Smashing the Norms of Video Content Marketing

René Lego, Video Content Marketing Strategist at SolarWinds, joins the Content Pros Podcast to discuss finding viral content gold by pushing the limits on the role of video in a modern B2B landscape.

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Full Episode Details

Fail Hard, Fail Fast, Find Success

Video is the latest hot trend in the B2B content marketing world. From Facebook live to YouTube to Snapchat, there are so many videos styles and platforms, but so little time to utilize them all.

Jumping into video marketing feet first is an exciting and irresistible prospect. But throwing a video together for your marketing plan is actually putting the cart before the horse.

Creating impactful, resonating, and motivating video campaigns starts by looking inward to your corporate culture. Turning the power of video marketing internally for training, orientations, or company highlights helps ingrain it to leadership as a valuable tool that makes a positive impact. It also gives you a safe space to fail hard and fast because the sooner that happens, the sooner you become an adept content producer on their way to viral status.

Moving that camera lens from employees onto customers becomes an easier sell once you have the skills to show them the positive internal impact you have made with video. Then it’s time to put on your B2C hat and get your camera rolling.

In This Episode

  • How believing in your idea enough to push back leads to viral marketing success
  • Why producing impactful B2B content means marketing like a B2C
  • How failing at video quickly and often ultimately leads to video prowess and content gold
  • Why ingraining video into your corporate culture means turning its power inwards as much as outward

 

Quotes From This Episode

“Now I’m more brand-forward and creating avenues for content and pushing the limits and pushing back on requests and we’re seeing marked improvement and engagement and downloads and sales because of it.” —@ReneLego

“With video, the reality is we have to think about everyone as a consumer. ” —@randyfrisch

“Even though we’re a B2B, we market like a B2C.” —@ReneLego

“If we have an idea or a story we might run by maybe 10 to 20 people and get their input on something.” —@ReneLego

“It’s about timing, what works, what projects we have going on, what campaigns, and then what can we fit and make work for our audience.” —@ReneLego

“Ultimately, we want people to download our product and buy it. So if we can get that to happen by getting the video to get them to the page that makes them download it, but I don’t always gauge success just by getting a download.” —@ReneLego

Video is the gateway to get you in and interested. You might watch more videos along that journey, but ideally, the content, the product, and what we have on the website, should close out the deal and get you to download.” —@ReneLego

“There’s a lot of IT Pros who can’t leave the office. They either don’t have the funds or the life of an IT Pro is you’re at your desk a lot, and you’re solving problems. So we had to come to them.” —@ReneLego

“We have a mix of internal stakeholders, but we’re always working with the content team.” —@ReneLego

Resources

 

Content Pros Lightning Round

Where do you go to either read content or watch videos to get a lot of your ideas? There’s a lot of organic nurturing that happens internally here, but YouTube is big for me and I really just tie it into what’s going on in the world and how can I relate it back to SolarWinds.

I believe you know a little Bosnian and I’m wondering how you say “content marketing” in Bosnian? I wouldn’t know how to say “content marketing,” but I did ask for a Fanta soda. (Editor’s Note: Google says “content advertising” is “reklamni sadržaj”)

Did you get to attend the Emmys for your documentary that was nominated? Yes, I did get to attend the mid-Atlantic Emmys.

Transcript

Randy: Welcome to another episode of Content Pros. I’m Randy Frisch, from Uberflip, and as always now I’ve got Tyler Lessard joining me as co-host from Vidyard. Content Pros is here for you, part of the Convince & Convert family of podcasts, and today we are going to talk about video, we’re going to talk about pushing the limits with video, I hope. Because our guest, René Lego is really doing that at SolarWinds and having fun with video in a whole bunch of ways. Tyler, you want to tell us a little bit more about how you’ve gotten to know René and bring her into the show too?
Tyler: Yeah, hi everybody, it’s Tyler here, and I am really excited to have René on board. She’s somebody I’ve worked with for a little while here at Vidyard and was really excited to get engaged with her team. Frankly, when I saw some of the content they were producing, and what intrigued me was, you know, the content itself I think was great, it was funny, it was interesting, but it was very unexpected because it was coming from a brand that is marketing and selling to IT professionals in a B2B sense. An area where you don’t expect to see a video about an action figure at Christmas time. So there’s a lot of cool things René is doing, and I think to your point pushing the limits on what the role of video is in a modern B2B company with lots of great ideas for us.

With that, why don’t I turn it over to yourself to maybe introduce yourself a little bit, René, and talk about where you’ve come from before joining SolarWinds.

René: I have been at SolarWinds 7 years, and before that I worked in documentary film, I produced in public television in Philadelphia, and did a lot of independent producing, and ended up in the tech community in San Francisco for a little while, and then the opportunity came here in Austin and I melded the tech with the video, and here I am 7 years later.
Tyler: So when you were looking for that opportunity it was a big leap to go into a company like SolarWinds as head of video production. What were your expectations coming in, and what have you done in your 7 years there to move the needle most effectively from joining on as a video producer to building out video as a competence of your business?
René: Back in what I’m calling the “Dark Ages” of video at SolarWinds, I was taking the lead basically from internal stake-holders, and producing content that they wanted. And through the years have evolved into a role where now I’m more brand-forward and creating avenues for content and pushing the limits and pushing back on requests and saying “No, there’s a better way to do this,” or “There’s a different way,” and we’re seeing marked improvement and engagement and downloads and sales because of it.
Tyler: So you’ve been doing a variety of interesting content in your time there, and we kicked this off by saying some videos that are pushing the limits of what we think about in the B2B world. We’ll dive into I think a few of those examples. People will pull some good insights.

The first one I wanted to ask you about is one that I know has been one of your most successful is Email in Real Life, and it’s one that I think gets a good laugh-out-loud effect from people. Would you mind sharing, maybe or let people know if they want to go and watch it, where they can find it, but can you talk a little bit about that video and that campaign, where it came from, where the idea came from, and the response you got, and in hindsight what made it such a success for your team?

René: We look for inspiration a lot of time in the consumer world, and we came upon a video. And I can’t remember the name of it, unfortunately. Sorry.
Tyler: Was it the conference calling one?
René: Thank you. So we came across a video, Conference Call in Real Life, and we were about to launch a new feature for our Server & Application Monitor product. And they wanted to do something big, but they didn’t know what. So we pitched this idea to a lot of resistance, actually, they thought “No, this is too wide a net.” And yes, everybody uses email. Basically, the video features scenarios that all people who read and send email encounter in a very funny way. And at the end, we spin it “Email is difficult. Managing doesn’t have to be.” And then we tied into our product and our feature. And with the help of our agency we got placed on BuzzFeed, and then from there it was gangbusters. Huffington Post. UK. US. Reddit. Gizmodo. Fast Company. I don’t think we expected the success that we encountered when we released that video, but of course we were very very pleased. The next time they requested a video for the next launch for a different product, they said “Can we get that, please?”
Tyler: Just get us another viral video, right Randy?
Randy: Absolutely. We just want the viral ones. Not the other ones.

Yeah, that video’s really amazing, though. It’s so true. It’s so dead-on, and for people who get to watch it, it plays off on fun realities like sending out that email without an attachment. And then in real life seeing someone walk into the office, hand over the folder with nothing in it. You see it in real life, in that case, and you’re like, “Yes, it really is that silly.” Right? And I think that’s the genius of it, as simple as it is.

And one of the things, René, just to dig in a little bit more on you, you talked about thinking from a consumer perspective. And you know it’s funny, Tyler, you were at our office just this past week. We had a conference here and I think the topic was business-to-human, and getting away from thinking … we often talk, you and I, about B2B, because we both sell in B2B worlds. But I think with video the reality is we have to think about everyone as a consumer. And I’m wondering, René, how you create that mindset on your team as you’re doing your brainstorming, and whether as a B2B company, you’re trying to push the limits as we’re saying in that thinking.

René: We keep the IT pro at top of the mind. Who is that target audience, and not just that they’re an IT Pro, but that they’re a geek. What are the things they like to watch when they’re not working? What are the things that excite them, what do they talk about on chat boards? And we always appeal to that person in everything we do. Even though we’re a B2B, we market like a B2C.
Randy: I like that. I’m wondering, you talk about them being geeks, right? And I feel like all of a sudden there could be sensitivities of people hearing those works. But as we talk about these ideas of pushing the limit and playing with video in a way that’s maybe not expected, I’m wondering how often you test these videos with your actual audience before putting it out there for everyone, and is it the type of things where you’ll put in all this production value, or do you go with a story first? How do you test to make sure you’re not crossing that line a way that’s going to backfire?
René: There are times when we reach out to our MVPs. We have a really robust THWACK online community. And we have power-users, and if we have an idea or a story we might run by maybe 10 to 20 people and get their input on something. But I will say a lot of times we’re really plugged in and know who we’re talking to. So a lot of that conversation happens internally in the marketing org, really.
Randy: Yeah, it’s interesting. I mean, Tyler, I don’t know what you’re finding in terms of other clients that you’re working with, but to date this podcast a bit, we’re doing this in early April of 2017 and just today Pepsi got a lot of backlash for pushing the limit or just missing the mark altogether on a video that was in theory designed to bring the world together, but using one of the Jenners in a way that didn’t work. And we talk about this idea of creating video, creating video that can be a costly process, and then maybe not having tested that enough. Have you seen anything, Tyler, in terms of your audiences and your clients of how they’re doing this in other ways?
Tyler: Yeah. You know, we have seen it even in the B2B world, the same thing absolutely can happen. I think to René’s point one of the big things when I’m talking to our clients I hear the same thing where the content team is such an integrated part of the business that they have to understand the audience and they have to be able to make that call to some degree on the validity or the rightfulness of certain types of content.

But at the same time being able to take risks, so it is a tough one because I do know clients who do test their content, and the risk there of course is you get one or two people with negative feedback and you say, “Well, do we scrap it because there’s a potential of offending somebody?” It’s tough. We’ve always lived by the mantra of we want to generate an emotional response. You can go too far, but in many cases you gotta take some risks to generate that emotional response with people and in some cases it may be a negative response, you gotta watch that line, but I’d love to say I’ve got a great answer to that and a prescriptive method to not cross that line, but I don’t.

But that said … One of my favorite ones that you guys have done as well that maybe can tie back into the conversation is that the Stranger Things parody that you guys did, and you guys did a series of videos based on that, and that was actually I think a perfect example of saying “What do these people do in their personal lives? What kind of shows do they like to watch and things like that?” And I think that was one, again, where you can add a lot of personality and humor without that risk of crossing a line of doing something offensive, unless you totally butcher the show, and then people might hate you for that. Let’s talk about that because I’ve seen success with parodying pop-culture and different shows and things like that. Where did that come from, René, have you guys done parodying of pop-culture in the past or was that your first time trying that?

René: We’ve done parodies in the past and this really emanated from the video team’s absolute love of Stranger Things. In a framework of what’s popular, what’s interesting, can we spin it with an IT flair and make it funny and also tie in our product or get you thinking in some way about our product. We had a huge response from it and they’re still doing very well on social and on YouTube. It’s about timing, what works, what projects we have going on, what campaigns, and then what can we fit and make work for our audience.
Randy: I’m wondering, René, at what stage do you start to evaluate whether a video is successful? And is it purely on number of views or number of shares, or is it some sort of way where you’re actually attributing it to something along your actual marketing funnel? How tied-in is the video team to that overall marketing funnel mindset at SolarWinds?
René: A lot of our campaigns contain videos, whether it’s the video driving to a page or driving to a download, it really depends on what part that video has to play in it. Ultimately, we want people to download our product and buy it. So if we can get that to happen by getting the video to get them to the page that makes them go “I need this product” and download it, but I don’t always gauge success just by getting a download. Honestly, for me, video is the gateway to get you in and interested. You might watch more videos along that journey, but ideally the content, the product, and what we have on the website, should close out the deal and get you to download. So yes, a great part of the journey, I don’t … downloads the ultimate goal for video specifically though.
Randy: Yeah. One of the things we’ve seen within our base is this growing need. And it’s partly because of the growing spend, right? It’s as you’re investing in more of these videos and producing on higher budget, there’s certainly a lot more questions around “Can we justify this spend against the impact it’s having on the business?” And it is causing that trigger point for a lot of people to say “I can’t just be going back and saying ‘here’s the number of views that we got’ and that’s a measure of success,” so I think we are seeing more and more companies saying “I need to be able to track this video engagement back in our marketing automation and in our CRM, so I can tie it back to revenue, and say that this video helped to influence x amount of pipeline or x amount of leads.”

And that’s something we do with Vidyard as a platform and that we help our clients with, but I do find that there’s always that challenge of process and implementation. And how do you get the people aligned behind it and the other teams aligned behind it to make that happen in the business?

And on that point, René, I want to ask you a question about culture. A lot of people listening to this probably are thinking, “A video is something we should be doing.” I also find it’s a culture challenge in some of these companies to figure out “How do we get people over that hurdle of wanting to invest more and more? But especially the other teams. And how do you take video away from being a service bureau function, if you will, and an afterthought into a part of the strategic planning of your campaigns. So do you have any thoughts on your experience of how you’ve made that happen and turning it into a core part of some of the things you do?

René: The first thing I’ll say is fail fast. It’s a lot of trial and error. At first it took a lot convincing to … People had a traditional, a myopic view of video, like “I need a training video.” Or “I need a video only to show how this product works” or “Go over every feature this product has.” And there’s only so much that you can do with that and so much you could sell with that. So it’s sort of a dance and you have to work with that team and show them “If we did it this way …” or “What if we did it that way? You might see this result.” Or “Why don’t we let this video just drive people to the page you want them to be on, let’s not have this video serve every single purpose you want to tell the viewer.”

If it was training. It’s training what’s the right length? What’s the right type of video for the right campaign? And it’s taken several years to get there, but I think we’re really coming into our own with that. We have a really great base to build on. Lots of new ideas and that’s why I could do real life in real life and Stranger IT. Now I come to the teams and say, “I have this idea, how can we apply it to your campaign?”

Tyler: Randy, it’s something I think you guys have done really well as well. I know you’ve got a nice little modest studio within your office and whenever I talk to your team there’s always ideas for how to incorporate video proactively into things that you’re doing, whether they’re campaigns or new types of projects. Is that something that you guys intentionally bred into the culture or did it happen organically at UberFlip?
Randy: Yeah, I think for us the way we look at it is that people are craving different forms of content at all time. Right? And depending on what you’re doing in your day or how you like to consume content altogether, it’s on us to cater to when you want your content, and what you’re in the mood for at that point. So we’re not one to say “Video is the only way” or “Blog posts are the only way” or “E-books are the only way.” It’s about trying to think about it as more of a journey here.

There’s certain pieces of content which we’ve done year over year that I think our audience starts to look forward to. We do a great video, actually, at the holiday period, where it’s now just part of our brand personality to go out there and do this fun video that’s semi-animated, semi this person in this office who sits in a chair and gives advice, he’s smoking the pipe. So I think that there’s elements of changing it up on the fly but there’s also elements that become part of your brand and what people might expect from you. And I think that’s one of the thing that I admired at your work, René, is that brand that you’re trying to build for SolarWinds. There’s some consistency to it that’s established through your tenure there.

René: I think the success of the continued geekiness through video, especially creative, is an expectation now with our customers, with prospects, people who engage with our brand. If we stopped that I would worry.
Tyler: One of the things that as part of that that’s kind of cool that I think in experiencing your content is that it really does feel like it’s a really human business. I think that comes through in the brand overall, but it really comes through in the video content, again because you really are playing off to emotions and you’re being transparent and you’re being fun. You’re not trying to be too businessy if you will. And another program that you guys have done which I think really capitalizes on that and is really a human-to-human conversation is the Thwack camp. T-h-w-a-c-k is what I just said. Thwack camp. And that’s a great area where you guys have built a community around a video-first initiative. Is that something that your team drove within the company? Or was it sort of a bubbling idea in which the video team got involved in?
René: We’ve been there from the inception, and we wanted a way to reach more customers. We were going to events like Cisco Live, VMWorld, and you can have a certain level of interaction, but there’s a lot of IT Pros who can’t leave the office. They either don’t have the funds, or the life of an IT Pro is you’re at your desk a lot and you’re solving problems. So we had to come to them. So it started out with more of a webcast sort of feel. We would have chat and video streaming, but they were webcast-style, and now we’ve evolved into live streaming with guests and panels and keynotes. It’s a full-on event with IT experts. So we were key in developing that and driving it forward the past 5 years.
Randy: René, one of the things that you were mentioning to us is that you guys create something like 350-500 videos per year. And as people listen in on this, especially those who have not necessarily adopted a video strategy, they’re going to be overwhelmed. So without getting into how you do that much, because I know you actually have a team I think of at least 6 or 7 people working with you to create all this video, but I’m more interested, how does that team and how does all that video content get intertwined to the rest of the content coming from SolarWinds? Is there a lot of collaboration between the video team and the other content teams, or the content team as a whole, and how is that thought of holistically inside of SolarWinds as to where your team sits?
René: Volume is really driven by the amount of products we have. We have 30+ products that we sell and that’s a lot of product. Caught up-
Randy: So I guess a lot of product training in there, too.
René: Yeah. There’s a lot of product training, we also have internal teams that we support. That number encompasses a lot, actually. We have 30 products, so each product has many releases, so we might be doing a feature video and then turn around and do a launch for something else and then a creative for a campaign. So we have a mix of internal stake-holders, but we’re always working with the content team. We have a great Head Geek team, and these are experts in virtualization, database, systems, networking. And we work really close with them. We produce a show with them. So everything that we do is product content-driven, campaign-driven, so it’s really about us supporting the business, and whatever that need is, internal or external.
Randy: I love that. So we’ve got a few more minutes here. I’d love to get to know a little bit more about you behind the scenes. You told us a little bit about how you got to this point in your career, but maybe you can even share with us some of the things that inspire you. Where do you go to either read content or watch videos to get a lot of your ideas? Like are they coming from SNL? Or where are they coming from?
René: A lot of it is I am just listening to what’s the noise out there in the world. And it could be political, it could be the latest commercial, and we do a lot of sharing each week, “Hey, bring a video to our weekly sync.” The whole company knows the video team worldwide. We have over 2200 employees and we’ll get random, one-off emails, “Hey, did you see this?” Or they’ll send us ideas saying “Hey, I love this idea. We could do it with this product.” So there’s a lot of organic nurturing that happens internally here, but YouTube is big for me and I really just tie it into what’s going on in the world and how can I relate it back to SolarWinds.
Randy: So speaking of the world, you’re quite the world traveler from what I’ve learned. So you’ve been to I think Bosnia and Croatia. I want to get to the other part where you created your own documentary. We’re going to test you on something here. I believe you know a little Bosnian and I’m wondering how you say “content marketing” in Bosnian.
René: Well, I wouldn’t know how to say “content marketing,” but I did ask for a Fanta soda.
Tyler: The important things in life, Randy, the important things.
Randy: I think it’s because content marketing’s still on the upswing there. Another year from now we ask it you’d have it down for sure.
René: I can get that for you tonight and send it to you.
Randy: We’ll add it to the show notes. We’ll add it to the show notes at contentprospodcast.com if anyone’s really curious there.

So let’s go to that documentary that you created because my understanding is it was actually Emmy-nominated, which is so cool. Maybe you can speak as to what that experience was like and I don’t even know, did you get to Emmys, by chance?

René: The Mid-Atlantic Emmys, but yes, I did.
Randy: It’s all good. It’s the Emmys. Either way you slice it it’s the Emmys.
René: Yeah. I’m going to take it. I’ve got 2 Emmy nominations. But this one is the one I’m most proud of. This was a labor of love for many many years, kind of hand-to-mouth documentary filmmaking. I met someone from Bosnia. It was at the height of the war. She was a refugee in Philadelphia. I then met another refugee. One was Bosnian-Muslim. One Serbo-Croat mixed and their stories started sounding similar. And I realized that there was a parallel there and I worked separately filming them and then my ultimate goal was to have them meet each other in Bosnia when we were filming there. Turns out they ended up sitting beside each other on the plane.
Randy: That’s wild.
René: Which was full disappointing because I wanted that moment on camera. … They met, and they said “Oh, you know René?” “Yeah, I know René.” “Oh, you must be the person I’m supposed to be meeting in a month.” So, it’s a small world for sure. Yeah. It’s an amazing story of two women and a war.
Randy: Awesome. You sound, not just from SolarWinds, but you sound in personal life like a true story-teller. It’s been really great to have you on Content Pros telling us some of these stories and learning from you. If people want to tune in more to some of your content, where is the best place to go to get some of that?
René: Well, you can go to solarwinds.com, and you can go to SolarWinds Inc on YouTube.
Randy: Amazing. Amazing. René Lego, thank you so much for joining Tyler and I today on Content Pros. A reminder to everyone listening that Content Pros is part of the Convince & Convert family of podcasts. Whole bunch of great other content that we encourage you to check out at convinceandconvert.com, and as I said earlier if you enjoyed this podcast check us out at contentprospodcast.com. You can also find this podcast, naturally, on iTunes, on Stitcher, on Google Play, pretty much wherever you find podcasts and you can leave us a message too. Let us know what you’re enjoying. Let us know what Tyler and I can do to make this more engaging.

Until next time, thank you so much to everyone for tuning in to Content Pros.

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