They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover – but people put a lot of effort into making book covers, so they must matter, right? It’s someone’s job to get you to pick up the book and at least flip through the pages. In this same vein, first impressions can be the most important ones, especially for a sales professional.

And when that first impression is an email, the deck is already stacked against you. Your prospects are being bombarded with messaging from every angle, and standing out against the crowd is harder than ever.

That’s why video is a game changer for sales. It’s easy to include in your emails, and it’s compelling to click on – but only if you get it right. And with that in mind, today I want to talk about video thumbnails. Think of them as the book cover for your video:

Benny Hua - Email Thumbnail Screenshot

The thumbnail is the static image that your prospects will see when they open your email. Much like a book cover, it has to be enticing enough to get someone to click ‘play’ and start watching. But not all thumbnails are created equal, so let’s dive into what makes a great one!

Video Thumbnails for Prospecting Emails 101

Setting up a thumbnail is like setting up a family photo. Here are the key elements you need to help you get started:

  1. Project Confidence – To project confidence, have a genuine smile. Smiling shows that you enjoy what you’re doing, and that you are a more approachable person. It’s not about your looks, it’s about presenting yourself confidently.
  2. Choose your Environment – Where you are recording the video will affect how people perceive you. If you have a vibrant and open office space, showcase that in your thumbnail to enhance your message. Or find a quiet space to keep the focus on you. Let your surroundings do some of the work for you.
  3. Personalization Personalized video thumbnails have significantly higher click-through rates than generic ones. In fact, personalizing your thumbnail can increase click-through rates by up to 5x! A simple solution for personalization is to use a small whiteboard. Get creative and put your CTAs on the whiteboard (eg. First name and “Click Me”). Or, on special occasions, dress up and have fun with it!Personalized Video Splash Screen
  4. Lighting – You don’t need any fancy lighting equipment. Just make sure to keep the light source in front of you, and don’t have your back to the window. Ultimately you want the lighting to highlight the important things about the thumbnail (eg. your smile and the text on the whiteboard). Here are examples of good and bad lighting in thumbnails:
  5. Benny Hua Good Lighting ScreenshotBenny Hua Bad Lighting ScreenshotSizing – When you’re ready to add the thumbnail to your email, make sure you have the sizing right. Too big, and you run the risk of overpowering the text. Too small, and you run the risk of having your fancy personalization be unreadable. In fact, the text on your whiteboard is probably your best metric for success – if you can read it, then it’s probably the right size.

Thumbnail Sizing Scale from Small to Big
Examples of Good and Bad Thumbnails

Check out some other examples of good and bad thumbnails below.

Benny Hua Good ThumbnailWinning smile, good lighting, clean background, good use of prop.

Benny Hua Bad Thumbnail Movement

Movement in the thumbnail leads to a blurry and unprofessional picture.

Good Thumbnail Example

The smile, good lightning, and showcasing company culture are some of the things that make this a great thumbnail.

Bad Thumbnail Example

Looking down, no smile, and “sensitive” company info make this a bad non-enticing thumbnail.

Don’t Forget the Play Button

This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re using a static image in your email to link to your video, make sure you have the play button in the image! This is important because it lets your prospects know that it’s a video they’re seeing and not just a cute picture with their name on it.

But before you grab a screenshot of that thumbnail and include it in your email, make sure that the thumbnail you’ve chosen makes sense with a play button involved. Sometimes the play button will block your personalization, or otherwise cut out an important part of what makes the thumbnail enticing to click on, so you may need to do some work to ensure everything fits.

Final Thoughts

Most video platforms allow you to set your own thumbnail. YouTube does, and Vidyard does as well. But if you’re looking to create video quickly, and include these personalization elements, I would recommend a tool like Vidyard GoVideo (formerly ViewedIt). With this free recording tool for Chrome, you’re given a three second countdown to set up your thumbnail image, and as long as you follow the above recommendations you should be good to go. As a bonus, you can always re-record quickly if you find the lighting, scene, or tone is off.

With all of these things in mind, the most important thing is to have fun with it. Thumbnails are the book covers that entice people to hear your story. Stand out in the crowd, make some noise, and let your personality shine through. People like to engage with people who are excited, happy, and enjoying what they’re doing. It is your virtual first impression. Make it count!

This post was co-written by Benny Hua and Heman Joshi.

Benny Hua

Benny Hua is a B2B Video Specialist here at Vidyard. He helps marketing teams control the customer experience, generate demand, and measure the ROI of their content, and helps sales teams engage their prospects, close more deals, and reduce their sales cycles.