In a late 2019 report, The Content Marketing Institute predicted that 71% of B2B marketers would leverage video in 2020.
Then COVID-19 happened.
To remain competitive, virtually every B2B company from startup to enterprise had to shift gears, and quickly.
Virtual events are now included on 93% of B2B marketing plans moving into 2021 after discovering the potential of video in a dramatically shifting landscape. The same goes for webinars. Even for those who were skeptical before this year, webinars will be a go-to weapon for most B2B companies moving into the new year.
B2B marketing budgets will increase by as much as 15%, so we can justifiably expect video to establish itself at the very top of the B2B marketing food chain during 2021.
But what videos should you invest in if you’ve yet to jump aboard the B2B video train?
Similarly, what existing videos should you look to revamp or even redo first?
We recommend you start with the mother of all B2B videos: The explainer.
What is a B2B video explainer?
When engaging with a B2B explainer, viewers will be looking for answers to these questions, specifically:
‘What does your product or service do, and, more importantly, how does it help me?’
With a typical runtime of 1.5 to 3 minutes, explainers should give a brief yet comprehensive overview of your platform. You should present your offering in an engaging (ideally entertaining) and memorable way, one that emphasizes how vital and game-changing you can be to your viewers.
Think of explainers as elevator pitches on steroids. You have your audience’s attention for a short time. Don’t waste it on fluff. Prove why your product or service can solve your potential customers’ problems.
How to create a B2B video explainer
So, how do most B2B companies go about creating explainers?
For many, many years, the go-to approach has been opting for simple animation.
Atlassian is one of the most recognizable names in the world of B2B (it is also one of the companies that benefited the most from the abrupt transition to remote work, with its stock rising by more than 100% since March 2020).
Here’s what one of their explainers looked like in 2015:
And, here’s a more recent explainer, published in 2018:
There’s a slight upgrade in animation quality, but both explainers are accurate representations of a competent animated explainer on a conceptual level.
Some B2B companies delegate the task of creating explainers to companies that specialize in animated shorts. Sites such as Wyzowl and Animaker are industry go-to’s and can help B2B companies craft high-quality animated explainers.
If you have creative personnel on your B2B marketing team, you can create an animated explainer using platforms such as Biteable and Powtoon.
These platforms offer a wide range of templates and are intuitive and easy to use. If you trust your creative instincts, you can create a formidable animated explainer with these platforms.
However, animated explainers are not for everyone.
For some companies, especially those that deal in cybersecurity, animated explainers’ tone and style are entirely inconsistent with their brand and overall marketing approach.
These companies opt for a more realistic aesthetic, a video that combines footage of real people executing real-life tasks.
Companies like sales-enablement SaaS platform Outreach.io exemplify this approach:
The video’s tone is humorous and light without coming off as nonserious (which it may have, had the company’s marketers opted for an animated approach).
It’s worth noting that Outreach.io presents this video to potential customers using a video hosting and management platform (a recommended approach, especially for B2B companies).
Like with animated explainers, this approach comes with a few drawbacks.
Namely, these videos are expensive.
Additionally, it takes a while to get one of these done. If operating under strict time constraints, you’re going to find creating one of these explainers to be a near impossibility.
So what do you do if animated explainers and wholly original, live-action videos are not an option?
Start thinking about high-quality stock video footage.
Can you create a B2B video explainer using stock footage?
Stock footage in 2021 is no longer the outlier for B2B companies. It’s the norm.
At very affordable prices, you can purchase stock video sequences and insert them into a video. Without proper training, most individuals can’t tell the difference between stock footage and the kind that cost a company thousands of dollars and dozens of person-hours to create.
But, don’t take our word for it.
Some of the biggest B2B companies incorporate stock footage into their explainer videos. A big chunk of them create explainers using only high-quality stock video.
Just as importantly, stock footage can ‘play nice’ with animated footage; you can complement your animated video by adding relevant, high-quality footage (more on this in a second).
Let’s take a look at a few prominent examples:
Even those who know very little about the world of B2B are bound to recognize Salesforce. A Fortune 500 company, the CRM behemoth Salesforce created this explainer in 2015. It’s been so effective for the company that it still serves as Salesforce UK’s primary explainer on its YouTube channel.
The explainer elegantly alternates between animated sequences featuring screenshots of its platform and high-quality stock footage.
The first 10 seconds of the video are entirely stock video.
You can also take a page out of Salesforce’s explainer playbook when it comes to using video green screens:
This video (published in the final week of 2020) is primarily composed of video green screens. Much like image mockups, creators can place any footage they’d like into a predefined space (in this case, desktop computers and smartphone screens).
You can purchase complete green screen sequences and cut back and forth between various shots and scenes without your explainer feeling disjointed.
2. Constant Contact
Having undergone a significant rebranding process, Constant Contact knew it had to develop some new, engaging video content that would fit the popular email marketing platform’s vibrant, contemporary look and feel.
The company created a video that is more or less wholly composed of high-quality stock footage. They did a great job of incorporating screenshots using video green screens, as well.
Remember how we alluded to blending stock footage and animation? Brainshark’s B2B explainer videos are an excellent example of doing it the right way.
The sales-enablement platform does a lot in one minute, effectively introducing itself and highlighting ways users can benefit from it.
They enhance the animated scenes with live-action sequences presented in ‘windows.’ These are dynamically introduced by blending into the top and bottom of the screen, alongside the animated messaging:
Final thoughts and takeaways
All B2B video marketing initiatives should be taken seriously and planned out methodically.
However, when it comes to explainers, B2B companies know they have to hit it out of the park.
As the centerpiece of their video marketing strategy (and often their marketing approach, as a whole), explainers must pique potential customers’ interest while providing an overview of the product or service at hand.
That’s a lot to ask.
B2B marketers can choose from several proven approaches:
Animated videos are far less expensive to produce today and have become an industry staple of sorts. Still, some companies will find that they are inconsistent with their marketing tone and approach. Live-action explainers are memorable and effective. Yet, the cost of producing them may prove a (legitimate) deterring factor to many companies.
High-quality stock video footage can prove game-changing in that regard.
You can create an explainer composed entirely of stock footage or ‘sprinkle’ stock sequences into animated videos.