October 14, 2016
In tech companies, getting people to grasp new ideas and ways of doing things is especially critical to the sales process. This got me to wondering if I might be able to apply teaching – or learning – principles to the marketing videos we make for them.
I set out to explore some of the best blogs and websites from some of the top eLearning experts. What follows are tips and concepts that apply to marketing videos — and which we are now taking into consideration in scripting and producing videos.
Light bulb moments
The age of bite-size learning is upon us. In eLearning circles, there’s buzz about “micro-videos.” This is because people seem to learn best in short bursts — light bulb 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 “light bulb 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 speeds up customer onboarding, light bulbs will go on.
Assume the “why it matters” and go straight to the “how.”
One eLearning tip is “assume the why it matters and go straight to the how.” Much eLearning 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 takes risks. Going “straight to the how” in a video means skipping over the problem and getting right to the demonstration of what can be accomplished with little risk of failure.
This 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 you apart.
We like to build videos around practical demonstrations that venture into the weeds — talking 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. These 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 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 like examples and exercises that assist information processing (“germane load”).
If the intrinsic + extraneous + germane loads exceed the capacity of working memory, learning becomes very difficult.
Obviously, a video producer can’t accurately measure or estimate these loads. However, according to eLearningIndustry.com there are some best practices for reducing cognitive load that can be applied in video.
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 like talking characters and decorative graphics. These 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 the useful guide at https://corp.hapyak.com/beginners-guide-to-making-an-interactive-video/)
• Videos that allow the user to process information effectively without taxing working memory.
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 eLearning 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 dazzlement is not the goal.
According to eLearning 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 this 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.
• Refer to prior learning to link what you are about to teach to personal experiences.
• Discovery learning: help viewers discover and become aware of 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.
Understand that in marketing videos, it’s usually 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 — including calls-to-action, downloading a free trial, branching, quizzes and even chapterizing your videos.
Using eLearning 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 eLearning principles – 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.
Since 2004, Bruce McKenzie, founding partner of Business Information Graphics, has been developing videos to increase sales engagement for companies such as IBM, Cisco, Brocade, Quantum, Compuware and many startups.