The surge in online videos for business is continuing unabated. Forrester Research found that video-enhanced websites are 53 percent more likely to appear on the first page of Google search results, while Eloqua reports that press releases containing a video clip generate 500 percent added views. Video sales letters, which combine the power of the written word with the heightened audio and video capabilities of the web, have become a new tool for both lead generating and direct selling efforts.
Apply classic selling strategies
In a video sales letter, a narrator reads the entire copy of a sales promotion while the text appears on the screen one sentence at a time in exact synchronization. "The combination of being able to see the words and hear the words at the same time is almost hypnotic," says Tim Genster, owner of WebPowerLocal, a Trumbull, Connecticut-based marketing company. "You simply have to watch and listen, and that's very engaging."
Unlike web series that rely on continuing storylines and recurring characters to make a sales pitch in an indirect or low-key way, video sales letters are more straightforward. They adhere to the same kind of structure and selling techniques found in a direct-response sales letter. "I always tell people to build three tips into video sales letters," says Genster. "It demonstrates your knowledge of whatever the problem or challenge you're helping your customer with. Then, simply communicate the solution you can provide and include some proof."
For example, Genster wrote a 40-minute video sales letter that identified the problem of chronic lower back pain and offered a breakthrough solution for alleviating it—a classic direct mail formula. For the direct sale of digital products that cost $100 or more, Genster allots about 35 to 40 minutes to tell the story and issue the call to action.
"Videos are inviting, easy for the consumer, and rank higher in search results," Genster says. "If your website doesn't have a video sales letter but your competitor does, chances are that you are not going to get the business. They're that vital."
Write a strong script
After you decide on the purpose of your video sales letter and the action that you want the viewer to take, the next step is to develop a logically structured, compelling script.
"You've got to know what you want to sell first—the benefits and the unique selling proposition—then focus on fleshing out that script into something that [the marketer] would be comfortable saying face-to-face with one of their prospects," says Eric Wagner, co-founder of i7 Marketing, a Rogue River, Oregon-based marketing company. "Then you can bring the visual element into it."
For small businesses that want to produce their own video sales letters in-house, software such as Camtasia Studio can help even first-timers produce simple but effective pieces. Wagner warns that it's critical to avoid rookie mistakes, such as not synching the audio and visual elements or forgetting to put in a clear call to action.
Marketers need to find a speaker with the right amount of enthusiasm to make the script come alive and sound natural. "You really want to make sure you're capturing the excitement for whatever product or solution you're presenting," says Brandy Hughes, i7's marketing coordinator. "You want the listener to walk away thinking, 'Why would I not buy this?'"
Marketers can also recycle portions of their video sales letters to generate more interest. For example, Hughes says that snippets can be put on your business website or highlighted in the company e-zine with a link to the complete video. Wagner and Hughes have found that a video sales letter generally pulls $3 to $4 in sales for every $1 that a static page produces. "A video sales letter really provides the avenue for a closer connection with your prospects and customers than other email or traditional advertising methods might provide," Wagner says.
Control the message
With print and email sales letters, the prospect decides whether to skim or read your message word for word. But in a video sales letter, the marketer is in charge of the experience. "You're able to lay out your sales argument in a way that [the prospect] is not able to control," says Russ Henneberry, director of editorial for Digital Marketer, an Austin, Texas-based online entrepreneurial community. "They can't stop or pause or fast forward or rewind the video."
Henneberry says that video sales letters generally do better when they begin automatically—the so-called auto play function—rather than making the viewer push a 'play' button, and that 12 to 24 minutes is an ideal length. "In a 20-minute video, the 'buy' button might not pop until 18 minutes in," Henneberry explains. "We found that things convert better when you wait until you've made all your points and built all your social proof and then you're ready to make your offer."
If a prospect decides to leave the video before it has finished, Henneberry will occasionally have a pop-up box appear with a sales argument that doesn't appear until later in the video or news about a bonus that is revealed toward the end of the sales message—anything that might hold the viewer and keep them watching.
"We think the reason that video sales letters are beating traditional sales letters almost every time is because you can control the sequence of the message," Henneberry says. "There's something rhythmic and comforting about watching words go across the screen."