Customer education programs that incorporate videos are all the rage nowadays. Yet if your organization decides to feature videos in its customer training initiative for the first time, the prospect can induce panic for staff members. It needn’t.
For one thing, video production tools and editing software have become simultaneously cheaper and more sophisticated, thereby enabling you to make quality videos relatively inexpensively and quickly.
Agencies and companies specializing in video production have sprouted up to guide organizations in the strategic use of videos as well. Even better, a plethora of online courses and communities exist to support you while you produce videos for customer education — or for any other marketing or lead generation project.
SchoolKeep talked to two experts in the video field for their take on the latest trends in video production. Their insights provide valuable advice on the ways you can create instructional videos that engage your customers while making the best use of your resources.
Hire an in-house video person or team
Chris Savage is co-founder and CEO of Wistia, a company that pioneered video-hosting for businesses. In the last ten years, if you’ve landed on a company website that plays some kind of video, chances are it was hosted by Wistia.
Savage says that over the past few years he’s noticed more companies in a wide spectrum of industries hiring in-house video staff. “They are making video a core competency of how they communicate,” he adds.
Brian Bruzzi, co-founder and creative director of boutique advertising agency IndieWhip, agrees, saying “a necessity would be to have at least one person on the marketing team just focusing on video.”
Pushing this trend is the rising affordability of video production tools, Bruzzi says. Retailers such as Best Buy now sell reasonably priced equipment able to produce quality videos for customer education or other purposes.
“Four or five years ago if you wanted to do this, you’d be using $10,000 equipment,” Savage says. “Today, you can use a DSR video camera that costs $2,000, or you can use your smart phone. One person can shoot and edit the video and it can come out really great.”
Companies also realize it’s more efficient to have an in-house video person rather than outsourcing the function, Savage says. “You think about the ROI of video differently when you have it in-house,” he says. “When you hire a design firm for a campaign you are measuring hours and thinking about the impact. When you have a design team internally, you think, whoa, there are all these other experiences we can be making better, stronger and have a way a bigger impact on the customer experience. Video is the same exact thing.”
Tap external resources
That doesn’t mean your in-house video point person stands to be overwhelmed by the amount of videos you want to produce. Agencies, like IndieWhip, and companies, like Wistia, can assist them, either directly or through their educational resources. “People in those corporate jobs and who might be a one-man team producing these training videos seek out other qualified people,” Bruzzi says.
Wistia’s website, for one, offers an array of instructional videos to help its customers — everything from how to shoot videos with an iPhone to choosing the right backdrop.
A video specialist also brings along some tricks that could make your video more appealing, such as selecting the right on-camera person and the appropriate background music. A specialist would know, for example, that shooting entirely from one camera angle could lead to a boring video, Bruzzi says. Frequent cutaways give the video more energy and up the viewers’ interest, he says.
Add the human factor
Video geared for customer education has definitely veered away from the screencasts with narration and whiteboards of yesterday. Though those techniques remain viable in certain circumstances, today’s videos integrate live action, graphics and animation. All those elements make the video more engaging, particularly a human touch.
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Learners respond more favorably when they see an actual person in the video, Savage contends. “Video is more compelling if there is someone on screen you are learning from,” he says. “Videos gives you the opportunity to make your communication more human, and we want to do business with humans.”
Savage points to email marketing service MailChimp as an example of how training videos have evolved over the past five years. Its initial videos featured mostly screencasts; now, their videos combine animation or an on-camera person to teach viewers how to use their product.
And add a dash of humor, Brian Bruzzi advises. If people laugh while watching the video, it means they are engaged in the customer education program. “Don’t be afraid to do something that isn’t completely serious,” he says.
“Chunk” the content
When transferring your customer education program from white papers and manuals to video, it’s tempting to want to cram everything into one long video. That would be a mistake, Bruzzi says.
Instead, he recommends “chunking” the content, or breaking it into smaller, more streamlined videos. As our attention spans have gotten shorter and therefore, so has our willingness to watch long videos containing extraneous content that doesn’t pertain to us.
In fact, Bruzzi says his firm has analyzed when learners disengage from videos. To prevent that, Bruzzi says to view the video as your learners would. “If you yourself watch the video and you don’t feel any connection,” he says, “then your audience definitely isn’t.”
Tell a story
Rather than using a traditional didactic format, the best customer training videos have evolved into narratives that tell a story, Bruzzi says. A training manual for IT salespeople converts into a video story to help learners understand and apply the information. “It makes the video a bit more palatable and makes sure that no information goes through one ear and out the other,” he says. “It brings the experience to another level.”
Savage has also seen a rise in the use of narratives in videos. “Our society is built on stories, that’s what we care about and relate to, so that’s what the best content is.”
In an instructional video, a simple storytelling format begins with a person speaking about challenges he or she faced and why it needed to be overcome. Then, that person tells how your product, service, or customer training solved that hurdle. By telling a story, the learner identifies with the person’s struggle. Storytelling videos also entertain with their “plot” by presenting a challenge or conflict and show how it came to a resolution. These case studies also serve as testimonials for your company.
Use video analytics
One advantage a hosting service like Wistia possesses is the ability to track and analyze how a learner engages with a video — and whether they’ve actually learned the skills the videos intends to impart. Simply posting a video on YouTube, while free, doesn’t feature the same robust set of analytics a video hosting service specifically for business brings, Savage says. Through the analytics, trainers can gauge when learners click off, skip over or re-watch certain parts of the video.
“Maybe the reason people are re-watching something is because it’s particularly interesting or confusing,” Savage says. That in turns provides insight into the type of content your audience wants and needs.
“You end up making content that is more engaging because you understand what your audience cares about,” he says. “You often also learn about new types of things that you should be teaching people.”
With the sophistication of today’s video tools, companies may be tempted to use it for every function. Converting all your website data or instructional content into videos is unnecessary. Sometimes, as Bruzzi points out, a learner prefers to read the information rather than watching a short video.
Ultimately, a video must serve a purpose — whether for customer education or marketing — and have a pinpoint focus. “If you want to make a video to get more leads,” Bruzzi says, “you need to make sure everything about that video and the content is geared at getting more leads.”