The #1 Secret Behind Marketing Videos that Convert
If you ask 100 marketers about what makes an effective marketing video… you’ll probably get 100 different answers!
“Lay out your strategy in advance.”
“Don’t forget to address objections.”
“Use scarcity and urgency.”
“Know your audience and their pain points.”
All of these things matter, for sure… but none of them are the most important thing that will make or break your video. Well, to be honest, the advice about knowing your audience gets the closest to the truth. Still, it’s not 100% correct either.
Like everyone else, we have our own answer to this question — backed by 10+ years in the industry, as well as thousands of successful projects completed for hundreds of clients. And we’re going to share it with you right now.
The #1 secret behind high-converting marketing videos is…
Understanding the viewer’s story
Story is the “secret sauce” of video marketing. It makes all the difference between a message your customers can shrug off and dismiss… and one that stays with them and compels them to take action.
Why? Because it reveals insights about your target audience that simple facts don’t. Every business knows the facts about their customers — that’s easy!
Anyone can say, “Oh, my target market is retirees looking to move to Florida / busy moms with 2+ kids living in the Bay Area / startup founders trying to attract early-stage investors.”
But true storytelling is about what those facts actually mean, and how they relate to one another. It’s also about the why behind your viewer’s motivations and actions. And even if your video isn’t story-driven, you still need these basic “building blocks” to craft a compelling message.
And once you know and understand your viewer’s story, you’ll be able to create marketing videos so attention-grabbing, so engaging, and so persuasive that they can’t be ignored — or resisted.
Sooo… how can you learn to uncover those winning stories and use them in your marketing videos?
Well, good news: you can easily do it by following a simple 3-step process! Let us show you…
Step 1. Answer 4 key questions that reveal the story
When screenwriters need to create vivid, compelling characters, they start by asking specific questions about those characters. This helps writers go beyond surface-level facts — and dig into the stories those fictional people are living.
Your people are very much real, but you’re going to use a similar technique. To uncover any viewer’s story, ask yourself…
- What’s their situation right now? Think about what their life is like at this moment, when they’re interacting with your brand. Maybe they’ve heard of you before, or they’re going in blind. Perhaps they’re happy, or miserable, or just… meh. They might be making progress in their life, or spinning their wheels. Don’t just imagine the state of their world, but also a state of their mind.
- How did they get there? Think about the events that led your viewers to this point. The big ones — like getting laid off; but also the tiny ones — like clicking on a Facebook ad for your marketing video. Context matters, so make sure you learn about your viewer’s history before you craft your message. You don’t want to hit them with the same ol’ shpiel they’ve heard hundreds of times before!
- What do they want — and why? Think through the outcome or result your viewers want to achieve. What’s that #1 goal your product or service can help them solve? And most importantly, why do they want it so bad? Be prepared to ask “why” more than once to dig up their most burning desire.
- What are the obstacles in their way? Think about everything that’s holding your viewers back: fears and doubts, external barriers, lack of resources (time, money, energy) and so on.
Once you know the answers to all these questions — about their situation, their history, their motivations, and their struggles — you’ll know what your viewers need to hear to take action. Something they haven’t heard before… or at least not in the way you can tell them.
That is going to be your message. But before you go ahead and put it in a video, you need to make sure it’s the right one…
Step 2. Test your assumptions with research
OK, so you’ve used the tried-and-true screenwriting technique to uncover the story your viewers are living every day. Awesome!
But don’t forget: unlike Hollywood storytellers, we’re not dealing with fictional people. Your customers are real! So there’s bound to be a gap between what you think they’re like… and what they’re actually like.
And if you base your marketing message on assumptions instead of reality, there’s a good chance it will fall flat on its butt! So let’s test those assumptions first.
Put on your detective hat (but no pipe, let’s stay healthy) and start doing some research. Borrow these two easy and effective tactics used by master copywriters and marketers:
Tactic #1. Eavesdrop on your audience online. Not in a creepy way, though! What we mean is, find places where your viewers publicly express their honest opinions, and study up.
For example, you can scour user reviews of your competitors, Amazon reviews of products your target audience likes to buy (even if they’re not directly related to what you’re selling), Facebook groups they hang out in, question-focused sites like Quora, social networks like Reddit, Twitter etc.
Pay attention to how your target customers describe themselves, their life situation, their goals and dreams, their problems — everything that gives you insight into their story. This will help you validate or course-correct your assumptions and give you some amazing problem language to use in your marketing videos!
Tactic #2. Talk directly to your audience. Reach out to your existing customers, email subscribers, social media followers, even past customers, and ask them questions. Things like:
- what they were/are hoping to get out of your product or service
- what they’ve tried before, if anything, and why it didn’t work
- how their life would change if they achieve their ideal outcome
- what they would do if your product/service didn’t exist
- what’s the #1 thing holding them back from getting results
There are many ways you can collect input: surveys, customer interviews, email and live chat conversations, phone calls, even in-person meetings — you know, after the coronavirus pandemic is over.
Note: when you’re talking to people directly, remember that some sources of input are more credible than others. For example, feedback from your existing customers will outweigh opinions from random Twitter followers any day of the week. Use your judgment.
Step 3. Adapt the story and message to the video you’re making
Stories aren’t set in stone. They are living, breathing things that change to fit different situations. Some elements of your story might become more or less important, depending on the video you’re trying to create.
Here are some examples of how you might shift the focus of your story to adapt it to different kinds of marketing videos…
- Explainer video for a little-known product in a highly competitive niche? Your viewers are probably experienced and skeptical. They might be thinking, “If this product is so good, I’d have heard of it by now!” If you want to engage them, tackle this objection head on.
- Onboarding video welcoming a new customer? They’re probably concerned that your product or service will fail them just like all the other stuff they’ve tried. Validate their buying decision, reassure them that you’ll support them no matter what, and show them how much your product or service will help. Get them giddy with the possibilities!
- Case study video featuring your star client? Focus on the dramatic transformation your brand has created for them, and the positive impact it has made. In the process, gently address unspoken questions and concerns your viewers might have about your credibility and their own fears and barriers.
As you can see, most of the time you won’t even need to tell the viewer’s story directly. But that doesn’t make it any less important! Even untold, it’s always just off-screen — informing and shaping your marketing message.
This synthesis of story and message — based on your deep knowledge and understanding of the viewer — is the best way to ensure that your marketing videos engage, delight, and convert your ideal customers again and again.
And once you master this 3-step process and apply it to your marketing, they will. Enjoy!
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