Video Sales Letters: Your Complete Guide for 2020

September 12, 2019 · 9 min read

Are you looking to create a video sales letter for your business? 

Do you need some direction on the strategies and tools to create a video that actually sells? 

Then you’re in the right spot, because today we’re doing a deep dive on all things video sales letter. In this post, you’ll learn the psychological principles that drive action in response to a video sales letter, how to write a great script, and we’ll even show you some examples of effective marketing videos. 

Let’s get to it!

What is a video sales letter?

A video sales letter (VSL) is a video designed to sell a product or service to the viewer. A VSL uses the same principles that a written sales letter does to persuade its audience, but in video form. You’ll find video sales letters on websites, landing pages, and digital ads. 

Long-form sales letters were popularized by iconic marketers such as David Ogilvy, Eugene Schwartz, and Gary Halpert beginning as early as the 1960’s due to their effectiveness in direct response advertising. While the philosophy of a written sales letter and a VSL is incredibly similar, VSL’s are adapted to two major consumer trends—video and the Internet. They are both written with the goal of direct response, meaning the ideal outcome is for somebody to read/watch and immediately take action, such as submitting a form, dial a number, etc. 

You might find a video sales letter on the homepage of a website, a landing page, linked in an email, a sales page, or used in a video advertisement. Simply put, after viewing an effective video sales letter, the target audience should be unequivocally motivated to respond to the call to action. 

In terms of length, there is no gold standard, and a video sales letter should follow the golden rule of video length: Your video should be as short as possible while allowing you to fully deliver your message in a clear, compelling fashion. 

video length should be kept short and clear

Complex and expensive offers are generally going to need longer video content to explain why you need to spend $2,000 on a product. Simple offers should focus on the hook, then get to the call-to-action as quickly as possible—this is especially true for inexpensive items or impulse purchases. 

While VSL’s offer endless room for creativity, the ones that work will include the following elements, in this order: 

  1. Value
  2. Authority
  3. Proof

The first component, value, is fairly obvious. If you as the viewer can’t quickly understand how the product or service can help you achieve something you want or solve a problem, you won’t waste time watching the rest of the video. 

Authority, however, is more about trust. Once you’ve provided value, you want to communicate to the viewer that you have the ability to solve the problem, and also that you’re the best way (among competitors and alternatives) to solve the problem. 

Once you’ve established value and authority, bring it home with proof of the two claims. You can provide proof in the form of testimonials, reviews, earnings statements and more. Any sort of evidence, whether qualitative or quantitative, can help you provide the proof you need to convert your viewer into a lead or customer. What type of proof you use depends on your audience and your niche, and we’ll cover some examples of each type below. 

How to create a video sales letter?

So you’re ‘sold’ on the idea of creating a video sales letter for your business? You probably already know that video can increase your website conversion rate and are ready to dive in—great!

There are four basic steps to creating a VSL. 

  1. Determine product/market fit

Perhaps this wasn’t what you were expecting, but as you dig in to spend some time and resources on creating a VSL, now is a great time to make sure you’ve nailed your positioning. At this point you should know exactly who your audience is, the problem your product or service solves for them, and what they need to see and hear to understand the value. 

video sales letter messaging

Keep in mind that your message is not polished sales copy from a professional copywriter, it’s a positioning statement that clearly defines where you sit in the market. Nobody wants to buy a product that does everything or hire a service provider who is a generalist—they want to buy something that is the perfect fit for their unique situation. 

It is your job to figure out your place in the market and use that strategically to your advantage. One great way to do this is to identify your niche, which at its simplest form, looks like this: 

I do X for Y so they can have Z. 

Add some nouns to this generic statement and you get the picture in the form of this example: 

I make cabinets for log cabin owners so they can have a rustic yet functional kitchen. 

The contractor in this example is no longer one of many, he is unique, and therefore desirable, among cabinet makers. 

So with your strategy in place, you need to bring your ideas to life with a creative VLS script. 

2. Write a script

Because there are several moving parts involved in video production, what you don’t want to happen is to book your talent, rent a studio, hire a film crew, and then be making last-minute tweaks to what you want the actor to say or how you want the video to flow. 

Write your script ahead of time, get it approved by your boss (or have your employees or partners give feedback on it) and make sure you know exactly how the video is supposed to look and sound before you start filming. 

We have an in-depth analysis of what makes a good VSL script and some tips on how to write a great one in the next section. 

3. Video production

With your script in hand, it’s time to turn those words and ideas into a polished video sales letter. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you produce your VSL.

Application: Where and when will this video be used? A video that’s intended for the home page of your website needs to be polished, and it also needs to be somewhat evergreen, so you’ll need to stay away from campaign-specific language and dates. If you’re going to use the VSL in a segmented email campaign, you may want to personalize the beginning of the video to the company or individual it’s going out to. Where you host the video (website, social media, YouTube, etc.) will also determine the technical specs and dimensions of the video. 

Style: How do you want the video to feel and look? 

Cost: There are multiple factors that go into determining your budget for video production, as well as a few different options for executing. This blog post explains your costs in depth. 

Once you get the final cut of your video, it’s time to put it to work for you. 

4. Technical execution

A great video by itself does nothing if you don’t have the appropriate follow-up in place. Remember, the nature of a VSL is direct response, so you’re betting that somebody will take action immediately after watching your video. In the old days, perhaps just putting a call-to-action such as “Call this number” would work, but in 2019 and beyond, you’re likely going to need some sort of online execution. 

For example, let’s say you’re going to use your VSL to generate leads for your service-based business. Embed your VSL on a landing page a create a lead generation form underneath the video so people can take the action you asked them to in the video! Configure an automated email to go out to them to let them know when and how you’ll be contacting them for follow-up. Use Facebook or Google ads to drive traffic to your video. 

Just because you finished your VSL doesn’t mean you’re done with the job! 

But back to the video itself. You might be wondering:

What should I say? 

What is a VSL script?

A video sales letter script is the map for your finished product—it will help you say the right words and show the right visuals to achieve your sales or lead generation goals. A script ensures that you don’t just end up with a cool video, but instead end up with a cool video that works.

Literally speaking, a VSL script is a written document that includes your:

  • Voice-over and/or talking head monologue
  • Descriptions of your scenes
  • On-screen text or graphics descriptions

Not overly complicated, but it’s the framework of the script that helps you sell. Of course, there are dozens of copywriting frameworks you can use to build your script, but most of them point back to arguably the most effective format of all time from marketing legend Dan Kennedy, which is the PAS framework. 

Problem – Present the problem your audience is facing. 

Agitate – Stir the pot with details and situations they know.

Solve – Make the pain go away with your solution. 

You’ve likely seen this format used hundreds of times in your life (and we’ll also show some examples below) because it’s so effective. You can even tweak this formula this way and that way to suit your needs. Either way, if you use that framework as your base, you’ll have solid core content for your video that both speaks to your audience and delivers your message. 

The core content is the meat, but we need to make a meal with this script. Don’t forget to sandwich your core content with:

  • An attention-grabbing hook in the first three seconds
  • A strong CTA at the end (or also the middle if your video is long)

As we’ve mentioned before, the hook is the most critical part of any video, including a VSL. If you can’t capture attention, you can’t deliver your message or call to action because the viewer won’t be there anymore. 

The call to action is equally as important as the hook, but of course the viewer has to hang around long enough to get there. Include a strong, crystal-clear call to action in your video sales letter. Another trick you can use in the CTA is to create scarcity—limited availability is a great way to drive action. 

If you cover all these elements, you’ll have a solid VSL script in place and be ready to record a great video. Now let’s take a look at some great examples of video sales letters in action. 

Video sales letter examples

Squatty Potty

A video sales letter might be the best way to sell a product that is difficult to sell, and there’s no better example of that than Squatty Potty—the video above helped bring in $15 million in revenue. The reason we categorize this product as “difficult to sell” for two reasons: 

  1. It solves a problem people don’t know exists
  2. It covers a subject people don’t like to talk about

So how did they overcome this? Let’s break down the video (which has been viewed more than 36 million times on YouTube) to see how they did it. 

Let’s just take a moment to acknowledge something obvious: The very first thing you see is a unicorn puppet, ahem, relieving itself in the form of rainbow sherbert ice cream. It is not possible to create a more attention-grabbing hook than that…

So now we’re hooked, and we’re watching and listening to the story, and it’s a good one—the knight’s silly accent and demeanor keep up engaged. Within 15 seconds, we’re presented with the problem—incontinence. 

This is quickly followed by an agitation of the problem, in this case a long list of medical conditions that can result from the problem expertly visualized with the long scroll unfurling. 

And right on cue, the solution comes in at the 60-second mark. They go on to describe how the solution works with graphics to support the scientific explanation. This was followed by, you guess it, the call to action—where to buy the product. Not sold yet? Fine, here’s the proof that it works, as evidenced by these major scientific institution and well-known brands. 

While the Squatty Potty video may seem absurd—and it is—but the humor wasn’t the reason it was so successful. It succeeded because it layered a creative concept on top of a proven sales framework.

Frank Kern

We can’t write a post about video sales letters without including at least one from one of the best in the business, Frank Kern. But this example is perhaps a little different than some of the others because it’s not quite as polished, it doesn’t feel very ‘sales-y’, and he takes some liberties with the traditional VSL script. But he does still use the main principles we’ve discussed in this post; observe: 

He starts with a hook, in this case a provocative question that would perk up the ears of anyone who works in marketing: “How important is copywriting in today’s online world?” 

He sets the hook deeper by giving a response you wouldn’t expect: “Not very.”

What!?! This is coming from Frank Kern, somebody who literally sells courses on how to be a better copywriter. At this point, every marketer is leaning in, waiting to hear why copywriting isn’t important. 

He then continues to deliver his core content about the ubiquity of social media messages and online ads, then closes with a CTA to hire his company to run your ads for you. See what just happened? 

Problem: Expert copywriting is less effective these days. 

Agitate: People simply see too much online to convert on the first touch. 

Solve: Create a lot of content, and hire my company to run your ads. 

Even though this video didn’t start with the typical “Are you having this problem?” style of hook, it still follows the PAS framework.

Kitten Mittens

OK, we couldn’t resist—this one actually is a joke 

And it’s a good one, taken from the comedy sitcom It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But in every good joke there’s some truth. Even though Charlie’s product is ludicrous and his video marketing is even worse, his VSL still manages to follow the video sales letter templates we’ve discussed in this blog post. 

Cat making too much noise? Clawing at the furniture? Try some mittens especially made for cats. Buy them at Paddy’s Pub. 

And on that note, we’re going to bring this article to a close. 

Looking for the easiest way to create video sales letters for your business? We encourage you to take a look at Promo.com to see what we can offer you. 

With over 15 million high-quality video clips, a best-in-class online video editor, and tons more features designed for entrepreneurs and small business owners, we have what you need to create a great VSL.

Try Promo.com for free

 

Author


Head of Content at Promo.com. * * * Storyteller by day. Content consumer by night. Habitually inspired.

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