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Chatbots Did Not Kill The Video Star

When searching for a forms plugin for my website, so that I could survey customers and prospects, I thought of the majors: Google Forms, Gravity Forms, and of course, Typeform. (Disclaimer: I am not a paying customer or sponsor of any of these apps.)

To me, they’re just all the same: you create a question, decide what types of answers you need (text, multiple choice), and a few clicks later, hit publish. Copy and paste the code into your website and voila! You have an embedded form.

Something funny happened as I was clicking around the Typeform website: I discovered another product: Video Ask. This product allows you to swap the text questions you would normally deliver in a form with recorded video clips. Users can respond with text, or—you guessed it—video clips. Genius! (Once again, as a disclaimer, I am not a customer of this product.)

Then this got me thinking: why haven’t I seen more products like these? “Conversational” marketing platform Drift launched Drift Video last year, and it looks like a version of Video Ask. But again, why aren’t there several of these types of vendors? The idea of recording and attaching a video clip to a form doesn’t seem too complicated, so why isn’t this being widely adopted?

Marketing Innovation at the Car Dealership
This got me thinking about other innovative uses of video for sales and lead nurturing. I quickly remembered the time I needed to buy a car, nearly six years ago, in 2014.

A quick Google search on “Toyota” and my town (actually, come to think of it, I didn’t even need to enter my city because the search would be geo-targeted anyway) landed me on the website of Palm Beach Toyota. I quickly found the (text-based) form, filled out what I needed, and within 15 minutes, I received an email.

Thinking that it would be some generic bulk email, I was blown away to learn that it was not. Instead, the salesperson had recorded a video of himself speaking to the camera, addressing me by name, and explaining that he was looking forward to learning more about the cars I’m interested in purchasing.

It was not a private, embedded YouTube video, but something created with a separate platform. In all my years of marketing, never once had I ever received anything quite so personalized.

And to think that this salesperson had to do this at scale, with all of the prospects who leave their details on the website. Wow! I was super-impressed.

When I wanted to replace that 2014 car with a 2019 car, where did I go? You guessed it: the same dealership and the same original salesperson, who incidentally was no longer a salesperson: he was promoted to head of credit (no surprise). When I shared the story about the video clip in the email from several years ago, this former salesperson/current head of credit was floored that I remembered his use of video.

Obviously, platforms that can connect us using simple tools we already use but in a novel way can absolutely make a lasting impression.

And they lead to sales.

Since my interaction with my local Toyota dealer, I have sadly never again received another video introduction. I am often in a position to purchase or recommend products much more expensive than a car but no enterprise SaaS vendor’s salesperson has ever recorded a personalized video for me. Too bad.

Why Video Is Still a Tough Sell
Of course, recalling my experience with the Toyota dealer and my fascination with Video Ask, I got to thinking: why aren’t there more video introductions?

If customers actually prefer a more natural, authentic introduction to a company (and the salesperson or representative), why don’t we receive more personalized video communications?

Here are what I believe to be the challenges with integrating video into a website, landing page, or chat application:

People are still antisocial.
We enjoy watching people on video, but as for ourselves: we shy away. We’d rather type than talk; we’d rather talk than show our faces. There was a fear of deepfakes a few years ago, but those seem to have subsided.

People think that the video needs to be perfect.
That’s just it: it doesn’t. We are all bored with the slick corporate videos of talking heads. We welcome a natural video with bad lighting, a messy office, and a pet walking around in the back.

People aren’t employees.
Companies might be resistant to having their people appear as their true selves because those employees may not really be employees—they might be contractors. Further, what if those employees or contractors are let go: what happens to all of those videos? This is perhaps the other, uglier reason why video isn’t catching on and why companies would rather invest heavily in AI. Chatbots don’t quit and when you fire them, you don’t need to pay them severance.

I also thought: is it difficult to scale? Perhaps not. A short, 30-second clip taken with a smartphone or laptop camera can do the trick. If a salesperson has to create 10 of these, it shouldn’t take more than one hour.

“Perfect is the enemy of done,” as a client once told me. And it’s true: the video clips do not need to be perfect.

Customers in all industries are growing tired of mass-produced messaging with zero personality and zero personalization. I suspect that they will choose to do business with those companies who take a little bit of time to personalize communications. Short video messaging could be just what we need.

About Jake Wengroff
Jake Wengroff is the owner of copywriting and content marketing agency JXB1. A former journalist and industry analyst, he often writes on such topics as security, mobility, e-commerce, product management, and IoT.