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Customer Experience

How To Use Video For Sales, Marketing, and Customer Experience

Phone taking video at a concert

Video is everywhere, and many pundits are recommending that companies and individuals use video for sales, marketing, and customer experience. But how? What are the best use cases for letting video elevate the human-to-human conversation? In this interview, we find out!

Ethan Beute is the chief evangelist of BombBomb and the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Human Centered Communication: A Business Case Against Digital Pollution. The following is an edited transcript of an interview from The Experience Maker Live Show.

Dan Gingiss: Tell us a little bit about Ethan Beute and your work at BombBomb, and then we’ll get into the book a little bit.

Ethan Beute: Sure. I’ve been a BombBomb for a decade full time, which is absolutely insane. Most people don’t stay anywhere these days for a decade, much less at a software company. But it’s just been such a fun evolution as we, our team, our customers, and our broader community have advanced this practice of mixing some simple personal video messages in with our emails, with our text messages, with our LinkedIn messages and all these other ways that we’re communicating digitally. To be more clear, to build stronger connection, to increase conversion in a variety of different ways.

I just really, really love it because I get to spend time doing what I like most, which is learning, teaching, practicing, conversing, guesting and hosting shows, putting together presentations, engaging customers on behalf of our sales team or our customer success team. And I just think this practice, whether you choose BombBomb or another one, because there are a number of competitors now, we’ve been pioneering the space, but I think almost everyone can benefit from this opportunity. And it’s just a joy to be able to share that idea and in how to actually do it with people in a variety of formats.

Where To Use Video

Dan Gingiss: So I want to get more into the use of video in the types of communication that we use it in. I know that we can attach to emails. We can put it into LinkedIn. Every time I talk to you, no matter how many times I write something to you, I always get a video back, which is amazing. I do feel like you have to have some discipline for that, which is great. But what I want to ask you to start with is, it still feels to me, even though you guys have been at this for 10 years, that if I’m just looking at all of the communications that I get from people that still very few of them contain video.

Now the argument could be made that that’s exactly why you should do it is because you’re going to stand out because not everybody is doing it, but talk about that push and pull a little bit. Because the flip side to me is, well, if every communication I get is video and I’m maybe I’m not ready for that, does it then become “un-special”? And today it is clearly unique, and that’s my point, but I’m just curious about that push and pull.

BombBomb logo

Ethan Beute: Yeah, a few things I want to peel apart here. First, video is not appropriate for all of your messages. So if you Dan, went to your inbox today or if anyone watching went to their inbox today and they got 32 new emails and 28 of them were videos, people are probably misusing it. It’s ideal for three specific things:

  1. To establish personal connection or reestablish personal connections. Have people feel like they know you in a better way. And that can happen, by the way, from any seat in an organization, whether it’s a hiring manager trying to recruit a new team member or whether it’s a sales person following up with a new online lead, whether it’s a support person responding to an inquiry, whether it’s an account manager providing a proactive update before something like a quarterly business meeting. Personal connection This idea that I know someone, I feel connected to them, they’re interested in me, even if we’ve never met in person.
  2. Emotion or tone. If we need to convey something really positive like thank you or good job, or we need to convey something like an apology or breaking bad news, or expressing some concern or even some caution. That nuance in human expression that comes through when we can talk on video or better yet in person is missing from so many [other communication channels].
  3. Detail or complexity. If you’re explaining something in layperson’s terms, that’s otherwise complex. You’re doing a show and tell with a screen recording like walking through a contract or a proposal or report, whatever that may be. Videos can be better in those cases.

I don’t think this has moved as fast as my hopes, and despite our best efforts and despite the hundreds of millions of dollars of venture capital that is poured into the space. The problem is what a lot of people are doing is taking the same crappy scripts, they’re taking the same crappy emails, and they’re turning them into videos. Continuing to mass-blast them in an undisciplined, untargeted way to people that are not expecting or desiring that communication and thinking that video is going to magically change the game for them.

At some level it is different, so it does get some attention. If you do some creative things, it is actually a great tool for prospecting.

Using Video For Personalization in Sales

Dan Gingiss: “Personalization” has become a buzzword that is often misunderstood because people think that just because we have mail merge software that allows us to say, “Dear Ethan,” now we’re personalized, and that’s great until it accidentally says “Dear {FIRST NAME}, which we’ve all received an email like that, right? But also the fact that we just know your first name doesn’t mean that we’re personalized. And so this idea of literally knowing your customer and knowing different parts about them that you can then use in conversation.

Everybody that teaches anything about LinkedIn prospecting says you should take the time to go to their profile. Maybe you went to the same school or you like the same sports team or you have something else in common. And now there’s that personal connection. Once you have that, then you add the video.

Let’s pivot to your book, Human Centered Communication: A Business Case Against Digital Pollution. So first of all, what is digital pollution?

Ethan Beute: Sure. By the way, we just released the trailer for a documentary series of a documentary film that shares the same subtitle, but the title of the film is Dear First Name. It just captures so much of what you were talking about. And so digital pollution is, in short, unwelcome digital distractions. Now what does that mean? A little bit more broadly, anything that’s confusing, frustrating, annoying or perhaps even threatening about your digital, virtual and online experience.

You have on one end what we call innocent digital pollution, like I don’t intend any harm. Maybe it was just a typo or an auto correct. On the other end is what we call intentional digital pollution, and this is the worst stuff. This is malware, phishing attacks, cyber attacks.

I don’t know what the motivation is there, but it’s clearly intentional that we’re creating this polluted environment that confuses and frustrates and annoys people and perhaps even threatens them. And then in the big fat middle is where most of this conversation is to be had in most of the thought and reflection and review and feedback needs to be considered, which is what pollution are we creating for the people that we’re trying to build  our businesses with and for?

I’m getting prospecting stuff that says, I can see the work that you’re doing at Human Centered Communication is amazing. Human Centered Communication might benefit from… Right? And so it’s just it’s obviously scraping and plugging in, and it’s just pollution. It slows me down. I don’t know why you’re reaching out to me. We have no established relationship. You obviously haven’t gone to any of the trouble to see me at all and did think at all. What’s in it for me?

When we’re creating digital pollution, we might be on the other side of that high-fiving each other for moving our conversion rate from 2.7 percent to 3 percent. It’s a 10 percent lift. We’re an amazing sales and marketing team. But the conversation we never seem to have is what about the 97 percent failure rate on the other side of that exact same piece of math? What about that? Well, the vast majority are just swipe, delete, ignore, whatever. But there’s some chunk that are unsubscribe or abuse complaint.

There are some people that will screenshot and if they’re really polite, they’ll blur out your face and your name and your company name and anonymize it all. Then say, “look at this junk that this person just sent me.” So it’s like this public shaming. So I don’t think we take into account the negative effects or the counter effects of the way that we’re going about the work that we do.

So the other piece is machines are obviously tracking human behavior and cultivating our digital experiences because they know that the amount of noise and pollution in the environment is to the point where we can hardly monitor ourselves. That’s why our social feeds are absolutely curated based on what we like and what we comment on. What does the algorithm think is going to be worth our time and attention so that we will behave against it?

So we have to know as people who are creating communication in order to create business, drive business, serve people, be of value and service, that the less disciplined we are, the more likely we are to create a polluted environment for the people that we want to build our businesses with and for. And the easier it is for them to ignore, delete and block us in, the more likely it is that the machines are going to continue to push us down the priority list so we may never be seen again by the people we want to reach the most.

Dan Gingiss: I used to address this when I was in corporate America. One of the debates we were always having was with pop-up ads on our website. And the marketers were saying, “we’ve got to keep them because they work.” And I was saying the exact same thing you said, which is, well, they work in the sense that 4 percent of people click on them. But how many people are annoyed by them? Are you annoyed when you go to a website and you see a pop up? Yes. Well, then why would we do that to our customers?

Ethan Beute: We’re not perfect. We just want to raise this conversation. But you know, the “Golden Rule” is present in every single major world religion and philosophical system. Anyone who sought to define why are we here and how are we supposed to live arrived at some version of “treat others as you as you would be treated.” And of course, there’s also the “Platinum Rule,” which is to treat others as they prefer to be treated.

Human Centered Communication

Dan Gingiss: Exactly. So one of the things I noticed about your book is you have a whole bunch of case studies with a whole bunch of people that are from totally different industries, businesses, etc. Tell me about that and how you decided to frame the book that way.

Ethan Beute: We started with this premise that in the future we’re doing more digital, virtual and online sales and service, period. The pandemic just accelerated that. But these environments are noisy and polluted. Let’s create a framework or a methodology to help people get in. We see so many people come to video and do what I mentioned off the top, which is take the same non-disciplined, non-focused, non-value oriented communication, put it in a video and expect magic to happen. And so then they get frustrated and confused about why video didn’t do magic. It’s because it’s not about the video, it’s about you, your intent, your message, your targeting.

So we decided, let’s not rely exclusively on ourselves in our own experience, although I think we could have done that in a convincing and helpful fashion. Let’s just rope in some of our expert friends in a variety of different roles and industries. So chapters 3 through 13 are each based on our research and personalized interviews. So you’ll get their perspectives on pollution and ways to be more human-centered, not just in video emails or video messages, but on video calls and in all of our other digital and in a lot of cases, even in-person messaging, outreach, presentation, etc. And so we thought more voices, more faces, more perspectives would be more helpful.

And the fun thing about it is from my side, it was fun to try to sequence the chapters like a mix tape where each stands on its own, but they also work together in kind of a flow that was fun. So you’ll get a variety of sets of strategies and tactics from different people who view customers and customer experience from unique seats.

Dan Gingiss: I thought that it made for a very interesting book because they did come from different perspectives, and while you’re talking about generally the same topic, the applications are different, the experiences are different. So I thought it was a really cool way to share multiple stories.

With a tool like BombBomb, what kind of a difference do you see in a general “hello” video versus a customized “hello, Ethan” video?

Ethan Beute: The difference between “hello” and “hello, Ethan” depends on whether or not they play your video, so we could get into the subject line or the opening line and how it promises or teases specific value in the video to get them to play.

People are using things like whiteboards to preview the video to reinforce the opening line. And also lets them know that the video is for you and about you. And it could be based on any of the elements you offered earlier, Dan, about ways to personalize messages. The interesting thing is, I’ve heard this origin story from a number of our customers, including some that have been with us for years now. As they said, the first time I played that video you sent me and you said, “Hey, Michael” or “Hey, Andy,” I immediately knew that I felt different and that I wanted my customers to feel the same way.

Dan Gingiss: Yeah, exactly. And the first name is probably what gets him to open it or the picture of you with the book or the whiteboard or something. You know, when I get something like that, and the whiteboard says, “Hi Dan,” I almost feel guilty not opening it because I know somebody has spent some time to create a video for me.

Ethan, where can people find you?

Ethan Beute: Other than @BombBomb on every platform, I am Ethan Beute on all of the platforms, and I’d be happy to hear from any of you. I’m obviously deeply passionate about this, spent a decade doing it, and I would love to help anyone that has thoughts or questions or anything. So hit me up online. Or you can even email me

Dan Gingiss: And I can say from experience that Ethan is one of the most giving people out there in the world and what he just said right there, he means it, so definitely reach out to him and he will answer your questions, help you along. And I appreciate you, Ethan. Please go out and buy Human Centered Communication on Amazon, Barnes Noble, wherever you buy books, it’s there. Ethan, thank you so much.

Ethan Beute: Thank you. I really, really appreciate it. And I enjoyed it.

Ethan Beute Show Promo

This interview was edited for length and clarity. You can view the entire video interview on YouTube. Please subscribe to The Experience Maker’s YouTube channel for more than 100 interviews! Image by Pexels from Pixabay. Amazon affiliate links allow this site to receive a (very) small commission on any sales; the price you pay is not affected. 

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