I used to play this board game called Othello as a kid. I think it’s sometimes called Reversi. Maybe you know it
The saying printed on the box was “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master.” This tagline unduly annoyed me because at the age of eight, I felt I had definitely mastered the game. Nonetheless, this is the phrase that frequently jumps to my mind when I consider cold emails.
Cold emails take just a moment to learn, in terms of what they are and how to execute them. But they truly require a lifetime of constant optimizing and tinkering to master. Now I’d like to offer you another way to improve your cold emails: personalized videos.
Reps who use video in their emails (not just their cold emails, but their whole funnel of emails) see an 8x higher open-to-reply rate! Prospects find personalized videos very engaging for a variety of reasons, among them:
- Video creates a person-to-person connection (as opposed to person-to-written-word).
- Video allows the salesperson to easily convey information graphically that would have otherwise taken paragraphs of wording to explain.
- Video, at the moment anyway, is rare in cold emails, and therefore stands out.
Convinced? Let’s talk about how to do it and do it well:
1. Use the right equipment.
In order to create a stellar cold email video, you need lighting equipment, a camera, and a microphone. The good news is, in the words of Dylan Echter, Brand Marketing Manager for Gartner Digital Markets and video production expert, “You don't have to spend big to dramatically increase the quality." At the end of the day, you likely already have the equipment needed in order to make a video and start testing your success. (In fact, I might even recommend avoiding purchasing high-end production equipment until you’ve seen some initial success from using video in cold emails.)
To start, all you need is a decent webcam, some natural lighting, and the microphone on your headphones. Really. Just make sure that you position yourself facing a window (so the light hits you from the front, rather than from behind) and start recording.
Once you’ve given video a shot and decided to continue doing it (or roll it out to your entire sales team), you’ll probably want to invest in more scalable equipment. Natural lighting, in particular, is not super scalable. You probably can’t get your whole sales team next to windows all the time, not to mention the fact that daylight is not a permanent condition.
When you’re ready to invest in better production equipment, you’ll need to pick something based on your own needs, but you should start here:
- Here’s a list of budget cameras.
- Here’s a list of lights for under $50 that will make you look alive no matter what time of day is.
- Here’s a list of the budget microphones you need to look into. (One is under $50!)
2. Use the right software.
In addition to production equipment, you’ll need to select easy-to-use software that allows your team to edit their own videos. For beginners, Echter says, “A lot of free video editing software can do far more than you think it can. If you're familiar with iMovie, start with that. Don't feel the need to spring for anything fancy if you don't know how to use it, because having workable software and knowing how to use it are two different problems.”
Once your team is comfortable working with video editing software, there are many platforms available today that will really upgrade your video email efforts. Modern video management platforms will allow your team to edit videos and embed them easily into their emails. Most of these solutions will even give you access to important metrics for the videos in your emails, helping you determine not just if your video emails get higher click-throughs, but also how engaging the video itself really is, so you can optimize your format and approach.
3. Keep your videos under 90 seconds.
Your prospects really don’t want to spend a lot of time paying attention to a stranger, especially a stranger who they know wants something from them. Ninety seconds is the absolute longest that you should make your videos—and they should only get that long if you’re offering a micro-demo. Intro videos (which will make up the vast majority of the personalized videos you send in cold emails) really should be more like 30-45 seconds long.
4. Seek a second opinion.
Dylan also shared this pearl of wisdom with me: “First impressions still matter in video. If you're a video beginner, borrow a friend with a good eye to help you make sure that you're not producing accidental-front-camera-selfie or Blair Witch-style videos. You ultimately want your prospect to be impressed with the level of effort, but a personalized video can quickly feel off-putting if the filming is poorly executed.”
Beyond having your first few videos spot-checked, you and your team should get together regularly to compare the success of everyone’s videos. You can pass around tips for things that do and don’t work, so you can get better at your video email strategy team-wide.
5. Plan your personalized videos, but don’t script them.
A key aspect to using video to make a human connection is to make the video as naturally human as possible—and that means speaking in an off-the-cuff manner, rather than in a scripted monotone.
Spend some time carefully planning what points you want to make. For an intro video, you’re basically making your elevator pitch. Do your research on your prospect. Then hit the following points:
- Who you are/what your company does
- Trust factors
- The prospect’s pain point (think of the infomercial cliche, “Are you sick of X happening to you?”)
- How your product or service solves that pain point
6. Visually customize.
With video, you can and should go above and beyond displaying that you researched your prospect. One tip recommended by the sales video experts at Vidyard is to hold up a whiteboard with “Hi [Prospect’s Name]” written on it at the beginning. Including this whiteboard easily personalizes your thumbnail, drawing in the prospect’s attention.
Another method is to create your video as a screen recording of the prospect’s website for part or all of the video. Doing so allows you to both capture the prospect’s attention from the thumbnail and also to clearly indicate where your product will make a difference on their site. It can give a demo-sort of feel to an intro video.
7. Use images to present information quickly.
One of the best things about video is the fact that you can graphically represent concepts that would take quite a bit of copy to cover. You can use graphics to cover the things that usually weigh down your cold emails, such as trust factors or success metrics.
To see what I mean, check out this mindblowingly good video from a cold email that the CEO of ProfitWell sent to someone at Nutshell. (See: The One Cold Email That Actually Gets Everything Right)You’ll see for starters that when Patrick mentions that 25% of his target audience already uses Profitwell, he displays an image with dozens of logos of big-name companies that use Profitwell. Because he uses a graphic instead, he doesn’t have to waste time or space dropping names to drive your trust.
Next up, as he gives a short explanation of what Profitwell does, he shows a clean, simple, personalized interface (presumably the Profitwell interface) demonstrating precisely what it would look like to be successful because of Profitwell. I think my favorite part about this graphic is that it allows him to give the impression that Profitwell would raise Nutshell’s success by about 25% without ever actually saying that. Of course, the second time he uses this style of graphic, he’s able to make it even clearer how much ROI Nutshell would see, without, again, actually saying it.
The best thing about these graphics is that in theory, you should be able to create them beforehand and largely reuse them over and over. Graphics with a company name on them can be quickly altered.
In addition to personalized graphics, some branded graphics such as a title card or a well-done CTA overlay can really elevate your videos and demonstrate to prospects the level of effort you put in just to speak with them. If you’re not strong in graphic design, Echter suggests “[asking] a friend who's solid in software like After Effects if they'll put something quick for you on the cheap (for the love of God, pay creatives!) that you can use over and over again. Have them export it as a video file that you can drag and drop into every video you produce.”
8. Have a clear CTA.
If I was only allowed to give one more piece of advice ever to sales and marketing people it would be this: have a clear CTA. It honestly doesn’t matter what you’re doing, if you want someone to take an action for you, MAKE IT OBVIOUS AND EASY. That’s in all-caps because so many people fail at this simple task all the time.
Before you even make your video, decide on the action you want your customer to take afterward. Do you want them to schedule a time on your calendar? Fill out a form? Next, figure out a way to make this action as simple as possible. Instead of asking someone to respond to your email with the time that works for them, leave a link to available times on your calendar, for instance.
Now that you’ve figured out what your CTA will look like, lead your video message clearly into it. Something like, “If that all sounds good to you, click below to schedule some time on my calendar to continue this chat!” (If you need an excellent example of how to do this, again, watch that Profitwell video. The CTA at the end could not be clearer or simpler to follow.)
9. Keep the actual email short, sweet, and focused!
Even if your personalized video is a home run, don't forget that you still need to send an email. Instead of focusing on getting a response from the text though, you want to focus on getting the recipients to watch the video, so keep your text as short and decluttered as possible. Basically, you just want to introduce yourself and offer a reason why they should watch that video. Here’s a template from Vidyard:
As the [title] at [prospect's company], I imagine you’re focused on improving [relevant item]. I put together a 45-second video explaining how [rep's company] can [do X, improve Y, solve Z].
Looking forward to sharing more best practices. How does [date and time] work for an introductory call?
Best,[Name]”If your video is actually a link to another page (like the Profitwell video is), leave the secondary CTA off the email altogether and focus on getting them to click on that video. You can then rely on the video’s CTA to do its job.
Cold emails don’t have to be terrible. In fact, I would argue that personalized videos are enabling cold emails to become more like an elevator pitch made at a busy conference. Video may be even better than real life because you can always reshoot a video if you say something weird by accident.