Like a heavyweight contender, video has been rising through the ranks of marketing media, waiting for its title shot.

In 2012, we learned that 76% of marketers plan to add video to their sites. In 2013, we learned that 93% of marketers were using video somewhere in their campaigns and 70% planned to increase their spend. At the end of 2013, that 93% was corroborated by another source, and a year later, MarketingProfs and Content Marketing Institute found that 76% of B2B content marketers were using video, and that it was highly effective for them.

Then, on the eve of 2015, writing on MarketingProfs, the CMO of Vidyard proclaimed 2015 the year of video marketing.

No arguments here. Don't have a video on your homepage? Your visitors will think they clicked a link from 2008.

Gentle teasing aside, I completely understand. Producing video is a pain. You're busy. Really busy. How can you cram a difficult, time-consuming, and expensive process like video production into your daily grind? Are you even comfortable booking crews and cast, scheduling around the weather, getting floors in your building or external streets closed for shooting? Can your budget even accommodate all the videos you wish you had?

Can your career take the risk that you commit major budget and time to a highly visible video and then... it doesn't turn out well?

Animated vs. Live Action

The answer is animated video.

In video marketing, the first key success factor is speed of engagement, which is where animated videos outperform. Most people are positively predisposed toward 2D animation. It reminds them of TV. More important, it's easier for viewers to immerse themselves in animation or bond with on-screen animated characters than it is for them to dive right into live-action video.

Somehow, that abstraction allows viewers to focus on the content, enjoy the visuals, and truly engage.

With live-action video, however, viewers get stuck on the trees, not the forest. The details about the people, places, and things in the video become a major issue, distracting from the message. Viewers wonder whether they like the person on the screen, whether the desk is right for the cube, whether the background characters are really talking of faking it, and so on.

Animated videos also allow for a greater degree of emphasis. Stories can be bigger, badder, bolder. Perspectives can be suddenly changed. The rules of physics—and camera viewfinders—no longer apply. Need a top view of a global logistics system? No problem. Need to demonstrate your new microprocessor architecture? No problem. Want to explain bitcoin in video? No problem.

Four Ways to Use Video

How should you use this friendly, engaging, flexible, and powerful medium to connect with your audience?

1. Homepage explainer videos

People understand the value of the homepage explainer video, but they get hung up on what to say. This video is about your value proposition: What problem did the customer have that led them to your homepage? Can you solve it? How? What is the value to the customer of your having solved the problem? What should they do for a next step?

In the "How" section, focus on high-level benefits. Do not get into a laundry list of features. You are essentially making an emotional appeal (relief from a problem) using a medium that excels at doing so. Do not bog it down with excessive detail.

Keep it short. You want viewers to reach the end with a positive feeling and a good head of steam so that they're motivated to share their email, sign up for a free trial, or take the next step getting to know your company. If you wear them out, they'll save you for later... and later may never come.

2. Customized landing-page videos

This type of video parallels the homepage video, in the sense that your homepage is also a landing page. It's just a general one—for your business, rather than for a specific campaign.

When running digital marketing campaigns, you are often targeting. You are isolating a particular niche by audience (industry, job role, company size, title, etc.) or by search behavior (keywords, sites previously visited, etc.). Landing pages for those campaigns should be customized to best match the "invitation" that was sent.

Unbounce notes that using videos on landing pages can boost conversion up to 80%.

3. Videos in your content marketing

Let's assume you are already regularly sharing interesting content with your followers. You're demonstrating your expertise, enhancing your reputation, building trust, and expanding your follower base. All that is positive.

But the world outside has changed. The pace and volume of content marketing has increased dramatically over the past couple of years while, simultaneously, the average quality has gone down.

The result is that your audiences have more content to choose from, less patience, and much stronger defenses in place to protect their valuable time.

Forward-thinking content marketers need to do one more thing: entertain. Offer an enjoyable "lean back" experience that promises to be interesting... and short. What better way to do that than with video: simple animated slide shows, short scenes with characters talking to each other, or, combining two great media, a video infographic.

Videos can be posted to your blog. They can live in "evergreen" learning or resource centers. They can be gated themselves, or serve as an ungated "trailer" next to a longer piece of gated content.

If done properly, video can also help you stand out in the search engine results.

4. Videos in your emails

You probably already notify many of your followers, leads, and customers of new content via email. You might send a regular newsletter. The benefit of using video in emails is well proven: Brainshark has recorded a boost in open rates of 20%, with a 2-3-fold jump in click-through rate.

So why isn't everyone embedding video into their emails?

Once again, the holdup is a perceived technical difficulty, which has pretty much been cleared. For instance, MailChimp will automatically convert video embed codes into a screenshot plus a link back to the source of the video.

* * *

There are many other ways to use animated videos to create and strengthen your connection to your followers, leads, and customers. We can discuss those another day. For now, we'll follow our own advice and keep it short!

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Video: The Contender Takes the Marketing Title

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image of Gary Lipkowitz

Gary Lipkowitz is chief operating officer of animated-video solution GoAnimate, which he joined in 2011, after spending 10 years in Asia working with, Mediacorp Raintree Pictures, Yahoo Southeast Asia, and MTV Asia.

LinkedIn: Gary Lipkowitz