April 25, 2017

Video Marketing & More – In Depth Interview With Adam Zais of Wistia

Adam ZaisAdam Zais, the current VP of Business Development and Video Hosting solution Wistia, has a long career in sales and business development for high-growth technology companies.  His current mission is to make Wistia the worlds leader in Video Hosting and Analytics.  In Adam’s words, “…it is about using video to drive revenue, boost awareness / generate leads, and increase customer satisfaction – all measurable and strategic business goals.”

Adam Zais not only has an unbelievable track record in sales and marketing, but he, in my opinion, speaks the clear truth about how to best incorporate video into your overall communication strategy.

We interviewed Adam because frankly, he rocks.  We also interviewed Adam because he is perfectly qualified to help you get started using video, OR, to help you tweak your current video strategy to get better results.

Side note, to those paying close attention, we changed our appearance a bit.  We decided to focus almost exclusively on all things mobile.  I bring this up because Wistia delivers full functionality to mobilize your video strategy.  This is becoming more and more important as your audience spends more time viewing videos on their mobile device.


Wistia is an private on-line video hosting service.  What types of things do your customers do with your service?

While there is a nearly limitless range of what folks are doing with video and Wistia, it is fair to say that there are four main areas: marketing, sales, training, and corporate communications.

And in that order of priority/importance. To break it down further, the primary marketing example is lead generation / email marketing. 

Depending on the use case, in your experience, is there a type of video format that works better than others?  For example, is a talking head better in some situations than a voice over PowerPoint? 

In my opinion, which is based on personal & anecdotal experience as well as from studying lots of data, there is no true “right answer” to this. I can speak to past success as a possible predictor of future success but everything that I’m about to say should be taken from the perspective that what worked before still needs to be tested, optimized, tweaked, tested again, etc.

That said, here’s what I feel very confident in stating as pretty darn close to fact as one can get. (And take a look at our videos to see what I mean.)

The best videos will always be those that:

  1. hold the viewer’s attention throughout
  2. say / explain the main point in more than one way and more than one time
  3. are short.

As such, and without going into the quite obvious point #3, we like the MIXED use of live-action and either screencasts or motion-graphics (voice-over-powerpoint) style videos. Why? Typically they’ll be much more engaging (point #1) and better explanations (point #2) than those that would be only in one style.

If that’s not an option, I can definitely say that just voice-over-powerpoint videos don’t usually work well in marketing scenarios. They’re okay in direct selling and training scenarios.

But again, in those cases adding live-action or screencasts is WAY better. At the very least, one should always try to do the Ken Burns effect stuff in their videos that only contain images or slides.

That’s the motion in motion-graphics. Just slides in the background is kinda boring….which is, as you know, the kiss of death for a web video.

Do you like how many companies are using animations?

Yes. Emphatically!

Complex ideas are going to be way better explained in this fashion. And that’s the goal, isn’t it? To better explain stuff? This is a fast-growing segment of the industry and hugely important.  

Do your customers use videos to tell stories?  If so, what type of stories do they tell? 

This is a key principle of what we talk about with our customers. Anything is fair game frankly. We urge people to talk about stuff like who they are, what they’re doing, successes, failures, fun stuff, serious stuff, etc.

A journalistic or narrative style is a very successful approach to connecting with one’s audience. It has the additional effect of supporting the “brand” in ways you might not have expected.

I guess the point to be made here is that the most forward way of thinking about video these days is to understand that it’s one of the ways to communicate in business — like the phone, email, live events, and so on.

Companies need to evolve from thinking that video is different from their routine ways of communicating, which leads to thinking that doing a video is a very occasional thing. Instead, companies need to think of video as something they do far more frequently and in just about any business situation or use-case.

How do you feel about the concept of a video “going viral”?  Is it necessary for a video to go viral for it to be considered effective? 

Perhaps the question is better framed from the perspective of what you are trying to accomplish with the video?  If, for example, you are trying to build a linking strategy for SEO, is a video’s ability to go viral significant?

This is a GREAT question.

The brutal reality is that the fundamental nature “viral videos” and “business videos” are so inherently different.

Worse still is the unfortunate assumption that many businesses make that they can actually make a video of theirs “go viral”.

First let’s look at what viral videos are by examining a couple of current examples: Dollar Shave Club and Gangnam Style. Dollarshaveclub.com is an actual business. They sell razorblades online.

Great! The first question businesses should be asking themselves is, “do I have a business that is doing something exactly like them?” Meaning, am I an online retailer of something.

If so, that “something” better be as nearly universally needed by people as razorblades. If not, pretty much game-over.

Then, they should be asking themselves, “do I have the balls (or money, or sense of humor, etc.) to do videos like that?” If not, definitely game over. It should be noted here that simply copying a viral video is usually another sure-fire way of not getting a viral response.

This (a viral response) is a hugely important concept, by the way. I’ll get back to it in a second. Let’s take a look at Gangnam Style. Cool…Korean guy decides to do something to get famous. It worked!

What the fuck does it have to do with a business message? Nothing. And this gets us nicely back to the idea of “a viral response”. Both these examples are similar in that the videos are intrinsically funny, quirky, silly, etc. They are, basically, GREAT ADVERTISEMENTS.

Can anyone make a great advertisement? Possible, of course, but somewhat uncommon. Why? Because most businesses forget that great advertisements are hard to do, usually cost a shitload because you usually have to hire a great advertising company.

And, most of all, their “greatness” is terribly hard to predict without a shitload of testing (like with focus groups) and that too takes a shitload of time and money.

But the biggest fly in the ointment here is that even assuming that you now have a “great advertisement video” the viral response to it is completely beyond your control!!!

You can push as hard as you can in social media but a video ONLY goes viral because people decide they want to share it. You simply cannot “force” people to do this.

Worse, there is so much “competition” to your video…meaning, there’s SO much noise from the sheer volume of content that it’s insanely hard to stand out.

How do you feel when people talk about High Definition vs Low Definition? 

Mostly, I feel like slapping them!

“HD” and “video / web video” should never be mentioned in the same sentence….much less the same ZIPcode.

  • FACT #1: HD is an actual standard that certainly relates to things like broadcast TV, disc players, codecs (h.264), and displays (like TV’s). There simply is NOT a specific “standard” or meaning for HD video.


  • FACT #2: The Internet is the worst video-delivery mechanism ever devised by man. It simply was never designed to do what people are trying to get it to do. As such, a ton of effort has been expended to try to get things to work halfway decently. Things like CDNs, better encoding, faster CPUs, faster / better displays, cheaper memory….yada, yada, yada. As a result, video over the Internet has gotten to a place where it’s not too shabby. That said, the video over the Internet will NEVER look like a BluRay disc playing on a high-end plasma TV in your living room.

What people THINK they mean by “HD video” is better phrased as “high QUALITY video”. Meaning, it looks pretty darn good. Remember, we’re talking about a video “looking good” when played (streamed) over the Internet.

I’m NOT talking about downloading a file to play locally like in the example above. People THINK that just because their cameras or iPhones record 1080p video that all they have to do is upload that file to some service – like Wistia – and “Bob’s your uncle” they’re all set.

Couldn’t be further from the truth.

Web video is FAR more about delivering a good viewing experience to one’s viewers than it is about trying to match IMAX quality. Especially in business scenarios.

People are FAR more tolerant of quality degradation than they are of playback degradation. Your video keeps buffering or stuttering? Your viewers will abandon it in a bink of an eye. In my opinion?

This whole issue has been started and made worse by the lunatics at YouTube (and others) with the brain-dead idea of slapping the “HD” thing in their players. At best, it’s an honest mistake. But I think it’s been deliberately misleading, confusing, and fraudulent. 

Wistia has very powerful analytics.  What needs to be measured and why?

Analytics, unfortunately, is a word that can be applied to almost anything. As in the HD discussion, there isn’t a true “standard” or commonly accepted meaning for what “video analytics” means, or should / could mean.

Wistia’s analytics have been designed to answer important business questions. Like, “who are by best leads?” Or, “who should I follow up with first?” Or, “how can I make this video better?” Or, “has this investment been worth it?” Or, “should we run this campaign again?”

Businesses don’t think just in terms of “how many views did we get?” They want to know the answer to, “which views matter?” The ONLY way businesses will continue to invest time, energy, and money into video is to truly understand how that investment is moving the top-line revenue needle, or customer-satisfaction needle, or employee morale needle. 

So, what needs to be measured and why?

  • First, you have to have a tool that treats your viewing audience as a collection of individuals, not a single entity.


  • Second, the tool needs to be ability to give you total audience engagement analytics, which are aggregated up from each individual’s viewing profile (which we call heatmaps), but also enable you to drill-down to any specific “view”.


  • Third, you need a tool that integrates with your other key marketing, sales or training tools so that you can combine your video analytics with your important related data. For example, your email marketing lists.

It has been written that Wistia doesn’t have a video marketing strategy.  What is your opinion on Video Marketing treated as a distinct and separate marketing strategy?

What we mean by that is that we have a strategy about videos, which is to project our personalities (a BIG piece of our “brand”) and to let people feel that they know us, which is really about building a relationship.

A more concrete “video marketing strategy” would probably be described in lead generation terms: leads, MQL, scoring / ranking, drip campaigns, visitor value, etc. In fact, we do do some of this.

But our primary goal for our own use of video is brand-oriented story-telling. We don’t stress too much over optimizing key marketing metrics. We absolutely believe in them, and coach people how to do this. It’s just that we focus more on the brand than we do lead-gen. Or list-building. And so on. 

To your main question: my opinion is that one should NOT have a distinct Video Marketing Strategy from their Marketing Strategy. Which is sort of the point I was trying to make above.

For example, people often refer to video as “content”. It’s not content….it’s a FORM of content. Your marketing content takes the FORM of websites, brochures, slide decks, etc. Oh, and videos! Why would you think that videos would have a different “strategy” than your other content? 

How long should a video be? 

This is somewhat subjective. Our research / data provides the following insights:  marketing videos (meaning, you and your viewer don’t really know one another) should be 30 to 45 seconds long.

A video used in sales situations (meaning, you now know the viewer a bit) are best when they are less than 1:30 minutes long. The best training or deeper marketing / sales videos (where you really know the viewer, or the subject is worth a deeper explanation) are between 2:30 and 4:00 minutes.

Once you start seeing videos over 5 minutes long, you’re really getting into difficult territory. True, sometimes you simply can’t deliver a message or course or explanation or demo in less time. Therefore, tools like playlists, chaptering, mid-roll interactions, etc. are critical. 

Why don’t more sales organizations use video for direct sales?

Mostly, because sales organizations think that they are SO great. Video is far too threatening to most reps / managers because that they think (incorrectly) that they are great communicators, they think they know better than marketing what to say, and they think that they control access to information.

They are stupid. They are wrong. They are sad. (editors note, from me, I agree with Adam 100%)

Wistia and Youtube are complementary in that they each have their own unique purpose.  What should people know when making the decision to use one or the other or both?

You are correct. Here’s what people should know / keep in mind. (And in not particular order of importance)

  • YouTube is NOT a search engine. It IS a place in which a shit-ton of searches happen, but it’s not a search engine.
  • Increasingly, YouTube is morphing into what we currently call “TV”. People simply “watch” YouTube. They meander from video to video (i.e., “channel surf”) by virtue of YouTube deciding what they should watch next. (Talk about lazy! meaning the viewers.)
  • Putting your video on YouTube is really like deciding to buy TV ads…or billboards on I-95…or signage on the side of MBTA busses. Really…it’s exactly like that. The person doing this is hoping that people will see their video. In fact, they’re doing far less research than what they would do if they were actually buying a TV spot, like, what demographic watches the show, what times, etc. etc.
  • People are all hot-and-bothered about YouTube channels. As if THAT makes a hill of beans difference. Oh goody….now I have a special place where everyone can see all of my video all in one place. Oooooo, goody goody gumdrops. What a bunch of bullshit. So what? I say. Do marketing people really think that people give a shit? Amazing! Here’s the scoop: if you are making a lot of videos you’re probably doing that because you want people to buy something from you. How do they do that on YouTube? They can’t, you idiots. They have to get to your website to buy something. Or sign up for a webinar. Or whatever. Do these people honestly think that YouTube WANTS people to leave YouTube to get to that company’s website? HELL NO! Sure, put your links there. Even better, track the click-throughs from YT to your site. Yup, you will get some. Can you predict it? No way! And the motivation to leave is actively undermined by the very nature of YT. It continues to astound me that people continue to do things against their own interests. If the most important place for you to establish and maintain business relationships and conversations is your own website, why the fuck would you EVER want people to go anywhere BUT to your website? I have to laugh every time I see the little button that says “watch us on YouTube”. (Or facebook for that matter.) It’s a goddamn hole in your conversion funnels you ignoramuses! 
  • Unless you spend a shit load with YT, you really can’t control that environment to your own ends. And you sure as shit can’t get any support. And, you might even get kicked off. Greaaaate! 
  • Oh, but wait, I’ll embed the YT player right on my own website! Problem solved! Ummmm….NO! Can you say “Brand Conflict?” And you STILL have a hole in your funnel. People’s mouse cursors tend to be where their eyes are and they tend to click on the player and then, whoops…Bob’s your uncle….they’re gone….and might never come back.
  • Here’s the bottom line: Unless you have Dollar Shave Club videos, you mostly won’t get all that many views. Unless your business is somehow aligned with something that millions of people care about, you won’t be getting many views. Stop fooling themselves that they’re missing something by not being on YouTube. That said, even if they know that they’re not going to get the kind of views Gangnam Style gets, if they have a fairly decent brand-oriented video there’s certainly no harm in putting it on YouTube. What they have to be willing to do is keep their expectations low as to what effect that’s going to have on their business. 

If a company has a limited budget, what are some awesome ways for them to create the video assets they need to succeed while staying within their budget?

I would first challenge them to re-think what they’re “budgeting”.

The MOST effective, and thus most important, form their content can take is video. Instead of buying rubber sharks, or coffee mugs, or brochures, or any other typical “marketing” shit they should be going “all in” on video.

But if you mean that they have little to no money for marketing, well….they’re fucked. Okay…I’ll be serious.

They should watch our video about making an iPhone video, and our video about making your own lighting kit for $100. And I’d tell them that they can make pretty darn great videos themselves. Buy a good screencasting product, like Screenflow, and get to work doing that style of video. Start there and get busy. 


Thanks Adam, for your indulgence AND for your incredible insights. 

If you want to connect with Adam, he is on Linkedin and Twitter, and I am certain he would love to hear from you.

Thanks to you for reading this article.  If you have any questions, as always, do not hesitate to contact me direclty at vmessina@otimollc.com. 


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