explainer video

If you’re launching a new service or product, or even trying to breathe life into an existing one, an explainer video is a great tool for any small business or startup looking to grow their customer base.

By Pamela Webber

While your logo and branding creates that all important first impression, this popular type of video content is your chance to really sell who you are, and the unique value proposition that your business brings to the table.

So what is an explainer video? Essentially, it’s a short, informative promo video that describes what a company does or how a product works. It is not a tutorial or how to video; think of it instead as a persuasive pitch that addresses a customer’s pain points and presents a solution that solves a problem.

A good explainer video is concise, memorable, tells a compelling story, and targets your audience and subject matter appropriately. So whether you want to have a go making an awesome explainer video yourself or hire a professional (because creating video content is a lot of work!) here are some of the most common mistakes you want to avoid making:

Don’t waffle – being concise converts

When it comes to video, you have mere seconds to grab someone’s attention. After all, the end game is to stop a scrolling customer in their tracks, whether it’s on your homepage or part of a social media campaign. Having a clear and concise message helps you communicate your value proposition – fast. Research has shown that including video on landing pages can increase conversion rates by 80%, and social video generates 1200% more shares than text and image content combined, so honing your key messages into a short and attention-grabbing clip will pay off.

Don’t abandon your brand identity

Even if video is new marketing territory for your business, it’s important that an explainer video should be an extension of your brand and complement existing visual assets – especially if you’re looking to use it across your website, social pages, or in ad campaigns.

Equally, the video itself should reflect your brand personality, as well as avoiding jargon and generic imagery. But it’s also worth thinking about tailoring the style to what you’re attempting to communicate and to whom. For example, animated explainer videos are great for creating a friendly, colorful feel – even if a business has a typically traditional corporate personality, animated videos can lighten the tone of serious topics, and make something quite dry more engaging. Whiteboard and typography animations are also useful for breaking down complex topics or processes into an accessible and engaging walk-through. Just remember that animated videos should always complement existing brand assets and adhere to style guides as much as possible to ensure a coherent feel across promotional assets.

Alternatively, live action explainer videos featuring real people are great for business owners who are charismatic and happy speaking directly to camera. Personal and uplifting stories are really effective for connecting with customers and bringing them along on a journey with you. They are often also the best way to communicate a company’s mission, and face-to-face interaction is a valuable commodity in a digital world.

Don’t underestimate timing

One of the easiest mistakes to make when it comes to creating your first explainer video is not leaving enough time for the production process – it will take longer than you think! Given the financial investment in creating video content, it’s worth ensuring there is enough time for each of the three main steps –  pre-production, production and post-production – to be done well.

  • The pre-production stage is crucial: this is where you will plan and strategize, create a storyboard and script, and make key stylistic decisions, so putting some time and effort here will pay off long term.
  • Production is where the video is actually shot and made. Bear in mind that if you’re creating a live action video, it is likely that you will need to coordinate schedules with other people (cameramen, actors, animators etc), so it’s worth leaving some breathing space for unforeseen circumstances. If it’s an outdoor shoot, bad weather can wreak havoc on a tight filming timeline!
  • Post-production is where the editing and finishing touches happen. It’s here that shots are stitched together, music and other effects are added, and ultimately where the magic happens. Again, this part of the process is generally better done by a professional, so remember to factor this part of the process into your plan, especially if you need to outsource.

In the end, what a good explainer video accomplishes is telling a good story. It will of course serve a very practical function, but it should also take the viewer on a journey—your journey. It should make them care.

Pamela Webber is Chief Operating Officer at 99designs, the global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to work together to create designs they love. Earlier in her career, she served in various corporate strategy and marketing positions with eBay and its subsidiary, PayPal, Inc., True&Co, and other fast growing companies in the consumer Internet space. A resident of San Francisco, Pam received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Pam can be found on Twitter at @pamwebber_sf and on Linkedin at https://www.linkedin.com/in/pamwebber/.

Explainer video stock photo by Elnur/Shutterstock