Video can be a powerful tool for marketers and salespeople, with figures from Wyzowl’s 2022 video marketing report indicating that 88% of respondents have been convinced to buy a product or service after watching a video.
Considering just how much video content we consume daily, this statistic doesn’t seem that surprising. Wyzowl reported that people are now watching more online video content than ever, with an average of 2.5 hours each day (an hour more than in 2018).
This article will help you leverage this increasingly popular sales and marketing tool. We’ll look at the benefits of sales video letters, their key components and how you can put your video together.
What is a video sales letter?
A sales video letter (also known as a video sales letter or VSL) is a sales pitch delivered via video. While some adverts may be designed to promote a company or a product and build general brand awareness, a VSL has one objective: To make the sale.
Legendary copywriters such as Gary Halbert, Eugene Schwartz and John Caples built their reputation with direct response sales letters. This physical mail sent out to prospective customers was designed to sell without a salesperson present and could be incredibly effective.
Case in point: Martin Conroy’s “Tale of Two Young Men” sales letter ran from 1975 to 2003 and was responsible for selling $2 billion worth of Wall Street Journal subscriptions. As a result, many aspiring copywriters still copy these direct mail examples decades later to learn their methods.
Video sales letters build on that approach, following a similar pattern but using a modern medium to reach more people in their favorite format. As well as arriving in mailboxes, today’s VSLs may sit alone on a landing page or alongside written copy elsewhere online.
Why video sales letters are so effective at converting leads
While traditional sales letters are still used, the increasing popularity and versatility of video bring many advantages to marketers and salespeople.
Wyzowl’s study above found that 73% of people would rather watch a video to learn about a product or service than read a text-based article website or post.
Following the writer’s adage to “show, don’t tell”, video allows prospects to see screenshots and recordings of your product in action, making it easier for them to imagine owning it and enjoying the associated benefits. Video testimonials also add relatability and reliability to written testimonials.
People tend to buy based on emotion, and then they justify their decision with logic. While a skilled salesperson or copywriter will do their best to write in a way that appeals to both emotion and logic, video makes this far easier. Rather than relying on the written word, a video can leverage tone of voice, facial expressions and even background music to create an emotional connection and impact.
There are ways to create videos that are also cheaper and easier than before, resulting in more salespeople and marketers using them.
The video sales and marketing trend looks like it’s set to continue, with the same report from Wistia stating that 40% of surveyed businesses intend to increase their video budget in 2022.
Furthermore, while previously only the largest brands with a Hollywood-level budget could hope to put together a video, today any salesperson with a webcam or a smartphone can create a VSL in an afternoon. Rather than paying a fortune for a primetime slot on TV, sales teams and marketers can host a video on their website for anyone to view, any time, at a fraction of the cost.
What equipment do you need to create a VSL that sells?
While you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to create your VSL video sales letter, there are some essentials to consider.
Many VSLs use recorded video, whether that’s a sales rep outlining the benefits of a service or demonstrating the product in action. While some filmmakers choose to invest in a DSLR camera, for most VSLs it’s not necessary.
If you’ve ever used a webcam for a Zoom meeting over the last couple of years, that will likely be good enough for any talking-head VSL. If you feel the need to upgrade, you can often find a top-of-the-range webcam with 4K quality and built-in lighting for less than $200.
Perhaps your sales video letter isn’t suitable for a static webcam. In most cases, a smartphone camera will record in high enough quality. Even Hollywood director Steven Soderbergh shoots movies on an iPhone.
It’s not just experienced silver screen players making popular films without Hollywood budgets. Ocean Spray saw viral success off a fan’s TikTok video and Dollar Shave Club’s low-budget sales video won the founder a $1 billion exit.
It’s no good shooting a 4K video if the prospect can’t hear what you’re saying. While most webcams and phones will also record audio, check the quality.
Your phone might be fine at picking up voices if the speaker’s right next to it, but what about if you’re filming someone further away, perhaps as they’re using your product? Can you still hear every word clearly, or is there too much background noise?
Test it out and, if necessary, invest in a dedicated microphone.
The right apps can take your raw film and audio and put them together into a masterpiece. What’s right for you will depend on your requirements, but highly-recommended software solutions include:
Camtasia. This software suite for Windows and macOS lets you record a video of what’s on your computer screen and webcam, with editing tools, animations and additional effects to make your VSL pop. There’s a free limited-time trial with a one-off charge of $249.
Vidyard. This online video platform is built specifically for virtual selling at all stages of the sales cycle, with powerful video analytics and integrations. A free plan is available, with pro plans starting at $15/mo.
Biteable. This online video and animation tool lets you use professional stock footage and existing video sales letter templates as the foundation for your project. Their free plan includes most of their main features, but you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan (starting at $49/mo) to remove the Biteable watermark and add CTA buttons.
Hippo Video. Describing itself as a video customer experience platform, Hippo Video allows you to personalize every aspect of your VSL and the landing page, including the logo, name and CTAs to make it more engaging. You’ll also get detailed reports on key engagement metrics and even have access to sales coaching lessons. The free plan includes unlimited HD videos, with paid plans starting at $15/mo.
For live-action videos, little touches can make all the difference. For example, while you might be able to get away with natural lighting, a simple ring light behind your camera can ensure your subject is evenly lit.
Likewise, a clear and uncluttered background can ensure viewers aren’t distracted and focus on your message. If that sounds impossible for your location, a backdrop with a solid color can transform any area into a film studio.
If you’re talking directly to the camera, a teleprompter can ensure you’re never lost for words. While that might sound like a big investment, free software can effectively transform your computer or phone into a makeshift teleprompter so that you can keep your eyes on the camera at all times.
While it’s now entirely possible to handle every aspect of your VSL in-house, you might prefer to outsource aspects of the project. Platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork provide access to freelance video editors, voice-over artists, animators and practically any other role you can imagine. If you prefer (and have the budget), you can outsource the entire project to a professional video production outfit.
Additional tips for appearing on camera
Whether you’re going to be the star of the show or you’ll be filming others, getting in front of the camera doesn’t come naturally to most people.
To make the process easier, ensure you map out your dialogue or storyboard in advance. Even if you’re using a teleprompter, it shouldn’t sound like you’re reading lines. This means allowing plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the script and practice so that you can speak naturally.
Also, consider your wardrobe to ensure the focus stays on your message and not your outfit. Aim for solid colors and clean, pressed clothes that reflect your company’s brand. Try to avoid distracting patterns or logos.
Placing the camera at the right height might seem like a small thing, but it can have a big effect on the finished video. Setting up the camera slightly above your eye level generally results in the most flattering, confident angle.
How long should a VSL be for the best results?
Although your VSL isn’t constrained to the same limits as a TV advert, it’s easy to get carried away and end up with a feature-length presentation that fails to hold attention. It’s a balancing act, as your VSL needs to be short enough to keep the prospect engaged but long enough to make a compelling pitch.
Plenty of headlines suggest people’s attention spans are worse than a goldfish, but that’s not necessarily true. Before you slash your VSL to a 15-second TikTok, bear in mind that people’s attention is usually task-specific.
In other words, people watch what interests them. To most, 60 seconds of watching paint dry can feel like an eternity, but people will happily sit through hours of their favorite Netflix show. Rather than worrying about keeping your VSL to a certain length, focus on creating content that’s interesting, relevant and informative to your target market.
Generally, the length of your VSL will depend on what you’re selling. As a rule, the more expensive and complex a product or service is, the longer the VSL should be. Selling a $10/mo SaaS plan for a familiar service might be accomplished in a couple of minutes while selling a $5,000 training course will take more time.
Key components of an effective video sales letter
While there are different approaches you can take with your video, there are certain aspects that you’ll regularly see in the best video sales letters.
Solving a problem
Rather than talking up your product’s features, your VSL should focus on the most pressing pain points that it solves.
Xero’s video opens by addressing the company’s target market and promising to change the lives of the prospects in that market for the better.
From there, it quickly moves on to the problem they’re solving. “You got into business to do what you love, not to get stuck in the books, chase invoices, sort payroll or file tax returns.” The copy is complemented with images of papers and other tasks piling up.
This will resonate with their target market of small business owners. By addressing these common complaints and getting viewers nodding along, Xero is now in a perfect position to present itself as the ideal solution.
In another example, Pipedrive’s sales video letter addresses our users' problems before signing up or wasting time in complicated, rigid CRMs.
The first part of the video is all about three big benefits that Lunacy has over other typical solutions:
The benefit of using Lunacy
Working fast, even with a “potato” laptop, slow Wi-Fi or being offline
A lack of progression with the same class week after week
How it works
AI tools to upscale images and remove backgrounds without distractions
A native app that works on Windows, macOS and Linux
Work with your team wherever they are, as well as Lunacy’s strong design community from all over the world and support for 21 languages
By the end of the video, viewers have a clear understanding of why exactly Lunacy is an ideal solution for them.
What makes your product or service better than the competition? Maybe your solution is faster, easier, better-tailored for your audience, or maybe it produces better results. Ensure your VSL gives viewers a compelling reason to choose you above anyone else.
One clear action to take
Unlike the typical television advert that is designed to build brand awareness for established companies, your VSL should move your viewer to take a particular action that moves them closer to making a purchase.
Writing assistant platform Grammarly does this with a clear CTA at the end of their video. Following a sales video about communicating effectively at work with a grammar checker, the viewer sees a final screen with the words: “Do your best work with Grammarly. Download for free.”
Below the video is the link where viewers can take this action.
In this video sales letter example, the viewer is motivated by a final benefits-driven statement and then given a clear action to take. The platform also makes it obvious that it’s free to download, reducing friction from those who may not be willing to pay just yet.
Whether your VSL forms part of a longer sales funnel or is trying to drive immediate sales, the viewer should be in no doubt what they should do next. Clear, consistent CTAs within the video, complemented by the surrounding sales copy, let your viewer know what they must do to get your solution.
Creativity is an important part of any digital marketing strategy. You need to present your pitch in a visually appealing and engaging way if you expect people to watch for more than a few seconds. While videos can be funny, your main objective is to make a sale. This means clarity must be a priority.
In this video from Jasper (formerly Jarvis), any viewer knows exactly what they’re selling (an AI writing assistant), the problem they’re solving (writer’s block) and what the viewer should do next (sign up for a trial).
As you work on your VSL, your message should come across crystal clear in any text on the screen and in the accompanying audio. Analyze your video to see if there is any part that could leave your prospect confused.
The step-by-step process for creating a high-performing VSL
Now you’ve seen the key components of a VSL, the following steps will walk you through the process from initial idea to finished masterpiece.
1. Confirm where the VSL will sit in your sales funnel
Before you even think about picking up a camera, you need to know the exact purpose of your VSL and how it will fit in with your sales process.
In most cases, the video should move the prospect to make a purchase. In some scenarios, it might be better to move them along to the next step in the customer journey (such as signing up for a trial or buying a low-cost product).
You should also have a plan for directing traffic to your VSL. Are you using paid ads, organic SEO, or email marketing to send potential customers to the page? Put yourself in the prospect’s shoes and think about how you can provide them with a consistent and clear journey.
This includes message matching, reassuring prospects that they’re in the right place. For example, if you’re using paid ads that promise an easier way to buy real estate, people should see a similar headline in your video.
2. Confirm the audience for your VSL
Rather than trying to appeal to a wide audience, every stage of your sales funnel (including your VSL) should be closely tailored to your target audience.
Establish defined buyer personas that cover what demographic you’re targeting, their interests and their pain points. Who do you help? How? What results do they get? Keeping this persona in mind throughout the process will stop you from creating a VSL that tries to appeal to everyone and instead use more specific messaging.
3. Decide on what kind of VSL you want to create
The type of VSL you make will largely depend on the type of product or service you’re selling and your budget.
A one-scene talking head VSL where it’s just you talking directly to the camera is easy to film and suitable for a wide range of products. You can also include video testimonials from existing customers or footage of customers using your product or service.
Live-action sequences of your product in action are great for demonstrating exactly what customers will get. Animation can help convey quickly complex ideas and processes that would otherwise be impossible.
4. Create a landing page for your VSL
It’s easy to focus exclusively on your video, but remember that people will rarely be viewing just the video. Just as you’ve thought about the funnel leading up to your VSL, think about how prospects will experience the video on the page. While you can host your sales video on your home page, it’s generally best to host your VSL on a landing page that complements the video.
Leadpages’ VSL sits on a landing page that reinforces the video’s message, with every CTA button calling prospects to start a free trial.
There are no distracting menus or unnecessary links that could lead people away. Everything on the sales page is there to support the video’s message, from reassuring social proof and testimonials to features and benefits.
This way, even if someone only reads the copy or just views the video, they still have all the information they need to move forward and start a trial.
5. Write your script
Although you may be tempted to just set the camera rolling and wing it, working from a script helps you give a smooth delivery and structured pitch, making it a key part of your VSL. A video script is more than just the words you’ll say.
Consider what else might appear on screen, whether that’s a particular scenario or graphics and text that you’ll use to illustrate your key points.
It’s tough to get started on a video sales letter script when you’re staring at a blank page. If you’re struggling with where to start, the following tried and tested copywriting formulas can be used to structure your VSL:
AIDA. Open your video with a hook that grabs the viewer’s attention, generate interest by speaking directly to their biggest challenges, build desire by showing how your product or service can solve those challenges. Then finish by asking them to take a specific action.
PPPP. Paint a picture of what an ideal solution would look like for your prospect, make a promise that you can deliver that solution, back that up and prove why your product or service is right for them. Then close with a push to take action.
ACCA. Begin by creating awareness of the prospect’s problem, build their comprehension of the problem, create conviction that you’re the right solution, then ask them to take action.
If you’re looking for a more detailed video sales letter template, Jim Edwards (founder of Guaranteed Response Marketing) suggests the following formula:
Open with a shocking statement to grab the audience’s attention
State the problem and why it’s a big deal
Agitate the problem and help them realize why this is so serious
Agitate the problem more (on an emotional level)
Introduce the solution
Credibility, a reason why they should listen to you
Provide proof that what you say is true
Show the solution’s exact features and benefits
Give specific reasons to buy now, not later
Ask for the order and reinforce the product’s most important benefits
6. Film your VSL
Lights, camera, action! With a clear idea of your concept and a polished script, it’s time to put everything together and film your VSL. Make sure you’re familiar with the script and have all the equipment you need ahead of time to make the process as smooth as possible.
The average Hollywood movie spends hundreds of days in post-production before it’s finally released. While you won’t need to spend nearly as much time in post-production, you’ll still need to spend some time polishing it up.
Edit out any boring bits or unnecessary lines and add any additional graphics or audio you need to enhance your message. Even a small touch like including subtitles will make your video more accessible and help it reach more of your target market.
Embed the video on your landing page and send traffic to it. As people start watching and engaging with your video, keep an eye on the metrics. Most of the software solutions we looked at earlier allow you to track details such as how many views you get, how many people click through on your CTA, the average time people watch the video for and more. Use these details to identify any changes you could make to optimize future videos.
Traditional sales letters have long been a popular way to pitch products and services when you can’t be there in person, but using video can make your pitch even more persuasive.
With the increasing popularity of online video, more companies use video sales letters to reach more of their target market. In many cases, people already have the equipment they need to get started.
By creating a VSL that clearly shows how you solve your prospects’ most pressing problems, proving that you’re the right solution and moving that prospect through the sales funnel, you can make a strong impact and close more sales.