Effective storytelling via video

By Chris Zecco
August 27, 2021

Effective storytelling via video

Great videos begin with a great story.

Losing ourselves in a good story seems to be part of our human DNA. For thousands of years—since cave dwellers painted colorful storylines on rock walls—our imaginations have yearned to be engaged and taken on a journey. A good story can activate different parts of the brain in ways a spec sheet simply can’t.

In this article, we’ll explore how to use the power of story to write effective marketing scripts and how to turn that into an equally effective marketing video.

How to get the information you need

For companies that create marketing videos for clients, one of the big challenges is extracting the right information needed to create an effective storyline. In technology marketing, the subject matter experts (SMEs) often provide the equivalent of a product spec sheet (e.g., “Our new server is a 2-core workstation with two 10,000 rpm HDDs, a 2843 graphics card and 4GB of memory”).

While all of that is true, it’s difficult to build a story on because it doesn’t tell you how the product benefits the customer.

One way a script writer can extract the right information from SMEs is to ask scenario-type questions from a user’s perspective. For instance, “Suppose I’m on the IT team that just bought your server. How is my job different? What can I do now that I couldn’t do before? And how does the user’s experience change?”

Your goal is to try to turn as many of the features mentioned into tangible benefits for the customer. If grilling your SME is outside your comfort zone, you may be able to find the hidden benefits behind those specs through internet research. Or maybe there is another SME available who has a sales and marketing background and speaks the customer’s language.

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When you’re ready to write (or, The science of storytelling)

You might think that a video’s appeal is purely a function of your personal interests, but there’s actually a much broader science to it. Just as a hit song requires a catchy chorus, a good story requires three basic elements.

These three elements have been proven to consistently create comfort and trust in the reader. Here’s how you can use them to write a great story-based marketing script.

Step 1: Share a pain point.

Pain unites us. (Remember that scene in Jaws where the guys on the boat are comparing scars?) In this step, a common pain point is used to provide a way for customers to relate to you. This could be an individual sharing a personal problem they have or a business struggling with something that is limiting their productivity. Here are some tips for applying this formula:

  • Choose a pain point with broad appeal to your target audience, and use it to establish common ground. For example, if you are selling IT hardware, the pain point could be the expense and aggravation associated with maintaining older infrastructure.
  • Focus on one or two pain points per story. If you try to cast too wide a net, your message will get diluted and lose its effectiveness.
  • If you don’t have a tangible pain point, consider using a painful event that might happen unless the customer takes preventive action. For instance, “At its peak, COVID-19 shut down over 70% of small businesses in the U.S. Is your business prepared for the next major crisis?”
  • The magic words are “you” and “your.” Speak directly to the consumer. That instantly makes them a character in the story and engages them. “We” and “ours” are connecting words. For example, “Don’t you hate it when your screen freezes during an important Zoom call? So did we.”
  • Get to your point quickly. Studies indicate that marketers have just 10 seconds to capture and engage an audience before they click away—and the majority of those who stay are gone after two minutes.

Step 2: Tell how you overcame the pain point (or challenge).

Describe how the product or service helped you overcome the problem. Where relevant, boast about its being easy, fast, inexpensive, etc. Use the connection you established with the customer to imply that this solution will work for them as well as it worked for you. (This is a good time to introduce your brand and logo to make a positive association with the audience.) Again, keep this section brief and make your points quickly.

Step 3: Explain the benefits you gained by taking that action.

This final section is where most of your content should be. Provide your audience with all of the relevant benefits you’ve received by using the product/service. Include immediate benefits, long-term benefits, and any potential side benefits. Tell them how it improved your life, your job, or your business. Whenever possible, use statistics to support your claims. For example: “Installing Such-n-Such software in our business decreased customer wait times by nearly 50%, increased orders by 25%, and even improved employee morale because they are dealing with happier, better-informed customers.”

Your goal here is to lead the customer to your call to action (CTA)—a single action that you want them to take after watching the video. For example: Visit this web site, share this video, subscribe to our channel, like us on Facebook, etc. For best results, keep it simple and provide only a single option here.

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From story to video

Adapting a good story into an effective video combines the customer’s vision, the video editor’s creativity, and—of course—the deadline. Just as the script writer has to extract product benefits from the SME, the videographer has to gather all the details they need to fulfill the client’s vision so they can begin storyboarding the video.

Like the script writer, video editors have a very short time window to get the audience hooked. One way to accomplish that is to start “fast and hot” with action-based elements that portray their audience’s pain. Beyond that, they have to visually interpret the script, provide motion sequences that support it, and bring clarity to it.

Most marketing videos are under two minutes, so they also have to decide what to show and what to leave to the viewer’s imagination. In many ways, these are the same decisions made when assembling a full-length movie.

Good copywriting is good storytelling.

Accentuating the storytelling aspect of copywriting is not anything new, and good marketing has always taken the buyer on a journey toward a better and easier way of doing things. When properly done, adapting that journey to video provides critical visual emphasis that adds energy and entertainment value. In fact, research estimates that 80–85% of our perception, learning, cognition, and activities are received visually. This is why video is such a powerful medium for conveying information, and when built on the foundation of a great story, the combination of imagination and imagery will always make an impact on customers.

If you aren’t already using video as a key component of your marketing strategy, or aren’t convinced of its effectiveness, read these three reasons you can’t afford to overlook video marketing.