Most business professionals don't click or take action unless there's a compelling reason to do so. That's a big responsibility for marketers, as we want large numbers of clicks or sign ups, but we also want real engagement. This creates a quandary for those testing new technology or rich media: Is it novelty or real value that drives that click?
Video in e-mail is one of those "new things" that can backfire. Video e-mails can still significantly boost response -- but the initial click returns high lead quality only when the video adds value instead of distracting from the call to action. As in other shiny new tactics, tricking customers and prospects is a dead end alley -- revenue and goodwill are lost along with future trust in the brand.
The best options today for high-reach video e-mails are really just some form of animated image. Nearly everyone agrees that audio should always be off by default (until the subscriber clicks). Thus, in the e-mail message itself, the best options are a "video like" experience.
For sophisticated B2B marketers, this may limit the e-mail channel as a full participant in larger Web-based campaigns, which may include video, interactive, or commerce-based creative. A recent campaign by IBM, however, shows that video can be effectively used in B2B e-mail marketing.
"The problem with e-mail overall is that there is so much terrible content," says Robert Schwartz, executive director of digital dialogue strategies at Ogilvy Worldwide, which has created and managed video e-mail campaigns for Sears, IBM, Kodak, and others. "Take a look at what we all send -- too busy, no design theme, way too much copy, and it's 15 miles long. We exacerbate all that when we simply add video for the sake of video."
IBM did the opposite of that. By using video that was central to the message, the Ogilvy team helped IBM create the multichannel (print and digital) Mr. Fong campaign. Mr. Fong has been disconnected from his team and, dressed in an astronaut suit, is sending out an SOS via online video. Developers can help Mr. Fong connect by downloading a trial of the Rational software, which gives them a key to play an online game for providing Mr. Fong with various tools (some serious, some silly) to reach his team.
The audience responded. More than 9,700 people watched the video linked to the e-mail campaign, which also enjoyed significantly higher than average open and click-through rates, 20 percent open vs. 12.8 percent average, and 3.35 percent CTR (define) vs. 0.25 percent average for this audience, according to Schwartz.
"What makes this IBM program work is the entertainment factor," Schwartz says. "We created a character for the developer community based on research insights on how these buyers purchase and what tickles and engages them."
For this campaign, Ogilvy used Vismail to deliver the video stills via e-mail. Other vendors include Liveclicker, Sympact, and VHD Technology, along with multivariate testing services like 8Seconds and Omniture.
Although your mileage may vary, expect to pay some premium for video delivery, usually a small set-up fee, plus a $1 to $20 CPM (define), calculated on the size/length of the video and the open rate or number of videos actually downloaded.
Video in e-mail isn't a panacea and won't make up for a weak call to action or lack of relevance. Video can, however, be a great way to tell a story, interest prospects in a demo, or engage customers in thought leadership or training.
"IBM is one of the best known brands in the world. There is a certain level of expectation around the creative and approach from them," Schwartz says. "Historically, this has been mostly absent from the inbox. Video can help add that missing impact."
A quick checklist to see if your brand or campaign would benefit from video:
Have you tested video? Tell us your story and share an example in the comments section below.
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Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.
December 12, 2013
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