Videos tell great stories. For small businesses and self-employed professionals looking to get more customers or grow followers, they also hold within them lessons worth stealing.
Dollar Shave Club launched a subscription razor business in 2012 with one perfect video. Three years later, their launch video "Our Blades Are F***ing Great" has racked up 19 million views on YouTube and the company has raised over $72 million in capital. This means they have also figured out how to generate cold hard cash through predictable sales from new and returning customers.
The Dollar Shave Club customer was clear. It was created for young, "metrosexual" men who cared as much about their wallet as their face. These men probably looked a lot like Mike Durbin, the company co-founder and host of the video.
It's not hard to imagine the guys behind Dollar Shave Club debating how specific their customer should be at launch. In reality, their market is anyone with body hair. But in focusing on twentysomething dudes, the team could make decisions about their video's tone, focus and messaging that made it instantly relevant to their first customers.
Starting with twentysomething dudes didn't prevent them from expanding later. But the decision to focus upfront got them faster growth on less money before filming a single frame.
An effective video - and any good marketing message - uses its first seconds to get to the main point fast. Here's how Mike uses his:
Mike sits at an office table. Close-up shot of his head and shoulders. Suspicious amount of children toys are hung up all over the background wall. Camera slowly zooms out as Mike begins to speak.
Mike: Hi. I’m Mike - founder of Dollarshave.com. What is dollarshave.com? Well, for a dollar month we send high quality razors right to your door.
Mike stands up and begins moving around the desk towards the door.
Yeah. A dollar.
Are the blades any good? No.
Stops in doorway and points at the poster to the right.
Our blades are f**king great.
Mike doesn't waste a second to say what makes Dollar Shave Club special: high quality razors delivered to your door for a dollar. Wow. That's clear.
In the next breath, he introduces the single biggest objection someone may have: can these razors be any good if they only cost a dollar?
Now that Mike has our attention, he gives us clear product benefits and memorable details that answers how Dollar Shave Club keeps their prices shockingly low. There are no generic "higher quality" or "great service" benefits in these next precious 20 seconds. Rather, the benefits are detailed and memorable:
Mike: Each razor has stainless steel blades and Aloe Vera lubrication strip and a pivot head. Passes a toddler sat with shaving a man’s head as he reads calmly. It’s so gentle a toddler could use it.
Mike continues walking along factory floor, towards camera as camera moves away.
And do you like spending 20 dollars a month on brand named razors? 19 go to Roger Federer. A tennis racket is thrown in from the side. I’m good at tennis. Tennis ball is also thrown in. Mike misses the ball with racket.
Mike gives prospective customers an alternative reason for razors costing so much: celebrity sponsorships. I believe him. He continues:
Mike: And do you think your razor needs a vibrating handle, a flashlight, a backscratcher and 10 blades?
Passes an old photo of grandfather on wall behind. Your handsome-ass grandfather had one blade and polio. Camera zooms and remains on portrait. Looking good pop-pop!
Mike gives us another reason for other blades costing so much: unnecessary features that a young, metrosexual male doesn't need. He looks into the camera and states directly at the end, " Stop paying for shave tech you don't need and stop forgetting to pay for your blades every month."
Mark Twain is credited with saying, "I would have written you a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time." The same is true for saying what makes your business special. It's highly likely they spent hours drafting and redrafting these lines. Making benefits specific and memorable is hard. As you can see, for Dollar Shave Club, it was worth it.
The next 20 seconds of the video shifts from selling blades to creating jobs, attaching a higher purpose to buying from Dollar Shave Club:
Mike: We're not just selling razors, we're also making new jobs. Addressing Alejandro: Alejandro, what were you doing last month?’
Alejandro: Not working
And what you doing now?
Alejandro : Working
I’m no Vanderbilt, but this train makes hay. Mike motions tooting a train horn in time to sound *beep beep*
The final act of a great video is explicitly telling the prospective customer one thing to do next. Dollar Shave Club offers a great example of this technique:
Moving across factory tables this time.
Mike: So stop forgetting to buy your blades every month and start deciding where you’re gonna’ stack all those dollar bills am saving you.
Mike moves into background consisting of the man-bear, who reveals an American flag and who holds stacks of dollars.
We’re Dollarshave.com and the party is on.
The video went viral, and orders reached 12,000 in the first two days. Dollar Shave Club’s video received an award from Adage, for “Best Out-of-Nowhere Video Campaign,” and a Webby Award for best Fashion & Beauty website.
Needless to say, it worked. Yet, the company's success isn't unique. You don't need an MBA to taking these lessons into your own work to get customers and grow followers. We're here in to help each other do just that.
Let us know in the comments how you use these same techniques to get customers or grow followers.