If you’re going to create an explainer video but don’t quite know where to start, this article is for you. We’ve put together a step-by-step instruction – a map for success, if you will. If you follow it, you’ll end up with an explainer video that will maximize your chances to sell more.
Just a quick note – during the process of creating the video, you should refer back to this document from time to time to be sure you’re moving in the right direction. Even after the video is completed, come back here and check off each step to ensure you’ve followed through.
How to create an explainer video
- Create your brief
- Identify the concept
- Write the script
- Create the storyboard
- Create the style and visuals
- Record the voice over
- Production – Animation
- Create the tone with music and sound effects
- Launch across channels
- Track the results
1. Create your brief
Every marketing video starts with the brief. This is your map and lighthouse at the same time. These questions will help you create an effective brief.
- What is the main goal of the video?
- What is the role of the video in the sales/marketing funnel?
- Who, exactly, is the target audience?
- What’s the most important thing to say or show / what is your core message?
- What media and communication channels will the video live on?
- What should the viewer do after watching your video?
Remember, since this is a brief, all the answers should be clear and short. Example:
What should the viewer do after watching your video?
Book a demo
Call us or contact or visit our website
What’s the most important thing to say or show/core message?
Slack replaces email inside your company
Slack replaces email inside your company, has a lot of integrations, and 1:1 voice and video calls between teammates
An effective brief will help you determine the foundation of your explainer video. When it’s finished, you can start planning the concept.
2. Identify the concept
The structure of an explainer video fills in the answers on how you’ll achieve the video’s goal. At this stage you should decide:
- The message concept. Should you address pain points? Focus on your USP?
- From whose point of view the script speaks. “I’ve got a problem.” “You’ve got a problem”, etc.
- Which stage of the funnel your audience is on.
- What tone you should use. Conversational? Light? Sales’y? Pure business?
- How to deliver the message.
- The main benefits you should focus on.
- The main design style of the explainer video.
- What your call to action will be.
To understand this fully, you should break down 4 main elements: The product, the company, the market, and the target audience. With these, you’ll be able to clearly identify how you’re going to:
- explain your product
- showcase how it’s better than the competition
- focus on a unique sales proposition
- convey pricing, etc.
Here are the questions that will help you do this quickly:
- What’s the quick elevator pitch?
- How does the product work and what problems does it solve?
- What are the benefits?
- Does this product have a USP (unique sales proposition)?
- What is the positioning of the product in its industry?
- What are the most compelling reasons to believe, to try, to buy?
- What’s your brand image, or what kind of image would you like to have?
- What’s the visual style and communication style in the company’s marketing?
- What’s your brand tone and voice?
- Who are your main competitors?
- How are you different from your competitors? What are your main advantages and disadvantages?
- What are any winning points that you can use?
- What are the main things that potential clients don’t like about your competition? Can you offer them a solution?
- Who, exactly, is the target audience?
- What are your audience’s pain points?
- What are their fears or bad experiences they’ve had with a similar product?
- What is their ultimate goal they have that you can address?
- Why do your current customers love your product?
Let’s break this down further with an example. Say your product is a customer relationship management software (CRM). Your target audience is sales executives who aren’t happy with the product they’re using. Let’s say it doesn’t have integrations with must have tools like gmail and Linkedin sales navigator. Let’s also say they charge for small tools like invoice creator.
This means we don’t have to start the video explaining how CRM is important and effective. They are already entirely aware of this as current users. Instead, as one possible option, you can address the problems they have and showcase your advantages. And since in our example the campaign is going to live on social media, the video should be capable of reaching the audience and hook them without audio. In this situation animated videos work best, as they are colorful and creating a relevant visual metaphor is easier with animation. Then, at the end of the video, you should suggest they visit your website and request a free demo.
This is a very simple example, but you should get the gist.
How to write an explainer video brief.
Finally, a quick note about the style since this is also decided at this stage. The most popular style is, of course, motion graphics animated videos and there are tons of reasons for that. There are also situations when you can use other styles. We have done a great amount of research on this and you can read all about it. But here we are going to break down the animation process.
After your brief and research, you now have the concept that you need to develop the script.
3. Write the script
They say the script is the most important part of the video. Maybe that’s true because it connects two main stages; pre-production and production. When starting to write the script, you should consider all the information that you now have (direction, tone, style, main focus points, duration etc.).
It also matters how you develop your script. You can have a script and produce it one way that gets people engaged and excited, and you can also take that same exact script and develop it in a way that leaves people bored. So here are tips and advice to make sure you get the best script results possible:
- Try to hook viewers within the first 10 seconds. Give your audience a reason to watch the video.
- Reveal the value proposition or the main benefit in the first 25 seconds.
- Less is more. Try to keep it under 60-90 seconds (150 – 220 words).
- Address from the second person using “you” or “your”.
- Use a conversational tone and avoid tech jargon.
- Keep it simple as much as possible.
- Focus on 1 main message.
- Focus on the benefits not features.
- If using humor, make it have a purpose.
- Have a clear call to action (CTA).
If you have problems with starting or generating ideas, you can use this classic concept that always works.
- The problem – address your customer’s pain points (0:00-0:15)
- The solution – introduce your solution and brand (0:15-0:25)
- How it works – tell how it works, why it gives results (0:25-0:40)
- The main benefits – what will the customer gain? (0:25-0:50)
- A call to action – tell people what to do next (0:50-0:60)
Here’s a bit more on length and word counts. As mentioned before, a 60-second script should be about 150 words. Your writing software should have a word count feature. You can also use any word counter online. We prefer this wordcounter.
If you’re going to use the video on different channels, consider having alternative calls to action. For example, a “learn more” CTA on social media, “contact us” on your website homepage, etc.
4. Create The Storyboard
A storyboard or sketch board is a rough drawing of the video so you can have an idea how your script plays scene by scene before the actual production of it begins.
When creating the storyboard, try to create a story with a beginning, development, and end. Avoid any concepts that are simply visual representations of the voiceover. For example:
Script: If you are looking for opportunities…
Storyboard: Dollar signs zoom in and out around a character.
People remember stories, not details. They need to feel emotionally connected to your video. That’s why you should develop your message around a core audience and make it relevant to them. Make it connect on an emotional level to be remembered.
In many situations your video will be seen without voice or audio because of social media or when mobile users are out and about in noisy areas. For a much bigger chance at success, you should plan a story that can be understood without sound.
5. Create the style and visuals
Here’s where you start getting an idea of how your video will ultimately look. But before you dive into this stage, we recommend you watch great examples. Go to Vimeo or Behance. Find unique videos, find inspiration. The point isn’t to steal other people’s ideas, but to see what’s possible and what works.
Let’s be honest, it’s all been done before, so tapping into better examples for inspiration is a big plus. This is very important. In this noisy world your video must have a unique look. Save favorites and create mood boards and use them in the process as inspiration.
When starting to create visuals, of course you should implement your brand’s identity with:
- Corporate style
Start with 1-2 visuals and test how it looks. Maybe play with color palettes too. Then go and ask your colleagues what they think. Ignore all the positive opinions and listen to the critical feedback, especially if there are similarities from different sources.
Based on my experience, the most valuable feedback usually arrives as one short note on the subject. But answers will be different from different people, and the final decision should be yours and it’s often best to listen to your intuition. Just leave it alone for 24 hours and if after 24 hours you still like it then that is that.
- Mobile users are ever increasing in number, so avoid small visual details. Before moving forward, check the visuals on a mobile phone to make sure the message is clear.
- If you want to use your video on vertical platforms too, create illustrations in a way that they are easy to adjust for vertical and you’ll save time and money on animation.
6. Record the voice over
This can be done once the script is created and finalized. Before you start looking for a VO artist, you should decide several things:
- Gender of the artist
- Speed and pace of the read
- Tone of voice
You can find voiceover artists for your explainer video on:
- Voices.com – The world’s largest voiceover artist database.
- Upwork – Full profiles make it easy to browse artists.
- Fiverr – An option to find decent voice artists on a budget.
- Voicebunny – Commercial VOs with over 50 languages available.
- Voice123 – Probably the second largest VO artist database.
When negotiating fees or conditions for your video, remember to ask how the revisions work. Also, it’s important to check if the agency covers the license for any media or VO talent you’re going to use the video.
If you have tight deadlines, remember that you’ll need your VO finalized by the time the animation process starts as the animator creates the video around the timing of the voice over.
7. Production – Animation
OK, now the magic starts! After this stage you’ll be quite close to the final product. At this point, there isn’t much you can do yourself, so just trust the artist.
However, what we can advise here is this. If you don’t have special requirements (like showcasing technical parts such as the ins and outs of an engine or any other very small details), you don’t need to spend a lot of money on expensive animation production like 3D or special effects. Go with 2D motion graphics – the most popular style. And we also suggest you work with a studio that uses the Adobe suite of software. This is the industry standard and you’ll need that if you have to make any changes later on with another studio.
8. Create the tone with music and sound effects
OK, the cake is baked and we need the cherry on top. Don’t overlook this part. You’ll be surprised how the mood will be totally different simply by swapping in alternate music tracks.
The best option is to hire a studio or composer to create a unique soundtrack. That will cost a bit – starting at $500-$1000. Otherwise, if you don’t have that in the budget, that isn’t a problem at all. Even the biggest brands buy stock music tracks. Here are some recommendations where you can buy royalty-free music tracks for any price range.
- Musicbed – Awesome search and curated tracks.
- PremiumBeat – Another option with a great search system.
- Musicvine – Subscriptions available for unlimited downloads.
- Audio Jungle – Not the most unique tracks, but there are some hidden gems and the prices are budget-friendly.
- YouTube – Definitely worth a look for the price, which is free!
Once the music track is selected, it’s edited to fit the animation and VO. Additional audio FX may be added as well.
9. Launch across channels
Now that you’ve got your video, what’s next? Actually, you should plan this stage before you even start. For successful launching and results you should:
Create a marketing plan
Plan beforehand how you are going to use your explainer video. Figure out which channels will work best and what the viewer should do after watching the video.
In this case, understand in which stage of the funnel will the customer be in when watching your video on a media channel and plan:
- Delivery channels – find out which social media (or other channels) are most relevant to your business.
- Custom call to action – The CTA can be different depending on the media channel and where in the sales funnel the customer is.
- Different durations – Plan 2-3 duration options and test. See which one works better on every channel (website, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc). Also you might have some limitations on different channels. For example on the app store you have a hard limit of 30 seconds.
Of course in every scenario you’ll want to embed it on your website. Place it at the top and make it highly visible.
Select video hosting
You’ll want to upload your explainer video on YouTube as it’s the second biggest search engine. But for sophisticated business tools like a branded player, email collection from the video, embedding in email or CRM integration, you should consider some paid business video hosting options. We recommend investigating Vimeo, Wistia, and Vidyard.
10. Track the results
A half-century ago David Ogilvy, one of godfathers of advertising, said: “Never stop testing and your advertising will never stop improving”. Since then, nothing has changed. And by that I also mean people STILL don’t test even though this is the most important factor for getting results!
We tested these 2 nearly identical videos and the result for Facebook added a 25% difference in conversion. Can you believe it?
So use any tool you have for tracking and improving. Here what you can do with your video for improving the performance:
- Use different channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube.
- When making your ad test different titles, CTAs, and audiences (gender, age, interests) and measure ROI.
- ON your website: change the position of the video, change the color of the play icon, use different call to action buttons and call to action texts in the video.
- Aspect ratio – On different channels video dimensions give different results.
- Try different days of week – even different hours – for boosting.
For measuring you can use YouTube analytics. Google analytics and other paid business hosting also have strong analytics tools.
Pro Tip: Do not share YouTube’s link on Facebook. Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other channels give low priority to content from external links. Instead you’ll want to upload directly to each channel.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed this comprehensive look at how to create an explainer video that actually works. We’ve been doing this for a long time and have done extensive research on all the methods we’ve shared. If there’s anything else you may have questions about, we are always available for a free consultation.
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