"Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics"
The ongoing public debate over "settled science" should sensitize us to the fact that there's settled, and then there's settled. In other words, what one believes is for sure; another might not.
One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes, captured above, reinforces this. For B2B marketers and complex sales teams, both are important to keep in mind.
Much of what we fervently believe, even that which we believe we can substantiate empirically with data, isn't necessarily anything other than opinion to others. An important part of sales (probably the core of the big story movement) is the ability to help others internalize our opinions. We use facts, research and data to facilitate that, but B2B buyers are naturally and rightly skeptical. They assume they're being sold. This is especially true of the technical buyers and engineers to whom many of my industrial manufacturing and capital equipment clients sell.
So overcoming the resistance to our "opinions" is core to success B2B sales (and marketing is part of sales now for sure.)
Therefore (OK, you can throw your hypocrisy flag here since I'm going to cite science!) let's look at some recent research with interesting implications.
The Power of Hearing vs. Reading
First, it's true that we're all individuals. Second, auditory, visual and kinesthetic learning styles are commonly accepted and helpful concepts that explain why some people prefer to digest written information while others prefer visual or other means. Third, there is value in well formatted (headlines, bullets, etc.) written information to allow people to skim and digest it quickly - often to decide if they should actually dig in.
So there's an important place in marketing, particularly for B2B technical buyers, for written content.
However, interesting research from Nicholas Epley seems to find that the emotional connection created by hearing someone articulate an idea (various elements that foster empathy) substantially increases the likelihood that they'll be slower to dismiss it, and more open to considering why their knowledge (read opinions) may be different.
In the paper "The Humanizing Voice: Speech Reveals, and Text Conceals, a More Thoughtful Mind in the Midst of Disagreement" Epley and his coauthors found that:
"The results showed that the medium of communication mattered particularly when the communicator and the evaluator disagreed on an issue: Participants judged communicators who expressed an opposing opinion via video or audio as more humanlike -- that is, more sophisticated and warm -- than those who described their opposing opinions in text form."
Interestingly, they also determined that there was little difference between audio only and video formats.
So what does this mean for marketing and sales?
You've Got to Use Video (and/or Audio)
We've all heard this. Each of the last 5 years was destined to be the year of video. Statistics (or opinions?) are offered up about user preferences, relative engagement, conversion rates, growth of YouTube, etc.
I haven't heard anybody articulate the possibility that it's the voice itself that makes the difference. Of course we know that in-person sales calls work, just as telephone is often better than email. So we probably understand the premise, but then get hung up in production quality and expensive filming projects. And SEO imperatives often lead companies to focus on various written content to ensure that Google can digest information in its preferred format, even if that's not the same as users'.
What if the value is in the voice - the person - telling the story and making it more accessible than simply blasting more facts at someone to bludgeon them into agreement? Then the application of video (and potentially podcasts or recorded messages triggered by clicking a link) becomes a different task than we might think of it.
What if you use video to provide the use case, application and outcome information that you know prospects and visitors will value? What if you use it as a primary communication method with existing customers? And what if you move beyond thinking of it as something that's incorporated into the website for entertainment and artistic reasons, and rather adopt it as a communication channel?
Beyond Marketing - Video for B2B Sales
This research also shoves the critical application for video further toward sales on the revenue growth continuum. Certainly it's helpful to marketing - but maybe it's even more critical for sales where the resistance to "opinions" is likely to be heightened.
Vidyard (and others) have made plugins that simplify recording of videos (with screen sharing if appropriate) directly from a computer. A bit of attention to microphone and lighting can make these quite effective - and various teleprompter options can help to ensure that videos are concise, and discourage rambling.
It's easy to create one-off responses to email questions, replies to voice mails or even introductions as part of the SDR/BDR function. Simple videos can be easily incorporated into mass emails, knowledge base articles and other formats.
Same Effort - More Effective
Here's the shift to be aware of.
People have maintained for several years that video was more effective. This research helps to explain why that is.
People have hesitated to implement video in broad and systematic ways because of the effort and cost. The impact isn't a function of the production quality (obviously there's an expected baseline) and the ease of production now allows individual sales reps to use the tool with the same efficiency as email and phone.
The bottom line is that it's effective, and now we can understand why, and therefore optimize effectively.
Why wouldn't you use it?