What's the first leading indicator that you have a strong product video? Engagement. That's how long viewers spend watching your video (or maybe re-watching). So the better the video, the better the engagement, right?
Well, it depends on what you mean by "better video". We often think of a good product video as highly produced with great motion graphics, animation, transitions, background music, professional voice over, audio mastering, and on and on.
But, counter to what you might think, lower production value actually increases video engagement.
Wait, what? At first glance, this seems absurd. The less professional the video the more people will engage with it? That's exactly what I'm saying. Again, it's counterintuitive. But we've done our own internal tests and the stats don't lie. We've also begun hearing similar results from our customers who are experimenting with exactly the same thing.
How could this be possible? Prospects want to be educated, not sold to. And apparently, the higher the production value, the more the prospect feels sold to.
We Started With a Hunch…then Tested It
We initially had a professionally produced video demo that incorporates a pre-written script and a voice actor. We assumed this is what our prospects wanted. But over time, our customers found it difficult and a lengthy process to produce video at that quality and we wanted to see if we could produce a demo with lower production value and still get similar results. If so, we could encourage our customers to build their own demos and they could be assured they would get good results even if the videos didn't look like they were produced by Steven Spielberg.
We were hoping we'd get at least a similar engagement rate with a lower production value. We even thought that we'd probably get a somewhat lower engagement rate given that we weren't going to put nearly the time or expense into producing the video.
We weren't prepared for what we discovered. Take a look.
Each of the following automated video demos use the same intro videos (those do have high production value). We wanted to test the actual demo content videos and to see how fast we could make them. So when you click these links to compare, make sure to get past the intro video, answer the questions that will customize the demo to your preferences, then compare the different production quality of the voiceover vs the sales engineer.
Demo #1: Scripted With Professional Voice Over (3 weeks production time)
In this demo we carefully scripted every word, hired a voiceover artist, then painstakingly recorded and editing the product demo to fit the recording from the voiceover artist. It took us three weeks to complete, and that was focusing on it every day, full time to get it just right.
Demo #2: Non-scripted Narrated by Content Expert (3 days production time)
In this demo, we had a content expert (me to be exact) simply make an outline of what to demo, prepped what to show, then hit record on the screen recorder and go to town. I spent a few hours post-editing to clean things up.
Note the huge difference in production time: 3 days vs 3 weeks. Check out the demo here.
Results: Non-scripted video demo garnered almost a 300% increase in engagement
We were shocked at the results. The Average View Time in the less produced automated demo rose to three minutes and four seconds, compared to one minute and five seconds. That's nearly a 300% increase in engagement. Crazy really. It took 5X less time to produce (3 days instead of 15 business days) and it increased engagement 3X.
It's a trend
Our customers are finding similar results as they experiment with this as well.
We were speaking with a top Presales leader at Oracle recently and he said, "We made a mistake early on thinking that we needed to produce the videos with high production value. We insisted on background music, a professional voiceover, cutting out any transitions in our software navigation that took too long, and so on. What we found was that the higher the production value, the more the prospect felt sold to rather than educated. We changed our approach to the concept that we wanted the viewer to feel like they were in the same room with the person doing the demo. When we did, engagement and sharing among stakeholders exploded."
Repeat: "the higher the production value, the more the prospect felt sold to rather than educated."
Why Does Lower Production Value Increase Engagement? Attitudes Are Shifting to Transparency and Openness
Here's our theory. It used to be that higher production value caused viewers to think of the organization producing the video as more credible. The reasoning went something like this, "This video is poorly produced, the company producing it must not be a professional company, so it's hard to believe their product is any good." And if it was produced well, "This was a very professionally produced video, so the product and interactions with this company are likely to be professional as well."
I do think that some people still feel this way, but times and perceptions are changing.
Video In Their Blood
With the rise of a generation of professionals who grew up producing and consuming video 24/7 on all kinds on devices, the younger generation has been exposed to non-produced video from an early age and tend to evaluate the quality of the video more on the content than on the production quality.
They're focused on questions like: Did the video teach me something that I wanted to know? Did it bore me with irrelevant information?
Look at YouTube. Many videos with extremely low production quality get high ratings and often go viral on the merit of their content alone. While viewers today can appreciate good production quality, it isn't necessary to be considered a great video. Viewers today would much prefer video with great content over a well produced video that doesn’t have the content they want.
Look at your own behavior. How many times have you watched a video filmed by some guy behind his house showing you how to build something, or fix something. Was it a great video? Yes! If it helped you learn what you needed.
Sales Teams Find Marketing Videos Useless
Before we began to target sales (and specifically sales engineers) as our primary users, we had a lot of marketers who were taking the lead on demo automation inside our customer base. The marketing team would produce a set of high-level videos with great production quality including motion graphics, voiceovers from professional artists, perfect company branding, and so on. They would build out the automated demos with this video content and then say, "Ta-da! Hey sales team, we now have awesome automated demos for you to share with your prospects." The response from sales was underwhelming at best.
Typical responses we heard from the sales team (and still hear when Marketing produces the videos) were "We can't send these out--they're just fluff and are useless" and "These won't really educate the client--they aren't what we need. We need real demos of the software."
Prospects Want to Be Educated, Not Sold To
Prospects ultimately are looking for trust. They want to trust the vendor they're evaluating. They want to trust the product and they want to trust the people backing up the product. To these viewers, high production value often screams, "We're making this glitzy because the product itself doesn't stand on its own!"
Conversely, when these viewers encounter a real sales engineer demonstrating the product in a product video, it comes across as authentic, credible, and transparent. They feel educated rather than sold to.
So What's the Best Practice?
If you're a marketer and intent on maintaining iron-fisted control over video production, get the sales team involved. Get the sale engineers (SE) and solution consultants giving input on the script. Better yet, have the SE record a demo, then do some post-editing.
Don't involve marketing in demo video production. At Oracle they have their sales enablement team work with sales engineers to produce the videos the sales team needs. We recommend you do the same. Don't worry about the production value. Focus on great content and engagement and sharing will skyrocket.
Use Demo Automation
Great content isn't really enough though. How will you personalize the content so your prospect isn't being overrun by content they don't care about? Can you tell what's driving prospects' interests and who they share it with and whether the buying group is aligned?
Load your new product videos into the Consensus demo automation platform so that it customizes the experience to each stakeholder and provides you with Demolytics to see what is driving the top interests of each stakeholder, and whether the buying group is aligned.