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.
I’m actually teaching people how to get better results by doing less and also talking about podcasting which is what we’re doing here, which I’m a huge, huge believer in. So knowing all of that, does that somehow answer your question?
Ryan: It does because I think it really crystallizes this idea that I always focus on when coming up with a concept of a film which is and it would be the same in when you were selling in the automotive industry: the reason people say that they buy and the reason why they really buy. And often, the reason that they give is very logical and sensible and it’s not something that they’ve really thought about and then when you go deeper, you can actually uncover what the real reason why people buy and it’s often emotional which is in fact…
James: It’s entirely true. The company director buying an SL55 is expressing their.. .expressing themselves, in an extended way they’re saying, well they’re saying, this is my values. This is the power I have.
This is what I’m doing to show everyone around me that I’ve made it. This is what I’m doing to remain attractive to my girlfriend, wife, partner or whatever. This is how I’m showing to people in the office that they could aspire just to be like me so they should work harder.
So there’s a lot of stuff going on in an emotional level that’s more than just numbers. I mean you don’t pay $400,000 for metal, plastic and rubber and glass. You pay for what that represents and what that delivers you and the way it makes you feel.
What Makes A Video Successful
Ryan: Yeah so this is the thing that’s going to make the video successful is to identify what those underlying drivers are because often, you put a question to people you talk about saving time or saving money or being more efficient, learning how to do more. And when you dig deeper it might be like if I think about my motivations for getting into the plane or getting to a conference, of course I want to learn things but I want to have an experience you know, I want to meet people.
I want to get distance and reflect on what I’m doing. I’ll start thinking about being in Manly in summer time and then some of those other lifestyle experiences become very attractive as well and those are kind of like the root. The key thing that is actually going to drive actions. So it’s vital to kind of identify what that is.
So for example, I’m working on a video at the moment which is promoting an outsourced IT solution for school so it enables schools to go do a lot of their admin work. And when I first asked them about why they would use a service like this, people say, well, it saved me time or it saved me money which is true. And then once I really dug in deep and I identified that they’re feeling really overwhelmed.
James: Yeah, I think a lot of people hate their life and the sort of stuff that we do online is a possible scenario that could give them a huge deviation. I mean to some extent, you coming to FastWebFormula 3 was a big pivotal point in your life, would you say?
Ryan: It was an absolutely transformative…
James: So I need to take that case study, that user study of someone who came to the event not really knowing so much about the Internet space, embracing it with both hands and hanging on tight and having a completely different life for a couple of years down the track, completely different scenario. That’s why I need to tell that story. So I’ve got to work on the challenges that Ryan two years ago might have been facing in life and in business and try and work my avatar through those challenges, is that what you were saying?
Ryan: That’s right. Because once you do, then you identified these key phrases or moments or emotions that are just common to a lot of people. So, let’s say it’s about people feeling overwhelmed then you can start to clarify what other messages or the triggers that are actually going to drive action. So just going back to this example I‘m giving on a video that I was working on at the moment.
I have these school principals and businessmen who are just feeling really overwhelmed and when they talk about it, you can really see the emotion on their face and see how stressed they actually are. And then when I talk about instituting the solution, you can physically see on their face, you can hear on the tone of their voice the relief that they’re experiencing. So when you film someone and show their before and after, it’s incredibly powerful.
So with an event you know, if you can film me talking about what it was like running my business prior to coming to FastWebFormula 3, some of the challenges that I was having or some of the things I didn’t realize that I had. And then the after: What I learned and importantly how that affected me emotionally so there might be key things like people saying I felt relieved. It’s like a weight have been lifted from me. Basically work at what those key phrases are. That are going to drive action and that’s what’s going to get into the video.
James: Got you. So the triggers.
Ryan: Yeah, and then it’s just a matter of deciding who’s actually going to be in the video. Is it going to be you? Is it going to be client stories? You know perhaps it’s going to be both so at that stage it’s a matter of working out who is going to be the most powerful way to tell a story and that’s really going to depend on what you want to achieve and the ability of the business owner to really articulate it.
I think that client testimonials or case studies are incredibly powerful because if people can relate to their story, they can see themselves in that situation then that’s an incredible amount of proof. So you’ve now basically got a structure for the video. You know who’s going to be in the video and you know what the messages are that are going to drive action. So the next stage is to actually set up the interview and what’s going to determine the success of the interview is the rapport that you build with the interviewee before you actually do it.
Establishing Credibility and Trust
Ryan: So I’ll tell you a little bit about how I go through that process when I set up an interview with people. Of course if you already know them and have a relationship with them, that’s great but often it’s a matter of establishing credibility and trust and showing people that I know what I’m doing. And also I have their best interest at heart. That I think this is like the news or current affairs style-ambush that they know that I’m going to make them look good so I always make sure that I spend time speaking to people either on the phone or at least by email before we actually do the interview.
And what I actually do is I actually got a short video that I send to people. Just to give them a little bit of background or context because often being interviewed is quite intimidating for people, you know. They can feel quite scared or overwhelmed. There’s a few people who love it but for most part, it can really make people nervous.
Just explain to them how the process works. The fact that you might record a 20-minute interview but you’re only going to use one minute so there’s a lot of education that actually needs to go on. People just need to feel reassured that they’re working with someone that they trust. Things like when they make a mistake in an interview they can do it again.
So it’s basically my job as the interviewee to help people to bring their best self to the interview. So you can see that we haven’t even started rolling yet but there’s so much work that’s already been done before we start and that’s actually what’s going to determine the success of the video; it’s all that planning.
James: Well I was thinking back just a little while ago, you’re saying how the documentary stories aren’t scripted like a sales video where the salespeople are looking to the camera. Those things, you know they’re looking at a teleprompter. You know that the copywriter’s written a word for word transcription. Here, it’s kind of like you’re puppeteer with invisible strings and you’re trying to help that subject especially if it’s non-sales presenter, non-salesperson.
Maybe a customer just trying to tell their stories. It’s like you’ve got to do this horse whispering sort of thing. To have them working in a way that comes across that doesn’t make them look terrible.
I know you and I have reviewed some videos with novices where they’re doing body language signals that show nerves or that sort of lead you to feel that maybe you can’t trust what they’re saying or whatever. I guess you have to pick your moment out of all that footage.
Ryan: Yeah I really like that metaphor because when you look at like, the history of documentary making in the 60s when cameras first became portable and people would go out in the streets and film real people stories. In America, it was called direct cinema. They kind of have this dream or ambition that they could capture reality in its pure form. In France at the same time, it was called cinéma vérité and their idea was slightly different.
It was that by bringing the camera into a situation, if you do it in the right way you can actually spark like a deeper reality or a deeper truth. And I think that’s actually much more realistic because bringing a camera and filming someone is going to change them. It’s important you know, let’s be honest. We’re not just passive participants putting a camera there and letting reality unfold.
We are manipulating it and controlling it that we’re trying to do it in a genuine, authentic way. My documentary teacher years ago talked about this idea of lying with integrity which I think is a really cool concept, you know, because we are manipulating truth. We are changing the order of things. We’re taking bits and pieces of people’s conversation, you know. We are horse whispering…
James: You can go down to Manly beach here and you can make a documentary about why it’s so awesome and I guess you can make one about all negatives you know? Like the sand and your toes and maybe the pollution after it rains and all these sort of stuff. So I guess you do have the ability through that lens to tell the story that you want to tell. As long as there’s some germ of truth to it in the beginning.
Ryan: That’s right. You are the author and people for the most part will pick up if you’re not being genuine. So this is not propaganda. This is not kind of manipulating reality to… look, people can use these tools in a negative way and they can be used to lie so I guess a lot of it is up to the filmmaker to approach it with integrity but I think ultimately, it’s going to be self-selecting because if you don’t, people will sniff you out.
So now that you’ve built rapport with your interviewee, the next step is to actually do the interview. There’s some techniques that you can use just to help people relax like we’ve talked about, but also to get the right content so I like the metaphor that you used. I think of it like a shepherd. The shepherd can’t… you know, the shepherd doesn’t like to take each sheep and direct them.
He kind of like just focuses on the direction and in your mind, you know the sort of content that you’re looking for so you’re going to be asking questions which will elicit the sort of answers. It’s based on the idea that people have a natural desire to tell their story you know. People really want to be understood and heard. That at the same time they’re often scared to make themselves vulnerable.
And it’s our role as interviewers to help people to tell their story, to feel safe and to be a little bit vulnerable because that’s real. People respond to that and what I look for is the sparkle in the eye moment. You know when you’re watching a documentary and you can just see people’s expression. You can see their face come alive and you can see the sparkle in their eye.
It’s very engaging. It really draws you in. People have that experience when they’re being real, do you know what I mean?
The Importance of Authenticity
James: I do. Now, talking about being real… I think there’s this clichèd thing that comes up all the time – authenticity. And as you said, everything is a manipulation anyway right? So, I guess what you’re trying to do is bring the story from that interviewee to the surface, capture it and then you can go away and do your wonders with it and maybe blend it into your B-roll or cutaway. I’d love you to explain that.
Ryan: Well, authenticity is so important because when you look at most businesses, we like to think that our business is really unique and what we do is so different to everyone else and the quality of our work is superior. But the reality is for most businesses that there are other businesses out there who can do the work just as well as you can. So, it’s important to be able to stand out from your competition and I think what really gives you the ability to do that is giving your audience a sense of what it’s actually like to work with you.
You know, what you and your team are like as people and how you approach your work. So that they actually develop a relationship with you through watching your documentaries and that’s why documentary sales videos are so important and to make it work, it’s actually got to be authentic for you to tell your real story because if it’s contrived, if you’re trying to come across as someone that you’re not, then people’s finely-tuned bulls**t detectors will discover that and it’s going to be worthless or it’s going to actually negatively impact what you’re doing.
James: Nice. So, you said before you want to splice these into other, like, I think you said that you want to mix that in, do on a film what happens. So, a B-roll of the surf or a B-roll of people riding bikes or the sun coming up. How do you decide how to mix that stuff in?
Ryan: So, it’s important to go in with the plan of particular shots that you want to get. So for your documentary sales video about your event, you’ve already got those images in your mind of you know, it might be the sunrise, it might be surfing, coffee, the view, those sort of things and you actually make a list which is called a shotlist and you tick those off as you go so you’re actually compiling that footage.
The other thing that’s really important is that with the content that the interviewees give you, that’s going to prompt what your other B-roll or cutaways are. So, it’s important that you are not just working on your original list but you can improvise a little bit and create your shotlist and update it as you get interviews. So when you’re talking to someone, they might be talking about Manly and the surf and you know you’ve got to get that shot or they might be talking about feeling isolated and there’s a particular shot which comes to mind to do that.
So basically, your B-roll is evidence or proof and it helps to tell the story in the visual way because part of the film or the reason that it makes film different to everything else is that it’s visual storytelling. It’s not just about telling, it’s about showing. So it’s important to capture those images which convey your story visually.
James: Nice. OK, so I get this now. So you’re editing it all together. Do you use text captions and stuff?
I noticed they do that in iTunes for movie previews. They put a bit of the video and then they put like a color slide with it, text caption and then they put music and they’re sort of fading in and out. What’s the deal with callouts and stuff?
Using Text to Emphasize Key Points
Ryan: I think you can use text to emphasize key points when you go back to video editing in its purity, something that I learned to do when I was studying filmmaking is watch a film with the sound turned down and are you able to understand the story visually without any sound or voice over or texts telling you what to do? So, if someone watches your video and they get it just by without even having sound, then you’ve got something quite powerful.
At the same time, you can use text to reinforce keywords and you can use voiceover to help tell that story. What I think is the most powerful is actually just having the participants tell the story and a lot of the time you won’t even need text because it’s clear, visually, what’s happening.
James: That’s nice. I have been trying to do that with my live presentations is to just have a picture without a single word on it and to have the picture be an emotional picture that tells a story. One of them is this picture of these little baby turtles that I found in Mexico and the whole concept of this picture is about nurturing your customers and helping them survive so they can grow up to be big turtles. And the story really does come through on just the slide.
I don’t need death by PowerPoint or 67 bullets about customer service. People get it. They understand the concept.
Ryan: I think that’s really cool because the place that a story happens that is most powerful is in your audience’s mind. If you just control the story and you spoon-feed it to them, it’s not nearly as powerful as being evocative and letting them actually finish the idea, finish the story and make it personal, and this is something that you’ve talked about in a sales process as well. So, you’re not just telling people what to do or giving them the information, you are helping them make those links themselves.
James: Yeah and I’ve started reading more about this stuff like Joseph Campbell, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” which is pretty tough going but it’s fascinating how all the stories pretty much seem to be the same.
Ryan: It’s not a very easy book to read but I think the main thing that I got from there is when you look at the history of civilization and our cultures, there’s some key stories which are told over and over again. And so the idea is that these stories are basically hardwired into the way humans tell stories and share information. And so if you look at different biblical texts from different religions or fables or children’s stories, they often follow the same structure.
And, George Lucas was very interested in the stuff and you can look at a lot of Hollywood movies which basically follow that same structure. So when you tell a story that has that structure, it’s familiar to people. They understand the context.
The hero’s journey is that classic story which really relates to business because it’s this idea of the individual who was in their normal world and then they’re struck by a challenge and they basically need to leave their normal world and go on a journey and go through trials and tribulations and receive knowledge to once again return with new knowledge and new power to help them grow and to help the people around them. So, it’s a wonderful model and that’s why a lot of people use it.
James: I went to the movies with my kids and we watched “Turbo” and it had the same story. I highlighted to them before we went in, I said “This is what I reckon is going to happen with Turbo.” And we went in there and it was exactly that story and my kids were like “Yeah dad, that’s right.” I’m like, “Well, you know, all of the cartoons have pretty much the same story.”
And it’s really interesting when you connect that to what we’re talking about here, you should have a recipe for success. So, I hear you put terms like “color grading” and “sweeten the sound” and stuff. This is where you’re just optimizing the finished product, like polishing it, is that right?
The Hero’s Journey
Ryan: Yeah, those are the final stages of the editing. And I think one more point I want to make about this hero journey or story structure is that the ideal is to tell a story that has a familiar structure to people that they understand but within that, there are surprises. So, you set expectations and then maybe break them in a small way and that gets people excited.
So, it’s like the blues you know. Music has a very strict structure but then, a good blues artist will follow the structure and then just do something literally you don’t quite expect and so you go “Oh! That’s nice. I like that.” So being able to improvise within a strict structure is what’s going to be most important.
So, in the actual editing, I guess a bit of the formula that I can share with people, it sounds a bit obvious but basically you’ve got to lead with your best stuff. So to give a very simple recipe, take your very, very best shot or best bit of interview and put that at the beginning because you don’t have very long to grab people’s attention and then take your second best bit and put it at the end because you want to finish with something really strong. And that to me, is actually the best way to start.
Then, within that, you’ve got your story so you need to just clarify what the rhythm of the video is going to be. Do you want to start off in a big with fast music and fast cutting and really grab people’s attention? Or do you want it to build slowly?
So for instance, your event promotional video might start off really slow. We see the view across Manly, the sun slowly rising, some gentle music, surfers coming out. On the other hand you could go a completely way and you could just throw people right into the deep end with excitement and then break it down and build it back up again. Almost like the structure of a pop song.
The Beauty of Editing
James: Right, so this is where the artist comes in right?
Ryan: Yeah, and this is the beauty of editing. It’s that you can try so many different ways. We call it non-linear editing because there’s many different parts that you can go down and experiment and that’s what I always encourage my editors – to sort of think of themselves as mad scientists and try different experiments and see what works because until recently, an editor would be someone who would physically cut film and stuck it together so it would take a long time and you’d lose a frame each time you did that.
It would be a bit of a hassle. But with editing programs now, you can really try out different things and show it to people and see the effect that it has. So once you’ve edited your videos, then that’s when we get to things like color grading and sound mixing and all that sort of stuff and that’s the polish. That’s like if you build a house that’s the finishings.
And you know, if you walk into a newly built house, you immediately get a feel of what it’s like. Is this something that a builder has hastily thrown together and tried to keep costs as little as possible? You can sort of feel them. You can also walk into a place that’s being lovingly finished off and it’s just got that good vibe.
So, it’s important for you to decide at the end of the video how polished you want it to be and that’s always the challenge with a video is that time you spend versus the reward that you get because editing a film never ends, there’s no finishing.
James: There is some diminishing returns maybe where it’s like Stanley Kubrick might have been on the outer limit of that.
Ryan: Yeah that’s right. It’s probably not, you know, no real place for perfectionists.
James: So you have Woody Allen on one side and Stanley Kubrick on the other. Woody will take the first shot he can get and then pack it up so he can go and play his flute and then you’ve got Stanley who’ll make like 50 versions of the same scene just to obsessively work on it. And then there’s somewhere in the middle probably most other people.
Ryan: Yeah that’s right. There’s a, I don’t know who said it, “a film is never finished, it’s abandoned.” At some point, you just go “let’s put this out into the world and let it happen.” So, it’s one of those art forms where there is a lot of compromise particularly in a commercial process but that’s what being in business is about.
It’s about identifying what’s that point that you get to. Is it 90 percent, is it 97 percent? Where it’s just not worth investing any further time and that’s up to each person to decide what that point is.
James: OK, so we’ve done this video, we’ve basically come up with this idea of what we want to do, we’ve figured out that it’s the right style, we’re clear on who it’s for, we’ve figured out their challenge, we know what their triggers are, we’ve wheeled in some people, we’ve taken some stock shots and B-rolls, we’ve put it all together, we’ve cut it up, we’ve edited it, sweetened it and everything, we’ve put it out there, how do we track the results of this?
Biggest Mistake People Making Videos Make
Ryan: So one of the biggest mistakes that I see people making is they don’t make a video with a clear strategy on how they’re going to distribute it. They might just come in saying, “We need a video for the homepage of our website” and there’s no clear idea of how it’s going to be used, how the video is going to be shared and knowing whether it’s successful.
So, I know that you love Wistia, you introduced me to it originally and Wistia is a video hosting platform that’s really powerful because it gives you very, very detailed analytics so you can actually track all sorts of things like how much the video is watched and even on an individual level as you know, who’s watched it, what parts have they watched, had they rewatched different sections and this is giving you really useful information.
So the importance of tracking a video is basically you can answer things like… the video contains a call to action at the end. It’s important at the end to encourage people to do something like, “make a phone call” or “click here to buy” or whatever that action is. Your Wistia stats will tell you how many people are not even getting to the call to action so you can decide, once you’re getting some information, do we need to bring the call to action sooner because not enough people are actually getting it?
The other thing that getting these stats is really useful for is for your sales department so you can actually, if you do a video campaign of a number of videos, you can start to lead score so you can start to get an idea of, on an individual level, who’s watching what videos and what they’re particularly interested in. So when a salesperson contacts a prospect, they’ve actually got some useful information.
They can have a relevant conversation about what that person is interested in and importantly, the salesperson is following up at the right time. So they may well be, what they should be doing is following up once the person has watched the video so it’s fresh in mind.
James: And we can have our software trigger a response to us to say “call this customer” based on they’ve watched a certain percentage using Fuzed app from our mate Jake.
Ryan: That’s right. Using Fuzed app with Infusionsoft or Ontraport so automated email programs means that you can start to think about your videos less as like a one-off video and more as a sequence of events and then trigger actions based on the actions that your audience takes. So, if they watch the whole video, you can move them to the next phase. If they don’t, you can remind them that the video is still there or if they only watch half of the video, that might trigger a different action.
So you’re actually taking people through a bit of like a “choose your own adventure” but you’re choosing it for them, kind of based on the actions that they take which is essentially warming up the sale. And in my business for instance, at the point when it’s time to make a phone call, I can have a conversation with a prospect that is appropriate, that is about what they’re interested in and it’s timely.
James: Yeah, and this is great and it’s working well for solicitors, it’s working well for car dealers, it’s working well for athletes, it’s working well for coaching programs. I just think this is just going to be huge. If someone wanted to commission you to do one of these stories, where would they go?
Ryan: Visit my website which is Dreamengine.com.au. There’s a lot of resources on the website where you can learn more about documentary sales videos and you can view some of the videos that we’ve done already. That will be the best place to start.
James: Yup, there you go. And I have hired Ryan myself so I’m a huge fan of the work that he’s doing so I just want to say thanks for coming along and sharing this.
Now, I’m going to have a go at putting some video together on my live event page that will be at FWF5.com. At the moment, there’s a little documentary on there about FastWebFormula which is just sort of a teaser but I will be putting out a little documentary about the event. At some point, you might want to go along and check it out, I guess it’s worth mentioning.
I do hope to see you at FastWebFormula 5, live in March, Sydney, the 20th, 21st 2014. Wow! The years are coming through quickly. Ryan, thank you so much for sharing these concepts and I know that you’ll be around to answer questions if someone wants to ask a question, please comment right near this podcast on SuperFastBusiness.com. Thank you so much for coming along today.
Ryan: Absolutely, James! Thank you so much for the chance to come talk to you on the podcast. I love talking about this stuff so that was awesome.
James: The passion is obvious, thanks Ryan.
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