Don't shy away from using video in e-mails

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B-to-b marketers are finding that using video in e-mail can help deliver their messages to audiences more effectively, as long as they follow a few simple rules.

First, and probably most important, "It must be relevant," said Felix Serna, senior director-global e-marketing at Sun Microsystems.

Sun uses video in e-newsletters and other e-mail marketing communications to reach both IT and business audiences.

Depending on the audience, the video clips, which are created in-house, provide technical product information, discuss technology issues or feature executives talking about business issues.

For example, in its recent "Inner Circle" e-newsletter, targeted at IT decision-makers, Sun Exec VP-Software Rich Green discussed upgrading from Linux to Solaris OS in a video clip.

Videos must be user-friendly, Serna said. "You don't want to send a video player in an e-mail, but you can make it look like there is a video player embedded," he said.

In its newsletters, Sun uses HTML to create images that appear to be the beginning of a video clip playing in a video player. A button says "Click here to play," and users are seamlessly taken to a site powered by Sun that plays the video.

The videos are typically between 10 minutes and 12 minutes long, and, Serna said, the average click rate for the video clips is twice as high as the click rate for other links in the newsletters.

Sun also uses video links in e-mail alerts reminding executives to join Sun Net Talk programs, which are live discussions with technology experts.

Gary Slack, chairman and chief experience officer at integrated marketing communications agency Slack Barshinger, said video in e-mail is a great way to provide more compelling content to users.

Slack Barshinger produces a monthly e-mail newsletter called "BMAIL" for the Business Marketing Association's Chicago chapter, and it started incorporating video into the newsletter last fall.

The e-mail includes links to video clips, produced by Business POV, Chicago (, of speakers at BMA Chicago events.

For example, last month the BMA Chicago chapter held a luncheon event featuring Jon Roskill, VP-marketing at Microsoft Corp., who provided a behind-the-scenes look at the launch of Microsoft Vista.

"BMAIL," which was sent to the chapter's 450 members and 3,500 prospects, contained links to the video clip, as well as audio clips and a PowerPoint presentation. "Some people don't want to watch the speaker—they want to just listen. Others just want to look at speaker's [PowerPoint] deck," Slack said. "We believe there are others that want to watch the speaker and watch the deck unfold behind the speaker. We are giving people choices by giving them multiple ways to access the content."

"There is also more viral activity with the video and, hopefully, it will attract more people to our monthly lunches," he added.

Slack offered the following tips to marketers using video in e-mail:

Always have video stored outside of the e-mail (for example, on a microsite), and link to it.

Use text to describe exactly what is on the video so you don't waste the user's time.

List the file size, length of video and formats supported.

Use flash video (FLV) whenever possible to achieve higher compression rates (up to 90%).

Make sure your video plays in at least YouTube-size format (320x240).

For audiences that might be bandwidth-challenged, offer the choice to view the video via streaming or downloading.

Edit Web video to remove dead air. Use jump cuts to tighten it up.

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