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Trust and Curiosity: How to Get Delightfully Creative with B2B Video

By Lynn Bruno

Direct to consumer marketers have long been harnessing the power of video, but uptake has been slower in B2B marketing, the land of whitepapers, webinars and PowerPoints. 2020 was a tipping point; according to The State of B2B Video Marketing Benchmark Report by Vidyard, 82% of B2B marketers reported success with video marketing initiatives, and 63% said spend on video is on the rise.

Does that mean we’ll soon see a flood of talking heads and screen shot-heavy explainer videos? Not necessarily. B2B video can be fresh and innovative if you’re working with a team that really understands the creative process. I sat down with Bud Anderson, owner and creative director at dangerbrain video, a B2B video production house, to talk about how B2B marketers can make video that engages, entertains and inspires.

You spent six years making video for Stanford Athletics, which seems very different than making B2B video. What is your approach for B2B companies?

We talk about what the problem is that they’re trying to solve. What's the message they want to get out there? Do you have a product? Do you have a statement? Is it an interview, or do you have a narrative? Once we understand that, we talk them through the process of how we might go about it.

One thing people always want is for us to send them some samples of our work. Well, I've done 3,000 videos in my life, and none of them is exactly what they want because what they want has not been created yet. Like most creatives, we're not a plug-and-play type company. We have big ideas, and everything we make is going to be unique to you, so you’re not going to see the exact thing you want.

We do need to make sure that we’re envisioning the same thing; that they’re not envisioning a five-hour Netflix special when you’re pitching a 30-second online commercial. Then we reflect that in the scope of work, so everyone has the same expectations.

But you shouldn’t expect to see exactly what you want in a videographer portfolio. Look for evidence of quality and creativity. We can do just about anything, if we can develop the right kind of relationship.

What is that right kind of relationship?

Well, I think it’s important for the client to trust the creative process. What I try to do is pitch my best idea and hold strong. People may not understand it or they may want it to be more conservative, or they may think it’s off brand. But there's a reason that you hire creatives — because you want them to make you better. And they want to make you look better. You wouldn’t hire a plumber to work on your house and then stand over them and say, “Are you sure you’re supposed to turn that handle?” No. You just want them to get the job done for you. A video producer is no different than a plumber. We're going to come in and solve the problem, using the skills we have.

What else do business people need to know about working with creatives on video?

Have an open mind going into it. It's a fun process. Don’t be afraid to think big. Be a “yes, and” person, as opposed to a “no” person. If I say, “I’m seeing your brand flying in a hot air balloon,” you say, “Yes, and an elephant is in the basket.” And then I say, "Yes, and that elephant is eating a banana." You build on each other’s ideas.

I teach a class at Stanford, and that's one of the exercises we always do — a “yes, and” exercise. The first time around people are so conservative and the story is terrible. For the second round, I encourage them to throw in something crazy. It doesn't matter what it is. Then we get to the ideas that are fun and different and interesting, that people want to talk more about.

Isn’t thinking big in video going to be very expensive?

Not necessarily. It’s more about understanding the possibilities. You know, I have so much respect for writers and photographers, because they can connect with people and say it all using just one medium. You don't have music, or animation or motion graphics. You have to make people think of the whole thing in their head.

With video, we have all these different tools to get the message across. We can do motion graphics and music. We can change the mood and the lighting. We can even do VR and 3D. You can think bigger because there are a lot more ways to make things happen. Most people don't even know what’s possible, so bring all your big, crazy ideas. Nothing is off the table.

How many of your clients are making their first foray into video? What should they know?

Probably 20 percent of my clients have not done video before. Those are my favorite people to work with because you get to teach them, and you get to learn what their scary moments are. Usually it boils down to a couple things — impressing their boss, and making sure that the money they're spending is going to have a good return on investment.

To do a great job, they need to be willing to ask questions. They may not want to do that, because they don’t want to appear like they don't know what they're doing. The truth is, as a video producer, I have no clue what my clients do. I do videos about them, but I could never do it unless I asked 100 questions. Ask all your questions and let's just be curious together. And we’ll have a great experience.

How is it working inside companies and trying to get these people who've never been on camera before to be comfortable?

It's one of the best challenges. It’s fun working with professional talent, but it's more fun working with executives. They have all this responsibility, but when they walk into the shoot, they’re out of their comfort zone, in a place where they have no power. They’re looking to you for help. And if you can set up an environment where you can put them at ease and just sit down and have a conversation, and you get them talking from their expertise, pretty soon they forget about the cameras and they get in the zone and you can get some great material. They might even do something unexpected or crazy, which takes it to a whole other level.

How do you get to that kind of moment in a B2B setting?

It helps to be coming in as an outside creative. Internally, there's always a hierarchy that employees are bound by that might cause them not to say certain things or take certain risks. When you bring in somebody from outside, you take away that layer of self editing. Our job is to go in and do something really cool. The relationship is human to human, not human to boss.

Let’s talk about budget, because one of the enduring perceptions is that video is too expensive. How can people think about this in a way that’s more realistic?

There are for sure a lot of companies that charge very large amounts of money. And, if they’re bringing seven, eight people and have on-staff editors, motion graphics, and other special effects, they totally deserve it. Cost is not related to the length of the video, or the type of the video. It’s related to the line items. Maybe you just want a simple, two minute interview. Not that expensive. But you want Bon Jovi to be the interviewer. Expensive.

Maybe the best way to look at is in tiers. If you just start at the very basic tier, say an hour-long interview in an office with a camera and a director and then somebody from your company instead of professional talent, maybe that’s two people for a day setting up and doing the interview and then shooting some B-roll. You could get out for under $10K, and if you plan ahead you can get two or three videos from the same shoot and then pay the extra in editing to cut it up a few different ways.

The next tier up, you start to add things — maybe a third camera, a second location, or talent, or a teleprompter. Maybe you need animation. Say you have this new coffee cup you're trying to sell and we need the coffee cup to grow legs and dance around and ski down a mountain. That could take five hours, to animate, or it could take 100 hours. That’s how the cost goes up, as you start to add line items. Now we’re in the $10K-$100K zone.

When you get to tier three, now you’re renting a soundstage with a 90-foot green screen. You need a crew of six to man that. You’re bringing in bigger name talent, it's going to five days to shoot it, and at least two weeks to plan it. You need shot lists and lighting lists, you need to do site visits and all that kind of stuff, and there’s going to be a lot more post production work. Now we’re talking $500K and up.

Besides the budget hurdle, it sounds like one of the biggest challenges for B2B marketers is to get out of their comfort zone and be creative. Do you have any words of wisdom to get them over that hump?

Doing creative work is amazing, but it also can be uncomfortable. As creatives, we're in charge of stretching people out of their comfort zone. Trust the process and know that it's fun to go through, especially if you work with a producer who enjoys what they do. Get ready to enjoy it, think big, and be nice and open-minded to each other. Team up with your producer and be honest and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Nobody knows it all when it comes to any of this stuff, including me.

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About Lynn Bruno

Lynn Bruno is a blog editor and independent digital marketing consultant.

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