Pack 1,000 Years of Storytelling Punch into Your Next Sales Video

Storytelling has become synonymous with selling. Why? People respond to stories. They’re more engaging than a string of facts, and our brains are wired to respond to storytelling formats.

Consider that billions of people around the world have seen Star Wars. Millions of kids pretend to be Luke Skywalker in their backyards. They don’t practice tabulating spreadsheets or selling stocks—they fight lightsaber battles, imagining themselves as the hero.

Imagine, then, the power of making your prospects the hero in your outbound sales videos. It’s especially effective in business because buildings don’t write checks, people do. Even general counsels have a sense of humor and want to see things that are interesting, and stories are the most time-tested attention-grabbing tactic.

Your Call to (Video) Adventure

Basic storytelling formats haven’t changed in millennia and, by following them, you’ll give your video structure. The outlines of dramatic structure from the Greek philosopher Aristotle still ring true, and are recognizable from Hollywood tropes to the novels you likely read in high school English. They’re easy to apply, and following them can lead to big payoffs from your video sales pitches.

Tell a story, engage a client.

Let’s look at two storytelling structures: Freytag’s Pyramid, and The Hero’s Journey. Anyone who’s watched any DC or Die Hard movies will recognize these structures, even if you didn’t have a name for them. And if these storytelling frameworks net trillions of box office earnings, it stands to reason they might boost sales for you.

In fact, once you start breaking down the parts of stories, you’ll realize you’ve probably been following some of the concepts all along. But if you can streamline your story, and make it even more relevant to your prospect—the hero—your videos can become that much more engaging.

Let’s take an example.

Say you’re selling widgets. You know your widget is 39% lighter than the competition, works 53% faster, costs 13% less, and has 29% more support.

Your client is asleep by now.

But maybe, three years ago you had a friend who struggled with their widget, who complained about the cost, the size, and how frustrated they were because a widget part broke, and they couldn’t get any support to fix it. So you decided to do something about that. And you designed this better, cheaper widget, and have around-the-clock o-call support, and your friend’s company has now doubled their production capacity.

This story fits the structure of Freytag’s Storytelling Pyramid.

Mockup graphic depicting Freytag's Storytelling Pyramid

Mockup of Freytag’s Storytelling Pyramid. Icons by XnimrodX.

In this pyramid:

  • The hero is the business owner who uses widgets
  • The villain is the bad widget maker
  • The rising action is the business owner’s struggle for a working widget
  • The climax is the new widget
  • The falling action/resolution is how much this new widget has helped his business

Do you remember any of those initial stats cited at the start of this section? Probably not. But I bet you remember the story—the problem and the solution.

That’s the power of storytelling in sales. Now let’s look at the Hero’s Journey.

Your Customer is the Hero

As Julianne Sweat of Outreach.io puts it, “Every good sales story nowadays should cast the customer in the hero role. Customers don’t want to be ‘sold’—they want to participate in how the plot unfolds. Focusing on features and benefits is tired and outdated. It’s the customer’s narrative and triumph over adversity that saves the day.”

They want to be Luke Skywalker beating the Dark Side. They want to be John McClane or Wonder Woman, leaping into a fray, being smart, brave, or crafty, and emerging victorious.

The writer Joseph Campbell famously outlined this archetype in his many books examining human nature, culture, and storytelling. He connects the dots from Homer’s Iliad in ancient Greece to almost everything George Lucas has ever touched. (His book, The Power of Myth, is worth a read; the PBS documentary he did in the ‘80s is also worth a watch.)

In short, the hero’s journey is a circle. The hero is called to adventure (broken widgets put their business at risk), they battle the villain (that awful widget-maker), receive supernatural outside help (you!), and return to where they started—changed forever.

Focusing a narrative around a hero—especially with your sales target as the hero in your highly personalized videos—is so ingrained in us that it elicits unconscious agreement. We like it—and here’s the key: This most ancient of all techniques makes us more likely to respond to whoever’s telling it.

To sell better through video, consider:

  • Who is the hero
  • Who or what is the villain or problem
  • Who or what is the solution
  • What exposition showcases how you understand the problem and how you can lead them to a logical conclusion

Even Short Stories Sell

The good news is narratives don’t have to be movie-length to work. If you’ve done the research about your client and mapped out your narrative, you can create an engaging hero’s journey based on the common Freytag or Hero’s Journey model in under a minute.

And if that minute sticks in your target’s mind like the plot of Star Wars, you’re talking about a heroic boost to reponses, conversions, and sales.

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5 Types of Talk Triggers to Get People Talking About You

Every marketer’s dream is to turn their customers into brand ambassadors—or, at least, it should be!

Brand ambassadors, or customer advocates, are walking, talking advertisements, who are free of charge. They provide the highest quality leads for one simple reason: authenticity. Think about it. Are you more likely to make a purchase based on an advertisement or a product review? What about a recommendation from a peer?

You guessed it: 62% of consumers search for online reviews before making a purchase and 90% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends.

And according to Jay Baer, co-author of the book Talk Triggers, in his interview with Tyler Lessard on the Creating Connections Podcast, these personal recommendations matter even more in the B2B world, where 90% of purchase decisions are influenced by word-of-mouth.

5 Types of Talk Triggers to Get People Talking About You 1

But customer advocates and word-of-mouth marketing can’t be bought. If you want customers to participate in brand advocacy, you have to give them something to talk about.

What is a Talk Trigger?

In their book, Talk Triggers: The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth, Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin define a talk trigger as “any specific operational choice that inspires conversation.” Basically, talk triggers are actions that prompt word of mouth marketing. Any business can do it, but it’s only effective if executed correctly.

Every company is expected to provide a product or service that is sufficient. But as Baer says, “competency isn’t remarkable” and it doesn’t create conversations. On the flip side, surprising and delighting your customers with a one-time event can be good, but gimmicks only get you so far. Consistency is better, and that’s where talk triggers come in.

A talk trigger is an authentic, and consistent operational choice that will keep customers talking, and coming back.

To illustrate what a talk trigger might look like and how you can create your own, the authors break them down into five categories.

5 Types of Talk Triggers

1. Talkable Empathy

Many new businesses are ditching brick and mortar and going straight to eCommerce, among them are bed-in-a-box retailers. Canadian vendor Endy burst onto the scene with seemingly instant popularity, thanks to its customer empathy.

Endy knows their customers: They lead busy lives, many of them live in condos, and they want to buy risk-free. In response, Endy offers online shopping, affordable pricing, front door delivery service, and small packaging in order to easily fit large mattresses into elevators and small apartment entryways.

Their website is optimized with easy-to-access information and videos covering FAQS. And if a customer doesn’t like their mattress, the company will come to take it back within a 100 night trial period. Their talk trigger is a friction-free buying experience. It doesn’t get more empathetic than that.

a man and woman sit on an Endy mattress

Image via Endy    

2. Talkable Usefulness

In an effort to recover business in 1946, following the end of World War II, the American convenience store chain “Tote’m” extended their hours from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. At the time, these hours of operation were unprecedented. Finally, Americans could buy household items outside of traditional work hours!

The convenience of a store being open late became the talk trigger for what eventually became, you guessed it, 7-Eleven. And although their current talk trigger is probably the Big Gulps, the initial operational choice of holding extended hours put the “convenience” in “convenience store.”

Children drinking fountain drinks outside of a 7Eleven store

Image via 7Eleven

3. Talkable Generosity

TOMS shoes started out by donating a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair purchased. This “one for one” policy quickly became an effective talk trigger, because TOMS aligned their company values with those of their consumers. It’s easy for consumers to buy into a brand that equates their product with charity while getting more for what they paid for, two pairs of shoes for the price of one.

To this day, TOMS shoes prioritizes charitable efforts and has since expanded their “one for one” program to go beyond shoe donations to include health, education, and community building. Search the hashtag #oneforone on Instagram to see what TOMS customers have to say about it.

A boy skipping rope next to a goat, a group of men in Haiti, a woman in Cambodia

Image via TOMS shoes

4. Talkable Speed

If you know of a pizza place that still guarantees delivery in 30 minutes or less, let me know. The modern-day equivalent of a successful talkable speed trigger is of course, Amazon Prime.

The company changed the game for online shopping with its two-day (and in some places, same day) delivery service, and is currently investing $800 million to increase its base guarantee to one-business-day free delivery.

And while we’re still waiting for drone deliveries to be ubiquitous, it’s undeniable that the speed of Amazon’s delivery service is a successful talk trigger.

an Amazon drone carries a package

Image via Amazon

5. Talkable Attitude

Most of us know MailChimp as an email marketing software company, but more recently, they’ve been making waves as content producers. From Instagram Stories to podcasts, their content offers value to their audience.

Looking at their Instagram feed, you might mistake them for a lifestyle brand and their corporate podcast is more like Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday for business. They recently released a documentary video series called “Second Act” with Vice, featuring people who have quit their careers to pursue a small business. It may not be immediately clear what all this has to do with email marketing, but their brand (and shareable content) is one of the many creative ways MailChimp shows off their personality. It’s uniquely their own and that tends to get people talking.

They stand out from other B2B companies in a way that makes customers want to follow them and brands want to follow in their footsteps. This is talkable attitude done right.

a screenshot of Mailchimp's colorful Instagram feed

Image via Mailchimp

Amplify Talk Triggers with Social Media

Social media is effective at spreading awareness, but it’s not the same thing as word-of-mouth marketing. Rather, it’s one outlet where word-of-mouth marketing thrives.

The interconnectedness and immediacy of social media makes it easier than ever for customer advocates to spread the word about your product or service, but all this talk is only effective if it’s authentic.

Today’s educated buyers won’t be caught dead sharing content that isn’t genuinely valuable. So in order to inspire users to share stories, create images, videos, and even memes about your product, you have to give them some valuable inspiration.

Assuming you already have a solid talk trigger and an even better product, there are a few ways you can encourage word-of-mouth marketing (and user-generated content) through social media.

Go Where Your Audience Lives

Be aware of who your audience is, what types of content they already share, where they share it, and why. Then join the conversation. Use common sense: If your audience lives on LinkedIn, don’t focus your efforts on Instagram. Be active on your chosen social channels to promote brand visibility, repost user-generated content, and be sure to interact with your audience.

Make it an Easy Ask

Don’t expect people to download an app or cut together a movie just for you. They’re doing this for free, after all—it has to be fun for them! Create a hashtag that’s relevant to your product, but is more focused on the customer. Makeup company Glossier did this with their hashtag #glossierIRL. Customers participate by posting photos and videos of themselves wearing Glossier products in real life, sharing their own personal style and interacting with their friends. The branding is an afterthought, making this a small ask that’s fun for the customer.

Provide Inspiration

Take stock of existing user-generated content and feature it on your website or social accounts. This could include text posts, photos, and videos. Create a gallery displaying all the different ways people use your product. Vidyard does this in our Video Inspiration Hub, where we gather creative and effective uses of our platform and put them up for all to see.

Although talk triggers can be promoted on social media, a good talk trigger has the potential to last a lot longer than a blip on a newsfeed. By choosing to do something a little bit different, you have the potential to create a legacy for your business. Just make sure it’s repeatable, consistent, and most of all, genuine. Choose wisely, and get people talking.

To discover more about talk triggers and creating connections, subscribe to the Creating Connections podcast on your favorite podcast platform!

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3321103
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/332ymIg
Stitcher: http://bit.ly/32Z2Yuq
Google Play: http://bit.ly/32Xrzjc

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Want to Maximize Cold Email Intrigue? Show, Don’t Tell

When Tom Dickson first stepped up to the camera, he didn’t just say “We’ve got a great product.” He quietly donned goggles and a lab coat and force-fed seemingly random objects like hockey pucks and crowbars into one of his Blendtec kitchen blenders.

Tom’s a unique individual in that he understands a core principle of attention-grabbing videos: Never tell when you can show.

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If you reach out to prospects through a visual medium like video, it pays to be like Tom. Use visuals to your full advantage and, as I always say, get super meta about your product.

Show, Don’t Tell

Blendtec’s videos have been viewed more than 18 million times on YouTube and all have two things in common: They show—not tell—that Blendtec makes one badass blender, and the thumbnails all crackle with intrigue. Many feature a mysterious person in a lab coat dangling an iPhone over a blender. It makes the audience wonder, he won’t really drop it… will he?

Viewers are hooked before they even press play. You can do this too. If you’ve got something worth showing off, demonstrate it. If the customer recognizes that thing, even better. For example, one of their products.

Hold up something from, for, or about their company in your video (though maybe don’t blend it). Make sure it’s featured in the thumbnail (like Blendtec’s dangling iPhone) so you catch their attention at first glance.

If your prospect sells clothing, wear their shirt. Or hold up a pair of their shoes, and describe how many miles you’ve walked and what you love about them.
Here’s an example from the sales team at League, a healthcare benefits provider, where Brock Arbo holds up a cold can of Ace Hill Beer:

Want to Maximize Cold Email Intrigue? Show, Don’t Tell 3

If the prospect offers a service that can’t really be held on camera, relate to it on a personal level. Don’t just tell them that you love their store—show them why. Get excited. Is the customer service superior? Do you always leave with more items than you meant to purchase, because you’re so drawn to the brand?

The more personal your examples, the better—your prospect will see that you’ve done your homework and you’ll subtly prove that you aren’t just blindly blasting the same message to everybody.

Personalizing and customizing give you major credibility props – which makes it more compelling to respond to you. You’ve already proven you’re not going to waste their time with the “tell me about your business” lameness.

Here’s Brock again, this time tailoring his outreach to a fellow hockey fan:

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To really get meta, tease your prospects with a taste of the service you’ll provide so they can see just how useful, believable, and in this case, flattering, working with you will be. If you offer a review service, give them a positive mock-review. If you offer an AI that reads documents and spits out insights, run it on their company’s public terms of service and show them what it found.

Your outreach is a preview of what it’s like to work with you. Make it memorable. As Vidyard’s own Tyler Lessard once put it, “You can send as many emails as you want about your product, but until prospects actually sees and feels, there’s no ah-ha moment.”

If you can’t get your hands on a product or can’t relate to the service, at least write the prospects logo or name on a whiteboard. If the first thing they see is your face next to a whiteboard with their name, they can see instantly that the video is relevant, and they’re more likely to click.

Pull up their website or their LinkedIn profile and record from that page. Seeing themselves in the thumbnail is irresistible. You have their attention and they will definitely push play and hear your message, see your face, and you have climbed several levels ahead on their learning curve compared to sending a text based email.

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It Sure Beats Text

Could Tom Dickson just have sent a scripted email to a bunch of kitchen suppliers hoping to sell them on Blendtec? Sure. But by making visually enchanting videos, he proved how much he believes in his product, and ensured that his viewers saw it for themselves instead of taking his word for it. So can you.

To maximize your outbound email intrigue, remember: Never tell when you can show, and get super meta.

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