Why So Few Effective B2B Marketing Videos?

The time is now. The infrastructure has been built – fat pipes capable of carrying video without buffers and stutters have been laid. Dozens of streaming platforms with embedded analytics are available and affordable. Viewing devices are ubiquitous – every person who plays a role in a B2B buy decision has a computer, tablet or smart phone. Prospects are ready. Study after study shows that B2B buyers prefer consuming information via video over text or PowerPoint.

So why aren’t we seeing effective online B2B marketing videos? The laggards are the agencies.

Mac McIntosh is a friend and colleague. He’s also a B2B demand generation expert. Here’s what he said when I asked him about this phenomenon: “Online video producers who come from a marketing background know how to drive traffic, align with a marketing strategy, and include a compelling call to action. Producers from the video world know how to tell a story visually and hold the viewers’ attention with sight, sound and motion. What I haven’t seen much of (other than from a few big, expensive agencies) are video producers who deliver both: left and right brain, message and visual, strategy plus story. That’s what’s really needed.”

Let’s take a look at what’s out there. There are literally thousands of examples of what Mac is referring to. Here are just a couple:

IT Networking Equipment Case Study This is clearly a case where a video production crew did a credible job of documenting a case study in a story format, but little thought was given to the marketing aspect. The target prospect was not clearly defined, so they were unable to focus on the handful of benefits that would be most important to that prospect. The result is a lot of superfluous talking heads and a run time of six minutes – far too long. The context for the story is never articulated. It should state up front what this is about and why (the targeted prospect) should view it. They chose to post this on YouTube, instead of on one of the streaming platforms designed for marketing. The result is a weak call to action that appears below the viewing panel. It gives the prospect no reason to click through, and there’s no way to capture contact information from those that do.

Medical Billing Software Here’s one that’s built on a sales strategy, but the video production is nothing more than a PowerPoint with voice over. The images and graphics were given little thought. There’s no evidence of any skill or knowledge regarding visual storytelling, or an ability to grab and hold a viewer’s attention. At two minutes forty seconds, the length is suitable, but try to sit through the whole thing. Those two minutes may as well be two hours.

So Mac is right. Effective B2B marketing videos require both sides of the brain, art and science, visual storytelling and online marketing expertise. We’ll discuss how to go about achieving that in our next blog post.


About the Author:

Managing Consultant at acSellerant. Seasoned business marketer currently focused on positioning, sales messaging, content marketing and visual storytelling.

  1. Hi Bob –

    Excellent points. The situation reminds me of when “Desktop Publishing” was introduced and many bought PageMaker and Photoshop and thought they could produce top work without years of study and practice involving principles of graphic design, marketing and advertising. But I do think a good agency will understand this, though it may be hard to convince clients of the cost of a truly great video production requiring artists, animators, seasoned writer/producers, a video film crew, studio work, actors, and a post-production team. “Hey… cousin Bill, has all the tools and can do it on his desktop for just $199!”

    – Scott

  2. Scott,

    You have a good handle on the situation. We are positioning well below the live action, professional actors, $50k and up major ad agencies. We’re using snippets of live action where appropriate, but also a lot of post-production animation, charts, graphics, still images, etc. And we’re positioning well above cousin Bill (or the wedding videographer who became an online marketer last week).


  3. Great points Bob. The biggest challenge is produce quality video at an affordable cost for b2b companies which don’t have the large production budgets of their b2c counterparts.

    Another challenge, as you point out, is getting the right mix of compelling story and product information. Some businesses try to bridge the gap by using humor, which is very effective if done well–but often, it’s not, and the results aren’t pretty.

  4. The fundamental premises of this article are correct (lack of integration of talents to produce marketing videos). One thing that needs to be kept in mind is that B-to-B buyers aren’t necessarily looking for (or should expect) a Steven Spielberg production – so that’s not the point. More along the lines of 60 Minutes (news format) – if an analogy (or format) is needed.

    Also – marketing videos are to inform and help sell – not to entertain. I see a lot of silliness with many trying to duplicate ‘The Office’ or some such other pop culture format. One of the major communications strengths of video is that it captures emotion. So if there isn’t any emotion involved – maybe look for another marketing format rather than artificially try to create it (e.g. humor or the like.)

  5. Great article and conversation. I like Bob’s analogy of Desktop Publishing. Having “cut my teeth” during that era, I relate.

    B2B marketing videos should be telling a story from the customer/prospect perspective. It’s got to educate them at the point of their business pain. A good content marketer will ensure this element.

    I don’t know many people who will sit still for a crappy-looking video (though, my boss did once point me to a video) captured from a live seminar where the picture was garbled but the lecture was spot-on). A good video producer can accomplish a decent production, but may not necessarily fully understand their client’s business (or their clients).

    In this era of content marketing, producers of B2B marketing videos must start with the voice of the customer and educate them based on where their target viewer is in the buying process. To J. Geibel’s point, I agree that the video doesn’t have to have a total Hollywood luster to it, but should be of decent enough quality that a visual learner won’t be turned off. The soundtrack contributes to that as well. People perceive higher overall quality of a video if the audio is of high caliber.

    I must admit that I subscribe to the school of mixing a tiny bit of B2C in the B2B (The Edutainment Factor). The thing to remember is that we aren’t necessarily marketing to companies, but to human beings. The problem I’ve noticed is that people get too cutesy or try to be too hip and take things way over the top.

    People are hard-wired to be drawn to good stories:


    As with the culinary arts, part of storytelling is presentation. We’re tasked with feeding our audience. They should have something nourishing as well as pleasing to the senses.

    Having a proper call to action and even a relevant offer (such as a white paper or even a blog post) will be something to help the viewer move further along in their buying journey. If the video is really doing its job, they’ll pass it on to someone they know. What can be cooler than making an advocate of the buyers who see your video?

  6. Phil,

    I’m in complete agreement with all you have to say and thanks for the link. I agree the linchpin is storytelling. It’s interesting that you bring that and marketing strategy up, because I wrote about those being necessary components of a successful B2B marketing video. http://www.acsellerant.com/2012/03/a-new-prototype-for-b2b-marketing/
    And prior to that, I had a post that used (some might say over-used) your “culinary / feeding / nourishing” metaphor. http://www.acsellerant.com/2011/09/prospects-consume-gourmet-content-because-they-find-it-irresistible/



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