In Episode 84, we wrap our series on Growing Your Online Sales by chatting with Chris Johnson, founder of Simplifilm about how important it is to make sure that your product videos are doing their job.
This is a wide-open topic, but we touch on the basics that will help you make sure you are headed in the right direction when creating videos for your products. We all understand how critical a role videos play in content marketing. But because they are used so extensively, you you need to learn how to stand out from your competitors. Listen as Chris shares how they find ways to bring success to your video projects.
We chatted about:
- The top three must-haves for an effective product video
- How to extract testimonials from your customers
- What makes a video go viral
- Advice on other social platforms besides YouTube amplify your audience and extend your reach
- The potential for Facebook live and product videos
- How to decide if you should move from DYI to hiring a video production professional
Thanks to Our Podcast Sponsor: Bluehost
Bob Dunn: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to the WP eCommerce show. Bob Dunn here, also known as Bob WP on the web. On today’s show, we are into the last episode of our Growing Your Online Sales series, and we’ll be talking about the art of effective videos for your online products. As we all know, videos are huge, and something you cannot ignore. To help us learn more about this, I’ve asked Chris Johnston, a media and sales consultant, to join us today.
Hey Chris, welcome to the show.
Chris Johnston: Thanks for having me, Bob. I’m happy to help.
Bob: Cool. Now, I know my listeners will be chomping at the bit to hear your insights. Everybody wants to know about video. But before we get into those questions, can you tell us a little more about yourself and your company?
Meet Chris Johnson, Founder of Simplifilm
Chris: Absolutely. I own a company called Simplifilm. I started it in 2011. We make high-end product demo videos, explainer videos, and book trailers for anybody from an internet marketer who wants to do something, all the way up to Fortune 500 companies, flagship clients that have included Ryan Holiday, Seth Godin, and Arianna Huffington. Through Arianna, we got to work will.i.am and Scarlett Johansson. And, we’ve worked with Google Ventures-backed companies, 500 Startups-backed companies and everything in between. We did the original video for Gravity Forms when Gravity Forms professionalized and went big-time. So, we’ve had a lot of experience in and out of the WordPress ecosystem doing videos.
Bob: Very cool. I know I’ve seen bits of your work here and there, so I can attest to some really cool stuff you’ve done. And, I would encourage people after this podcast to go to your site, and I’m sure you probably have some samples or some links to some of your fine work that they can check out.
Chris: We do. We do.
In an nutshell, what are the top three must-haves for an effective product video?
Bob: All right. So, let’s dive in here, and these are very broad questions. I’m going to kind of let you just run with them.
To start with, what is really, the top three essentials for an effective product video, in a nutshell?
Chris: Sure. We’re going to take a step back from that and we’re going to make sure that we’re focused. So, we’re going to assume that we’re making a focused decision on what we want the result from the video to be. If we want the result to be either converting an existing audience, or activating a new audience, creating an audience, those are different videos with different structures, different goals.
We’re going to assume that we have the goal piece aligned, and I’m going to cheat and add four things there. Remember, the purpose of any video is to convey emotion from the owner of the product, or the product owner, to the recipient, or from the producer to the viewer. That’s the purpose of video.
You have to have an emotional connection. Video is the best way to do that.
So, having that as background, we’ll say that the top three essentials are, number one is clarity. We want to make a very clear video. It doesn’t matter what the production values are, whether they are five or $50,000 or you’re doing a screen flow-type video that you’re doing yourself. You have to be very clear. And, by clarity, I mean, if you’re in screen flow, for example, you’ll zoom in on the part of the screen that the action is happening so you can follow the action. You’ll say what you mean and you’ll use plain, clear language.
The second part of the product video is an ask. At the end of the product video you want people to either know, do, or feel something. And usually, in online marketing, it’s do something, so, download the app … Be specific about it, but don’t just have this nicely produced video where you don’t ask them to take the next step. It could be learn more, follow this lead page to the right, do whatever you’re supposed to do.
And I guess, the third essential is brevity. Especially today, we want to make the video as brief as possible and no briefer. So, that’s going to come down to editing, that’s going to come down to boiling down your ideas to the core of one or two emotional targets that will help you. Brevity is something you should pay for. A skilled producer can make a more effective one-minute video than a meandering three-minute video. Brevity is very important right now because it shows respect for your viewer. So, if you have a product that creates the feeling of relief in somebody if that’s the goal, to show that this will relieve the pain that you’re feeling because all your WordPress custom post types have been built by 10 or 12 different companies and this one solves that, you want to show that relief and create that feeling in as brief of a time as possible. And you figure out where the pain is, what this thing that you are resolving is.
Does that answer your question?
Is brevity the hardest essential for clients to understand?
Bob: It really does, and I’m thinking that last, third one is probably, I’m guessing, the most difficult with clients, because they’re like, “Oh, but shouldn’t we include this, shouldn’t we include this?”
Chris: Yeah, because they’ve worked really hard on a feature that’s very essential to their product health, but it’s not essential to getting somebody started with this. So, if the purpose of the video is to introduce this product, what we want to show a high-quality feature, executed perfectly. And when we show that, then we can say, “And so much more,” and the “and so much more” will imply that we also have the same level of care in the rest of our product as we did in this feature we drove down on.
So, you’re solving a problem perfectly for one person. And, if somebody has had that problem and they’ve maybe, solved it a different way, they would have realized, “Oh, these guys are really smart, and I should talk to them because maybe, they solved this problem too, or maybe I could influence them to solve this problem for me.” It’s better to do it that way. Engineers always want a feature dump and video is not about features, it’s not about a list, it’s not about bullet points, it’s about conveying emotion. Software, specifically, is about conveying relief, “Thank God, you’re here,” is the feeling you want from software video.
How can we get happy customers to give a video testimonial?
Bob: Right. Now, some videos will actually, have customers that will be giving a video testimonial. How can one cultivate customers to actually, do that?
Chris: You can bribe them. A free month. And you check with your FTC dial-ins to make sure you’re doing it ethically, honestly, and correctly. That’s one way that people have done it. Number two, you can do it in exchange for beta testers. Number three, you can do this sort of thing in a trade show, as well, and it’s an environment that’s more conducive to customers. So, if you’ve got a product that’s a dream forest, you want to take some informal testimonial video, that would be great.
Number four, you can go to them. So, for a semiskilled video crew it’s about $1,000 a day to shoot. You can send your video crew to two or three locations a day to pick up testimonial videos. That’s about 300 bucks per customer. With coached script, you can go to them. The customer would also benefit, because they get some shots of their logo, they get promoted on their site, as well. So, those are the three kind of ways to make it super easy to do that.
The other thing is that you can do audio very effectively. You can use, sort of like this, what we’re on right now, which is radar, or anything else to go and gather that. And you can you can use Talking Pad and Show product features while you’re doing it so that if you’ve got a customer that’s intimidated by video but is willing to leave you a voicemail, you can have most of the effect with a lot less hassle.
Bob: Yeah, and I know that a lot of people do get a little intimidated by video. When I tell them that, yes, this is audio only, there’s a huge sigh of relief.
Chris: Yep. You can show the feature that they’re raving about. One of the other things to remember videos, you’ve got two channels, audio and video. They’re both very important. And, you show the feature that they’re raving about, and then, you put their face and maybe, their Linked In profile at the bottom, voice of so-and-so, and, you show the waveform of their voice talking to incredible. And then, it sells it even harder because you’re showing this in action.
Any hard and fast rules for making a video go viral?
Bob: Those are good ideas, great tips. Okay, this is a loaded question here. Are there any hard and fast rules for getting a video to go viral? Is it just being in the right place at the right time? Tell me your deep thoughts there.
Chris: It’s a reasonably predictable, repeatable process that we reserve, we reserve that advice for our customers. However, I will tell you a few things. Number one, don’t forget your spend. So if you’re spending say $20,000 or $10,000 on production, you want to spend at least a third of that on traffic. And that, using TrueView, YouTube’s TrueView, that will get you some social proof. And, it’ll be legit social proof, and it’ll be an early place to test. So, don’t forget you’re doing that. Second, use humor. Humor scales, humor cells.
Strong emotions are the things that matter. So, outrage, humor, fear. We do some political work here, you know, something that’s unfair, injustice. These are things that people want to share about. The other thing that you want to do, at a different level, is create a video that makes your users look smart for sharing it or look virtuous for sharing it. You want to tap into their ability to be virtuous. If they can look good in front of their peers by sharing this video, they’re gonna share the video. And that’ll help you get views. There’s some luck involved, for sure. We had a great video that would have went viral, except that Hurricane Sandy was the news story. And there’s nothing you can do about that. So, you can’t guarantee a video that goes viral. But you can put the pieces in place to make it more likely that it goes viral.
What are some other channels, besides YouTube, that you can use to populate your product videos?
Bob: Okay. That’s good. Now, a two-part question. Besides YouTube, I mean, we all know YouTube, are there other social channels that you feel are important, that you can use to populate your product videos? And, the second part, besides advertisement placement, how can you keep them from looking like a huge ad?
Chris: The quality of work. I mean, you tell the truth, you refine your message, and you do quality work. So, the ad question’s a separate question. People are looking for, let’s just take software, because that’s my area of expertise, people want to know, does this solve my problem? And you address it. You’ve watched tutorial videos in the past that are five or seven minutes long, and they have three minutes of vamping. They describe the problem, they repeat the description of the problem, and then they dive into it, and they give a half-hearted solution that doesn’t match the headline. Then they leave you with the, do you want to subscribe, click here sort of stuff. You’ve seen those videos. Those are awful videos. And they disrespect the viewer. Tell the truth, be honest. There’s a place they have some marketing effectiveness. But you don’t want to clickbait folks when you’re making a business video, because you want to trust, you want to trust that doing the right thing by your customers is gonna work. Figure out how to grow within those constraints. Respect your viewer, always.
The next question is, what are some other social channels? Well, you know YouTube is good, to a point. I love Wistia for your homepage videos, because you get great analytics, and you can do, you can address the API, you can make it play, you can make it not play, you can send it to the background, you can do all sorts of stuff with the Wistia API. Although it is limited, in that it, all of the APIs a fundamental problem where they track engagement and they think success is watching the whole video when, if you’re trying to get a video that converts, and somebody sees five seconds and they’re like, I’m sold, I’m gonna buy, you’re gonna get bad signals, because they’re not engaged with the video, because they think the video didn’t work, even though they were sold in five seconds and they’ve already bought.
So, those are some inherent engagement issues. That’s just my rant on Wisty. They’re good guys, but they don’t understand that, if, at any time during the watching, if the video’s correlated with the interaction, then the video should get credit for that. But, how to keep anything from being human Spam is just about respecting your viewer. Will my viewer, whether or not my viewer buys what I’m selling, benefit from watching this? And, that’s the gist. Can they rule out my product? That’s one thing, if you’re making some software like iA Writer, that’s a software package that is for text processing, and they need to format text, well, they can rule it out after watching the video. That’s a benefit that the viewer gets. Does that make sense?
Do you see any uses for Facebook Live?
Bob: Exactly. And then, along that same line, do you see any uses for Facebook Live for this?
Chris: I have not used Facebook Live, and that’s not Facebook Live’s fault. That’s my fault. We’ve been helping our clients, and it’s the sort of, cobbler’s children problem. So, I’m not as educated as I’d like to be on Facebook Live. I’ve participated in Facebook Lives, and I’ve benefited from Facebook Lives, especially when somebody I like does a Q & A, and I can show my support for them and, you know, I’ve got the ability to jump on and be part of their audience and to show support. It’s great.
I also love the tools for producing stuff with Wirecast by Telestream, which is a wonderful tool for producing Facebook Lives, which we’ve done a little bit of in our time at Simplifilm. So, just like video is in general, it’s gonna be an accelerant for successful people, and it’s going to be, also, an accelerant for people who are failing, because they’re gonna use their resources on video when they have fundamental problems that video cannot fix.
Bob: Yeah, and it’s kind of scary when they go live because, like you said, they’re going to kind of make or break it. They can go on live with a product and really do some damage if they did anything weird or in the wrong way. It’s kind of interesting, this whole live concept.
How do we think through whether our video project is a job for a pro?
Bob: So, people can come to you, and this is how you make a living. Now, we’ve got your DIYers and everybody’s going to think, “Okay, I can do this myself. I can get some lights, and get my iPhone up and everything.”
Where do you draw the line, when they’re maybe lookingt at the video they created and saying, “Well, that’s pretty crappy.” Is there something they can think through before they even try this to decide whether they should even be trying it?
Chris: Sure. That’s a loaded question, and obviously, I’ve got some conflict there, and I’m biased. I’m gonna say that when somebody should use a pro is when they’re not using their resources effectively or not getting it done. If they’re spending endless hours trying to get a video right and they’re not getting it done, or the video that they do is not producing results, then they should bring in a pro. Having said that, 90% of pros, just like 90% of web designers, are not good at their trade. I was lucky to be mentored by my former business partner, Jason, who knows how to tell stories. I was lucky to also be mentored by people like Seth Godin and other clients.
So, you’re asking when do you bring in a pro. When you vet a pro to make sure you’re in sync, you also understand the result that you’re getting. When you’re not getting good results, and when you’re obsessed with repeating the video or you’re in endless revision cycles, it’s usually because you’re focusing on yourself rather than your customer. Am I looking good on this video, rather than, am I helping my customer understand my product. So, that’s the two-part answer to the question. Does that make sense?
Bob: Oh, yeah. And, when I think about it, it’s kind of in the context of what you’re trying to do. I’m just going to use an example like, if you’re at a trade show and you’re at your booth and you decide, “Okay, I’m going to do this Facebook Live thing and we’re gonna talk a little bit about a product,” or, there’s somebody there with you and you talk with them, great. But, when you actually have your website and you have this video be that first impression of your product, it’s so important to go through those top essentials and it needs to be short, brief, professional, and something that people go, “Whoa, this is amazing stuff,” so it’s not just you sitting there with, a talking head, doing some little funky video and talking about your product.
Chris: Right. A general rule of thumb is, if your video allows your customer to rule you out as a provider, it’s done its job, and it’s a good video. Because then, you’re saying what you stand for and who you’re not for, and you’re saving time for everybody. And you’re accelerating the process, transferring the information to the customer faster. If your video just has a bunch of vague things that don’t stand for anything and it’s, you know, “This is a solution that might be able to help you sometime, sort of. Talk to your sales rep for more details,” that’s not a good video. Or, “This is a solution that’ll do everything. It’s got all these features.” And it’s got feature, feature, feature, feature, feature, feature, feature, feature, feature, feature, feature.” That’s also not a good video.
And then, you asked about what are the channels. Well, instead of making one long tutorial video, make a video on every single feature demonstrating its use and each of them under 90 seconds. Don’t have a lot of vamping. Show off your product. If you’re making software, especially, put all of those videos and single videos keyword-optimized for search and social on YouTube and Facebook video, because then people can watch, and in a minute, understand this feature. And then, they can be drawn, from the feature video to the front page video, and the front page video to the checkout box.
Anything you’d like to leave our listeners with?
Bob: Yes. All right. Well, I didn’t really put this down for you, but is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to leave the listeners with?
Chris: Sure. The one thing we need to talk about is visual metaphors. Video is amazing. Visual metaphors translate what’s going on for the viewer. And so, you create a video that has a metaphor baked into it, and the metaphor allows you to save a ton of time when you’re making videos. When we made a video for Ryan Holiday’s Trust Me, I’m Lying, we use Missile Command, the old Atari Missile Command game, in a scene, to show that the system was completely defenseless. That’s a visual metaphor that we were able to use to make our project work really well. And the more you can think visually, as opposed to, like, a video sales letter, the better off you’re gonna be. And then, the other thing is, remember you can have two channels that can be asynchronous. You can have a video that doesn’t say the same thing on both channels and you can cover twice the ground, in certain instances. Those are a couple of tips for our listeners here.
Bob: Well, this has been a great ending for this series, as far as helping people to grow their online sales and stuff. I know there’s tons more we could talk about, but I think this is a good start.
Where can we connect with Chris on the web?
Bob: How’s the best way for people to connect with you on the web?
Chris: I love email. I love unsolicited sent email from strangers. And Chris@simplefilm.com saying, “I need help with my video,” will get you the, and, “I saw you on this podcast,” that’ll be a good start. Simplifilm, S-I-M-P-L-I-F-I-L-M .com is another place that you can come. And I think that’s it. We’re happy to help. The thing that I’m the most proud of is our product benefit. You will always know what now, what next, and exactly when, down to the minute that it’ll happen, when you work with us.
Bob: Cool. Excellent. Thanks again, Chris, for taking the time to join us today.
Chris: Thank you. Thanks for having me.