(The product probably isn't as boring as you think.)

So, the other day, your boss asked you to make an exciting new product video. Ordinarily, this might be a project you'd enjoy, buuuuut... well, this product is really, really boring.

How, exactly, are you supposed to make a video that's interesting and encourages potential customers to buy? Should you bust out some fancy lighting? Shallow depth-of-field? Maybe some kind of crazy cross-section? Special effects? CG? Dramatic music? Turn the rod into some kind of... puppet-like character?

Although those ideas might be fun to pull off, you're not convinced they'll actually make anyone want to buy this thing. And that puts you in a tight spot, because that's what this video is supposed to do, right?

Instead of having to put lipstick on this proverbial pig, wouldn't it be nice if the product were exciting? Inspiring? Life-changing? That way, you could just let it speak for itself.

Fortunately, there exists an old marketing tactic that can help us bring out the usefulness of even the blandest product: turn those features into benefits!



So the other day your boss came up to you and said, “Hey, so, as you know, we're gonna be rolling out our new site design soon, and we really want to include more video. The product videos we have now are... kinda boring.”

And you say, “Okay. I could make some new ones.”

And he says, “Cool! Well, hey, tell you what: we're gonna be rolling out a new version of a product in two weeks. Think you could make a really interesting video for it by then, and we can use the video for a prototype?”

“Sure! What's the product?”

It's... it's...!

Oh. It's an inanimate carbon rod.

Now, you're left wondering: how the heck are you supposed to make this thing interesting? Might as well start from the top. You grab a list of features. You fire up your text editor. And you start turning that feature list into a video. Before long...

“The Inanimate Carbon Rod can withstand temperatures of up to 3600 degrees Celsius.”

Wait a minute. This isn't any more exciting than the video you have now! Well, except for the cool fire.

Alright, time to get creative. Maybe you can add some really nifty slider dolly shots. Shallow depth of field? Cool lighting? Turn the rod into some kind of character?

“Hi, my name's Rod! Look at how heat-resistant I am!”

But you just can't shake the thought that... those ideas aren't very good.

Here's a little secret: just as soon as your boss walked away, he probably thought, “I sure hope that video sells some rods. Otherwise... we won't meet our quotas. And certain people will be very, very upset with me.”

You see, when your boss said he wanted something interesting, he didn't mean the video should be interesting to you. He wants something that will interest your customers. In other words: he wants a video that will make people want to buy some inanimate carbon freakin' rods.

But... isn't it enough to just list the features and let customers figure out its usefulness for themselves?

The problem is... they won't. It's the Curse of Knowledge at work: even if you did know just how life-changing your product can be, your potential customers are probably clueless. Sure, the thing might help them, but... how? Just listing your features doesn't mean they'll have any idea why they should care about those features. You have to help them figure out how this thing could fit inside their lives.

And a time-honored way for doing that is to turn those features into benefits!

A benefit is simply an answer to the question: “What's in it for me?”

For instance! Sure, your inanimate carbon rod can withstand extreme temperatures and conduct electricity. But, after chatting with some of the folks in sales, you learned that several of your customers use these rods to make carbon-arc lamps for projectors. Carbon-arc lamps get really hot and conduct a ton of electricity.

So what does it mean when your carbon rods can withstand greater temperatures and have less electrical resistance than your competitor's carbon rod? Why, it means that their light bulbs will last longer, shine brighter, and will be more reliable. And, in turn, your customer's customers will be willing to pay a higher price for greater peace of mind!

Oh, and how about your customers who use the rods to make batteries? Well, you happen to know that your unique manufacturing process is extremely resistant to corrosion. Once again, this allows your customers to make batteries that are less likely to fail prematurely. Which means that their customers won't be left in the dark.

And you happened to be reading the reviews for your competitor's carbon rods on Amazon, and... apparently their four-millimeter carbon rods aren't actually four-millimeter. Now's your opportunity to reassure your potential customers that your carbon rods are exactly as big as advertised, so you won't need to spend time filing down the rod just to get it to fit inside their plastic extruders. And that means they can spend more time making products instead of fiddling with their tools, and that means more sales for them.

So, given a big ol' list of features, how, exactly, do you turn them into benefits?

First, arm yourself with knowledge. Find out as much as you can. Talk to the people who are in closest contact with your customers. This is usually your sales staff. How do they use your products? Why did they choose your inanimate carbon rod over all the other inanimate carbon rods out there? I mean, they bought this thing in the first place, so they must have some use for it.

Short of that, find some public reviews of your product. Google around for somebody saying something about why they chose you.

Step two: use the “So what?” method. For instance!

Your carbon rod is of the “coarse grain” variety, with individual particles being up to a quarter inch in size.

So what?

Well, after a conversation with somebody in R&D, you learned that that makes the rod exceptionally resistant to thermal shock.

So what?

Thermal shock can cause the rods to break.

So what?

Well... imagine how annoying it would be if the rods were to break every time they got hot. You'd never get anything done!

There you go! Your “coarse grain” carbon rods are exceptionally resistant to thermal shock, which means you won't have to replace them nearly as often, and that lets you save money and spend more time... ... brazing metal, for instance.

So now we've taken a bunch of boring features and turned them into some juicy and tantalizing benefits. So, now what? Do you just put them in a voiceover?

You could, but don't forget: we're making a video. Is there any way you can show the benefit? After all, customers nowadays are a rather skeptical bunch. So can you prove that your claims are true by just... showing them?

For instance, if you had to show that your inanimate carbon rod was really 5.3 millimeters in diameter? ... There you go! And all you need to show temperature resistance is a MAPP gas torch and a contactless thermometer!

Bottom line: instead of getting creative with your depth of field, get creative with this part. Show, in as much detail as possible, how your inanimate carbon rod will solve your customer's problems.

One word of caution: your boss, the salespeople, and pretty much everyone else will probably want to have a say in the way you position this product. Now, stakeholder management is an art and a science unto itself, and is beyond what we have time to cover in this video.

So, for now, just make sure you send everyone a script and ask them to review it before you start working, because that could save you a lot of time doing everything over.

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