When your audience is drowning in their pain, frustration, or problem, it’s your job to describe the water, causing them to acknowledge they need your product.
This is an expansion of an earlier article – if you haven’t already I encourage you to read the original post first.

Rock Solid Scripts that Sizzle

If you want to read the entire Video Sales Letter article series from the beginning, start here…

The First 5 Critical Steps to Creating Sleek Video Sales Letters

If you’ve never watched the movie, As Good as It Gets (you REALLY need to), there’s a scene about three-quarters of the way through where Jack Nicholson’s character, Melvin, is talking to Greg Kinnear’s character, Simon, about a problem he’s having.

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Simon offers what Melvin feels is an unhelpful response. He sums up his opinion of this by saying…

“I’m drowning here! And you’re describing the water!”

Some would say it is the perfect metaphor for how therapy works.

However you feel about that aside, if your Video Sales Letter (VSL) is going to be effective, you’re going to have to get really good at describing the water.

First things first…

In the opening two plot points of our VSL we focused entirely on “stick”. The aim was to capture the viewer’s attention and give them emotional and logical reasons why they should watch your production (you can read the full article on this subject HERE: The Snowball Effect of Script Writing).

We’re going to spend one more plot point on “stick”, and then we’re going to metaphorically drown our audience.

Plot Point #3: The Promised Land of Your Future

If it feels like we’re spending a lot of time on our VSL just trying to convince the viewer to stick around, you’re absolutely right.

You can’t half arse this.

If you’re going to convince someone to spend 30-60 minutes watching your VSL, you’re going to want to spend several of the opening minutes getting people invested.

The third plot point is the most important piece of “stick” because it’s where you bring the audience’s excitement to a peak, right before shoot them crashing back down to earth.

It’ll feel harsh, even a little insensitive. But, if you truly believe that your product or service is going to improve the lives of your audience, this is a critical step in convincing them of the value of your offer.

The “promised land” that you’re going to describe in this plot point is how your audience will feel when they experience the benefits of your product.

 The “promised land” you’re describing in this plot point is how your audience will feel when they experience the benefits of your product.

We’re still not going to talk specifically about what your product is for quite some time, so this is purely about emotions and getting the audience to imagine themselves in a brighter tomorrow.

Describe the new life your product will provide and specifically ask your viewers to imagine themselves in this awesome new world they can attain without having to make any UNREASONABLE sacrifices.

I’ve highlighted the word “unreasonable” in that last paragraph and I encourage you to use this specific word (or one of its synonyms) when talking about sacrifices. It might feel nicer on your tongue to say, “without making ANY sacrifices,” and you might even make more sales that way, but you risk attracting the wrong type of customer.

And besides…

Unless you’re giving away your product for free AND you’re going to do all the work for them, suggesting that the promised land you’re eulogizing is going to arrive without any effort or sacrifice is blatantly false.

Imagine being able to turn on your laptop without ANY fears of being vulnerable to viruses or identity theft. You can surf to any website, instant message with your friends, and post your family pics on social media without worrying about whether your firewall is secure or if there are any nasties lurking on your hard drive.

You can even let your children surf around, playing online games and studying Wikipedia for their homework assignments, without any concerns about what might happen the moment your back is turned.

How awesome is it going to feel when you can enjoy your Internet experience the way it’s SUPPOSED to be? The way it was BEFORE the hackers and the criminals took charge. It’ll be like they don’t even exist.

And all you had to do was make one small change that transformed your online experience forever!

It takes a bit of practice to be able to paint this picture without going into specifics, but this is primarily about heightening the emotional state of your audience, so focus on being enthusiastic and generating excitement for what’s coming soon.

Because THAT is the moment when you pull the rug out from under them.

Describe their problem, agitate their pain, before you comfort and lift them back up.

Plot Point #4: What’s the Problem?

You know how it’s always nice to follow bad news with good news?

This is the opposite of that.

In the last plot point you painted an image of a rosy future for every single viewer. In this plot point you’re going to take it all away by explaining why they’re NEVER going to realize that dream…

Unless SOMETHING changes!

Essentially, with this plot point you’re going to describe the waters in which your audience is drowning.

Yes, very soon, we’re going to throw our audience a lifejacket. But first, you need to really agitate the problems they’re experiencing.

This part isn’t fun. And it isn’t supposed to be. You KNOW your audience is struggling and frustrated and in pain. That’s why you developed your product in the first place.

But to fully permit your viewers to understand, eventually, why they need your product, you need to pull them out of any delusions they may be suffering under, and bring home the full impact of the tough situation they’re in.

If you present this plot point correctly, your viewers should be reliving their problems, remembering the frustration they’ve felt around this issue, and feeling like the “promised land” you described a few moments ago has never been further away.

Start with the characters…

Who is the enemy that’s causing the pain? Is it…

  •      A person?
  •      A situation?
  •      A health condition?
  •      A type of job?
  •      A social issue?
  •      A political issue?

Name the enemy and turn the spotlight on them as the root of the problem.

We know the criminal hackers are out there. They’re smart, they’re ruthless, and they have ZERO scruples. And if they can crack into government computers, what hope have we got of protecting our data, our browsing habits, and our families?

Next, describe the obvious issues the pain is causing…

It’s so frustrating having to constantly run virus checks, update firewalls, and put stupid little widgets over your webcam, just in case some freak is spying on you and your family.

And for those that have experienced having their identity stolen or the realization that a Trojan has been lurking on their laptop for months, recording every keystroke, they’ll tell you how horrific it is to feel violated and genuinely frightened for what the impact could be on your family.

Last, but not least, escalate the pain by describing the ticking time bomb. Talk about how the problems will get worse, over time, if they’re not dealt with.

The hackers are getting smarter, and there are more of them than ever. And now there’s software that does a lot of the tricky stuff, so even criminals who aren’t that smart can get into the game and go snooping around people’s computers.

How long do you think it will be before you or someone you love is hacked or has their identity stolen? Maybe you’ll get lucky and dodge the bullet… this year. But what about next year? Or the year after? How long can you bury your head in the sand before the worst happens and you find yourself dialing “911” to report unauthorized use of your credit card?

You know that your audience is drowning. And, unfortunately, it’s your job to describe the water.

Don’t hold back. Even if it feels hard. You’re starting to create urgency in your presentation and this is going to keep your audience hooked.

And the good news…?

Having brought your audience to rock bottom, in the next three plot points you’re going to put a comforting arm around their shoulders and bring them right back up again.

Stay tuned for more in depth plot discussions in the coming articles!

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Jeni Jenkins
News Anchor turned Editor turned Registered Nurse, Jeni has now come full circle and returned to her passion, writing, full time. As the Editor-in-Chief, she brings a unique voice to the marketing arena with her broad experience from years in the Customer Success department, melding her firsthand knowledge of our community needs with the powerful tools that Genesis Digital offers.

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