When we see or hear stories that we can relate to, the emotions that we feel often influence the decisions that we make. In this episode of our ongoing interview series, James and Ryan talk about the moving power of documentaries and share some guidelines on how to create your very own documentary sales video.
01:55 – What is a documentary sales video?
03:42 – How does it work?
06:11 – Switching to documentary sales mode
09:11 – Tapping into natural human response
11:10 – Building your documentary framework
13:41 – Is a documentary video appropriate?
14:55 – Identify your audience
16:55 – What problem are you solving?
23:28 – Who should be in the video?
24:05 – Set up the interview
26:00 – Capturing the authenticity
29:10 – Doing the interview
30:57 – The importance of authenticity
32:07 – Make a shotlist
33:53 – Are texts important?
35:39 – Allow your audience to imagine the story
38:02 – Polishing the finished product
42:36 – How to track the results
46:18 – Where can you contact Ryan?
Documentaries replicate real-life emotions. [Click To Tweet].
Your emotions influence the decisions you make. [Click To Tweet].
We often respond to people and stories we relate to. [Click To Tweet].
People crave authenticity. [Click To Tweet].
Creating a documentary is like lying with integrity. [Click To Tweet].
People have a natural desire to tell their story. [Click To Tweet].
The mind is the most powerful place for a story to happen. [Click To Tweet].
A film is never finished, it’s just abandoned. [Click To Tweet].
James Schramko here. Welcome back to SuperFastBusiness. I really appreciate you listening in to this podcast and I’m always interested in getting your feedback so be sure to comment if you enjoy this.
I bring these stories to you because I’m really interested in you growing your business and I love to report on what’s working in my business. Now today we’re going to develop this concept that we’ve been talking about quite a bit and that is bringing stories and documentaries into your marketing.
In a world where there’s a lot of sales skepticism, where there’s a lot of cheesy commercials and in some cultures perhaps the UK market, the Australian market where we’re not so hype-driven, where we’re not so celebrity endorsement-driven as other markets, perhaps the North American market, I think the real stealth weapon, the real way to move someone, to get a message across these days is to make story-based documentary videos and put to them on your website and to make them the feature or the heart of your marketing message and to let that do your heavy lifting.
So to get this concept locked in from a professional and educational point of view, I’ve called upon one of my repeat guests here, Ryan Spanger from Dream Engine. Welcome.
Ryan: Thank you, James. Great to be here with you on a podcast.
Documentary Sales Video
James: We’ve talked about filmmaking before. We’ve talked about director’s eye and framing shots and audio and video and lighting technology. Now we’re going to take it to the next stage where we talk about why we like documentaries.
What sort of projects we’ve been working on and what sort of impact they’ve had because I know that there’s been a number of projects that both you and I have worked on recently that we’ve seen tremendous results from. So I think we should firstly, just define what are we talking about when we’re talking about a documentary sales video?
Ryan: OK, absolutely. And yeah we’ve covered the technical side of how to make a video and we’re going to talk more about the storytelling side. So yeah what is a documentary sales video? It’s basically a hybrid of a documentary that people are familiar with TV and film and the traditional Internet marketing-style videos that your listeners would have seen a lot of.
So with that traditional sales video, basically you have one guy looking at the camera it’s often shot with a webcam, often with bad lighting and sound and it’s very salesy. It’s pretty much a hard sell type of video. And only these videos still work. They obviously do or people won’t make them.
But I think audiences are becoming more cynical about this sort of style. Like you mentioned in an introduction, the traditional hard sell just isn’t working as well. And so now with the rise of content marketing and social media, it’s obvious that audiences are more interested in information, stories, having a dialogue and much more into being real. So there’s a new style of storytelling now which is documentary sales videos.
How Documentary Sales Videos Work
James: So how does it actually work?
Ryan: Well there’s some big differences with the documentary sales videos and the traditional videos and kind of one of the first things is that in documentary sales videos, the person on the video is actually looking to the side of the camera rather than directly to the camera so less confrontational. They’re more about storytelling and less about hard and fast facts so they’re much more about emotion. And the other important thing is that they’re much more natural rather than scripted.
So the whole idea in a documentary sales video is capturing a story: either the story of the business owner or a stories of people who have used the product or service and capturing those stories in a natural, uncontrived sort of way so I think the way that they work is that they work just like a real-life interaction.
So what sort of the main things people do when they’re researching to make a purchase? They speak to friends or associates. You know, people who they consider to be experts and whose opinion they trust and people who they empathize with and relate to. For instance, when I was looking at subscribing to an online software like Infusionsoft, for example.
I spoke to my friend Steve because I relate to him. He’s got a service business just like me and we talked about the challenges that we had in the business of systematically following up people. And as we talked about it, I really relate it to this sense of overwhelm of when things get busy. And I could see the relief on his face when he’s talking about how his software has made his life easier and less stressful so there’s two things going on.
One is I’m getting recommendation from someone whose opinion I really respect and then even more importantly there’s this emotional connection or empathy taking place. And documentary sales videos basically replicate that same process so we like to think of ourselves as being logical or rational but when it comes down to it, we’re deeply emotional, sensitive and often highly irrational and we make decisions based on emotions. Maybe we’re trying to fulfill a desire or scratch an itch or ward off fear.
So the documentary sales video is basically mimicking that same real-life interaction by putting it into a film.
James: Right, so let’s talk about some specific examples. I think that would be really helpful to put some definition on this. I want to talk about one that we did. We actually did this joint venture where my lawyer client who’s not really allowed to advertise because of the type of law they practice.
We thought that it would be a good idea to make a video that explains the emotion behind why they chose to do their profession. Now you actually film that and put it together. I’m going to ask you in a little bit what sort of steps you would go through to create something like that.
But I’d love to hear from you: What was the overall picture when I described to you what we’re trying to achieve? How do you sort of switch into documentary sales mode?
Ryan: OK, so we started off with the situation where there were videos there already. There were short videos about the participants on the website, introducing themselves and talking about what they do. So these were scripted videos with the people basically looking into the camera. It’s not that easy to do unless you’re an actor.
It sort of looks like people are reading, it just doesn’t sound natural. So the idea was to transform the video approach from this one person speaking to the camera to a group of people together telling a story so that’s the first step. I’ve basically created a structure where I take people through step by step and that’s something that we can go through on the call today.
What I’d like to do before we go through that is just give a little bit more context about documentary sales videos and how they work and then we can actually work through step by step and use that as a case study.
Documentary-style Sales Piece
James: Yeah. I’m also wondering if you would use the same process for the other ones that we’ve talked about in the past. I have another customer where we wanted the same message but it was an automotive dealer and I wanted to break down this fear and confrontation that goes on with dealing with car salesperson. I also know that you’ve been involved with the ones in the athletics market and I’m not sure how much you can talk about that but I have been previewed to the conversion results on that.
I know that they’re very, very happy with the results from that as opposed to a traditional sales approach. So we’ve got these sort of example after example. In my own case, on SilverCircle.com, we have a documentary-style sales piece that leads people to watch a video where I ask them to apply.
Since that’s gone up, I’ve had a steady stream of applicants coming in every single month. Even though I might be travelling, I have more people applying to join now consistently than before when I just had a “me talking to the camera” sort of video. So, I’m a big convert on it based on my statistical evidence that I’ve seen. So why don’t you just give us some more context and then step us through about how you go about putting these things together.
Ryan: OK, It’s pretty much based on the idea that people respond to stories that they relate to and people that they actually relate to, situations that they find familiar. We were talking about the idea about having a scripted video which of course can work in some context but often when non-actors do that, it can come across as quite wooden and contrived. So they generally don’t have the same power. You’d have to have people who are really good actors and you know, a masterfully written script.
Generally, those videos are looked at by audience as being artificial and contrived. And it’s hard for audiences to drop this suspension of disbelief and really drop in and give themselves to the video and to make something like that work, you really have to spend a lot of money but with a documentary, it can be more gritty. It can be more sort of quick and dirty, rough around the edges. In some ways, it can actually add to its charm and to its authenticity.
So my philosophy is why make a pale imitation of nature when nature’s actually available to you because you can actually, in many ways, out-Hollywood Hollywood. Because like I was saying, people just have this highly attuned nose that will just sniff out fakeness and people crave authenticity. Our society is so bombarded with these you know contrived marketing messages and we’ve become so media literate and cynical about advertising that we have our guard up.
So what documentary sales videos do is they share these real stories and real situations – things that have actually happened so you can’t dispel or dismiss that. And if these stories are well told, they really make an impact and affect people.
Framework for the Documentary
James: Nice! OK, so give us a framework we can work with if we want to be putting these out there. And I’m doing this… I’m actually going to make a little one around my live event. I’ve got Fast Web Formula 5 quickly approaching in March the 20th and the 21st, Sydney. It’s going to be on the beach here at Manly so I’m thinking I’m going to incorporate some lifestyle elements.
It’s important that people know when they come to my event that they would be also able to do things like ride bicycles, surf, play beach volleyball, walk the Foreshore here, experience amazing coffee, food, oh! and they’ll learn about business and marketing right? It’s such a healthy living thing. A little documentary around this event is in on my work in progress board. So I’d love to get a framework that I could use here that I would be able to put up on my whiteboard and tick the boxes.
Ryan: Absolutely! Well let’s go through that. So the important thing to focus on is a documentary sales video is basically a story and there’s different ways of doing it. They can be purely observational so you can actually just film what happens.
So for example it might be say, how a product gets made. Or it might be a previous event where you just capture the images and stories.
You know what I really like to do in a documentary is to mix that observational footage which is also called B-roll or cutaways with interviews. I really like interview format. I just think it’s so powerful. It’s first person, it’s direct and you’re not only hearing people’s stories but you’re getting the sense of who the people are and what they’re actually like.
The SuperFastBusiness Live Event
James: Will I be able to interview myself off-camera?
Ryan: You could interview yourself, you could have someone who could interview you. Essentially it’s the next best thing to meeting someone face to face. So let’s talk about the upcoming event. And you’re talking about the idea of capturing not only the experiences people have at the conference but all of the events around it.
Giving them a clear picture of everything that they’re going to actually enjoy, you know. Make it help-able. Use music. Capture different times of the day to show what the light is like you know, capture the atmosphere. Really paint a picture for people.
The step by step process that I use to do is, the first question is really to actually ask yourself: Is documentary style the correct format to use? Because there’s a lot of different ways of approaching marketing and it’s important to match the right style with what you’re trying to do. So like film and video, usually there’s one of two things: It can take you out of reality, you know like a blockbuster film, it’s escapism.
People love going to the movies for that reason. They want to escape their reality and their problems and be entertained. And the other thing that video does is it takes you the opposite way – deeper into reality. And this something that news and current affairs shows sort of mean to do but they don’t always succeed.
But the documentary format is good if you have an immediate challenge or problem that you want to solve. You’re not looking for escapism, you’re looking for a solution for the right service or product. That’s when documentary and authenticity is really powerful.
Step 1 – Decide
Ryan: So the first step is to decide: Is documentary-style video the right format? So for your event, if you want to give people the feeling of what it’s like to be there and they’re approaching with particular challenges, then it sounds like it could be just the right format.
Step 2 – Know Your Audience
Ryan: So, step two, is about really being clear on who the audience is. And a good way to do this is to create an avatar of your audience which is basically a representation of your typical audience. I won’t go into this too much because I think most of your audience has a pretty good idea about how this process works.
But it’s about before you start getting into the film, really clarifying what the actual challenge is of your audience and to really be able to articulate how you can help solve it. So, you know, for example in my business, a large demographic that contact me are people who work in marketing and communications departments; often women, often between ages 30 to 40. So it’s really important to get a clear picture of that before you actually move forward. So that’s the second step, it’s clarifying who the audience is.
Step 3 – Know What Challenges Your Audience
Ryan: And step 3 is about clarifying what their challenge is, you know, what problem they’re actually trying to solve. So we talked about that before. So with your event, if you ask people rationally why they’re coming to your event, what would be the typical sort of answers that they can give?
James: Well you see the thing is, this is where I’m really interested in how I would go about this. For a lot of them I would have seen or heard, they might say something like: Well, why bother coming to the event because I could ask you in the forum or ask what could you possibly have that’s new? Well the answer is, I’m always innovating so there’s always something new.
But what I really like to do, this is the thing: as I’m riding my bike or as I’m walking around the point watching the surf break, or as I’m out in the water, watching the sun come up while I’m in the surfboard, while I’m drinking coffee, you know smelling that fresh ocean air, I actually think, if people could live like I live, they would be so motivated. They would be so inspired they would start to feel passionate about their work.
When I’m doing something like this, recording a podcast, looking out of the Pacific Ocean, I feel alive, I feel charged and I’d love to somehow convey that because I think people… my image of someone or the typical person is, they’re probably lacking sleep. They’re up late at night in their computer. They’re frustrated as hell.
They’re trying to figure this stuff out. They haven’t got much leverage under their belt. They probably don’t have a big team, if at all. They’re more than likely got an inbox exploding with the latest $2000 offer and these all seems like just a little bit too much effort, a little bit too much expense just to get on the plane and come here.
But I want to say that’s exactly what they need to do to see how else you could live your life and how to be inspired by that and to have such a transformation that they would go home and do what it takes to get the result they need to get, especially with that blueprint that I’m going to lay out for them at the event because we’re focusing on conversions. We’re focusing on leverage. We’re focusing on profit.