How video production is helping Xero attract and retain customers

How the SMB accounting software company's internal marketing team is using video as a key pillar of its marketing strategy


From his studio in Auckland, Pat MacFie leads a team of video professionals that would put some independent production houses to shame.

With a crew of more than 20 motion graphics and live action specialists spread around the world, together they produce hundreds of pieces of content each year.

But MacFie is not running an independent video production house. Instead, his group is part of an internal marketing agency producing content to help attract and retain customers for the online business software maker, Xero.

Xero TV has become a vital component of Xero’s marketing strategy, and the practices and workflows created by MacFie means the work can be done for a cost that delivers a strong return-on-investment.

“We are literally producing hundreds and hundreds of pieces of content on an annual basis,” MacFie told CMO. “We have an internal team that is well-educated in our product and understands our brand inside the organisation, with the ability to move quickly and have 24-hour production workflows.”

Xero's Pat MacFie
Xero's Pat MacFie


All of this contributes to his teams’ ability to make a return for Xero beyond that which could be achieved with external agencies.

“One of the advantages of having that global team is having a 24-hour workflow,” MacFie said. “We can get up in the morning in New Zealand, work on something until lunchtime, and hand it off to the team in Melbourne. They work on it to the end of the day, and then hand it to the team in London. Because we have our creative system right, and everybody can access all content all of the time, other people are able to pick it up.

“That brings down our cost of production, so that it becomes a heck of a lot more affordable than if we were trying to farm out 600 pieces of content a year.”

The content being created by Xero TV is a key component of both the brand’s attraction and retention strategies, helping would-be customers understand how Xero might benefit them while introducing existing customers to new features, or helping answer support queries. MacFie described the strategy as nurturing relationships by helping customers overcome challenges they are facing in their business, before moving them into product-specific conversations regarding the values and benefits of the product itself.

Close integration with Xero’s broader internal marketing agency also provides greater creative freedom for the video team.

“There is fundamental respect of the expertise that is inherent in the team,” MacFie said. “We are free to really push back on a brief if we don’t think it is approaching the problem from the right perspective. And as a result, we have a much higher level of creative satisfaction, and our marketers feel they are getting the very best out of us.

“As video becomes more and more ubiquitous, what we believe is that incredible creative is really what is going to stand out.”

That close integration between MacFie’s team and the larger Xero internal agency also presents options for iterative processes that would not otherwise be possible.

“Knowing what’s happening in response to your creative execution inside channels like Facebook, and being able to test and tweak really quickly and in real time redeploy - that is really where we look at as the next big opportunity to really get that creative system working for us,” MacFie said.

Keeping the tech fresh

Late last year, the video team upgraded its capabilities significantly by becoming the first in the region to deploy Brightcove’s Gallery video publishing platform and Video Cloud hosting tool.

In addition to simplifying many processes, MacFie said the greatest benefit is Gallery’s integration with various systems used inside of marketing, sales and customer experience, such as Marketo and Salesforce.

“The opportunity to be able to drop a cookie, understand who these people are, and surface through Marketo what content they are engaging with - then get them into a form to understand who they specifically are,” said MacFie.

That in turn enables Xero to present very specific types of content that drives engagement based on the customer’s journey to date.

“The great thing about the Brightcove/Marketo audience integration is we can get right down to the granular level of where they dropped off inside a particular video,” Macfie said. “That is great for automated communications, which may be the email newsletter, but it is also great to provide contextual information to our sales team for the next stage in that journey.”

Integration with Salesforce means the team can take viewing information and serve that up as an alert inside the CRM.

“Our sales team can use that information to have really contextual conversations with small business owners, or potential accounting and bookkeeping partners,” MacFie said. “We understand what videos they have watched, so we can have conversations on the basis of what they are interested in, and use that to really frame up conversations.

“When you are operating a global business and operating at scale, you need to create frictionless journeys as much as possible, and can’t afford to have too many things in silos and operating in a way that is not connected.”

And integration with Facebook means Xero can match the audience inside of Brightcove with its audience within that platform.

“If there are half a dozen onboarding videos that we want them to watch, and we understand that they have watched the first and last of that series, we can surface those videos through Facebook to get them through that process, because we know from a sales perspective that once they are through those six videos they are far more likely to convert to paying customers,” MacFie explained.

Retention emphasis

From a retention perspective, integration with Salesforce Service Cloud means helpdesk staff can know which videos customers have watched before they make contact. This is especially useful for helping Xero know whether a piece of content isn’t doing its intended job.

“We have seen what they watched, but it may not have ‘clicked’ for them,” MacFie said. “If there is a bunch of people that has that problem, that tells us there is probably something wrong with our content, as opposed to a problem they are having.”

As well as modernising both workflows and presentation, MacFie said the upgrade to Brightcove has delivered an increase in viewing time.

“We are up around the 1.2 million minutes of watch time a month,” MacFie said. “And that had been around the 800,000 in the last 12 months prior to Brightcove implementation.”

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