Guest Blogger Denis Pombriant: Lights, Camera, CRM!

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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. 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.

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. Microsoft, SAP, 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 video 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.

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Denis Pombriant is founder and principal analyst of Beagle Research.

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