Business-to-business marketing has traditionally been a not-so-thrilling mix of unread white papers, boring case studies, small-print spec sheets, and sleepy trade show seminars. Today, however, B2B marketers are learning from their consumer marketing counterparts and embracing the latest marketing tricks and tools to increase awareness, engagement, and sales. Among the tools they’re using most enthusiastically: video.
A survey  of 1,416 B2B marketers conducted by the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs in August found a dramatic increase in content marketing spending by B2B marketers in 2012 compared to 2011, and companies are rapidly harnessing the power of video to tell their stories, investing 35 percent more this year than last. Getting that video in front of customers is job number one as marketers look to every possible social networking channel and platform to proliferate their new marketing content.
Steve Rotter, vice president of marketing at Brightcove  (which sponsored the study), isn’t surprised that 70 percent of B2B marketers are already embracing video as a marketing tool. His company’s products include Video Cloud, a market-leading online video platform, and App Cloud, a content app platform.
“Social media and video is having a profound impact on world of marketing,” Rotter says. “In the past, B2B marketers relied solely on expensive paid marketing, but today they can use the power of content marketing to go directly to consumers to attract new audiences, engage them, and build trust.”
Focus on the Whole Customer Journey
Rotter notes that unlike consumer marketing, which is all about powerful first impressions, B2B marketing is about a longer relationship that begins with awareness and proceeds to engagement, trust, follow-up, and post-sale loyalty. Marketers can create videos that address each step of the relationship, from the engagement of a real-life case study presented by a happy client to training videos that show customers how to use the product.
“B2B marketers think through the entire customer journey, not just the top of the funnel. They’re looking for ways to use online video at every stage of that lifecycle, and that’s fantastic,” Rotter says. “That’s a pretty significant shift in the way that marketers think about video and content in general.”
Drive Customers Back to Your Site
Marketers are loathe to lose control of their messaging, but as they venture into video, they’re sometimes willing to hand off their content to video sharing sites of questionable quality, and that’s a big mistake, especially if buffering or latency scare people away.
“Too many brands make the mistake of trying free or cheap video technology on their sites, but there’s a high cost of free,” Rotter says.
Instead, his suggestion is to make the company website the hub of its content ecosystem, and any video that exists outside of it, such as a video posted on YouTube, needs a clear call to action that leads people back to the company site, where the real engagement can take place. Look for technologies that let you create a branded experience that you control, Rotter suggests.
“YouTube is great for information or entertainment, but ultimately you must point those people back to your site where you really have conversion and control.” At the same time, however, don’t be afraid to push video to every possible channel. Getting your video on social media networks dramatically magnifies your footprint at almost no additional cost.
Address Every OS and Platform
One big stumbling block for B2B marketers who are experimenting with video is keeping up with an ever-changing and ever-expanding matrix of devices and operating systems, all of which are being used to consume video in astonishing amounts. Flash is a desktop standard but doesn’t run on iOS, and runs on only a segment of Android mobile devices. HTML5 is rapidly emerging as the new standard for video on iOS devices, but it’s young, with as much quirkiness as potential. And these mobile operating systems themselves are fragmented. There are several different versions of iOS currently in use, and even more versions of Android, each of which may vary in video rendering, behavior, and quality of experience. Marketers face a morass of technical tweaking and viewer disappointment.
But it’s a challenge that must be met. “The fragmented world of devices is tough,” Rotter says, “but making sure your content is optimized for all the different devices, sizes, and experiences, even in the B2B setting, is essential.”
Use Video Analytics
One big benefit of deploying video as a marketing tool is the wealth of data it can deliver.
“The amazing thing about video analytics is the insight you get into viewer behavior that you’ve never had before,” Rotter says. “With a video player you can really track the consumption, see when viewers started and stopped and how long they watched. We’re seeing companies dramatically change their content strategies as they respond to their customers’ very specific behavior.”
If you discover your viewers can’t bear to watch a video longer than two minutes, then don’t bother to make one that’s three minutes long.
Consult Video Experts
B2B marketers intimidated or slowed down by the technological challenges of deploying professional-grade video at scale should remember that they don’t have to go it alone. A better strategy may be to focus on what they’re good at — creating the message and the content — and letting a third-party handle the nuts and bolts.
“You don’t expect every company to build its own sales force automation software or accounting system,” Rotter says, adding that by the time you get everything figured out for the current operating systems, they’re going to change anyway. To stay ahead of the technological curve, expert help is recommended.
Remember: as a marketer, you’ll find that video has a profound impact on your ability to attract new audiences. It drives SEO and traffic and helps audiences find your products and services, whether it’s on your site or on social channels. It also has a unique ability to convert those viewers, whether that means selling products, attracting registrations for information, or whatever else you want to achieve. Your goal is to get found first, and as B2B marketers are learning quickly, video is a great way to achieve it.