217: Turn White-papers into Videos with Ryan Atkinson

Ryan Atkinson is the CEO and Co-Founder of Spacebar Visuals, that specializes in animated videos that make your sales funnel convert better.

We discuss how Ryan co-founded Spacebar Visuals, a video marketing agency, by utilizing his background and interest in media. He also explains the importance of high-quality video content for sales funnels and shares a strategy used to personalize outreach and enhance sales efforts, which helped grow Spacebar Visuals to a six-figure business.

Listen to the podcast here

Turn White-papers into Videos with Ryan Atkinson

Good day, dear listeners. Steve Preda here with the Management Blueprint Podcast. And my guest today is Ryan Atkinson, the CEO and Co-Founder of Spacebar Visuals, a company that specializes in animated videos that make your sales funnel convert better. Ryan, welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for having me, Steve. I appreciate the energy. I’m excited to spend this Friday with you. So yeah, thank you for the opportunity to come on.

Well, it’s great to have someone who is much younger than me, because obviously you’re going to bring the entrepreneurial energy. I hope I still have some, but I still want to feed off of yours. And I’m really curious about how you get into starting a video production business and what are the success factors in your space anyway?

Yeah. So how do you get into a video marketing business? My story goes back to about November, 2022. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I grew up with entrepreneurial parents. So I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So, I’m scrolling on Twitter of all places and I come across a tweet. His name’s Brandon and he’s like, I want to start an agency. I want an operator/co-founder/CEO to help run this thing. Message me if you’re interested, send me an email with the title like Spacebar Visuals. So I saw that and my eyes lit up. I’m like, oh my gosh, this might be a phenomenal opportunity. So, I sent him an email, sent him a personalized video, basically just covering my background of like, hey, I’ve worked at HubSpot, I’ve worked at health tech companies and sales and marketing roles, and I’m super interested to help you do this. And so, we met over Zoom and basically three ideas that we had in mind was one, a ghost writing agency, two, a newsletter growth agency, or three, a video marketing agency. And both of us have like a media background and we’re both interested in media and like B2B. So that’s ultimately how we landed on Spacebar Visuals of all places came from Twitter. So yeah, it’s a pretty funny story to share now.

This is really interesting because it sounds like neither of you had a clear idea of what you wanted to do. It wasn’t like you had an idea and said, okay, let’s create a business around it. It was more like, let’s find a partner who’s interested to be in business and brainstorm what to do together.

Yeah, it basically came to like, what are our strengths? So we came together, it was like, what do we know best? And we know best selling to B2B clients. And both of us are interested in media. So, we knew we wanted to be around those two avenues because that would just give us the greatest opportunity or greatest possibility to actually succeed is when we’re going to align our strengths on the actual idea. So going into it, I wouldn’t say I love video marketing, but now I love video marketing. I’m very grateful and very blessed for what I’m able to do now.

Yeah, that happens. Whatever you specialize in, you get to understand it at a deeper level, and if you’re curious, you’re gonna grow to love it.

Exactly.

That’s pretty cool. So what are the success factors in video marketing? What does it take for a video marketing business to be successful, different, and get clients and grow?

It takes blood, sweat, and tears. No, I’m just kidding.

That’s a given.

Yeah, that’s a given. That’s a given with any startup, but when it comes down to it, what we’re graded on, what we’re judged on, or how good our videos are. So if you are thinking about starting any creative agency, video marketing, like a podcast agency, anything like that, what you’re graded on, what people are going to buy is your videos. You can be the best salesperson in the world, but if your videos aren’t great, just like a great product, people aren’t going to buy it. So that’s been honestly, at first, I mean, it seems so simple, like duh, but that was like one of our biggest things. Like, when we first started selling, our videos were like, eh, like, they were fine. But now, like, they sell themselves, because these videos are like actually awesome, where people are like, their eyes light up when they see it. They’re like, oh my gosh, this is so, so cool. So, to start a successful video marketing agency, or any type of creative agency, you’re gonna be graded on your actual end product that you’re delivering to people. So, I would say having an awesome team that can be great storyboard artists, animators, script writers is like most important if you’re trying to build a recipe for success in a video marketing agency.

So how did you guys find these awesome people? What was your process?

Yeah, so basically we went to Upwork first to like find these people and like going to Upwork, everyone’s like, Oh my gosh, like, so you’re basically just like a middleman. But in a way, like Upwork, we had to go through a ton of people. There is a lot of very good people, but not very talented people that will deliver on time, communicate effectively. Like we have gone through the ringer with people. So sure, you can go to Upwork if you want to deal with the headache of they’re going to be two weeks late on a deliverable as we had to deal with. So that’s mainly how we have found like a lot of our people. Some people overseas, we have some people in the United States. So we’re a team of 10, growing to 12. We were hiring someone on Monday. That starts Monday then to another person early April. So those are like salespeople, but yeah, we’re a team spread out the United States and have some people in Europe as well.

That is a really key, you know, hiring is and being good at hiring and being able to read through people and find their diamonds in the rough and then make sure that they stick around. That’s a big skill.

For sure. And honestly, we put out a job post about three weeks ago, because we wanted to hire a new BDR, two new BDRs. And this was my first time really growing through like full-end hiring process of like someone that’s like actually gonna be working like a lot for us that I’m going to be working with like daily. It was an eye-opening experience being on the opposite end there to actually vet out like people that I think could succeed within a sales role. I underestimated how hard hiring is, as you just said. It is so crucial. And how do you read someone across from a Zoom meeting? How do you read someone that’s in New York? It was very challenging, but it was a great experience, as they all are when you’re operating a business.

Yeah. It is especially salespeople are particularly difficult because there are these intangible qualities that are really difficult to judge. And if they are good salespeople, then they will be good at selling themselves as well.

Exactly.

Even if they are not that good, they will definitely start with selling themselves and they’re going to be good at that. So yeah, I subscribe to that. So you say that you are hiring BDRs and that’s a good segue to the framework that we were talking about on a prequel, which is your 4T email template. Tell me about what this 4T email template is about, what it is used for, and then how does it work? What is the framework?

Yeah, so the 4T template, we started using it at HubSpot actually. So I was a BDR at HubSpot, our sales manager there, Sam Jacobson, he’s awesome. He implemented this 4T template for us. And basically, we’ve used this throughout space, our visuals to grow to like a six-figure agency. So there’s some great stuff in here. And so what the 4T template looks like, you have four T’s. They’ll all be about one line each. And so the first T is the truth about a person. Hey, Steve, I see you’re the marketing director at XYZ company or something maybe like, hey Steve, I’m on your guys’ website right now looking at your XYZ blog. So basically, what is true about that person that you can gather from LinkedIn? The second one is think, make them think. Hey Steve, I see you’re the marketing director at XYZ company. Like other marketing directors, you’re probably in charge of generating leads for your sales funnel. What are the ways that you’re doing that through whatever, through video? Your second T is think. Your third T is third-party evaluation, where it’s we’re partnering with 150 other SaaS companies to help drive lead conversion by 36%, increase social media engagement by 5.2x period. Then your next one is talk. So basically, any interest in seeing how we could do the same for you. So your truth, your think, your third party evaluation, and then talk. Those are the four Ts we use at HubSpot and that we use at Spacebar to go to six figures in revenue, which is pretty fun.

So the truth, so what is the truth about? What is the purpose of this truth sentence or part of this formula?

That’s a great question. So the first, why you wanna have a truth is it basically like make it look like you know this person that you’ve done the research on them. You could do this at scale in a lot of different ways. And this is like truly like the sauce here that we’re giving away. But to do this at scale, basically what you can do is kind of make it a little blanketed where you could just pull job titles from a huge list of from your LinkedIn, see that you’re a marketing director at Bird. I don’t know, Bird will be our company that we’ll use even though it’s a scooter company. You’re the marketing director at Bird. So basically then once you’re plugging these variables into your email automation platform, you can just insert job title and company name, just because it looks like, oh, I see, like I actually know who you are.

And does it have to be scaled? So does it mean that each BDR has to send so many emails that they can’t possibly manually customize them?

Yeah, I think that’s the tricky thing with sales is balancing that manual versus automated way. You definitely want to have personalization through your process, but at some point you also have to reach as many people as possible. So, it’s a really big tug of war between manual and personalization versus complete, just scale. But you can use big blanketed terms, like I see that you’re the marketing director at Bird or something like that.

So, it’s just establishing that it’s not a spam email because you personalized it. So you have been looking at this, it’s somehow customized to that person because you took the trouble to find out something about them.

Exactly, exactly.

Yeah. Okay. And then the question, what kind of question do you want to ask? Is it like a pain question? Is it about discovering or relating to them to show them that you know their pain? And it’s kind of a question, or what kind of question is there, the second?

The question is like tied back to like, what’s that person’s KPI most likely going to be? So, if it’s the marketing director, it’s probably growing the pipeline, like helping generate more leads for a company. Typically, that’s gonna be a marketing director’s role, maybe like ahead of growth, so everything comes back to lead. So, make it relate to that company’s KPI, and you can add a small little statement before, like when I speak to other marketing directors, just to show that you kind of have some truth in like what you’re saying, like you know this person more. So when I’m speaking with other marketing directors, they’re interested in driving more leads for their sales team, then what are some of the ways that you’re using video content to drive leads for your sales team? So, you just want to relate it back to some sort of KPI that they’re going to want to hit within their company.

Okay, and this third party validation, the third T, is this like a case study or is this is an actual thing or is it just an example or can this be made up or it should definitely be an actual thing?

I would say it should definitely actually be an actual thing. You can make it up if you want, but I think it holds a lot more merit if you can add some sort of quantifiable metric to it. Like we’ve worked with 150 plus companies like AWS, Vanta, Higher Road, all these ones. Just similar in their space and then some sort of metric as well to increase leads by 36% for example. Yeah, it’s a third-party valuation. It’s just social proof and you definitely want to include that within your email.

Okay, okay, got it. All right, so let’s switch gears here and let’s talk about your explainer video business or actually your video business. And particularly, I was curious about one of the things that you said on your LinkedIn page is that you can turn a white paper into an explainer video. And I was wondering, what does it take to do that? So what is the process behind doing it? I’m sure that you don’t just feed it into it and it’s AI automated, but actually have kind of a conceptual framework of how you do that.

Yeah. And to drive some like background here, like if anyone’s listening, just like think about like a white paper that is on someone’s website. Typically, these things are gonna be 15 plus pages in length, like these things are long. And how many times have you actually read a 15 page white paper online in the middle of your workday while you have 30 other things coming your way, you have 20 Slack messages, you have 500 emails to read. No one actually reads a 15 page white paper. So, what we do is we’ll take this 30 page white paper and what we’ll do for this process is we will distill the key points from it. What are the three main points you’re trying to hit from this white paper? We’ll then do the script writing for somebody. So, we’ll say, you know, we’ll make it flow, we’ll make it sound really good, polished, put together. Client will then approve of it and say, yep, this sounds great. And then we’ll do the storyboard for them where we combine that script with a bunch of visual elements. We’ll then move, get that approved. We’ll then move to the actual animation. We’ll make it all flow together, make it look super, super cool, like a Pixar film. And then we’ll add a voiceover as well. So, we actually don’t use AI a little bit in our script writing just to compliment our work, but we’re actually like, I would say 90% like human led approach into turning white papers into videos, which is pretty sweet.

Yeah, it’s really interesting, the AI, because obviously it’s about a year ago when it was really starting to catch fire. A lot of companies jumped in and AI is obviously extremely useful and it’s a great leverage, but it can be used for everything. And we tried to write some blogs with it and the LinkedIn posts, and it actually, we had good content that we fed into it, but it rephrased everything and it lost the context of it.

Exactly.

We realized that we can’t use it because it doesn’t understand the context. Maybe we have to train it really intensively on our things to for it to get to that level that it can create something that sounds reasonable.

Yeah.

Is this what you find?

Yeah, I was just gonna say I think ChatGPT is great. You should definitely use it within your workflow for some reason or another. For writing with ChatGPT, you can definitely tell when something is ChatGPT, like written, like there’s no flavor to it, there’s no personality to it. To me, AI, when you do something like that, it loses its value a little bit, just because humans still are humans and they can put a flavor on it, they can put a spin on it, and that is like most prominent in writing. And so, we humans will write the script for us and we’ll complement it with AI a little bit just to see like, Oh, what are some things that like AI would say, but at the end of the day, like writing needs to have flavor to it and he just has a personality to it. And AI, like, as you just said, like it kind of shortfalls on that a little bit.

Yeah. Yeah. It makes it all a generic, nothing burger, I guess.

Exactly. And yeah, a lot of people we speak with, just like you, they have that same problem where it’s like, mm, this sounds good, but a human is so much better. So yeah, we hear that quite a bit.

Yeah, so okay, so without worry, for the time being, we are safe. AI is not replacing us. So that’s great. So, if you’ve got a white paper, you can turn it into an explainer video, and it’s gonna be much more consumable for people on the run. So it can make a much bigger impact than a white paper. In terms of value perception, do people value a white paper still more than a video? Or what is it?

It’s a great question. So while we use that white paper example, we can also do this with like a case study. We could do this with a blog. We could do this with an ebook. We could do this with a guide. Any written content we can turn into video. And I was just speaking to someone yesterday actually, and he said the same thing as a lot of other companies, why companies want video right now, especially within the SaaS industry, is they have a very complicated product. And a webpage where it just has a lot of text on it is not cutting it. They need something that’s more consumable for them and more engaging for their target audience. So literally the conversation yesterday was with the head of marketing and that’s why you want is they have a very complicated product. And the only way for them to actually enable their sales team to like help move prospects on the funnel is to have an engaging video that clients actually want to watch. If you send someone a 10 page white paper or a 10 page product explainer, nobody is going to read that. So, they’re turning to video to help them with that.

Yeah, that makes sense. What if I have a book, could you turn a book into a video? Or this would be like a 90 minute movie?

Yeah, you know, I swear I literally just had a conversation with someone on like Tuesday or Wednesday about turning like a 300 page book and making like a three minute video, teaser video on that. We have not done that yet, but that person is actually putting us in contact with like some publishers. I think that is going to be a really cool usage case. So if you ask him that maybe in like eight months, we will say yes to that. But that is literally a conversation I had less than 72 hours ago, I promise on everything.

Yeah, yeah. I think that would be awesome. I’ve got three books and I think that would make a lot of sense to do that. Okay, so that’s the white paper. Now, what about lead generation? So how do you use, obviously people download the white paper, they can download the video. So that’s lead gen. Are there other ways to use a video that you can create for lead gen?

Yeah, so that’s actually how we price our packages, is if you think about a sales funnel, typical sales funnel, you have the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel, and the bottom of the funnel, and that’s actually like what our packages are, is like three videos, or like five videos, six videos. So, you can really create videos for every stage of that sales funnel. So, if you think about your top of the funnel, like an explainer video, you could create a video there that you could then use on social media, your website, anywhere that you want to use it. If you think a little bit more down the funnel, you’re probably inside your white papers, eBooks, guides, could also create video on that. And then at the very bottom of the funnel, where you have your customer testimonials, you have your product demos, we can also create video on that. So we’re really making your sales funnel more engaging through video instead of just having a 10,000 words of text within your sales funnel.

You're actually getting these animated videos people want to watch and engage with. Share on X

Yeah, that’s definitely, we’re living the age of videos.

Yeah.

Okay. So looking forward, so you’ve been running this business since 2022, that’s only two years and now you’re already moving towards seven figures and you have a 12 strong team. That’s pretty exciting. So what is it that you’re working on that most excites you looking forward?

I think just like the opportunity to work with clients. It is so much fun having clients come to us or us going to clients and just starting a new partnership just because they all go like so well. And it’s just so interesting some of the usage cases we see from videos. So, I’m very excited about future partnerships we will have. And I am so excited for the team that we are putting together right now. It is very, very fun. I said hiring was hard, but it is so much fun like building a team that you can believe in, that you have a lot of confidence in, that will make you succeed as a company. So I’m super excited about future partnerships that we’ll have. And I’m just super excited about the work. Like it’s super fun. I’m 25 years old. It’s super fun having your own company and being your own boss and hiring people, dealing with account management, also looking over finances. It is like truly something I am incredibly grateful for and blessed that I get to do each day. Of course, there’s cons to it at some point where it takes over your thoughts at times, but yeah, I’m just super excited about the future partnerships we have, the partnerships we have now and like the team we are assembling. I am so, so grateful for the team that we have. And I’m so confident that we’ll be able to really take us to the next level.

That’s awesome. And you have your life ahead of you. I’m 57. I’m also building a company, but I wish I had 32 more years to do it. I’m a little bit jealous, but that’s okay. So I’m not my first rodeo.

Yeah, absolutely. But I’m sure if you look back at like your first company, like you would probably change so much and that’s where I’m at right now. I’m sure when I get to 57, I’ll look back and say, oh, why did I do that when I was 25 years old, building Spacebar Visuals? But it’s fun, that is life.

So, I had a couple of clients who were on their second or third companies and this is exactly what happened. So, they really figured things out and the second company was much faster growing because they basically didn’t make all those mistakes as the first time around, but some people, you know, they do it the first time around, so no one can tell. All right, so if people, listeners, would like to learn more and maybe they have a white paper that they’d like to turn into an explainer video or they want to revitalize their sales funnel, where can they learn more and how can they connect with you?

Yeah, absolutely. If you guys want to learn more about Spacebar Visuals and what we offer, you guys can just go to spacebarvisuals.com. And if you love what we have, great. If you don’t, great as well. But if you do love what we have, send us a message and just put like, just say that you came from this podcast. We’re happy to give 20% off to anybody that does come through this podcast. So just definitely mention that on a call, you’ll get to talk with me. You’ll get to talk with some awesome members of our team. So, check us out on Spacebar Visuals, LinkedIn, Ryan Atkinson, CEO, co-founder of Spacebar Visuals, I’ll pop up, I have a blue little bubble background. But yeah, I think those would be the best two spots or ryan@spacebarvisuals.com. I’m definitely happy to chat with anyone about entrepreneurship, video marketing, or just talk about general business or just connect in general. So yeah, you can find me at all those spots.

Awesome. Well, Ryan, thank you. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and your ideas on videos and how to animate the sales funnel with video and turning white papers into videos. Pretty exciting stuff. And for those of you listening, make sure you follow us on YouTube. Follow us on our LinkedIn page. We also set the newsletter a few weeks ago, which is growing like wildfire. It’s called Secret CEO Blueprint. That’s what it’s called. And you can actually read all the interviews that we have on this show in that form as well. And we have a really good writer who does those. So, check it out. Thanks, Ryan, for coming.

Yes, thank you so much, Steve. You’re an awesome host. And everyone, go subscribe to the newsletter. I have not done that yet, but I will go do that now. You’re the best, Steve. Thank you.

Awesome.

 

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