Nearly all of us have seen certain types of marketing at one point or another. There are TV commercials and infomercials, radio commercials with jingles, ads in newspapers, coupon circulars inserted into those newspapers, context sensitive or banner ads on the web and, of course, the ‘junk mail’ we are sent through both email and postal mail. The majority of these advertising formats have been around for a long, long time. We may have grown up with them and, in some cases, so did our parents or even grandparents. We might wonder why in the world certain advertising formats never seem to change much, but there really is a reason for this: they work. The type of advertising we want to talk about today is the Video Sales Letter, also known as the VSL.
This is one kind of advertising that is relatively new compared to many of the other types out there, but you will see it in use again and again across the Internet marketing world. The reason it’s so prevalent is because it, too, works like a charm when done the right way. That’s why we want to take a closer look at VSL’s and see what they can do for you. We will cover how they came to be, what their advantages are, how they are composed, what it takes to make one yourself, how to promote it once its made, and a lot more.
The Definition of a Video Sales Letter (VSL) & Their History
A video sales letter is basically what it sounds like: a sales letter in video form. So, instead of relying on long form copy the way you would in a traditional paper based sales letter, you leverage the power of video technology to make it and then rely on streaming video technology to distribute it either with your own player or via a site that allows you to host and share videos. As simple as it sounds, there is certainly an art to the VSL and each detail of how it is created will play a role in how effective or ineffective it ends up being.
For the most part, VSL’s are designed to be a more straight forward way of convincing a customer to buy a product or service than building an entire website about what’s being sold. The point is to capture the attention of the audience, explain the product, get them interested in it and then drive them to actually buy it. While video sales letters can be used to sell just about anything, one of the most common uses is to sell digital products or services that the consumer will be able to use instantly after purchasing. The VSL format lends itself well to this kind of more ‘high pressure’ sales environment and, when employed properly, has been able to drive huge amounts of sales for marketers using the web to sell products. It is important to remember that video sales letters are only used online and this is not a format that you would see outside of the web.
History of VSL
The history of the VSL is an interesting one because it can trace its roots all the way back to the beginning of the direct sales letter, a form which has been around for many decades. The kind of direct response writing (called direct response copy in the copy writing industry) used in today’s VSL script is very similar to not just direct response sales letters sent through the mail, but also the digital sales letters that have been used online since at least the mid 1990′s.
Most of us will have seen sales letters on web pages and noticed their catchy headline, stripped down look and motivational style of writing, replete with testimonials and the ‘hard sell’ approach to getting us to click Add to Cart. Those digital sales letters eventually evolved into video sales letters once streaming video was cheap enough and simple enough to broadcast without being too complex technologically for people to handle. It’s taken marketers a while to really work out the ideal way to create an effective VSL, but today the form itself is becoming distinct in many respects a lot of marketers are elevating it in new and exciting ways.
Why Video Sales Letters Are So Effective for Certain Businesses
Clearly, sales letters in various formats have been shown to work over and over when it comes to convincing consumers to buy something. These formats are pure, to the point and they generate action far better than many other kinds of ads. They are not about branding in the same way that many ads are, they are about making that sale happen through a formulaic drive from the customer arriving on the page, reading from the top and working their way down.
Certain points are emphasized and generally there’s a focus on just one product. The thing is, as good as compelling copy can be, putting those same works in a video strengthens them by offering audio and visual stimulation, too, giving it extra power to make that sale. For those who make VSL’s, one very good thing about them is that consumers tend to view them as ‘content’ more than they do the average written sales letter. This may change in the future, but for now it is a good thing to keep in mind when deciding whether or not a VSL is right for your product.
What time do i need for Video Sales Letter?
Some say that putting together a video sales letter actually takes less time than writing out a lengthy sales letter. While that’s up for debate, the fact is, making videos is a lot easier to do today and plenty of marketers out there will be able to do it with no real problem. Of course, the script used in the video will need to be compelling, the sound will need to be top-notch so the audience can hear you well and the person doing the speaking, or in front of the camera, should have a solid idea of what they are doing. That said, even a low-budget VSL can work out great if the important parts of handling the customers questions and doubts can be worked out. You do not have to have incredible production values to produce an effective VSL and can even use software such as Camtasia and primarily work from slides that you narrate in order to make your key points.
As effective as VSL’s can be, this is still a form that is evolving. Different marketers are trying out different techniques across a range of niches to find out what works best. Your VSL should always seek first to fulfill the needs of your niche customer, of course. What some marketers are finding, though, is that if they limit the control on their videos, for instance, they can get even more powerful results. As counter intuitive as this might sound, many have discovered that if they offer only the ability to play or pause, conversion rates can be driven higher. This is taking the approach that TV commercials, which we can’t pause, take and in some markets it is doing extremely well. Experiments like this prove that VSL is a form still in its growth phase which is good news because it means there is room for improvement and experimentation.
The Basic Parts of a VSL
There are typically several stages that a video sales letter will need to take the customer through if it is going to be effective. Most VSL’s will begin playing as soon as the page has completed loading for the visitor. This limits the chance that they will simply hit the back button or otherwise click away without viewing the VSL. Each VSL will have some form of an introduction (emulating the headline of a traditional sales letter), it will have a section in which the consumer’s interest should be developed by explanation of what’s being offered and it will end with a call to action. This is a relatively simple formula and it can be tweaked in any number of ways, but that is the basis of the VSL as it stands today.
Generally speaking, the first thing a VSL is going to need to do is get the attention of the viewer and hook them as hard as possible. Each second is going to count so most marketers will get straight to the point and say or do something to really capture the attention of their audience right off the bat. Once you have their attention, you need to make sure that you can keep their interest so moving along quickly and mentioning the most interesting points about your product is going to be important. The goal of having their interest, of course, is to get them to want what you have to sell by presenting its benefits as attractively as possible. Finally, the call to action is given with the intent of persuading the consumer to ‘act now’ and buy what is being sold. Sometimes countdown timers and other efforts to apply pressure are used in order to increase effectiveness.
These are the basic components of a VSL and they are going to be more or less the same in every VSL. As mentioned, they can certainly be adjusted to suit the needs of the audience, the product being sold and the style of the marketer him or herself, but this is the typical format followed by thousands of VSL’s each and every year. It’s used because it makes sales and, unless some truly revolutionary breakthroughs occur in our understanding of sales psychology, there is little chance that big changes to the way VSL are structured will happen any time soon.
What It Takes to Create a VSL
Those who would like to make their own VSL, or who simply want to know what they are paying for when they turn to professionals, will be amazed at simple the process typically is. In most cases, all that is needed is a camera, the right script, lighting, audio recording technology, a proper setting and someone to do the speaking. Sometimes, additional footage of the product being used or testimonials from those who have used the product can also be included, but this is not always done. Most video sales letters are only a few minutes long since the point is to get the customer to buy quickly, not to entertain or inform them the same way you would with typical video content.
In many cases, video sales letters are not about looking glossy or indulging in high production values. Some say that if the video is too ‘pretty’ it will encourage views from an audience that merely wants to be entertained, rather than from those looking to buy what is being sold. This is why, among many of those who regularly use VSL’s to make sales, there is an emphasis on the ‘ugly’ VSL that is deemed more effective. This has been proven in testing and while it may not be the perfect approach for every product, it is a very popular concept among VSL marketers.
Remember that not all VSL’s will have a person doing the talking in front of the camera. Many marketers will rely on slide shows to keep their presentation as simple as possible. There are plenty of marketers who do not create their own VSL because it is makes more sense for them to outsource the talent and skills needed to create a good VSL. Your budget and your needs will determine whether or not this is the right choice, but you should know that there are both firms and freelancers who focus on producing VSLs that you can turn to if you simply want one to help you market a product.
How to Get Your Video Sales Letter Seen
Once your VSL is made, the next step is making sure that it gets seen by the biggest audience (within your chosen niche) possible. In order to do this, you need to remember that simply slapping a VSL onto a page and trying to use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques is not likely to work. Nor is it generally effective to post a VSL to a site such as YouTube or Vimeo and hope to get much in the way of results. What you need to do is structure and plan a marketing campaign to bring traffic to the video.
You can use just about any kind of advertising to pull in visitors. Pay per click (PPC) ads in search engines can be one way to do this, but be aware that some restrictions apply depending upon the ad network you are using. You can also try to purchase banner ads from relevant sites as a way of bringing in more viewers. Mailing lists you run yourself may be a good place to draw traffic to your VSL and you might also try spreading a link to it across social media if you have a profile with a significant amount of visitors.
Most often, though, marketers are going to find that they get the best quality traffic to their VSL by producing written content that they can distribute which will include a link to their video. This way, you are giving the customer something first and establishing that you are a trusted source of information for them. This is usually a bit cheaper to do if the content you make is good and you can find the right distribution channels for it. It is generally going to be able to pull in a more focused audience, as well, which is important in order for your VSL to convert at a respectable rate.
The Importance of Development in a VSL Campaign
One thing you should know about the effective video sales letter is that it has usually gone through quite a bit of testing prior to being heavily advertised. This is because you need to fine tune it in order to make sure it is as effective as possible. Testing is your friend when it comes to developing your VSL into the strongest piece of marketing it can possibly be. Usually, your testing should be incremental, with you making slight changes to the video until you find out what produces the best results. This can be a time-consuming task and it is not always cheap, either, so be sure you are prepared for this aspect of VSL marketing.
Split testing is one way that marketers will run their VSL through the paces. They will try 2 essentially identical videos with slight changes and then use metrics to measure the results of which video delivers how many sales. If you go about things this way then it is going to be a lot easier to make sure your VSL is delivering sales and it will also teach you what works and what doesn’t within your niche. Each niche and even each product within that niche will have its own most effective tactics so if you want to succeed with VSL’s then you need to be aware of that and commit to testing and developing over time. That’s how you can get the very best results.
Hiring Help May Be Smarter Than Making Your Own VSL
While we have mentioned that hiring someone to produce your video sales letter could be a smart idea, it’s crucial that you understand the bulk of how effective any given VSL is will come down to the language it employs and the pacing of the script. Script construction can be difficult and there is a reason that effective sales copy writers make huge amounts of money: they have a very focused skill that takes a long time to master. If you do not feel up to this task, it really is important that you do what you can to hire the right kind of help.
If you will be hiring a firm or a professional to assist you at creating a dynamic and sales producing script or video, be sure you do your due diligence to find out about their reputation in advance. You need to know that they have gotten results for others and that they can be trusted to deliver what you have paid them to deliver. As long as you do this, outsourcing the help you need can be a way to save yourself time, energy and frustration. What you might find is that this allows you to focus on the parts of your business that you do best, too, which means you end up saving money in comparison to what you invested financially to get the best video possible created for your needs.
If You Want to Make VSL’s Then Get the Best Possible Training First
Those marketers who want to get involved in producing their own video sales letters to help them sell others’ products or services will need to prepare themselves well for what lies ahead. Learning to write good sales copy needed to formulate a good VSL script is going to take a while. Books, video courses and even one on one coaching from professionals can help you learn this craft, but it is going to take time and real dedication so it is not the right path for everyone.
That said, if you do want to learn than research those you are learning from to find out more about their success. Dan Kennedy is one example of a marketer that is known for being able to create highly effective sales letters. You want trusted experts to learn from and you want to make sure you are learning the best and most effective methods that work today. If you put enough time, energy and committed focus into learning how to create excellent copy there is no reason why you can’t succeed.
The Right VSL & Marketing Strategy Can Help a Product Launch Succeed
Nearly anyone launching a product will be able to use video sales letters to drive sales and this is usually where we see the biggest successes when it comes to VSLs. If you are serious about making sales with a VSL, though, you do need to place strong emphasis not just on the creation and development of the most powerful VSL you can create, you need to focus on how you will market it. Proper strategy is important and being dedicated in terms of making connections within your niche that can help you launch that product helps.
What you want to make sure you do is try to forge alliances with other marketers who will use their mailing lists and their online reach to either distribute your VSL or create their own VSL to help sell your product. In Internet marketing, affiliate marketing is often done this way and it is a powerful system that has generated many millions of dollars down through the years for those who engage in it. Remember, your VSL is only one component of your overall marketing strategy, but if used properly it can be an incredibly powerful tool that helps drive sales. Be sure you give the surrounding marketing campaigns the attention they deserve to help that VSL produce for you.