In tech companies, getting people to grasp new ideas and new ways of doing things is especially critical to the sales process. That got me wondering whether I might be able to apply teaching—or learning—principles to the marketing videos we make for them.
So I set out to explore some of the best blogs and websites from some of the top e-learning experts.
What follows are tips and concepts, based on that exploration, that we now take into consideration to script and produce marketing videos.
The age of bite-size learning is upon us. In e-learning circles, there's buzz about "micro-videos," because people seem to learn best in short bursts—lightbulb moments—better than they do by continuous effort. Concentration is hard to maintain in a world with so many competing demands on attention.
I don't know how many "lightbulb moments" can be crammed into a short video, but it certainly makes sense to try to have at least one and to build the video around it. It might be something along the lines of "Look how easy it is to do X."
Regulatory compliance, for example, is generally seen as an important but uninspiring subject for a video. But if you can show how compliance processes speed up customer onboarding, for example (we did that in a video for a Canadian software company), light bulbs will go on.
Assume the "Why It Matters"; Go Straight to the "How To"
One e-learning tip is "assume the why it matters and go straight to the how." Much e-learning is about job performance and career advancement. People naturally pay attention if they think they're about to pick up on something practical they can use.
A lot of B2B marketing is about job performance and career advancement, too. Buyers want to make a splash. But they don't want to take risks. Going "straight to the how" in a video means skipping over the description of the problem and getting right to the demonstration of what can be accomplished with little risk of failure.
This approach is especially applicable in B2B content, where the problem you solve is the same problem your competitors solve. The "why" is the same for everyone—it's the "how" that, hopefully, sets your offering and company apart.
Therefore, build videos around practical demonstrations that venture into the weeds. For example, we've talked to M&A attorneys about negotiation over indebtedness covenants, or to data center managers about how quickly minor device failures can make recovery objectives unattainable. Those are practical problems that call for practical solutions.
A video can spend almost no time on "the problem" with a structure like "we know what you want, and here it is." A real-life scenario, with numbers, can also help to establish credibility.
Consider the Cognitive Load
Learning is a matter of processing information in "working memory" to fit existing patterns (schema) by which it can then be stored in long-term memory. Our working memory is pretty limited, so it's important not to overload it.
Total "cognitive load" consists of...
- The complexity of the information itself ("intrinsic load"), plus
- The amount of information that is not relevant to learning—decorative elements, non-relevant animations, etc. ("extraneous load"), plus
- Elements such as examples and exercises that assist information processing ("germane load")
If the intrinsic + extraneous + germane loads exceed the capacity of working memory, learning becomes difficult.
Obviously, a video producer can't accurately measure or estimate those loads. However, according to e-learningIndustry.com there are some best-practices for reducing cognitive load that can be applied in video. Here are four of them.
1. Present some information via the visual channel and some via the verbal (aural) channel
Video already does this, you'll say. But, the vast majority of marketing videos load all the complex information (the messaging) into the aural channel, and load up the visual channel with eye-catching extraneous information such as talking characters and decorative graphics. Those visual elements can make videos compelling and fun, but we should also recognize that they consume brainpower needed for learning.
2. Break content into smaller segments and allow the learner to control the pace
- Short videos that teach in bite-size chunks
- Interactive videos (See this useful guide by Hapyak. )
- Videos that allow the user to process information effectively without taxing working memory
Engage Customers and Generate Leads With Interactive Content, a 27-page guide, will answer your questions about interactive content. It may even inspire you to "interactivate" your own content and engage your readers.
3. Remove non-essential content
This is tricky in marketing videos, because videos that fail to dazzle with motion, music, and other razzmatazz don't feel like the videos that delight us most. The guiding principle in an e-learning context is that if content doesn't support the instructional goal, it should be removed. In a marketing context, some professional pizzazz is expected, but we should at least keep in mind that dazzling is not the goal.
According to e-learning expert Dr. Joel Gardner, the fundamentals of instructional design haven't really been improved upon since you learned how to add and subtract: Tell-Show-Do-Apply.
Here are some ways that model can apply to designing a video for explaining your technology solution:
- Introduce new learning using appropriate attention-grabbing techniques—a specific problem, a comparison, a memorable visual, a thought-provoking question, a clear contrast, a checklist.
- Tell viewers how what they're about to learn applies.
- To link what you are about to teach to personal experiences, refer to prior learning.
- Discovery learning: help viewers become aware of—to discover—what they already know.
- Show your relevance using real-life examples, contrasting examples with non-examples, case studies, and realistic scenarios.
- Use step graphics and tables to break down complex processes into steps to keep viewers engaged.
In marketing videos, it's often more important to put across examples of what you can accomplish with a solution than it is to show how it's done. But if you can come up with a series of software screens that tell a story and exemplify the concept, you can turn an abstract concept into something that feels like real life.
Get prospects to take the next step with interactive videos—include calls to action (e.g., downloading a free trial), branching, quizzes... and even chapterize your videos.
Using E-Learning Insights Can Give You a Competitive Advantage
Explainer videos have become somewhat commoditized with stock cartoon characters and motion graphics. There is a competitive advantage in applying e-learning principles—because the overwhelming majority of technology solution providers don't.
If you can come up with strategies that encourage people to learn what you want them to learn, you'll be ahead of the game.
Download the free guide, "Apply e-learning insights to improve your technology marketing videos," which provides additional information to help you design videos that engage IT buyers.
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