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How Cisco WebEx Creates Compelling Customer Content thru Video

Posted by Bill Lee on January 13, 2010 at 04:26 PM

An interview with Diane Davidson, Manager, Customer Success Programs, Collaboration Software Group, WebEx, Cisco Systems

Below is a preview of the workshop that Diane will be presenting at the 2010 Customer Reference Forum, March 2-3 in Santa Clara, CA on the Nuts and Bolts of Using Video to Create Compelling Customer Content. It includes several links to terrific customer videos on Cisco's website.

LEE: Diane, tell us a bit about yourself and your customer success programs at Cisco WebEx.

DAVIDSON: The evolution in the computer and associated industries over the last 30+ years has been stunning.  Most of my work in high tech has been in enterprise type business models but since 2003, I have been very involved with internet software and SaaS subscription models. 

During the last 20 years, the world of customer references has changed as much (thank goodness) as the world of computing at large.  Of course everything is digital.  And of course, since the iPod was introduced in 2001, the speed of change has only accelerated.  In the mid 90s we still did everything in hardcopy, with binders of references for our sales teams.  Now our assets are all digital, on our website, in repositories, on iTunes, on YouTube, etc. Publishing has a whole new meaning.

Big changes.  But some of the underlying struggles remain – finding customers who can get clearance to talk is, by far, the biggest challenge.  Story content is also important as we try to look for fresh messages and great metrics.   And, after creating these ‘customer assets’, finding ways to ‘push’ them to lots of folks is also a challenge.

Historically case studies and references were created mostly to help close sales transactions or substantiate a launch.  These days they are so much more.  They are about getting the light bulb to turn on in a prospect’s or customer’s mind so he or she says “Oh, I can use WebEx to do…”  I know this may sound silly, but it is such fun to listen to an enthusiastic customer talk about what they have accomplished using a product or service.   

LEE: Why and how do you see the move away from traditional customer content (written or audio case studies) to video?

DAVIDSON:  It’s not really an ‘either – or’ situation.  What we think about is what kind of content do we need?  What are we using it for and what is the best medium?  In many situations we have a written and audio version of our customer reference story and we add the video. 

Video is compelling.  You get to see and hear the person which helps you get a feeling about the authenticity of the message.  Written content is the hardest to get this feeling. Audio is better than written and video is the best. Body language is so important and you can see that in the video. 

I learned something from the transition to blended learning back in the late 90s.  When folks were engaged in the transition from instructor-led training to eLearning or blended learning, we discussed when to use which medium – instructor led F2F, Instructor led distance learning, and eLearning.  Depending on the content, the criticality of the information, and other factors like affordability, you chose the delivery vehicle. Additionally, you tried to create all the content once, in ‘chunks’, store it in a repository, and deploy it many times in many types of training modules.  ‘Chunking’ the information was the basic concept.  Get it into easily consumable pieces. 

References are very similar.  One makes use of quotes, written, audio, and video case studies, etc.  In one instance you might need a complete story.  In another you might need a powerful video segment that drives home a point.  We first realized this in our written stories – lots of good content but hard to find what you were looking for.  So we extracted key messages, quotes, and other details to make it easy for folks (Sales, Marcom, PR, etc.) to find what they need. 

Now we are focusing on our video content and ‘chunking’ that content into very pithy 30 second chunks, each chunk focusing on a key message.  These ‘voice of the customer’ chunks can be used in lots of ways –  presentations, leadgen pieces, websites, marketing collateral, pass along emails,  etc.

We also have lots of types of videos.  We have a range from relatively inexpensive (done with a Flip camera and edited) all the way up to high production videos, and everything in between.

LEE: Your CEO John Chambers is quite visionary, and in particular has himself placed a great deal of emphasis on video collaboration. How do you see your program as fitting in with his strategy?

DAVIDSON:  Well, as you can imagine, I fully support that statement that John Chambers is an incredible visionary.  He ‘walks the talk’.   Actually I was not so thrilled about the video idea when I started down the path. Relative to the written case study and the audio podcast, quite expensive and logistically more complicated. 

However, after we did our first one, and I found a moderately priced method, I was sold.  When I looked at the result, it wowed me.  Here’s a little example.  We had a customer we were recording on a Flip camera.  So we are on a WebEx with him, seeing him via WebEx video, and he has his Flip camera filming him at his desk.  We asked a simple question,  “What motivated you to move to WebEx”? His response:  ‘Before we had WebEx, our main collaboration tool was the airplane.’  Totally unscripted.  You put that in written form and it does not pop.  When you watch the guy say that on the film, you just go ‘wow’.  Every video has a couple of these simply incredible sound bites where the customer comes up with his own way of saying something that ‘just works’. 

So video is the next best thing to being there in person. It removes distance and feels much more personal.  I love WebEx.  It’s made my life a lot easier in so many ways.  But video makes it a lot better, more human, more intimate, more real.

LEE: Tell us about your “Five to Thrive” program.

DAVIDSON:  When the economy took the very deep dive in October of 2008, John Chambers and team developed what he and they believed to be business fundamentals for the recession.  Some of the steps are just sound business (or even personal) fundamentals and some pertain to the new collaboration tools (hardware and software) available to companies.  The overall idea is to get your house in order so you are positioned to win when the ‘turn around’ commences.  We have been very public with this in our marketing materials, blogs, and an interactive tool that we created that takes you through the concepts and uses customer case studies in various formats to support the key points.  The basics of Five to Thrive are :
1.   Save to Invest

2.   Unlock Employee Potential
3.   Drive true customer intimacy
4.   Outpace the competition
5.   Transition to a borderless enterprise

LEE: Can you give us an overview of the video options that you use, and how and when you use them?

DAVIDSON:  I’d like to save this for the workshop but suffice it to say that we use everything from casual Flip videos to highly produced more polished videos.  We also find value in shooting special customer videos that we use inside the company for training purposes.  Perhaps a customer will not let you use something publically, but they have some great things to say that are good for training your sales force or motivating your team.  We capture those and use them internally.

LEE: You’ve been experimenting with having customers record their own videos, using a Flip camcorder. How is that working?

DAVIDSON:  Yes we have achieved some solid results using this approach.  Of course it’s a different look and feel than a highly produced video, but it works.  We are also intermixing video.  For example, we may go onsite to shoot the HQ location and our key interviewee but there are other folks in quite remote locations that can add power, key messages, perspective, etc.  We will have them record their pieces via Flip and cut those into the final film.  It can be quite powerful.

LEE: Can you share some samples of customer videos you’ve developed? 

DAVIDSON: Well I’d prefer to save our link to the interactive tool around “Five to Thrive” that I mentioned—I’ll unveil and demo that at the 2010 Forum.  But here are some other useful ones I’m happy to share. 

- Cisco Video of one of our customers,  Kroma. I particularly love this one – high end video, shot onsite with lots of b-roll, music, high production costs.  Great video.

- This one is about our customer,  Cabelas.  This was done onsite.  Medium priced.

-  One of my personal favorites – done onsite at Kohn Pedersen Fox, a global architectural firm in NYC, still medium costs

- This is The Food Group – this was done with one of a Flip Camcorder – great video.  Low end, least expensive, but still takes editing time to put it together.

Reference Community Comments

Hello Diane
good examples. Thank you.

I would leave out the written marketing messages - let the customer talk only.

One question: the biggest challenge from my point of view is to make the customer speaking so fluentlty.
Do you use Teleprompter?

Regards from Hamburg, Germany

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