Let’s start with the obvious: the world is going to video…
Text-on-page sales copy is still critically important. Sometimes to supplement video. Sometimes instead of. Sometimes in places where video just doesn’t work (for now). And even when you have a video, there’s almost always a text version of a sales page that displays in certain conditions.
But with bandwidth becoming cheaper and more plentiful by the day… AND consumers decidedly converting at a better rate for video versions of the same message… AND video getting a preference on certain ad platforms (*cough*Facebook*cough*)…
Copywriters need to have at least some level of video copywriting competence.
Here’s the dirty truth about selling with video…
It’s easy to grab your smart phone, open the video app, and hit record.
And some people are incredibly talented at doing that — and creating compelling sales messages.
Sometimes these messages stand alone, and sell on their own.
Other times, they form a great intro for a product page that goes into more detail with well-written text copy.
Yet other times, these are the videos you see running as paid ads, driving traffic to the core sales messages.
But in all cases…
It’s all still selling multiplied.
Going all the way back to Claude Hopkins and Scientific Advertising. (Get my free audiobook and ebook versions of Scientific Advertising here.) Advertising is sales multiplied.
And despite the new-media zealots in every media claiming, “But this one is different!”… What works in online video marketing is the same thing that works in any kind of selling, in-person, or in-media.
And the people who are able to do off-the-cuff sales videos — besides being a rare breed — are also those people who could sit down with you and sell you their product or service in person, in an incredibly effective way.
Sometimes that’s trained into them.
Other times it’s more instinctual.
In all cases, they know how to grab your attention, build your interest in their message, stimulate their desire for their product or service, and spur you to take the necessary action to move forward in the buying process.
They connect with you on a problem you have, or an unmet need. They agitate the experience of that problem, getting you emotionally involved in wanting a solution. They present solution options, laying you the possibilities and the criteria you can use to decide between them. They invalidate alternative solutions until theirs is the only one left. Then they ask you to take action, with a compelling offer.
This is the same thing that worked in classic direct response. In newspapers, magazines, and other print media. It’s what’s always worked in direct mail. It’s what works in radio direct response, and on TV. It’s what works online, too, including on those really long text sales pages. And it’s what’s working in video.
In general, a solid sales pitch is a solid sales pitch is a solid sales pitch — but…
The better you are at selling, using the classic principles of effective selling applied to your medium, the better you’ll do.
But that’s not the whole story.
To illustrate, a story.
I was once at a marketing conference, featuring one of the modern legends of direct response. This was someone who had built multiple successful direct response businesses, primarily in print and direct mail.
He was a great copywriter.
And, he gave a great presentation that leaned on how he used the classic sales principles to sell in his advertising.
Then he got to the end of the presentation. Those last 10 minutes, where some speakers pivot into the pitch.
And everything about his demeanor changed. It was palpable. He’d essentially tacked a bunch of slides onto the end of his presentation that included a classic long-form direct mail close.
It included the price drops, and the value stacks. It included the obligatory, “but wait, there’s more.”
Gigantic value figures were put on the screen, then crossed out.
All that stuff that was gospel for copywriters when I was getting started in direct response in 2005.
It was so awkward!
Everyone in the room was shuffling in their seats. Because as this master of on-paper direct response was actually saying all this stuff out loud, it sounded so disingenuous.
It was fake.
A performance — and a bad one.
It was clear as he said it that he didn’t really believe all those high prices and values. That he was using the mechanism, because the mechanism was what he’d learned and tested and used as his default in print.
But when it was coming out of his mouth, it hit with a thud.
By the time the room of hundreds got to the end of this 10-minute pitch, everyone felt let down. Like, a huge amount of mystique of this clearly-successful direct response copywriter was gone. And in its place was someone who was uncomfortable being a salesperson.
He’d lost his credibility.
He lost the believability of any promises he made, regarding the value we’d get from his products.
What does this have to do with selling in video?
It reveals the #1 difference between text and video copy…
Good sales copy meant to be recorded in video (or even audio) should meet a very important criteria. The person who is reading it out loud should feel 100% comfortable reading it face-to-face with someone who they respect tremendously, and whose respect they want.
That is, if you can’t read it to your best friend without feeling like a total ass, it SUCKS as video copy.
It might be good print copy. Maybe. (Maybe not, but maybe.)
But if you couldn’t read it out loud to your best friend, your viewer or listener will hear that in your voice. And it will fall flat.
Price drops? You’d feel like a sucka-fool if you read your best friend a 4-tier price drop.
“But wait, there’s more…” and your friend would laugh at you trying to sound like an infomercial.
Sure, some infomercial pitch people actually do pull this off, with a certain glint in their eye.
But if you can’t do it with a knowing smile like it’s your inside joke with readers that you know that they know that you know what you’re doing… Ditch it and choose a more natural way of saying it.
Same goes for everything…
Here’s how these rules apply for talking head videos, video sales letters (VSLs), and webinars…
If you’re doing a video where you or the person are on screen, the above rule is of critical importance.
For all intents and purposes, you are sitting face-to-face with your prospect. Even if you are staring at a camera, and they are staring at their computer screen.
The face-to-face experience demands the utmost candor. It should feel personal, even intimate. It should feel like a close conversation among friends, even if you are urging your friend to give you money at the end.
Some products, such as financial newsletters, apply this within a more newsy feel. Covering a developing opportunity in the financial markets feels a bit different than, say, a weight loss pitch.
But if you are doing a weight loss pitch and your face is on screen, it better feel dang vulnerable and intimate, including elements like your own personal stories of struggle and your darkest hour.
Every shot of your face on screen should carry this strong personal feel.
If you do want to get more salesy at the end, it can benefit you to switch it up (as in infomercials) to a more traditional VSL format, or even an offer screen.
As for VSLs and webinars, there is a little more flexibility here. If you’re like Russell Brunson and like doing value stacks and price drops… AND can actually pull them off in your regular voice with full conviction and integrity… You might be able to work them in to VSLs and webinar scripts.
That said, the majority of your video should still feel as if it were an intimate conversation between you and the viewer. The more they feel like they’re actually in conversation with you, the more effective your video marketing will be.
And I’ll note: testing in early 2019 is reaffirming this approach. The news on the ground is that video that works best, and that complies best with the big ad networks, is feeling less and less like traditional direct response, and more and more intimate.
In my essay on The Architecture of A-List Copywriting Skills, I laid the model that said, essentially, that…
— Tactics are the superficial implementation of a skill
— Techniques determine tactics
— Strategies guide techniques and technical implementation
— Principles are the foundation of it all
You can change something at the tactical level without influencing any other level. But change your foundational principles, and everything shifts to catch up.
What I’m laying out here is mostly a tactical and technique-level change in how you approach sales messages.
The principles of direct response still do and likely always will apply, as long as you’re selling to human beings.
But as we adapt to new technologies and new media, subtle shifts to tactics and techniques will help us make the most of them.
And in this case, being even more conversational is a technique for writing more compelling copy in media that feels more like the prospect is part of a conversation. Gasp!
Read that twice if it didn’t sink in. It’s a no-duh statement, but it’s also a breakthrough.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
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