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How to avoid making a mullet video

As I evaluate the video marketing portfolios of our new B2B clients I’m starting to notice a disturbing trend: the proliferation of mullets...in video form.

You remember what a mullet is right? It’s a haircut that’s short in the front and long in the back.

Photo credit: Alsears (CC BY-SA 3.0)

We used to say mullets were a “safety cut” because it’s safe with your grandma in the front and safe with your friends in the back.

No offense to the unfortunate gentleman above who, according to Wikipedia, is in the public domain, but there’s no arguing a mullet is a pretty unflattering hairstyle.

So how does this relate to B2B video marketing? I’ll explain, but first, we need to take a step back to understand why we even use video to sell in the first place.

Sales is a two step process

Sales guru Blair Enns says every sale has two unique steps. The first step is to inspire your prospect with the potential outcome he/she can achieve using your offering. The second step is to reassure your prospect that choosing to work with you is a safe decision.

If we stick with the haircut metaphor, the “inspire” phase of the sale is the cool phase. It’s where you dazzle your client with the possibilities and leave details to the side. If it were a haircut, it would be a long haired rocker.

For the “reassure” phase, you want the opposite of cool, dazzling, detail-free content. You need to calm the nerves of your buyer. They are about to drop a bunch of money on your solution and don’t want to make a mistake. If you go into that meeting with a bunch of vapid material, you won’t close.

Here’s where the mullet comes into play.

The mistake I see 99.9% of B2B companies making is trying to make one video that both inspires and reassures. This becomes the video equivalent of a mullet.

The dangers of mullet videos

Mullet videos are those B2B marketing videos that feel corporate. They usually feature people climbing mountains and then, 20 seconds later, screenshots of some platform in action. They’ll start with, “imagine if…” statements and end with a step-by-step use case.

Mullet videos appear to be a perfectly de-risked option for B2B marketers since they, on the surface, say everything in a short period of time.

This logic falls flat because while the video is speaking to the correct persona, it’s speaking to the buyer in two different points of time. Odds are your prospect’s “inspire” phase and “reassure” phases are weeks or months apart, depending on the length of your sales cycle.

Combining “inspire” and “reassure” messaging into one piece of content may work when selling a mattress, but not a multi-million, multi-year digital transformation engagement.

Mullet videos typically have very low engagement and are littered across companies’ YouTube channels with 50-60 views (after being up for many months).

They have awful engagement and almost zero ROI.

Mullet videos appear to be a perfectly de-risked option for B2B marketers since they, on the surface, say everything in a short period of time.

How to avoid the mullet video

This is pretty simple: make a decision.

Decide whether your video is going to “inspire” or “reassure.” If you need new leads, you need an “inspire” video. If you need help closing existing leads, you need a “reassure” video.

Separate the videos and you’ll notice the pressure to say everything will go away. The cool video can be 100% cool and the safe video can be 100% safe.

The side effect of separating your content into “inspire” and “reassure” is you’ll notice you can make the “reassure” videos cool in their own way because now they don’t need to say those “imagine if…” statements. They get to go down in the weeds unabashedly.

One more thing: this doesn’t necessarily mean your video marketing budgets double. With the correct planning, there are economies of scale in video production. We’re working on an engagement now where we’re using the same actors/set/props in both the “inspire” and “reassure” videos, which allows us to shoot them together.

So the next time you’re tempted to make one, does-it-all video, think of the mullet. Then cringe. Then think about how to let the “inspire” video, inspire — and the “reassure” video, reassure.

And if you can't decide what kind of video you need, check out my free course on creating a strategy for B2B marketing videos.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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