Ep. 128 | The Sweet Spot for Video Engagement

This week, we chat with James MacGregor, the CEO and co-founder of Biteable, about using online video animation platforms to create quick, professional videos that can be produced by anyone on your team.

By now, you’ve realized that video is a worthwhile marketing investment.

It helps to increase dwell time on your website; it drives more sharing on social media; and it produces greater conversion rates for your email marketing and lead generation.

But it can also be daunting to produce with challenges in costs, timelines, and how to integrate with your other marketing.

Biteable has more than 4 million users  on its platform. We ask James what he’s seeing businesses do with video, why marketers may be afraid of adopting video, and what makes a great video.

Our interview transcript is below.

Picture of James MacGregor for the Rethink Marketing podcast talking about video engagement

Nathan: James, welcome to the podcast. I was just wondering if you could tell us more about yourself and Biteable.

James: Hi, Nathan, thanks for having me on. I’m James, I’m co-founder and CEO for Biteable. I’ve been running Biteable for about four years. Biteable is a tool for making videos, businesses use it for making promotional videos mostly. So, really short and sharp as promotions, explainer videos, things like that. And they do it all in a browser. We’ve got about four million users on the platform so far, and it’s growing really quickly.

Nathan: One of the things I was impressed with, just dabbling myself with Biteable, was just how quickly you can get a video produced. You take some copy, take some images that you may have, your branding colors. And within 10 or 15 minutes, you could have a video. Does that sound right?

James:  Yeah, that’s really the key. We focus on non-creatives. We try and give mostly people in the sales and marketing function the ability to make videos really quickly. Probably the difference with us and anyone else is, my brother that I originally started the company with, he’s a film animator. I’ve got a background in animation. So we set up an agency before Biteable making custom videos for people. So we kind of know what a good video looks like, we think we do. And we tried to build a tool that makes a video that looks really professional.

Why is video marketing so effective?

Nathan: And they do. I was really impressed. You know, there are plenty of cliché or overused reasons what makes video effective in marketing. From your perspective as a CEO, as someone who’s working, to some extent, with these four million customers, why do you think it’s so effective?

James: It’s a couple of reasons. So, it gives you the ability to get a whole lot of information across really quickly. So, even just a few seconds of video could just get so much info across to a user. Normally in an image or a blog post, it sort of takes a while to get across that same amount of data.

And then secondly, it’s the emotional connection. So just the subtleties of the video, the music … yeah, you can even make people really happy, or shocked, or intrigued. Yeah, I guess combined, you’ve just got lots of information, emotional connection, it gives you more impact.

How are businesses using video today?

Nathan: How are you seeing businesses use video today?

James: It has really exploded since we started. In the last two years, couple of years ago, the social media platforms didn’t support native videos, which actually came really quick, and it has exploded a lot since then. So now, originally, companies that used Biteable were mostly making explainer videos. So they’d make a video for their homepage or something like that, that just explained what they did.

Now, people are replacing all sorts of other content that they used to put out, whether it’s job adds, or announcing a new product, there’s literally thousands of use cases that they make videos for. And we’re finding that video’s having more impact. So, people are looking to make videos for more things.

Editor’s Note: Below is an example of an explainer video. 

Why are some marketers still not adopting video in their marketing mix?

Nathan: For those companies that don’t use video, I’m just wondering why not? What are marketers afraid of?

James: It’s a bit of a new paradigm, video. So, video … just having a video isn’t going to solve anything. The actual video itself is really important, the details in the video, every bit of it.

Traditionally, people would spend a lot of time on one video, and they might spend a lot of money on it. You can literally spend months making one little promotional video, and put it out, and it has no impact. And people kind of get disheartened and stop. So I think that’s been quite common.

And then secondly, what works with other marketing is just trying lots of things. So if you’re doing blog posts, or you’re doing social media updates, you’re not going to one, or you’re not going to do two. You’re going to try competitions and all these different things, and eventually, you’ll start to get a feel for what’s really working for your audience. And video’s the same.

Traditionally, that ability to make lots of videos is difficult. So tools like Biteable, Animoto, Powtoon, other online video builders, people can now get in those tools, create a quick video, get a feel for is it really working for what they’re trying to do? And then maybe get a bit more specific from there.

How do you integrate videos in your marketing activities?

Nathan: You talk about testing a lot of videos, and how you produce the videos. Maybe you change the thumbnails and how you title things, even the text within the videos. But I’m just wondering, how do you integrate video with all these other marketing activities as well? So, your demand gen activities, or you mentioned HR, things like that.

James: It’s getting a lot quicker. Obviously, people love Biteable because they can make a video in a few minutes. And it’s going to be fit for purpose, it’s going to look professional. But building it into that, the flow of all the other stuff that happens when you make marketing collateral, people are just getting up to speed, I think.

Normally, there’s a video production expert in the company or an agency, and that’s the person you go to.

Now, we’re finding the marketers themselves are getting more and more comfortable. So, when they make a blog post, for example, they may just have an item. Okay, now make a short video that can be embedded into that blog post that we’re going to use to announce it on social, that we’re going to put it into YouTube. And similar, HR, as someone’s recruiting, they go, okay, now make a little video job ad for it.

I think for it to really work, it’s really important that the people that are normally doing those activities, whether they’re the content creators making blog content, or the HR person publishing job ads, they need to be able to make the videos themselves. Because otherwise, by the time you hear back from that other department and the agency, it’s a month later, and you’ve kind of missed the boat.

Are there some marketing messaging that just does better in video?

Nathan: Is there some messaging that works better in video than in other sort of formats or tactics? Is it better than text? Or better than a podcast or something like that?

James: There’s a lot. It really depends on the particular use. So, for social media, that first couple of seconds as you’re scrolling down, you can have … we have a lot of characters, a lot of animated stuff. So you can have a little character that kind of waves or something, and gets your attention.

And that would just grab people’s attention a lot more than other content. But then if you’re building an explainer video to go in depth on a product, on a topic, you can tell a real story with video.

So, again, we use characters a lot for our explainer videos. And you can … like, hey, this is this guy, he’s got this problem. Now he’s really distressed or sad. Someone proposes a solution, yay. It’s fixed, then he’s happy, and the whole company’s happy. So you can tell that story really effectively with video because you can see all of that emotion, and people really … it really resonates with the audience, whereas if you just tell someone that in text, it just sounds really clunky.

Do I add my own voiceover to the videos? 

Nathan: Do I use a service like yours and get a voiceover? Or do I add that later on? Or do I just do it myself?

James: There’s lots of ways to do it. We always advise to do the quick version first, so don’t try and get everything perfect.

So, whether you’re using Biteable or you’re using something else, just get a version. A lot of the work goes into getting the story right. So the script, what you’re actually going to say on each scene is really important. And then try and find content that matches that.

With Biteable, you can record a voiceover, just upload it to that video and attach it. Or you can pay someone else to do a voiceover, that’s usually what we do because they’ve got a lot better voices, and it just comes off a lot more professional.

Using an online video platform to storyboard other video projects

Nathan: I’ve used Vyond in the past, and have used it to create that quick sketch of what you want a bigger video to be, and just help start selling the idea of your video concept to others within the organization.

The price of live action recording, bringing in a camera crew, interviewing teams, it can add up really quickly, especially if you’re having to travel places. So to have that quick, animated story board worked wonders.

James: I think that’s a great way to do it. Also, the amount of time and the budget for a video also depends on the purpose, and your budget for promoting the video.

So, in that instance, if you’re … you’re going to run a campaign for a client, and they’re going to put $100 thousand in advertising behind it, you’re probably going to want to spend a bit of time on that video and make it really custom.

But you can use a tool like Biteable, Vyond, and do a quick version of it, which you’ll either use as a storyboard to get the details close, or you actually put it out in the wild and start testing it on real users before you go and spend 10, 20, 30 thousand on a really custom video.

It’s all those use cases where it just doesn’t make sense to spend 10 grand on a video. That’s where I find tools like Biteable just really help.

Nathan: I agree. And I find, when I’ve talked to people out, business owners and whatnot, that’s where they’ve made the mistake. They got suckered into spending $10 thousand on something that, really, they could’ve spent $500 getting an annual subscription to you guys or something like that, and be able to create all the little videos that they needed to support a blog post, or whatever it was … what they really wanted to do. They just never get the return on that investment when you spend $10,000, it’s harder to do.

James:  Yeah, because they might not have tested anything. Generally in marketing, anything that hasn’t been tested just isn’t going to work.

But then you have companies that are getting really sophisticated. They’re like, okay, these videos are working. Maybe if we have a more custom video, we’re going to get a small increase in conversion rates, but because it’s a big campaign, it’s really meaningful to us. So, it sort of depends how disposable is that content? And what’s the budget behind it?

image quote about the three factors for video engagement - quickly get attention, keep it short, and include a CTA.

The three factors to finding the sweet spot in video engagement

Nathan: You’ve talked elsewhere about three factors to keep in mind for getting to that sweet spot in video engagement. Can you talk about those?

James: I don’t know if I’ve got a set rule of three factors, but I’ve definitely got three factors that I focus on.

You’ve got to get attention, particularly with social media. Most video ends up on social media now, so it’s those few seconds, get the attention.

You’ve got to keep it really short and sharp, and you’ve got to get the information across in a short video that is important. Some people will often, if they’re trying to tell a story, they’ll waft on and they’ll tell all these unnecessary details. Just cut to the chase. Get the core information.

And then thirdly, make sure you’ve got a call to action. That’s the same for any marketing activity, but people seem to forget with video, the next step is to contact us and we’ll get you started, talk to a salesperson, sign up for a free trial, whatever it happens to be.

I think that’s kind of core in most videos.

How video helps you focus your marketing message

Nathan: I tell my internal clients within Act-On that one minute of video is about 150 words. So, write down what you want to say. And I found that when they do that, it tightens the focus of their copywriting across in other places, too, whether it’s a PPC campaign or whatnot. They’ve really focused on what was the most important message that needed to be shared in that video, and it’s really tightened the messaging elsewhere throughout the business.

James: I found a similar thing. So, my brother and I, when we used to make explainer videos for companies, we would be like, “Okay, you want to explain what your business does.” We’d sit down with them. Our aim was just to come up with a script so we could make a really tight video for them that worked. And we would quickly find … I came up with a little formula.

I’m like, okay, something at the start to get the attention. A little intro, what is this story? Who is this person? Why am I looking at this? And then usually there would be … problem, solution, benefit, benefit, benefit, call to action. It seems really simple. It’s like, oh, this person has got a problem, this thing will help them. And it’ll make the team happy, and it’ll save you money, and this. Sign up for a free trial, you know? Something like that.

But interestingly, I’d say, “Okay, we want to end with a tagline, what’s a company tagline?” They’re like, “Ah, here’s 50 different ones we use.” We’re like, “Okay, well, you need one. Nobody’s going to remember anything if you don’t have a tagline, so let’s stick to one.”

And that would end up taking the whole day, and we’d go, “Okay, we got to the tagline.” Then we’re like, “What is the core solution? Explain it to me in one sentence.” And … yup, okay, we need to work on how you’re actually positioning your solution, and then three benefits.

People really struggled with that. It’s like, no we’re not talking about features. Why would I use this product? What do I get out of it? And you go end up giving people a little dot point marketing plan for collateral. And then I’d see it come up in all their other content, and it’s like, ah. A lot of people struggle with this stuff.

Who should lead the video production?

Nathan: Do you have any advice on who should lead the video production within a marketing team or within a business? Is it the content team? Demand gen, social? Who?

James: Generally, there’s a couple of different types. Generally, we try and not have a single lead, so we try and push it down to the individuals doing the work. We have quite a big marketing team at Biteable, so it might be someone who’s doing a weekly email, or does the blog posts, or does SEO, or runs the YouTube channel. We try and get them actually to make most of the videos. Most of those videos are one-use videos. And then if we’re running … we also run ad campaigns and sort of bigger campaigns. And then we have a motion design team. So they run those videos, they’re our bigger creative pieces.

So I think most of the time, quick, disposable videos, you should get that just down to individuals in the team. And then if it’s a real showpiece, like this is an ad that we’re going to put a lot of money and time behind it, then … for us, it’s a bit easier because we have eight motion designers on the team. In a standard company, who would I put in front of that? I guess it’s the marketing manager, or just a head of marketing.