Posts Tagged ‘video’

We recently published a video research note on SugarCRM’s mobile technologies.  Please take a look.

Jamie Grenney, vice president of social media and online video at Salesforce is our latest interview subject.  In our discussion, Grenney talks about what makes great video for customer outreach and why it’s important.  Grenney also compares video with more conventional forms of communication such as documentation like white papers.  We’re seeing a lot of movement toward video and this interview is a good place to start especially for novices.  Also, see the Beagle Short Tale Awards and Salesforce’s winning entry.  It provides the hardest thing to find when considering usability of new technology — concrete information about efficacy and effectiveness.  Go to

Tablet vendors at the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas had a coming out party.  Driven by the wild success of the iPad, they introduced something like eighty — that’s 8-0h my goodness — tablet PCs to the world.  Now, by itself that’s significant, especially for CRM, and something hard to miss even if you’re a proverbial blind horse.  But let’s not stop there; to understand the significance for CRM we can analyze more information.

For instance, it was widely reported last year that for the first time social media out-competed email for our attention.  Add to that the growing importance of video as a content medium and you can start to see a trend emerge.

One thing I conclude immediately is that we’re increasingly mobile, hence the need for a form factor that is easy enough to carry and big enough to do things with.  But with this we are also becoming a bit more passive in our technology use.  Passive?  With all these devices and movement?  Perhaps.  And with social media’s impact picking up the volume of transmissions will likewise and the demand for better quality interactions will follow.

Tablets, or at least the iPad, which so many vendors are trying to emulate, were developed as receiving devices, things used to surf the Internet and increasingly that means watching video content.  Granted you can use an array of screen-based and hardware oriented keyboards, but the primary use of these devices is to slurp information from the Web.  There was a report last week, surfaced by my friends at The Enterprise Irregulars, that Apple was removing the only button from the iPad for a future revision of the device.  That’s a direction keyboard enthusiasts should monitor.  TV is a passive medium and it would appear that our computing is becoming more TV-like.

I’ve spoken to a variety of marketing people recently about video and its surging importance to CRM and I’ve written about it here.  The sense of these marketers is nearly universal that tablets are fine for watching videos and that means corporate videos.

Graphics packages — Harvard Graphics and PowerPoint — were thought by many to be the killer applications for the laptop because sales people could take them anywhere and deliver a more or less standard pitch.

Video will certainly become the killer application of the tablet and that will place more responsibility on the marketing group.  Video eliminates much of the need for a presenter and makes the viewer responsible not only for attention but for presenting as well.

Thor Johnson tells me that business-to-business marketing is still by many accounts a PR and brochure business.  But increasingly tools from Eloqua, Marketo and others are turning marketing from art to science.  As marketers generate and analyze more customer data they become more astutely aware of real needs and they will have plenty of incentive to meet those needs through advanced communications, e.g. video.

Already companies like BrainShark are delivering to market the infrastructure required to develop high quality videos that play anywhere — from the smallest screens to the most advanced tablets as well as desktops.

The increased use of video will multiply the amount of data we push around the Web daily and drive demand for bigger networks with fatter pipes (or tubes if you are a member of the U.S. Senate).  And just as tools like PowerPoint gave everyone the ability to develop presentations, we must expect that before long we will all become experts at developing and delivering live or recorded full motion video.

But increasing mobility might not pan out exactly the way many people see it.  The presumption now is that mobility means more face time and that’s probably right though we’ll certainly need to pick our spots more carefully as the cost of transport rises.  In such an environment mobility might become synonymous with remoteness, as in working at some locations not associated with your corporation.

The transportation issue, which I have bored you with before, could become a serious drain on the economy.  It’s simple math, but if a gallon of regular goes from two-fifty to five bucks, your cost of transportation just took a sharp rise.  Transportation comes out of the SG&A (sales, general and administrative) line and eats into your margin like a worm through an apple.  At that point your choices all look iffy.  You could drive something smaller to your customer appointment but the cost of switching is not small.  Regardless, you can’t do much about the fuel economy of the jet that takes you to another city.  The alternative of not going is only supportable if there is a credible alternative.

At that point, the benefits of mobile and video technology that right now look like a leap in efficiency that will flow directly to the bottom line, will become fixes that help you maintain your position, to tread water.  Economists have a term for this, it’s called consuming the dividend.  You could save the benefit, which is what happens when it really does hit the bottom line.  Or you could plow the benefit back into the business and that’s what I see happening with video and mobile technologies.  That’s why it’s so important to get on this bandwagon.  Eighty new tablet introductions is more than a straw in the wind.


Special Research Project

Posted: December 2, 2010 in CRM
Tags: ,

Is video becoming a part of your sales, marketing or service outreach?  Many companies have begun producing interesting and entertaining video to communicate with their customers and prospects.  If your company is already participating in this growing trend we’d like to see what you’ve been up to.

We’re looking for the best examples of front office corporate videos produced and deployed in 2010.  Our research is limited to videos with running times under six minutes and it doesn’t matter if the piece is a straight video or something done with animation.  Please send us links to your videos that meet these criteria.

Any company that considers itself a front office or CRM software supplier or service provider is welcome to participate in this research.  Please send links only to this address:


Not long ago, well actually a couple of years ago, I began writing about the need for increased use of video in our communications.  I was mostly thinking vendor to customer communications.

My logic was three fold, first the technology needed to create video is now available on the desk top.  On the Apple platform, which I am more familiar with, Garage Band for creating music loops, iMovie and iPhoto for movies and stills form the basis of a creative suite that enables a talented but not necessarily expert user to create engaging videos.  The Adobe Creative Suite is also powerful and runs on Windows and the Mac, but for my money is unnecessarily complex, but you need Adobe or something like it to do some of the more advanced graphics.  The challenge for the developer is to keep the video in a duration range of three to five minutes, and of course, to be engaging.

The second reason is slideshow burnout.  There are now many books on the market about that attempt to upgrade average people’s slide presentation skills because those skills are deficient today.  PresentationZen by Garr Reynolds comes to mind and there are many more.  Sending someone a slide deck as if it was a fully articulated document or mock video, exposes the deficiencies of pictures only or pictures with too many bullet points on a single slide.  Information was getting into, but not out of, slides and something had to be done.

The third reason that video creation is important involves transportation.  Slides were created as speaking aids in a live setting and while we make great efforts to use them via web conferences, something is inevitably lost.  But transportation is becoming difficult to justify, but fuel prices continue to rise and, in a recession, most organizations are in some ways restricting the frequency or type of employee travel.

It’s important to note that the above discussion includes an important caveat—most of the video coming to market today, thankfully, does not involve untrained people in front of a camera.  Instead today’s video is largely animation and stills activated a la Ken Burns.  It works well.

I have been impressed by a small crop of videos available on the Dreamforce website put there by Salesforce and some of its partners in anticipation of next month’s conference and I want to share them with you in case you haven’t been following.

The first video is posted at The Var  It’s a straight up recording of an interview in June with Red Hat CEO, Jim Whitehurst titled Red Hat CEO: Cloud Can’t Exist Without Open Source.  It’s a good example of old style video that puts a person in front of the camera for three and a half minutes to make a few points.  Watching is faster than reading the attached Q&A but it lacks the engagement factor that I mentioned and it makes three and a half minutes seem like a long time.

Next on the list is The State of Cloud Computing from  It’s all animation and looks like it was developed completely on a desktop; it is the type of video we should all aim at.  There are no people on screen but a narrator tells the story over a musical sound track that ducks whenever he speaks.  The piece gets its work done in only 3:09, an important criterion in an attention starved world.  Given Salesforce’s marketing budget, you can bet this was not inexpensive though I wonder how it compares to other things like white papers and webinars.  The video makes the case for cloud computing in all its forms and only brings in Salesforce and SaaS towards the end, placing it squarely in the larger context.  A good job.

Eloqua offers a very good video, The Future of Revenue, which discusses the importance of new ideas in business.  Most of the 3:41 is table setting, intertwining the stories of several advancements in business over the last century before attempting to place Eloqua in the historical context as the next big thing.  The video is effective and I didn’t have trouble with attending to it because it draws you in as any good video should.

The last in this list is by Jess3 titled The State of the Internet .  Like the previous two, it’s a desktop effort and it has a musical sound track but no narrator and none is needed.  It is a compilation of data about Internet use attractively presented.  And while the numbers are impressive, the video is nearing its first birthday so the data represents, if anything, lower values than today.  At five minutes, it’s on the outside edge of tolerability for this kind of thing but the information is so compelling and the video so fast paced that you forget about time.  My favorite statistics are 81% of email is spam and 84% of social networking sites have more women than men.  Reminds me of a book.  Hello, ladies!

So this is a small smattering of videos but I think they point out a direction for the future.  As vendors continue to find ways to differentiate themselves in the minds of their customers, video that can entertainingly tell a story or provide step-by-step instructions for fixing a common problem, will become vital to most organizations.  The cost of production tools has dropped to the point of mass affordability, and distribution is layered on the Internet so it is free.

There are easy ways to make video viral and the need for a sophisticated approach to content distribution in an information-overloaded world is abundantly clear.  Video plus social networking may be the thing we’ve lacked with simple text delivery in a social medium—regardless of how elegantly it has been presented.  And strange as it sounds, video just might be the killer app for social media and vice versa.


There are numerous signs that the economy is strengthening and that the recession may be ending.  The markets are doing better, failed banks are no longer failing and some have even paid back the funds they borrowed from the federal government when they were under water.  Unemployment is still stubbornly high but it is trending down and as a lagging indicator of recovery this indicator is behaving as one might expect.  If all this is true and not some mirage then the year-end and the year ahead could hold some upside surprises and that will be a welcome change.

For some time now I have been thinking about the recovery — what it might look like and what new ideas might come through the wringer of recession to help drive it.  In the recession that followed the dot com bust some powerful ideas emerged that subsequently shaped the business world.  They included on-demand computing and Web meetings.

Prior to the recession on-demand computing was something that a few hardy souls tried because they were fed up with the high cost of software and implementation.  On-demand technology proved to be an important way to tame those costs and in the recovery users at every level discovered its benefits.

The same is largely true for Web meetings.  In my experience, prior to the recession vendors engaged in elaborate press and analyst tours to conduct face-to-face meetings that involved weeks on the road.  I would routinely take two or three briefings in my office daily but all that has largely been replaced by Web briefings.  Vendors still go on the road but much less frequently and I wear fewer professionally laundered shirts as a result.  That’s the funny thing about innovation, you never know what all of the downstream effects will be — and they can be surprising.

So, coming out of this recession I have to ask what technologies or business ideas will emerge and I have my eye on two.  The first is Web based conferences.  Like a Web meeting a Web conference can save a ton of money on travel costs as well as wear and tear on the attendees.  The technology may still have some kinks to work out but I suspect that as vendors and other organizations look for ways to improve communications the demand for Web conferences will grow and the solutions will become more robust.

The second idea that I see percolating is the enhanced use of video in marketing and sales.  Video has the ability to engage customers in ways that product brochures and white papers can’t.  And with tiny URLs or “turls” they can become powerful viral tools.  The technology for creating, editing and distributing video with decent quality is available on the desktop at reasonable cost or even free.

The key to high volume corporate video will be achieving the right production values.  No company that wants to develop video will be eager to shoulder the high costs of hiring actors, voice talent, camera operators, editors and all the rest.  For video to take off we will need to develop skills at documentary filmmaking.  That’s not as hard as it sounds and Ken Burns, the producer of such classics as The Civil War, Jazz and Baseball, has developed a style that can be easily imitated.  I expect that given the constraints of video development in a marketing department, Burns will become even more of a recognized name.

But there’s another reason to consider these and probably other innovations coming out of the recession.  These new ideas also have the advantage of helping to save a great deal of energy, especially energy involved in transportation.  Just before the economy went into the tank last year, we got a glimpse of the energy future with gasoline exceeding four dollars per gallon.

That wasn’t a fluke, it is likely to be a sign of the times for the foreseeable future because global demand for fuel is rising at a two percent annual rate while supply is remaining constant or falling slightly.  So we are faced with an interesting problem.  Fuels are becoming increasingly expensive and the need for Green approaches to modern life are apparent and all around us.  It would make a great deal of sense then for business to engage CRM solutions that reduce the impact of escalating energy costs.  Web conferences do that and video — done well — may be able to help.

So for all those reasons I can easily see the CRM suite expanding again to include these technologies.  Interestingly, even though Green approaches may be desirable for many ecological reasons, it is still economics acting as the driving force for change.

The video frontier

Posted: August 12, 2009 in CRM
Tags: , , ,

Rolling sustainability into business development isn’t just a marketing ploy.  In the CRM arena it’s an effective way to communicate with more customers and prospects at a lower cost.

Last summer, when a gallon of regular peaked above four dollars per gallon, Beagle Research published a white paper on sustainability and CRM.  I am happy to report that there are many signs in CRM and elsewhere of industries taking the first steps toward more sustainable business.

We began to see changes in the ways we organize our society and work when gas hit four dollars — Americans drove more than a hundred billion miles less in the year ending in November 30, 2008, for example.  But, too often, reducing travel frequently means falling economic activity.  Airlines were nearly crippled when businesses began curtailing travel.  An economic recovery and unrestrained demand will likely mean that the price of oil, and the gasoline and jet fuel from which they are derived, will again rise — beyond four dollars.  With global demand rising and supply peaking it’s hard to see otherwise.

All this went into our thinking last year and one of our conclusions was that front-office business processes needed to become more energy efficient.  Face-to-face sales calls would be curtailed and replaced by greater reliance on Web-meetings and Web-conferences, and enhanced reliance on in-house produced video.

Our ability to make documentary-style (Ken Burns) videos using desktop technology has accelerated very quickly in the past year or two.  While there is no set standard for these clips — and there shouldn’t be — there are numerous examples of CRM-oriented videos coming into the market.  We believe that video production needs to reach down to the sales and marketing departments in the same way that desktop publishing has. Why?

Giving marketing people the ability to produce professional looking video will not replace the need for travel or product slicks, brochures or even white papers.  But video will begin to provide valuable content in a format that is easy to absorb supplementing sales by conventional means.

There are numerous examples of CRM vendors already turning to video as another way to get a message across.  MicrosoftSAP and Oracle all have produced video content that touts their products.  It’s very effective, especially if it is kept short and moving.  A short video might not replace a brochure or a white paper with all the additional detail that only print can provide.  But video can deliver a message quicker and more clearly when an impression is what’s needed.

Video can exist independently on the Web and it is a medium better suited to viral transmission than print.  How many times each day or week do we get some clip passed along to us?  The number might vary, but our experience says it’s increasing.  And what are you more likely to do, read a white paper or watch a video?

The next step is for CRM customers — in all industries — to become fluent in desktop video development, a big step for sure.  We’ve grown accustomed to building and sitting through PowerPoint presentations, most of which are not that good according to Garr Reynolds.  In his book, “Presentationzen,” Reynolds writes about what’s wrong with what used to be called slide shows — too many bullet points, too few pictures to engage the mind, droning voices, and dark rooms.  Worst of all, Reynolds says, is when someone sends the slides or a printout expecting you to derive meaning from all those cryptic bullets.

Better to build a documentary video out of stock photos and voice animation, and then stick it on your Web site or on a public sharing site like YouTube so that the video can sell for you when customers are receptive.  A simple condensed URL or “turl” makes a video viral in ways that slide shows will never be.

I work on a Mac and all of the tools I need are on my computer.  I have not checked Windows lately, but perhaps the latest version has similar tools, if not, they are available and inexpensive for Windows users.

Some might object to widespread video use because letting salespeople develop video can take away too much selling time.  I agree.  Video should be the province of the marketing team and it’s a great way for them to reclaim responsibility for message creation and maintenance.  When salespeople got the ability to make slides, it inevitably led to message degradation — time for marketing to reassert itself.

Out of the last recession we got on-demand computing and Web meetings, each of which became great successes because they save their users a lot of money without degrading their ability to do business.  From this recession Web conferences and in-house video are showing good signs of life.  In a recovery, the high cost of travel will demand alternative solutions.  Video is the next marketing frontier, a natural content carrier for ideas that have to stand on their own.  Early adopters are already engaged; it’s time to familiarize yourself.