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Marketing

Taking the 'Complex' Out of Complex Tech with Michael Pirone

Video marketing is not just for B2C brands -- companies selling complex pieces of software and technology can also benefit from online video marketing.

December 1, 2020

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Our guest Michael Pirone has a knack for making even the most complicated pieces of software easy to understand in product and brand videos. Video marketing is not just for B2C anymore, short and sweet video content has arrived for B2B and SaaS markets! 

The following interview is an excerpt from our video series, Marketing - In Conversation. To watch the full interview and see more video content, click here. Or you can listen to the Shift In Conversation podcast here.

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Michael Pirone - Co-Founder & Director - Vidico
Grace Amodeo - Program Manager - Shift 

Grace:
Tell us a little bit about yourself and Vidico.

Michael:
My name is Michael, I'm one of the co-founders at Vidico. Vidico is a video production company, we work with brands like Square, Spotify, DigitalOcean, and some few hundred tech startups all the way from seed stage to late stage too. We have a real knack for explainer videos, and communicating complexity in a way that's easy to understand across both animation and live action filming.

Grace:
In video marketing, what is the difference between selling a product and selling a piece of technology?

Michael:
To look at communicating complexity in a way that's easy to understand -- what that means is taking quite a hard communications concept and simplifying it to the point where your addressable audience widens, so you can really maximize the potential of who your company is able to speak and sell to. In practice that involves taking the company pitch deck or a 10 minute talk with the CEO and turning it into a 60-90 second video that really clearly articulates the problem, the company providing the solution, and the hierarchy of benefits which is how your solution provides value. We have a real fundamental belief that technology has provided more opportunities for innovation. When you have a founding team that innovates, they essentially have to build for the future. This really leaves a large communications gap because people don’t know how your product provides value yet, until you articulate it well. 

Grace:
When you get a brief for a new video project, how do you get started?

Michael:
Vidico has developed its own set of briefing forms for each content category we offer, so there might be one for animation and one for live action and so forth. That framework is where the companies place everything they want to to be said -- the “what” of the video. Once we have those materials, that’s when the work comes under Vidico’s side and we land on three important areas. The first is perspective, from which perspective do we tell the story? If the user tells the story, you get more of an empathetic response. If the company tells the story, you take the stance of more of a domain expert so you get a response which is more calculated. Step two in the process is market profiling. So now that we’ve chosen who tells the story, what environment are they in and who are they speaking to? If you are able to land on both the storyteller and the environment you actually develop a market profile, which is really important. The other component is product, we need to articulate three to four pillars or truths of that product. Once we have perspective, market profile, and product, it’s really easy then to put yourself in a place where more rapid idea generation is able to work. 

Once we have perspective, market profile, and product, it’s really easy then to put yourself in a place where more rapid idea generation is able to work. 

Grace:
Tell me about the collaborative relationship between your team and the brand’s team.

Michael:
Vidico's process is built in a way that we wouldn't move from say a concept to a script or a script to a storyboard without the client signing off on each stage. While this may seem arduous, it’s important for a few reasons. It’s a lot easier for us to stay on brand that way, to the point where we’ve never had an issue at the end of the process where someone says that this is totally not what they signed up for. I’m also particularly proud of our team and our ability to break the mold. We work with a lot of tech companies, and sometimes you want to reach for that one tool that you have that you know is going to do the job for a particular brief that comes in. But one thing that we are really strong about is making sure that for each project the effort is super unique and that we involve the client in each stage of the process. There's enough opportunity for them to insert their own unique company DNA into the project. We really like to try to aim for a collaborative and quite a democratic process.

Grace:
Do you think SaaS, tech, and B2B companies are producing more video content these past few years than they have been before, and if so why is that?

Michael:
I think it's a firm "yes". We've definitely seen more uptick across the board and it's not just from seed SaaS companies and the new wave, it is the later stage SaaS companies too. If you think about Zoom, TikTok, and Netflix, they are really occupying the mind share of companies that we interact with on a daily basis in 2020. And they are fundamentally based around video content for your communications. Video based companies are an integral part of our digital lives, both on the consumer side and enterprise too. I think tech companies are better at spotting these trends, they are more data driven and can see these trends appear faster than anyone. Tech companies and SaaS companies are optimizers by nature. They understand how leveraged video can actually be once you have the asset, they quickly know how to multiply the efforts and to spread it across every channel. Another exciting area is localization, it’s getting a lot easier to speak to multiple audiences using video and have video localized at a fraction of the cost of the original project. For tech companies, which are really looking horizontally at what different international markets they can go into once they've proven out their own local markets, I think it's another strong point of rationale as to why video content is being taken up.

Tech companies and SaaS companies are optimizers by nature. They understand how leveraged video can actually be once you have the asset, they quickly know how to multiply the efforts and to spread it across every channel.

Grace:
How have you managed to stay successful, and even grow, during the pandemic? 

Michael:
We've grown around 25-30% this year, which I think is a pretty good result considering the pandemic and what was happening around us. In terms of how that was possible, two years ago we made the decision to create not only campaign work but other types of videos like case studies, testimonials, and shorter product videos. We expanded our portfolio of different content categories. Thank goodness that change was done because it really enabled us to keep working with these clients during this time. Even when there were restrictions on larger projects, we still had the flexibility and in some cases the velocity to really keep outputting content. The second reason is that 50-60% of what we do now is animation, so obviously that wasn’t impacted at all and kept going very strongly. That’s one of the benefits of being a production company that really does both, which is fairly atypical. The last thing is, if you just look broadly at tech during this time, it’s been remarkably resilient. So luckily we’re targeting this audience which had a high growth phase a couple of years ago, but is also really accelerating through this pandemic. The appetite for video from our target market didn’t really dry up and has continued to soar. 

Even when there were restrictions on larger projects, we still had the flexibility and in some cases the velocity to really keep outputting content.

Grace:
As you create your own marketing plan for Vidico, what have you learned from the work you’ve done with your clients? 

Michael:
Three or four months ago Vidico produced its first proper brand video where a number of team members spoke in an interview format, and we supplemented the interview footage with some really great scenes of our work. It was a really great experience. There was no real difference, believe it or not, with the process that we use with clients and the process we used on ourselves. It really forces you to simplify, it came down to establishing our hierarchy of benefits, succinctly summarizing our problem, making a killer one-liner to counter that problem, and leaving the audience with the next step. We really need to show the type of craft that goes into these videos, because there is a bit of a mismatch of expectations to how much work goes into videos. It’s a complex medium, there’s a lot of layers, so we wanted to tease that out and show the viewer all the different layers. We’re making more of them!

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Would you like to participate in a future In Conversation video interview? Email grace@shift.io for more information.

Grace Amodeo is a Content Marketing Manager at Shift, where she oversees the annual Shift Creative Fund grant program. She is a graduate of Emerson College, where she studied film with a concentration in directing narrative fiction. Grace lives in Los Angeles.
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