Do you ever go get your mail, and find junk mail? Chances are you do, most every time. Some of that junk mail may consist of sales letters, with print on the envelope itself proclaiming something is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or a million-dollar opportunity “without lifting a finger.”
“Open this to change your life forever, right now!”
If you’re cringing, you know you’ve gotten these, and perhaps still do. We all throw them out without opening them, right?
It’s similar to all that junk mail we used to get in our 90’s inboxes, before people installed ad blockers and such. And although it was a huge obstacle for marketers everywhere, it taught a very valuable lesson: in order to prevent being filtered into a spam folder, you need to put out top quality content, even if it’s an ad, promotion, or sales letter.
This brings us to present day. Physical junk mail may not have gotten any better, but video sales letters (VSL) have evolved to a shocking point. They’re so good now, so well-crafted, that they no longer deserve to be categorized along with junk.
In fact, if you’re running a business in this day and age, you’re bound to create video content, email it to people, and use it to boost your content marketing at some point. It’s basically a must, a milestone for a company, both to showcase its culture in an attempt to resonate with a target audience, as well as to show off its products and services.
And that means getting your VSL right is super important. Getting these videos wrong will ensure you come off spammy, strange, dated, and untrustworthy―all the things you don’t want to be described as.
In this guide, we’re going to discuss what really makes up a video sales letter, what it takes to create something high-quality, and how to incorporate that within your branding and audience.
Let’s get started.
Defining A Video Sales Letter
A video sales letter has one mission, and that is to highlight a product or service that your company provides. It goes without saying that whatever you’re offering needs to shine. It needs to stand out from the competition and really hit the mark with customers.
But with a VSL, it’s a visual medium, it’s a creative lead magnet. So, you’re likely to provide a demonstration, explain how it works, or even highlight the benefits of purchasing the product/service. And this makes up the whole video, really, along with visuals that further progress that message.
Many entrepreneurs use influencer power to boost their marketing already, so getting influencers to star in a video sales letter is just a natural progression from there, should you decide to go that route.
Whatever your approach get VSL right, and the press can use it for coverage, you can post it on LinkedIn or Instagram, or an ecommerce website, and you can even use it to discuss an upcoming product launch.
For example, here’s one by the famous Joanna Gaines. In the video, she demonstrates why her product is better than the alternatives out there, and she does so in a way that’s very on-brand. She’s in a room that’s clearly been designed with Magnolia Home (her business) in mind, and she’s taking on a very approachable tone―perfect for her audience.
Let’s take a look.
Notice how she highlights the quality of her product from the very beginning. She’s putting emphasis on how good the paint is because it’s easily passing the resin test. She even pulls the balloon at the end, to further drive her point home, right before a closeup of the paint she’s selling, and a CTA (“see more at kilz.com”).
In 1 minute and 9 seconds, she manages to tick all the boxes, and she did it in a way that doesn’t come off spammy, untrustworthy, or pretentious. It’s all very approachable.
Benefits of VSL
There are obviously many benefits to using video sales letters. Among them, there is the fact that it’s a powerful, potential lead magnet. It shows people the product and actively runs through the motions. There’s action there, enough to display what people can expect when using the product.
For example, if someone is selling artist paint brushes for professional creatives, they can use video sales letters to demonstrate what it’s like to use the brushes.
Questions and doubts are immediately handled when you have an indisputable demonstration to show people.
More so, a video gives you a chance to think about setting. What’s behind you while you talk to the camera? What does the room look like, and does it reflect your brand? What music will you choose?
Yes, it’s more work for sure, but it’s a fun, creative exercise that keeps you sharp. It tests your knowledge of your own brand, your audience, everything. Get the pieces right, and you have a gem that can seamlessly go on your product pages, if you’re doing ecommerce. It can go on your blog, on your social media, etc.
As an added bonus, entrepreneurs who use chatbots can incorporate their VSL in landing pages, or even product pages. The chatbots could serve to give additional information perhaps not shared within the video’s content, for example. Not only could it help to supplement, and add a helpful element, it could also help with link building by informing people of other webpages or video content. Of course, you should A/B test and check Google Analytics whenever possible, to ensure things work well.
You can even invite guests to star in these videos, so you’re actually networking while simultaneously boosting your marketing. This holds extra weight to it when you’re collaborating on the product being discussed, of course.
Finally, there’s the fact that thanks to advancements in technology, you can create high-quality content with just your phone. Sure, camera equipment will always provide a certain level of quality that’s just unmatchable, but all in all, if you’re strapped for cash, your phone meets the need just fine. There’s cheap and user-friendly video editing software, free-to-use music that’s ready to drop into a video, and even plenty of ways to outsource help if you want to pass the task to a professional. Whatever your approach, when you’re done you can have something valuable to add to your sales funnel.
Cons of VSL
Of course, there are drawbacks to everything in life, and video sales letters are no exception. Among them, there’s the fact that even for a minute long video, you still need to shoot a lot more video than you think you need. This is because there are bound to be rough spots throughout, especially if you shoot it all in one take. And of course, compared to other digital marketing steps, that makes video seem unappealing to many.
Using things like a b-roll―which is a fancy term for filler footage that you can use with voiceovers―can make your video more dynamic and interesting than a standard one-shot, one-angle video. It can also come in handy when you need to do a product close up, or edit over a rough spot in the video (A.K.A. you slipped up and said or did something awkward because you hate being in front of the camera).
Which brings us to the next point: if you hate being in front of the camera, you’re going to have a terrible time. This is why so many entrepreneurs use paid actors, or staff in their place. But see, it comes off spammy if you don’t do it right. And if you are the face of your brand, if you’re recognizable, or want to be approachable, then you really should be the focus anyway.
VSL also only works when the copy is well-written. Obviously, there’s a script involved, an outline of what ground to cover within a video. And that means that unless you know how to communicate clearly, and effectively use any lingo or tone that resonates with your audience, it’s just not going to work. This is why so many people choose to hire digital marketing consultants who can help, or who know freelancers in the industry.
Finally, video creation, editing, and posting is a lot of work. In order to create a video, you need…
To select an area to shoot.
Stage that area so it’s on brand.
Gather up the right equipment to shoot the video.
Hire the right person for the job, unless you can work a camera yourself and plan on using timers and the like.
Shoot several takes, and perhaps even shoot in sections, in order to make editing easier.
Edit the video.
Run it by people to see what their thoughts are.
Make any necessary edits.
And post the video in areas of interest and relevancy, with the right keywords for SEO.
And this is just the bare-bones rundown. It doesn’t cover things like learning how to work a camera, or shooting close up shots, or shooting b-roll. It doesn’t cover the fact that if you’re making video content on a regular basis, then this all needs to be incorporated into your weekly routine. Or that you need to invest in an external harddrive to avoid space issues.
But still, despite all of the drawbacks, it really boils down to one thing: is the work worth it? If you’re putting out good content, and getting positive feedback, then it certainly is. And if you’re running into time constraints, or you feel like your skills just don’t amount to much, there’s always the option to outsource. There are many freelancers out there that would gladly produce amazing VSL on your behalf.
Now that you have a good handle on what video sales letters entail, it’s time to dive in a little deeper.
The most basic of VSL formulas consists of 8 parts:
Attention Grabbing - This is where you get people’s attention, and keeps them watching. This is important, since people can click back at any point. If you don’t get their attention right away, you’re not going to get it 30 seconds in either. They’ll be gone long before then. A good way of getting people’s attention is to hint at what’s to come, shock them with something, or surprise them.
Issue Highlight - What is it that you’re selling, and why? For example, maybe you’re selling a stationary set specifically designed for new entrepreneurs. And maybe you’re selling it because it’s something that you wish you’d had when you were starting out. The set is designed to teach new entrepreneurs the art of organization, and help them prioritize projects and important notes. The easier you can explain the issue that you had, and the more it correlates to the issue your audience is currently having, the better.
Emotional Appeal - This is essentially when you sympathize with people over the issue. “I know how difficult it can be when starting out. You have all these dreams and goals, but translating those tasks in an approachable way, so as to keep progressing toward goal achievement, is easier said than done. I had a miserable time with it, and I definitely made many avoidable mistakes.”
Solution Introduction - At this point, you offer up your solution to the viewers in a way that isn’t spammy or forced. Ideally, you want to keep this gentle, rather than push a hard sale. Aim for a helpful vibe, rather than one that’s business focused. Keep it human.
Proving Credibility - You want to prove that you’re credible, trustworthy. Maybe drop a line about how you’ve worked with several other products like this, but were always left dissatisfied. Something to prove that you have experience with the issue and product at hand, and that you know what you’re talking about. Keep in mind, however, that straddling the line between building trust and bragging is very fine. Avoid bragging as much as you can.
Providing Proof - Consider this the product demonstration, which is the most important part of the video. Get this right, and you have a valid point to show the world.
Summarize Your Point (CTA) - Close the video by summarizing the why. Why should they care about what you’re offering? How can it help them? Reinforce your points in a short, compelling way, and make sure you end the video in a non-abrupt way.
Now, it goes without saying that every part of the formula requires careful balance. This is why several takes, and shooting in sections, is highly recommended. The more you have to work with in the editing room, the better. Sure, it may be a lot of footage to sift through, but it’s guaranteed to make a difference. You are in a much better position if you have plenty to work with, rather than too little.
If it seems like a lot of work, it is. There’s no sugar-coating that, but there is one good point to make: video content, and any other visual content, for that matter, is a great addition to your digital marketing. It can help boost your YouTube, and even grow your business. This is especially true for industries that thrive on video content specifically, such as the gaming industry.
Because there’s no one-track way of creating a video sales letter, many entrepreneurs approach it from many different perspectives. Some opt for original creation, where they build the video every step of the way, following the formula described prior. It’s more work, since you’ll need to add in any graphics, sound, logos, or CTAs yourself. And clearly, that means you need to be skilled in those areas, or know someone who is…
But there are also entrepreneurs who opt for templates. Think of them as videos that are already premade for you, that you can then edit to meet your branding needs. Simply add in your own photography, copy, and video snippets.
Let’s take a look at this one to get a better idea of what to expect:
Notice how these templates, depending on which ones you choose, use color blocking, infographics, stock images, copy, and video snippets to form a collective viewing experience. Although dynamic, it won’t necessarily be on brand for many businesses out there.
To drive this point home, consider the difference between this video, and the Joanna Gaines one from earlier. You probably can’t even fathom the idea of Magnolia Home opting for an awkward sign-holding ending, or bold primary color blocking in her video. That’s because judging by the shot choice and style of her content, she likely didn’t use a template.
So, keep that in mind. Your branding will dictate what your video should look like. If it seems off, if it feels like you’re forcing it to make sense within the context of your blog, website, landing page, or YouTube channel, then it’s probably not going to work out.
Still, there are several templates to choose from, for all types of VSL. There are templates for product showcases, service demonstrations, and even product explainers.
Other templates include “what we do” videos, and business presentations, which normally cover things like company culture and the like.
Knowing Your Product
Although it may be tempting to think that a video sales letter or two is enough to convert the masses, you still have some additional work to get done.
And the most critical step involves knowing your products and services like the back of your hand, which means knowing full well what went into them, what their objectives are, and how they manage to tick all the boxes.
Think about the benefits of using your goods and services, versus using a competitor’s. What do you bring to the table that few others, if any, do? Is it a different look and style, or is it an additional feature that no one else has implemented… yet.
Maybe it’s even a different payment plan, one which offers many more features for free, so that the product can essentially sell itself.
That’s the first step: the benefits. But there’s another far more important angle to tackle if you really want your video sales letter to pop, and that’s emotion.
For instance, take a look at Ray-Ban sunglasses have been around since 1937, and have largely stayed in fashion’s good graces for pretty much the entire time. Why is that? Is it because they have many different styles and shapes, many of which never really go out of style?
Well, yes, pretty much. That’s what they sell, timeless eyewear that you’ll look back on in pictures and feel good about. Avoid that sense of “What was I thinking?”
Just take a look at the video below:
It highlights the models they’re known for, shows how they’ve reinvented them throughout the years, and then reinforces “forever classic” and “always timely.”
Notice, there’s no demonstration, and certainly no explanation as to how they work, because they’re sunglasses. You can’t exactly do that.
But what they do have is product demonstration, and a strong benefit from a fashion standpoint. Rather than being a trendsetter, Ray-Ban is a company built on investment pieces, which means it attracts customers who are confident, independent, maybe even a little rebellious and fun.
Maybe that would explain their take on ad campaigns and video sales letters. It really sets them apart as a business. Instead of creating expected, predictable content, they use real life customers and situations to display their products.
And their number one goal? To show how Ray-Bans are not only timeless and versatile, but how they fit in perfectly with their rebellious, confident, independent audience.
Here’s an example:
Everything from the fashion choices to the dynamic moments depicted are all on-brand for Ray-Ban and their core audience. It highlights the different styles they have as well as how good the sunglasses look even when you may not feel so great about yourself…
Which brings us to their point here: the journey to belonging is one filled with self-doubt, but eventually you discover just how amazing you are, and you can’t help but feel a little proud.
All in one video, they pander to the people, they appeal to emotion, they sell their products, and more importantly, they sell an image. They’re saying “If you want to show the world how amazing you are, wear these sunglasses.”
Sure, this is definitely not your typical video sales letter, but it is one. Its length, it’s messaging, product demonstration, and emotional appeal makes that clear. And it’s such an effective way that it doesn’t need to compare itself to the competition.
Because after all, they’re not trying to compare themselves to other companies, they’re trying to stay true to themselves, much like they always have been. That’s what keeps them in business, and what makes them appealing to their audience.
The Benefit Cheat List
Since not everyone can be creative all the time, especially when creating content that they may have never played around with before, here is a benefit cheat list. Use it as a quick way to double-check your VSL, and make sure it hits the mark.
Does it showcase how to improve your handicap? For example, if you’re not feeling as confident in yourself, wear some fashionable, timeless sunglasses and everything will be better.
Does it impress friends? Maybe you’re selling a handbag, and it’s the envy of all your besties.
Does it showcase someone winning at something as a result of your product or services? Maybe your shoes really helped a marathon runner.
Does it improve overall health? Suppose your treadmill line has helped thousands of people lose weight and reach their goals.
Does it open up a world of new possibilities? Maybe your travel package has allowed people to not only see the world, but also to grow their social media following, influencer status, or even their content marketing, if they’re freelancers.
Knowing Your Audience
Clearly, audience is key. Ray-Ban video sales letters and ads have made that evident time and time again.
But diving right into it, there are two aspects to knowing your audience. One of them is knowing who they are, and the other is knowing their plight.
Who They Are
Too many times, entrepreneurs make the mistake of looking at their target audience as a group of people. “These people love my products and services, they look like this, they have this type of education, etc.”
Although a good start, it’s still too… generic. Instead, you have to be more focused and create a single person. One buyer, one customer, based on your research and data, that you can point to and say “Jane loves my meditation and yoga product line, because as a 44-year old mother of 5, she’s busy all the time, and loves the fact that once her children are asleep, she can take some time out for herself to decompress.”
Notice how specific that is.
The reason for this is because the more you can focus on one person, fictional of course, but based on actual data, the more you can look at something you’re designing, such as a new product, and immediately know whether it will be a success or not.
From there, you can tweak it, change it, or scrap it, without wasting time and effort questioning whether your idea is a good one or not.
Understanding Their Plight
Once you know who your target audience is made up of, and have one solid rendition of a customer to use as a sort of guide when it comes to making business decisions, it’s time to change gears and look at their struggles.
In doing so, you can figure out what your role in their lives are.
For example, maybe your audience as a whole suffers from an overall lack of homemaking skills. They don’t know how to cook, how to make arts and crafts, and certainly how to entertain guests.
Looking at your one target audience guide, let’s call her Amy, she is in her late 20’s, fast approaching 30, and with wedding bells on the mind, she’s starting to question her life choice of Chinese takeout every night.
That’s where you come in.
You not only offer her solutions to all of her problems, teaching her how to adult properly, you also become a sort of trustworthy, parental figure. Someone who can guide them through this new world of adulting that clearly no one else sought to teach them before.
And the more valuable, free content you put out the more that bond is built. In a matter of a few recipes and craft guides, you manage to secure your role as their go-to for all things lifestyle, cooking, and hosting…
Which means that when you put out a video sales letter, say to subscribe to your YouTube channel, or watch your TV show, or buy your books or products, well, it’s going to work.
It works for Martha Stewart:
Examples to Consider
Of course, this is the best part, right? Sure, there have been some examples sprinkled throughout this post, but there’s nothing quite the same as comparing different video sales letters one after the other.
And here’s why: because you get to see how distinct, how different one VSL is from another, and still the same objective is met.
In other words, there’s more than one way to reach the same destination. Just think back, or rewatch the Joanna Gaines video. She clearly stuck to the traditional method of creating a video sales letter, very much on the nose, giving the audience exactly what they probably expected. Although effective, it was nothing particularly exciting, loud, captivating, or even memorable.
However, if you take a look at her brand as a whole, you realize that she prefers neutral tones, simple pieces, and an overall clean farmhouse look to everything. The video fits that model perfectly, and judging from the fact that she’s still in business, it means her audience eats up that vibe.
Compare that to the other videos in this guide and you get different vibes and styles all around.
Speaking of which, let’s look at this Vans campaign:
Sure, Vans shoes are worn by everyone these days, but their core audience is composed of skateboarders. And what’s a message that everyone, including their ever-expanding non-skater customers can relate to?
Everyone can wear these shoes, and they do, they’re popular shoes, but you can still be different and unique about it.
Vans as a company celebrates this sense of individuality and creativity, and it’s proven by the fact that their shoes come in all sorts of colors and styles. They even have an option to create your own on their website.
And finally, compare that to this video from Louis Vuitton, which uses celebrity power to highlight what makes the brand style stand out from its competitors, and illustrates wealth, quality, and an overall sensation of “you too can belong with this crowd, if you wear Louis Vuitton.”
Hopefully now you have a better grasp of what makes up a successful video sales letter that grows your business. The bone structure isn’t always the same, the style varies brand by brand, but at their core, these videos always tick all of the boxes.
If you look back at all of these videos, they’re all quick to grasp your attention, highlight the issue they’re trying to solve, appealing to emotion, providing a solution, and then establishing credibility through proof. By the end, they’re getting you to purchase a product, take a look at a new product line, or subscribe to a YouTube channel that serves as a gateway toward sales.
And you can do this too, as long as you keep these objectives in mind. But take a page out of Ray-Ban’s or Van’s branding book: keep it original. Make sure your video sales letters always reflect your customers and your company. It’s that originality that keeps the sales flowing.
So, what was your favorite example provided?
Let me know in the comments section below, I love hearing from you all!