You’ve got Video Mail! If you don’t, you might soon.

“It’s what you don’t say that matters most. Humans predominantly express themselves ‘nonverbally’ so, whether in business or personal relationships, there is no substitute for face time. Actual words – delivered by email, IM or SMS – convey only 7% of our intended communication. Pick up the phone and your tone can add another 38%. Body language, however, adds an astounding 55%. You simply can’t make an impact or even make your point without being seen as well as heard.” (provided by MetaSwitch)

If this reads to you like marketing copy intended to interest you in video calling, you could not be blamed. After all, video calling evangelists (I count myself among them) have longed to get this message across – an intuitive one, really – in the hopes that video communications become as mainstream. But the quoted copy is not about video calling, rather about VIDEO MAIL.

Blog - Video mail

I came across the it in a Google search for ‘video mail’, among dozens of other results including a number of video mail startups and various obscure links to wireless carrier feature pages (who knew). The data it quotes seems hard to argue with. We all know, especially those in sales, that body language is the tell all. And that text-based communication, as hard as some of us try otherwise, is left to the interpretation of the reader. The relationship you have with the reader, the mood they’re in, or simply how quickly they read your text communication will all drive the interpretation, and often not in your favor. Worse, often we won’t find out until it’s too late that a text communication has been understood in way far different than intended.

As it states above, voice tonality does help, a lot in the case of messaging, but when’s the last time you left someone a ‘detailed’ voice message? But when compared to video, for real time communications at least, it pales;  so we are finally adopting video, though with still plenty of room for growth.

But what about video for messaging?

Actually, video for messaging is easier and cheaper to deliver. Less worrying about bandwidth, and the other external factors that can make a video call seem like a bad idea. But while pretty widely available, video messaging remains in its infancy. Yet there are some signs of life:

  • Video Mail when no one’s home: Skype introduced Video Mail earlier this year, prompting users to leave a video mail after four rings with no answer. Smart idea, but I know little about its take rate so far. I’m not sure why, but I’ve ignored every prompt so far to leave one. Still, if there is going to be take, Skype will be a good place to start. 
  • Video mail for the Texting Crowd: Several startups are chasing younger generations of users with the allure of video messaging, on the promise that text – or even photo messaging – simply cannot capture the user’s mood, nor their surroundings.  I buy into this, and I really do hope it happens; it will teach our youth (don’t I sound old?) to communicate with their eyes and not just their finger tips. (we may need  a SnapChat version.) Check out GlideMe. Of course, they call it Video Texting…
  • Video Mail for Marketing/Customer Service:  This is a new sector, and could be the sleeper that gets video mail some love.  At various steps in a sales process or business relationship, text-based communication gets lost in the noise, or just means very little to someone who receives 100′s of messages a day.  Companies like VSnap (StartupCamp4 presenters) believe that customized video mail promotes a connection between the sender and receiver that text just can’t accomplish, If true, there;s a viral opportunity here. But it won’t be limited to sales. Imagine receiving, after  a poor customer service experience, a video mail from a senior manager or executive working for the provider that underserved you. If delivered right, it would surely leave an impression text cannot.
  • Video messaging as part of UC: As UC, particularly from the cloud, proliferates and is increasingly integrated with mobile solutions, video messaging should take hold for internal communications. Back when, voice messaging’s most common applications were desk-to-desk and group format, within larger corporations. As companies like MetaSwitch and their competitors make video messaging a standard feature, we should see some traction for this use case.

Monetizing video messaging will be tricky, and likely indirect in some cases. Video messaging may become a favorite of corporate users, a ‘free’ feature included in a broader license; it’s features like these that users talk to others about, driving word-of-mouth for the vendor. Video texting may go the eye balls route, while video mail for sales/marketing has the best shot at meaningful monthly revenue. Sales teams pay for services that move the sales cycle.

In my own lab testing, using it as part of my relationship nurturing process, I have remarked the following: 1. for most, it’s the first video mail they have received; 2. most made a point to tell me they liked it. Perhaps this confirms that while it’s early, there’s promise.

For more on what’s coming in video mail, have a read of this recent Forbes’ article. 


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