Back in 1939, Germany’s frighteningly effective use of propaganda prompted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to create a group of “top men” to figure out how this type of communication worked – just in case the United States needed to use propaganda itself someday to justify “Why We Fight.” One of these top men was Harold Lasswell, who was named Chief of the Experimental Division for the Study of War Time Communications at the US Library of Congress.
After studying propaganda films like “Triumph of the Will,” Lasswell quickly developed a model of communication that was comprised of five key elements. Lasswell then turned these elements into a simple question: “Who says what in which channel to whom with what effect?” If you found the right answers to each of the five elements of the question, then you could create effective propaganda. His model was just as quickly classified “top secret” and wasn’t declassified until 1948.
Today, I’d like to share my model of communication for the digital video era with executives in the C-suite – particularly the ones in business-to-business (B2B) organizations who are fighting to increase engagement, leads, and sales, or decrease their cost of customer acquisition. I developed this model after studying B2B video success stories like Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” campaign, which increased sales of the company’s high-performing, durable blenders for commercial use by 700%.
Now, my model was first published in 2011 in the second edition of my book, YouTube and Video Marketing. After tipping my hat to Lasswell, I reversed his model and asked: “Who seeks what in which channel from whom with what effect?” In other words, B2B buyers and researchers search for videos on Google or YouTube and will spend a significant amount of time watching ones from you or your competitors throughout their path to purchase.
My model of the five key elements of communication in the digital video era also provides an outline of the five reasons why B2B marketers who don’t “do video” are getting left farther and farther behind. Let’s take a few minutes to examine each element.
Who: Most B2B marketing strategies are focused exclusively on the C-suite. But, a survey of approximately 3,000 B2B decision makers conducted in 2014 by Millward Brown Digital for Google found that 57% of B2B researchers who are not in the C-suite influence purchase decisions and 24% of non-C-suiters had the final authority to make purchase decisions. The survey also found that 46% of B2B researchers were millennials (18-34 years old) and another 22% were Gen Xers (35-44 years old).
So, if you’re still only marketing to the C-suite, then you’ve got to ask yourself: Are we overlooking the younger professionals and managers who can actually make or break us? Caterpillar saw this happening four years ago and realized it needed to change its strategy. “Everything was being done at the C-suite level, but then we found out that new engineers coming on board were just going online and placing orders,” said Renee Richardson, Caterpillar’s Global Marketing Services Manager at the time.
That’s why Caterpillar launched a series of videos that year for their “Built For It” brand campaign. The most popular video was entitled, “Stack | Cat® #BuiltForIt Trials.” It pits five Cat machines, including Excavators and Telehandlers, against a mountain of massive JENGA blocks. It currently has 4.9 million views, and the 28 videos in the series currently have a total of 16.9 million views.
Seeks what: According to latest research by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute, B2B Content Marketing 2018: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, 72% of B2B marketers use videos for content marketing purposes. By comparison, 94% use social media posts – excluding videos, 73% use case studies and 71% use ebooks/whitepapers. So, it might appear that video has become a standard tool in the toolbox. But, the latest research asked a follow-up question: “Of the content marketing types you use, which three are the most effective at helping your organization achieve specific objectives?” And 50% of respondents said ebooks/whitepapers, 47% said case studies, and 41% said social media posts – excluding videos. So, it seems that there’s a big gap between “doing video” and doing it effectively.
For example, a great tool like Dropbox is useless if your team doesn’t understand how to use it. So what do you do? Make another boring demo? What’s the alternative? Well, inspired by the offbeat Dropbox brand, Epiheo produced a handful of videos that do the work of a product walkthrough video, but with a spoonful of sugar that helps the tutorial go down. Check out “Dropbox Business Tutorial: Shared Links” to see what I mean.
In which channel: The Millward Brown Digital survey mentioned about also found that:
- 90% of B2B researchers used search to research business purchases and search was their #1 resource for research.
- On average, B2B researchers did an average of 12 searches prior to engaging with a specific brand’s site, so they are already most of the way down the path to a decision before they actually perform their first action on your site.
- 71% of B2B researchers started with a generic query, so they were looking for product first, not a brand.
If B2B researchers are using “search” to research business purchases, then it’s logical to assume that they’re using Google, which is the world’s leading search engine. And according to Universal Search 2018, a Searchmetrics whitepaper, an analysis of the search results on Google.com for 500,000 keywords found at least one video blended into 22% of the desktop and 23% of the mobile search results. And 92% of these videos came from YouTube. It’s also worth noting that YouTube is the world’s second leading search engine, although it has a different algorithm.
The B2B marketers at Google understand this. For example, they’ve uploaded 359 videos to the official YouTube channel for Google Analytics Solutions. Their videos help businesses of all sizes learn more about analytics, tagging, site optimization, data visualization, market research, attribution, and audience management products. And despite being targeted at a B2B audience, they’re fairly popular. For example, “Google Analytics In Real Life – Online Checkout” has 1.4 million views.
Now, if you Google the phrase, “Google Analytics In Real Life,” which is an actual search term, you will see the video above is ranked #1 in the search results, while two other videos in the same series about “Google Analytics In Real Life – Landing Page Optimization,” with 436,000 views, ranks #2, and “Google Analytics In Real Life – Site Search,” with 517,000 views, ranks #3.
And if you do a search on YouTube for the phrase, “Google Analytics In Real Life,” you will see the same three videos at the top of the search results, but in a different order. (Site Search is #1, Online Checkout is #2, and Landing Page Optimization is #3.)
So, when B2B researchers use “search” to research business purchases, they are more likely to find what products, services, or solutions your B2B organization offers if you’ve uploaded your videos to YouTube. Your organization may even want to follow Google’s lead by creating multiple YouTube channels for different products and different countries. For example, Google has uploaded 18,000 videos to 55 YouTube channels and YouTube has uploaded another 17,100 videos to eight more of its own channels.
From whom: Targeting the right people, creating great content, and uploading it to YouTube are essential to success, but the battle isn’t over. YouTube is a big place with lots of content for viewers to choose from. So, you need an effective video SEO strategy to help your B2B organization take full benefit of the platform’s functionalities.
As I mentioned earlier, YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine. And it uses metadata to index your video correctly. So, to maximize your presence in YouTube search and suggested videos, make sure your metadata is well-optimized. This includes the title, description and tags for each video.
Video SEO can produce some dramatic results. For example, I taught a group of SonoSite’s employees how to optimize their B2B videos in January 2011 as part of a Rutgers corporate training program. SonoSite’s first mission was to create an ultrasound machine that could be carried into battle and used to make time-critical medical decisions under the most grueling conditions imaginable. Headquartered near Seattle, the company was preparing for major product roll-outs over the next two years. Following the program, Rutgers asked me to provide additional consulting and advisory services to each of the eight teams created during the program to target different B2B audiences and B2B marketing objectives.
Before I taught the teams video SEO, SonoSite’s channel on YouTube had a total of 99,529 views. This was 17.8% fewer views than the 121,109 views that their major competitor, GE Healthcare, had on its YouTube channel in January 2011. Two years later, SonoSite’s channel on YouTube had 1,735,902 video views, more than twice as many as the 858,025 video views that GE Healthcare’s YouTube channel had at that time.
SonoSite’s ability to develop and produce industry-leading and price-competitive products for both point-of-care and traditional diagnostic markets is one of the reasons why Fujifilm acquired SonoSite for approximately $995 million in March 2012. But SonoSite’s ability to use YouTube to build brand awareness and drive a significant number of visitors and leads to the company’s website is another. The combination of innovative products and innovative marketing are an unbeatable one-two punch.
Today, SonoSite’s channel on YouTube has more than 13.8 million views. And, in addition to how-to videos and case study videos, SonoSite is also telling stories about the Floating Doctors, a non-profit medical team that delivers medical services to remote communities, which has been using SonoSite portable ultrasound since they set sail for their first medical mission to Haiti in 2010. For example, “Now Showing: Floating Doctors Series Presented by SonoSite,” was published in December 2014 and currently has more than 352,000 views.
With what effect: If all video did was help B2B marketers build awareness, then it would still be an essential tool in the toolbox. But, the Millward Brown Digital survey cited above also found that 70% of B2B buyers and researchers were watching videos throughout their path to purchase. And it wasn’t just light viewing. Nearly half of these researchers were viewing 30 minutes or more of B2B-related videos during their research process, and almost one in five were watching over an hour of content.
That’s enough time to do more than increase awareness of your brand. That’s enough time to increase engagement, increase leads, and increase sales, or decrease the cost of customer acquisition. Let me provide another B2B video success story from my book, YouTube and Video Marketing.
On Jan. 13, 2010, the Piper Aircraft management inked a licensing deal with Czech Sport Aircraft that would allow the company to bring a light sport aircraft to the market. But launch day for the new “PiperSport” was just 8 days later, on Jan. 21, at a major sport aircraft show in Florida. So, Piper Marketing Director Jackie Carlon hired Michael Kolowich of DigiNovations to quickly create:
- A new PiperSport Channel on YouTube.
- A new PiperSport Light Sport Aircraft page on Facebook.
- A new PiperSport feed on Twitter.
One of their objectives was to “create broad awareness of the new PiperSport within two weeks of launch, as measured by search inquiries, website visits, and social media engagement.” But, another objective was to “create at least three aircraft sales directly attributable to social media channels, more than amortizing the full cost of the social marketing program with margin on the sold aircraft.” The total outlay for the campaign was under $50,000. This included strategy development, content development, video production, content implementation, social media channel management, media placement, and promotion.
Kolowich created the new YouTube channel and a highly personalized, informal approach to introducing the PiperSport, featuring key Piper executives taking the viewer on a video “tour” of its features, Piper’s chief pilot discussing detailed flying characteristics, and a young woman taking her first lesson in the aircraft. He also engaged Janice Brown & Associates to create original content for Facebook and Twitter.
The PiperSport was unveiled on Jan. 21, 2010. The light sport aircraft cost about $140,000 and was targeted at pilots and instructors at flight training schools. Within the next 90 days, the PiperSport video got 132,241 views, which isn’t anyone’s definition of “going viral.” Nevertheless, the campaign generated 15 orders for the $140,000 product in the first 90 days. If you do the math, this means a campaign which cost under $50,000 generated about $2.1 million in incremental revenue.
So, a single B2B video increased engagement, leads, and sales, as well as decreased the cost of customer acquisition even though it didn’t go viral. If you want more details, watch the interview that I conducted with Kolowich on Feb. 2, 2010, less than two weeks after the PiperSport was launched.
So, what does this mean to you? Well, if your B2B organization has “tried” making some videos and none of them went viral, then maybe it was trying to do the wrong thing. Other B2B marketers have learned the five key elements of communication in the digital video era:
- Target the right people.
- Create great content.
- Upload it to YouTube.
- Optimize it so prospects will find it when they use search to research business purchases.
- Measure your results using KPIs aligned with your organization’s content marketing goals.
And as each year goes by, these B2B marketers are learning more and more about “the art of changing hearts, minds, and actions,” as Guy Kawasaki puts it in his book, Enchantment. Some of these B2B marketers are your competitors. That’s why B2B marketers who don’t “do video” – or don’t do it effectively – are getting left farther and farther behind.