The verdict is in, and the analytics are clear: if you’re selling products and services to modern customers, no tool has a bigger impact on sales than video. Marketing pros know it, too: video is the medium with the best ROI. But…what kind of video? How long should it be?

Death by Longevity

Cool fact: a video loses 90% of its audience after 100 seconds of elapsed time. Cool fact #2: There’s a science to fast-storytelling. The science goes like this:

  • don’t wait longer than 0:03 seconds to surface a product benefit.
  • And then don’t wait longer than 0:09 to surface your second product benefit, or to tell a joke, or light something on fire.
  • If your viewers are still with you after those first 2 milestones, you’ll likely keep them until about 1 minute.

But making videos that entertain and educate can be an uphill battle. One reason for this is that ads encroach on consumers’ media experience so much – on their Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, and so on – that consumers have even less patience than they once did for marketing messages. They often want to escape them, not listen to them.

And the ‘inundation’ problem holds true for marketing executives, too – over 80% of C-level execs reported watching more online video today than they did a year ago, while 75% say they watch work-related videos at least weekly.  

Back Off, Bud

So what do you do about viewers loving video but hating the hard sell? Simple – remember the following adage: “The less you sell, the more you sell.” Consumers at the point of purchase will buy if they see a helpful, neutral, editorially-toned marketing message; and they will run away if you get aggressive. Got a great product and want to shout about it from rooftops? Great — just stay up on that rooftop when you’re shouting. The further down the sales funnel you go, the more whispering you should do. Another way to put it: the closer you get to the point of sale, the less a customer likes prodding. So, ‘tell them, don’t sell them’.

Death by Shopping List

Tempted to jam 17 ideas into a single minute by listing all of your product’s benefits fast, like an auctioneer? Don’t do it. Customers want “proof” behind your claims, more than the claims themselves. Listing a number of benefits one after the other is simply failing to prove these claims one after the other. A single truthful claim, backed up by clear evidence, boosts consumers’ confidence and spurs their tendency to make a purchase. In summary, confusion never sold a product.

Now What?

Now that you know about best practices, you face video’s toughest challenge: how to get started. Here’s a simple roadmap.

  1. Make sure your video is about 1 subject — not 2 or 3. You’ll generate better viewer attention and retention.
  2. Keep it simple. Have you decided there are 3 or 4 or even 10 key concepts to communicate? No problem – break those 3 or 4 or even 10 concepts into 3 or 4 or even 10 videos, of 1 minute or less.
  3. Keep it short. Is your video 9 minutes long? Trust me: viewers will miss 8/9ths of it. They’ve clicked off and have gone out to pick up the kids, walk the dog, and rearrange their sock drawer.
  4. Maximize the chances your viewers keep watching after Video #1. Just add a call to action near the end of that 1 minute to drive them to the next one.

Cool Tip: If a viewer knows how much time they’ll need to invest in a video, they’ll watch longer. So, visually place total running time somewhere in the description under the video thumbnail or still image. Your text might be something like this: “This video explains the Affordable Care Act in 1 minute and 9 seconds.”

Next Steps

OK, you’re sold. You want to get started. Excellent. Go (quickly) to hire a writer. If you’re starting with almost no budget, the most important video resource you can spend money on is a scriptwriter. Why? Because they’re experts at writing text that makes sense when it ends up on screen. Remember, the hardest part of making a short video is making a short video good. By the time you say, ‘Hi, my name is Jim, and I’m here to tell you all about our amazing widget,’ you’ve just spent 10 seconds of your precious 60. A good writer, like a good teacher, can get to the point fast; and communicate a hugely complex subject in a way that builds confidence. For proof, stand in front of a mirror and try to explain why your listener should buy your Smart TV (or insurance product or fleet management software) …in 1 minute.  

Why O, Why O, Why-O? Video Just Keeps Getting Stronger

The stakes literally couldn’t be higher when it comes to creating video content. Consumer video consumption will equate to 4 times the Internet traffic of web browsing and email this year. Yes, if you added up all web browsing and email, video viewing will eclipse that data usage by 400%. And B2B companies are joining the trend in droves, almost 90% are planning to use video in their content marketing over the next year. Video is, and will be, everywhere. Time to capture your B2C and B2B viewers with honesty and humor; boost their confidence, and close the deal.

Paul Hochman