Nothing converts like a good video.
There are countless studies showing how effective videos are at turning visitors into customers. Certainly, video has been one of the most valuable additions to my marketing toolbox and I’ve been doing video for a long time.
But what exactly goes into making a high-conversion sales video? How do I go about creating these videos and what elements are included to make sure the video is engaging, interesting and leads to sales?
These are questions I get asked a lot and below is the most comprehensive answer I can give in a blog-post format.
What you find below is a very detailed dissection of my latest sales video (one I made for a pre-release of a Thrive Themes product). The video was extremely successful, based on the conversion rates that were achieved on this offer.
This is some very detailed, almost unfiltered behind-the-scenes insight into how I compose marketing messages. This is not flashy, not made for fast consumption and not dumbed down for blogging and easy social shares. Only for the serious.
You can watch the full video by clicking on the link below. However, the individual parts I’ll be talking about are all playable separately (just click on the video strip heading images), so I recommend you watch each part, read the dissection of it and then maybe re-watch it.
Want to see how they all fit together? Watch the whole video here.
Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. AIDA is a marketing formula cited so often, it is becoming a platitude. That doesn’t make it less useful, though.
The first part of the video is a warning message and it’s all about getting the viewers attention and piquing their curiosity.
Creating this part was a balancing act, because I don’t want to make the warning message too serious or too cheesy. In the muddy waters of the “make money online” niche, warning messages are often used at the beginning of videos. The warning is usually overly dramatic and completely serious. Not to mention that it typically also comes with some over-blown promises thrown in for good measure.
In contrast to this, I kept my warning message short and the tone playful. My goal is to evoke a “what is he up to now?” reaction.
For the design, I tried to make the slide look similar to the “FBI Warning” titles that you sometimes see in movies. This is a deliberate choice. The association I’m going for is that what comes afterwards is something the viewer is enthusiastically looking forward to seeing (like a new movie).
The purpose of the second part is to establish the groundwork. By the end of this part, the viewer should be on the same page as me and we should both know and understand what we are and aren’t talking about.
I open this section with a question: “Do you love WordPress?”
When you encounter a question, your brain automatically engages and you can’t help but answer the question in your head. Rhetorical questions like this can be used as a sneaky way to almost force the viewer’s brain to respond.
Another important job this part has is to filter out the most interested viewers in the audience: I make it clear that what I’m about to present is for people who use WordPress and particularly people who use it frequently.
Whenever possible, do the filtering early on in your message. This does two important things:
In this part the idea of “linear content” vs. “complex content” is established. If I just made the statement that the WordPress editor is rubbish, viewers might think about the last time they wrote a blog post and be unable to recall having any issues with the editor. But what about the last time you tried to create a homepage or a sales page in the WordPress editor? Anyone who’s attempted that will probably groan at the prospect of having to do it again.
The principle behind this section remains the same: I need to establish what I’m talking about (editing and creating complex content in WordPress) and what I’m not talking about (writing a simple, linear blog post).
Also note that I root my statements in reasons and wrap it all up in a small story. If I simply state that the WordPress editor is inadequate, the statement doesn’t have legs. Instead, I paint a picture of what WordPress used to be, what it has become over time and how this one part, the editor, has failed to catch up.
In part 3, I am still establishing the problem (that my product will turn out to conveniently solve). The most important point here is that the previously abstract statements are made practical.
I’ve presented “linear content” vs. “complex content” as a theory and I’ve explained why the WordPress editor fails in certain scenarios. Now, I’m showing a simple example of a layout consisting of three boxes next to each other and show what the short code version of that actually looks like, in the regular editor.
Many viewers will instantly recognize the problem and it’s now much more tangible than before. Anyone who’s built a complex layout using short codes knows the problem of staring at a chaotic array of nested short codes and trying to figure out how this mess relates to what the page will actually look like.
Another point I want to mention here and that I will come back to, is honesty. Everything I relate in this video is honest and real. I have had many moments of frustration with the WordPress editor. I have created many pages that are more confusing to look at in the visual editor than in a pure HTML view.
I believe that part of what makes a message like this relatable and engaging is that it’s backed up with real experiences and emotions. I also want to make it clear that I’m not starting with a blank slate and then trying to construct the perfect story and sales message. I start with a whole history of dealing with and trying to solve this particular problem and I’m simply picking parts of my own story to use in the sales message.
This is also one of the reasons why I believe you need to get immersed in a market, if you want to be able to effectively sell in it.
I often encounter products that pretend to be the only one in their category. They assume that the visitor has never before encountered another software for, say, sending automated follow-up emails to subscribers and treat even the most basic features as a total revelation.
I tend to go the other way (and perhaps too far the other way, in some cases): I assume that my viewers are intelligent, well-informed people and I make sure my message is relevant even to viewers who have done thorough research in my niche.
In practical terms, that means that instead of pretending like there are no competitors, I patiently explain why all the competitors suck.
With the “speed and abstraction” concept, I am planting seeds in the viewers brain that will hopefully change the way they look at my product as well as all competing products. Once you understand this concept, you can’t help but notice when a visual editor is sluggish or highly abstract (or, as is often the case, both).
In the brilliant book Made to Stick, the authors refer to a common problem as The Curse of Knowledge. This is when you are so well informed about a topic that you can’t imagine what it’s like to not know all the things you know. It makes it difficult for you to relate to laypeople about this topic.
For sales messages, I always ask myself what someone needs to know before they can appreciate the value of what I’m selling. Having deeply immersed myself in the niche of visual content editors, I am afflicted by The Curse of Knowledge and I have to remind myself that not everyone has spent hours building all sorts of content in a dozen different editors.
In the video, I give a crash course (and real life examples) that show the common problems I’ve encountered with various visual editors. Even if you’ve never used anything but the regular WordPress editor, by the time you’re done watching this part you’ll know:
Finally, with the “tab switching” rant, I relate another typical frustration that I’ve had. The main goal here is to get people who’ve had the same issues to enthusiastically agree with me.
Shared suffering is a bonding experience. Anyone who’s struggled with the same issue will be able to relate to my rant on an emotional level and this will deepen their engagement with the message.
This is the part where the product is finally revealed.
The key thought in this section is: “if you knew nothing about how these things are usually done, how would you want to create and edit content?”
This question and the following reveal communicate the guiding principles we followed while developing the product. We wanted to make an editor that gets out of the way as much as possible. We want to provide a pure and unobstructed content creation experience.
The idea in this simple question is also a potential final nail in the collective coffin of our competitors. After seeing my video, a viewer might look at another visual editor and ask themselves: “is this really how I want to be editing my content? Would I have come up with this?”
As before, I make an effort to keep things as practical as possible (in a sense, the principle of “abstraction” that I explain in the video applies to marketing messages as well). For the reveal, I show an actual screencast of the editor being used on a WordPress page.
A minor point in this part is that I close the loop on the initial warning in the video. The first part is an “open loop”: I state that something will be ruined for the viewer, but I’m no more specific than that. In part 5, I refer back to this initial warning and close the loop. Open loops create tension and that’s good for keeping viewers interested. However, you need to make sure that you don’t leave loops hanging open, once you want to shift a viewer’s focus onto something new.
In this part, I’ve just given a quick teaser for what the product is about and this creates a new loop: ideally, the viewer should now want to know more details about my amazing product. This is the right time to close the previous loop, so that undivided attention can be given to the new thing.
I’ve stressed the importance of making things as practical as possible before and this part is another example of this principle in action. All I’m doing is giving a real-life demonstration of what the product does.
Live demonstrations are always valuable, but not everyone gets them right.
There’s a temptation to make a live demo as perfect as possible. If you get someone to create a rendering of your app, so you can create a fake demonstration that is perfectly polished, frame-by-frame and synchronized to a carefully scripted narration, you’ve gone too far.
On the other hand, I’ve seen too many demonstration videos that are long, rambling affairs with too many umms and ahs. I don’t want to watch someone write out a full sentence or watch in silence as a loading bar creeps towards completion.
One is “too fake” and the other is “too real”. My sentiment is that a live demonstration should not be faked, but it should be rehearsed. Make it nice and smooth and don’t waste the viewer’s time. Resist the temptation to demonstrate every aspect of every feature; give a quick tour of the most important features instead.
The very first sentence in this part takes us back to the honesty factor mentioned earlier: I am simply conveying my real enthusiasm for this product. I’m genuinely excited about it and there’s no reason to hide that in my marketing messages.
From this excitement, we transition to a second strong selling point of the product. Billy Mays was famous for using the line “but wait, there’s more!”
While I don’t use that exact line, this part of the video is in the same spirit: I’m adding bonus value to an already highly valuable product.
You might have noticed that in this part, I’m repeating some of the structure of the full video, on a smaller scale. Once again, I establish common ground and explain the things a viewer needs to know, before they can appreciate my product. I then present a problem that most competing products are plagued by (crap design, basically) and give an example that will be reletable for most people in my target market (the mock sales page slide).
Note that I’ve deliberately split my product into two parts: the live editor and the design elements.
This brings two advantages:
Use this method with care: I get to present this product as two separate, highly valuable things, because it actually consists of two separate, highly valuable things. You can’t take just any product and split it down the middle to achieve the same effect. But if the opportunity for a “value split” presents itself, go for it.
In this part, we’ve got another repetition of a previous pattern: having established that the competitors suck (concerning design), I now reveal how my product is much better in this regard.
This is followed by a feature/benefit tour through the product. In this case, I show various features, while talking about the benefits and possible uses of the software.
The underlying principle is: never show features only. Always emphasize the benefits; the reasons the features were added for in the first place.
References within your content create a certain harmony. For example, referring back to the beginning of a story, at the very end of it, is a frequently used and very satisfying way to wrap things up.
This same principle can be used for a sales message. In this case, I am referencing the three boxes layout that we’ve already encountered in part 3. The layout was used to illustrate a problem. Now, after the reveal, it presents a great opportunity to show how my product solves this problem.
In addition, this is another live demonstration of the product. I get to show off several features of the product, all while tying together the structure of the video and making competing products look hilariously clumsy by comparison.
The final part does two things:
When explaining the offer, the guiding question is: “is there any way someone would not know what they’re buying, after seeing this?”
One of the biggest conversion killers is uncertainty. If it’s not crystal clear to a visitor, what they will get in return for their money, the transaction will probably never take place.
An added bonus in this case is that because it’s a pre-release special, the offer contains a time constraint and special conditions. Time restraints and scarcity are always great conversion boosters, but they need to be real and credible in order to be effective.
Finally, the viewer is called to action. This wraps up the video and gives the viewer a clear next step (in this case: scroll down to purchase).
It may not be immediately apparent when watching the video, but I’ve spent a lot of time working on keeping my videos short and to the point.
Think of every single part of the video, every element and every idea I want to get across and then think about how to present it in the least amount of time possible. That’s how I approach video creation. I try to distill every idea down to it’s very core and get that core across as effectively and efficiently as possible.
In this, we find the final leading principle that I applied in this video: if there’s a way to say the same thing in less time, do it.
Perhaps the most vital element that’s missing from my video is that of proof.
Because this is a pre-release special offer, there’s virtually no proof to go by. At the time of making the video, there was no user base for the product. As a result, there were also no testimonials and no case studies. The product was brand new and unproven.
There is some proof in the live demonstration parts. I’m showing clearly that the product does what it’s supposed to do. However, for a truly complete sales video, I’d also add some form of social proof.
In addition, any case studies that serve as proof for the benefit statements in the video would also be very useful (say, higher conversions thanks to the excellent design elements, or a case study showing how much time the plugin saves, compared to competing products).
You’ve now seen a detailed dissection of one of my sales videos, but how can you create something like this yourself?
There are two things that will help you create high converting sales videos. The first is understanding the principles. If you want to make a carbon copy of my video and just tailor it to your product, you’re missing the point and I’m afraid you’ll have to scroll back up and start all over again. The real benefit from this post comes when you start to understand the underlying principles and the overall structure of the video. One you understand why I made the decisions I made, you’ll be able to apply the same principles in your own work.
The second factor (and this won’t surprise any of my long-time followers) is practice.
The more videos you make, the more marketing messages you create and the more time you spend honing your communication skills, the better you will get at making effective sales videos. With enough practice, most of what I describe here will become second nature.
My recommendation is that you pick one element from this post, that strikes you as interesting, and incorporate it into a video you create. Then pick another one and try to incorporate that into the next video. Keep doing that and 10-20 videos later, you’ll have a small masterpiece on your hands.
Do you have further questions about creating high conversion videos and sales messages? Other ideas or feedback you want to share? Leave a comment below!
Also, if you liked this post, I’d appreciate a social share or two. :)
I'm the founder of ActiveGrowth and Thrive Themes and over the last years, I've created and marketed a dozen different software, information and SaaS products. Apart from running my business, I spend most of my time reading, learning, developing skills and helping other people develop theirs. On ActiveGrowth, I want to help you become a better entrepreneur and product creator. Read more about my story here.
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