Is either one better than the other?
At the moment, I don’t think so. Although the immersive nature of VR means it has the potential to deliver a more powerful experience than 360-degree video, it requires more specialised and costlier equipment — both to create it and experience it. Using 360-degree video still allows you to create supremely engaging content that can help you drive demand generation.

For now, our conclusion is that both formats make the future of B2B video marketing a very exciting place.

In fact, we’re so excited about the possibilities; we recently went to the Virtual Reality Show and it reaffirmed our thoughts that the potential for its use is staggering. Were you there? What was your top takeaway? Tell us by leaving a comment below.

In the meantime, whatever your video marketing needs, give us a call us on 01628 622187.

*Note: If you don’t see the little control panel to the top left of the screen, and what you do see looks like you’ve entered a disturbing new dimension, your browser or device may not support 360-degree video. Try another.

Photo by martin louis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/152210849@N08/33823352671) via: freeforcommercialuse.org

B2B conferences: generating content to maximise ROI

B2B conferences are a fantastic way to connect with colleagues and customers, old and new. But they don’t come cheap. A lot of time, money and stress (!) go into them, so it’s only natural that you’ll want to maximise your return on investment from the conferences you organise. Fortunately, with a little thought and preparation, you can turn your conference into a content marketing machine. Here are some of our favourite ways to generate great conference-inspired content.

1. Video vox pops
Vox pops (vox populi, voice of the people) are informal interviews and a great source of soundbites that you can use on your website. Talk to your customers in coffee breaks or at networking receptions and get their take on the day. They’re really easy to do, too – all you need is a cameraman and an interviewer mingling with the crowd. Don’t forget to ask for permission from the interviewee, though.

2. Promo video
If you’re capturing the talks, atmosphere and highlights from the event, you’ve also got other video options. You could create a short teaser video, inspiring people to attend next year, or a longer summary video so those who couldn’t make it don’t miss out.

3. Blog posts
Every one of your speakers will be talking about a topic relevant to your business – and each session should be viewed as a potential blog post. Sometimes, we’re asked to provide a writer to attend sessions and write them up afterwards. Equally, you could invite each speaker to pen their own post at a later date. It’s a great way to quickly generate a bevy of relevant, topical blog posts that simultaneously position your event as a valuable gathering place for your target market.

4. Live tweeting
Though social posts from a conference have a limited shelf life, they can pay dividends on the day. Create an event hashtag for attendees to use when tweeting about the event before, during and after. Those who can’t make it can also use it to get involved.

5. Surveys
We don’t just mean a satisfaction survey. Asking just a few questions of attendees can give you valuable data about the issues facing your customers, their opinions on current trends or whatever you want to ask them. You can use the data as the basis of an infographic or blog. If you ask enough questions, you could even write a short paper.

Have a plan for your conference-inspired content
However you choose to generate content from your next B2B conference, the most important thing you can do is to plan it well. How will you use each piece? What part will it play in your sales cycle? If you can fit conference-content into your wider content strategy, then you stand to generate some truly impressive ROI from your next event.

Have you held a conference recently? Or are you thinking about holding one? We’d love to hear about your content plans for it. Why not leave a comment, find us on Twitter or drop us a line at LinkedIn?

B2B video marketing: who do you send on shoots abroad?

As video continues to grow in popularity in B2B land, it’s likely that many businesses will start to get more ambitious with their B2B video marketing. That event in Los Angeles, that case study in Paris, or the new site you’re building in Abu Dhabi could all be great opportunities for video – but who do you send to capture the footage when filming abroad? A company local to you? Or one local to the filming site? To help you decide, here are some pros and cons of each:

Scenario 1: Send a crew local to you to shoot abroad
Pros:
• The chances are it’s a company you’ve worked with before, and that’s worth a lot: in confidence about the preparation they’ll do, the quality of work they’ll produce and in ease of working with a team that knows you.
• Theoretically, it’s as easy to work with an overseas as a local team during pre- and post-production phases. In reality, many B2B marketers find they have better creative input and control when the video company is local to them, often because they can meet face to face or because time differences and cultural barriers aren’t an issue.

Cons:
• It can be costly – especially if flights are involved.
• If you’re asking the crew to film in a country where they don’t speak the language (and the locals don’t speak the crew’s language well), logistics will be harder to manage.

Scenario 2: Use a crew based near your shooting location
Pros:
• This is likely the least costly option, assuming you’re comparing two video agencies from different geographies that are otherwise similar in cost.
• There won’t be any language or cultural barriers on location, making it easier to coax the best performance from participants.
Cons:
• If you’re shooting in a country where your language isn’t spoken well, you may still have communication problems – but this time between you and the video company.
• As mentioned before, many marketers find that a greater distance between them and their video team makes it harder to stay involved in the creative process and ensure the quality of the end result.

Which do you choose?
Only you can judge the relative importance of cost against factors such as known quality, ease of working with a company and language issues — which of course will differ for different projects.

In considering and balancing these factors, never forget that wherever the crew comes from, you’ve got to feel confident that the company you work with can get great footage that tells a killer story. A crew you trust to do that for you will make the whole process so much smoother – which may be more cost-effective for you in the long run than focusing (for example) on minimising travel costs. The last thing you need is to waste budget getting a result that doesn’t do the job you want it to.

So you may end up making decisions that on the face of it seem surprising. One new client chose us for a predominantly American shoot over a video partner they knew well, and over potential American options, because they were looking for a fresh, creative perspective they just didn’t feel the others could provide. In this case, familiarity with a partner and avoidance of large travel expenses weren’t big enough pros to override a greater certainty of achieving the core objective with somebody new.

The resurgence of storytelling as a means of persuasion

We love a good story here at HN — whether it’s a novel you can’t put down, a TV drama that’s so gripping you won’t be watching it on catch-up, or the latest Hollywood blockbuster. This is the power of storytelling — it draws you in and makes you hunger for more.

Of course, storytelling isn’t a new idea when it comes to being persuasive. Ancient Greeks, notably Aristotle, understood the role of pathos and ethos — the modes of persuasion appealing to an audience’s emotions and their perception of the speaker’s moral character — in establishing a connection with the audience. More recently, it’s been proven that long copy — when it’s written to influence the cognitive and affective attitudes of an audience — can outsell short copy. That’s despite the trend to distil information into bite-sized nuggets to suit the time-poor society we live in.

We’re not arguing against brevity but in the pursuit of ‘concise’. The bombardment of messages, one fact after another, can sometimes be relentless and tiring for the reader — it takes the pleasure out of reading when it should be a welcome diversion. A swing towards a more engaging approach, where the reader derives enjoyment from reading your material, has to be the answer.

So whether you’re looking to create online or printed copy, the approach remains the same: engaging and thought-provoking copy that involves the reader — whether presented in a hundred words or a thousand — will be far more successful than reams of facts and figures.

There are many ways to make your B2B message more engaging — we’re certainly passionate about video and animations here. But the biggest change we are seeing at the moment is a return to good old-fashioned storytelling, meaning that case studies are taking a far more human angle to draw the reader in and show the personal gain as much as the business benefits. This is great to see, not least because it’s a proven way of creating an environment to sell in but also because it’s just as much fun to write as it is to read.

Have you used storytelling to your advantage? Or were you persuaded by a great story? Why not tell us about it on Twitter, LinkedIn or in the comments section below?

Tailor your customer reference programme to suit your client

Customer reference programmes are a great way to promote your product or service to potential new customers and overcome any objections they may have. However, the amount of time your reference customers are willing budget for this may be limited.

If that’s the case, you can still deliver value for yourself, and them, without investing too much time. Ideally, you’ll offer them a range of options and allow them to choose the level of involvement that best suits them. For example:

Level 1: Logo and name only

Use of your customer’s name and/or logo on your website and in marketing collateral requires the least amount of commitment. But, remember, you still need their permission.

Level 2: Testimonial

Customer quotes that endorse your company’s work are valuable when you have to work that little bit harder to engage with your audience, such as when using direct mail or PR activity, for example.

Level 3: Text-based customer success story

In an ideal world, your customer will be willing to participate in a telephone or in-person interview and to review the copy before publication. This can take the form of a press release, newsletter article or printed case study.

Level 4: Video story

If your story is one of real human interest, why not exploit  audio and video for your customer reference programme to show the emotion behind the words? A three-minute video interview can be used at conferences or seminars, published online and promoted through social media channels.

Level 5: Speaking engagement

If customers have a very high level of goodwill toward your company, they may be willing to speak at a conference, trade show, seminar or similar event. Get the most value you can from this commitment: such presentations can be recorded and broadcast on your website as a video or podcast.

Level 6: Reference visit or telephone reference

The highest level of commitment a customer can make to your company is to agree to be a reference site. The customer will agree to take telephone calls or host visits from your qualified potential customers to allow them to discuss their experience with you and see elements of the solution in action.

Which customer reference activities have worked best for your company? Let us know in the comments field below, or through Twitter and LinkedIn.

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