SAS has been using video as part of the marketing and sales process for almost 40 years, and we’re often asked how important is video in the various phases of the customer journey? Or, if you have budget or resource constraints, what are the most important touch points in that journey? In truth there isn’t any “one size fits all” answer. However, in our experience, video now plays an important role at every point in the customer journey.
At SAS we sell an intangible product – analytics software – that is at the same time critical to organizations and difficult to explain. Video helps make our products and solutions real by showing how they help customers solve problems and maximize opportunities. It also creates personality for our brand, and humanizes our company.
Over the years, we’ve seen video evolve from presenting demos and highlighting product features to serving as a ubiquitous element across all of our sales and marketing activities. That’s because our prospects respond positively to video throughout the cycle. At SAS, we define the customer journeys as a continuous loop with seven way stations (see illustration below), and we have identified different types of videos that work well at different stages.
NEED – We use video to accomplish two important goals in this phase. First, video helps to generate awareness of SAS and to communicate our brand. In a world where products evolve quickly or become commodities, customers want to know what type of company they are considering doing business with; what does it stand for; what are its values. Videos for this purpose use a storytelling approach and focus on higher-level messages about the essence of our company.
For example, the video, IOM in Nepal: Hope, armed with answers, can overcome hardship, dramatizes how advanced data management and analysis impacts people’s lives.
This video performed extremely well for us, building awareness of SAS and humanizing our brand. In less than six months on our website, there were over 100,000 impressions, and just under 15,000 views. Given the position on our website and comparing these numbers to other videos on our site, we are convinced that there is a serious interest in this type of content. We will undoubtedly pursue more of these types of videos in the months ahead.
Second, we use video in this phase to demonstrate thought leadership, showing that we understand the issues businesses are facing today and communicating that we are looking ahead at where technology is going. We’re not pitching SAS solutions at this point. Rather, we are demonstrating the value our solutions can bring to solving complex customer problems. In the example below we highlight this type of thought leadership by showing the linkage between advanced analytics and the Internet of Things through the lens of one of our customers, the Director of Smart Grid Technology and Operations for Duke Energy.
RESEARCH – In this phase we want to make sure we show up on a prospect’s list of solutions to consider. We do this by showing that SAS has solutions to solve a prospect’s business needs without getting too specific. In addition to straight videos like the demo of our Visual Analytics offering below, our live webcasts and social media integration of video come into play here. Buying the right SEM search words is also key.
DECIDE – This is where prospects are thinking about becoming customers, and we use video for demos and customer case stories that highlight our unique differentiators. Videos such as the product demonstration and customer reference examples shown below are supportive in nature. We recognize that the sales executive plays the key role in driving the customer decision at this point in the buying cycle by highlighting specific details about how SAS will address the customer’s unique needs. These videos lay the groundwork for those efforts.
BUY – We use video a little differently at this point in the customer journey. For large opportunities where our sales team is meeting with the prospect onsite, we often produce a short, personal video directly from our CEO and senior management demonstrating our commitment to their business. We’ve found this a very effective closing tool for large international sales when our senior management is not able to travel to meetings.
ADOPT – SAS uses video for tutorials to help customers understand the software they just acquired. Videos such as Get Started with SAS Visual Statistics, which you can see below, help customers get acquainted with our software, and engage actual users in the onboarding process at an early stage.
USE – At this point, we use video to focus on how to perform specific tasks. Training videos such as the one below, which demonstrates how to perform Cluster Analysis with SAS, accelerates the onboarding process and serves as a refresher resource, reducing ongoing support costs.
RECOMMEND – This is where satisfied customers step up to become our reference stories, sharing their endorsement of SAS with others. In this example, our customer Enerjisa talks about using SAS to lead the energy sector in Turkey.
Collaborating with Key Influencers: Using Video As a 2-Way Street
In addition to supporting prospects through the customer journey, we also use video in innovative ways to communicate with analysts, and to bring their perspective back to our organization. As part of our annual analyst briefing, we create videos to inform the analyst community about SAS product direction, our vision of where the market is heading, and how we plan to address future market needs.
We use video in an entirely different way with analysts because we are very careful not to market to analysts. They don’t want a sales pitch, so we provide appropriate product information, roadmaps, and demos.
Perhaps the most interesting use of video comes at the end of the analyst meeting, when we use video to capture analysts’ honest feedback on what they saw and heard. We use this video internally to provide feedback to our marketing, R&D teams, and senior executives so they can gauge how our message was received. Video shows the real impact of our messages on analysts – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Prospect Expectations and Behavior Are Changing
Going forward, we will continue to see major innovations in how we use video to accelerate and enrich the customer journey. The length and role of video is evolving quickly. The trend for all types of video is toward short-form – two to three minute segments. Prospects and customers are looking at video on a myriad of devices, in-between other activities. If we have a broader topic with more than 10 minutes of content, we break the topic into a series of smaller, more digestible chunks to adapt to fast-changing viewing habits.
We’ve also seen evolution in customers’ expectations of video. Today, video represents our brand and therefore must reflect the same quality and professionalism our customers expect from our company and our software solutions.
Video marketing advice in a nutshell: plan, produce, and develop different types of video to support the different phases of the customer journey. And if you are not yet using video to accelerate your prospects’ paths through that journey, ask yourself, “why not?”
This article is contributed by Bill Marriott, CMMA Board Member, SAS Sr. Director of Video Communications and New Media.