A video sales letter (VSL) is a well-established improvement upon a traditional sales letter. Created and made popular by Jon Benson, it can take a sales letter to the next level, improving audience engagement and, ultimately, sales.
But exactly what is a VSL, and how do you write one?
What is a VSL?
First off, a sales letter is a written pitch to attract potential customers to a product or service. The goal of a sales letter is to show a customer how your business will benefit them.
A VSL is the video version of a sales letter. It’s a sales video that you’ll often find on a campaign’s landing page. It’s designed to persuade the viewer of the value of what it’s selling and keep them engaged.
Though a VSL has similarities to the sales letter you might be familiar with, the VSL has numerous advantages. It’s designed to feed your audience all the information in a sales letter, but in the order, you want and at your speed.
The script for the VSL follows a structure that leads viewers on an engaging journey and endears them to the narrator.
Finally, the VSL ends with a call to action, designed to make the viewer engage or buy immediately after watching.
Why Use a Video Sales Letter?
- Users can scroll and skim through sales pages with traditional sales letters, reading 12-14%. With a video sales letter, you get much closer to 100% engagement from your audience, feeding them information at a pace you set.
- This pacing is also dictated much more clearly with the voice than with text, and you have a lot more control over the emphasis of words, which allows you to control the way your words are perceived and therefore connect with your prospect emotively.
- The use of attention-grabbing techniques of neurolinguistic programming is much easier with narration and video than in text. You can throw in calls to action, buy buttons, and other engagement elements to channel your audience to your product at numerous points across the video.
- A video sales letter is also easier to digest. Small amounts of visible information are backed up by audio narration, improving attention and retention of information.
- Finally, a video sales letter has a higher content value than a sales letter; they feel more like an infomercial than a book.
Designing your VSL
So how do you begin making one?
First off, you don’t need a big budget. The basic VSL can simply be a narrated set of images with very few words on them. A presenter (talking head style) can appear on the screen, or you can use video imagery (like stock footage) to illustrate your points. Services and tools like EditMate can help with the creation of your video and speed up the production process.
When planning your VSL, remember the Golden Rule of Video Length: a video should be as short as possible while allowing you to deliver your message in a clear and compelling fashion.
But it’s important to remember that VSL’s are not designed to be short-form; they’re sales vehicles. This means they will be significantly longer than a TikTok video and will require certain techniques to engage your viewer and maintain their attention.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to writing a video sales letter. The versatility of the medium makes it adjustable to your needs and preferences, but there are some useful best practices that are worth following.
The five-step process below is recommended by the creator of the VSL and has generated over a billion dollars for the companies who have employed it
The Five-Step VSL Process
The Snap Suggestion
This is the first technique used in a video sales letter and is designed to engage interest.
It’s a form of pattern interrupt; it resets the thought process of your audience and snaps them out of a state of distraction. There are so many ways to do this, but essentially they all startle your audience into paying attention. This can be with a curious question, an unbelievable statistic, or a reference to an interesting part of your story that will come up later.
Opening with a pattern interrupt wakes the attention of your audience immediately and engages their focus at the beginning of the video.
For the final part of the snap suggestion, you need to capitalize on this pattern interrupt. This is where the suggestion part comes in. Present an alluring but cryptic promise of your product or service, and imply that it’s attainable if they keep watching the video.
This creates an open loop to keep people watching. Viewers will want to close the loop by finding out exactly how you can help them.
Forming a Connection
Connections begin with humility. The audience for your video sales letter doesn’t want to hear how successful and credentialled you are. A modest introduction might draw attention to a relevant qualification but should mention the roots and the struggle to reach that stage, rather than coming across as boasting. This will relate you to your prospect and create rapport.
For this, it’s useful to have a moral journey. Tell a story that ties you to your audience, strengthening your engagement with them and further humanizing your connection with what you’re selling.
This entire step culminates in a transition to the problem you’re solving. Essentially you are describing the ways in which you are similar to your audience and telling them the story of how you shared their pain point. At this point, open a loop again by letting them know that the solution that you have discovered through your journey is around the corner in this video, so keep watching!
Emphasizing the severity of the cause of your pain point persuades your prospect that the issue is larger than they realize. Again, this increases engagement while boosting the power of what you’re selling.
Talk about the myths and misinformation that lead people into these pain points. You’re getting closer to the big reveal and further developing interest and rapport with your audience. Make sure you impress that the end result of this problem is a serious issue that must be resolved quickly.
Inflating the problem increases the value of the solution and opens your audience’s mind to your big solution.
This is what any video sales letter should be leading up to. Start offering the partial solution by providing tips or advice. These should be actionable but somewhat incomplete.
The point here is to suggest that what you’re offering will fill in that gap. You should be giving away the majority – perhaps 80% – of your solution, leading the audience to request the remaining 20% from you in your product or service.
Finally, the Call to Action: here, you can create a sense of urgency. Are there limited spaces available? Will signing up now entitle the viewer to an early-bird discount? Provide easy access to complete the deal and impress upon the viewer that it’s in their interests to be quick!
Tips on Your VSL Script
The script you use will, of course, vary depending on what you’re selling, but all video sales letter scripts should follow a handful of key tricks and styles:
- Make sure words stay on the screen, even if you are narrating. Reading and listening simultaneously create a huge boost in attention rate, so don’t be tempted to drop the text!
- Keep slides or clips very short, and move through them relatively quickly. Your script should expand upon the images you’re presenting, and the pace will induce a state of focus.
- Use the neurolinguistic programming techniques described in the previous section, with calls to action placed at opportune moments.
- Use tie-downs – these are reminders of what you’ve just covered. Because your audience can’t scroll back as easily, it’s useful to reinforce what you’ve been telling them by recapping, particularly in longer videos.
A video sales letter gives you much more control over the way your audience perceives your sales pitch or sales presentation.
It improves engagement over a traditional sales letter and allows you to make better use of established methods of controlling attention.
As such, it improves sales by forming a connection, addressing a problem, and then providing the solution.
It’s an easy video to design and execute, and by following the simple framework here, you’re all but guaranteed a positive response to your video sales letter.