A Simple Guide to Creating Amazing Explainer Videos


Ryan Battles  •   Entrepreneurship

A Simple Guide to Creating Amazing Explainer Videos

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Last week Pedro Alonso reached out to me on Twitter with the following question:

It’s a great question, one that deserved more than a tweet in response. Therefore, I spent a whole day digging up as much information as I could about how people are using explainer videos, and have distilled that information down to a comprehensive guide (with a whole lot of examples to inspire).

With 84% of the web’s traffic being streamed video, it is no surprise that an entertaining video will capture the attention of the viewer, giving you much needed time to explain how your app can help make their lives easier.

While some explainer videos produced by top web agencies can cost over $30,000, there are many ways a bootstrapped entrepreneur can put together a high-quality explainer video for well under a grand.

Follow along as we dive into the why’s and how’s of explainer videos, and uncover some affordable methods for creating a quality video that grows your conversion rate.

Why Explainer Videos Are Popular (With Stats)

Explainer videos are popular because they work. Forbes conducted a study called “Video in the C-Suite” which unearthed the fact that 59% of executives would prefer to watch video over reading text if both are presented on a page.

Even more impressive is that the same study uncovered that 39% of executives have called a vendor after seeing an online video.

Perhaps your marketing efforts are geared more towards the average consumer than executives. The effectiveness of video remains, with a report by Invodo revealing that high-quality videos can increase cart sizes by 174%.

Explainer videos for your product have the following benefits:

  • Longer on-page time, which can result in higher search engine rankings.
  • Increased buyer confidence.
  • An engaging way to stand out from a sea of text.
  • A memorable experience that will leave a greater impression than text.

Explainer videos, done correctly, are an instant win for many marketing sites. So let’s dive into some of the types of explainer videos out there today.

The Most Common Types of Explainer Videos

If you’re shopping around for an explainer video, you’ll have a few options as far as the style of video. Each style has a different feel to it, so it is important to know your customer avatar and chose a video type that is more likely to resonate with them.

2D Animation - Your standard flat animation. Easy to produce using a wide variety of software and easy on the wallet.

Live Action - This is your standard television commercial with actors, a script, and a camera. This can range greatly in price.

Whiteboard - A visually appealing combination of writing and drawing on a whiteboard, is actually done a lot with software as opposed to an actual camera on a whiteboard.

Kinetic Typography - This type of video uses zooming and twisting of a virtual camera to capture words that appear on the screen. These are typically created in Adobe After Effects.

Screencasts - These videos are simply a collection of screencasts of the app in use with a voice-over and background music.

Mixing it Up - Some of these types of video lend well to being blended together. For example, a screencast is more appealing when paired with splices of live action shots that tell a story:

Another example is how Airbnb combined 3d animation within a live action setting for their explainer video:

The Do-It-Yourself Approach

If you have a limited budget, there are some viable options for putting a video together on your own using some available tools.

PowToon (Free, with limitations)

With PowToon, you can create 2d animation videos by dragging and dropping various animated elements onto the screen (similar to creating a slideshow presentation, but with movement). Here is an example of a video made with PowToon:

Biteable ($99)

With Biteable, you can edit explainer video templates to reflect your own brand and messaging. It is free to work on your video, and you only pay when you are ready to export a non-watermarked version. Here is an example video made with Biteable:

VideoScribe ($29/mo)

With VideoScribe, you can create animated whiteboard explainer videos fairly easily using drag and drop. The have an extensive library of hand-drawn clip-art to chose from, as well as the ability to upload your own artwork. Here is an example of a video I made with VideoScribe about mastermind groups:

Of course, there’s also simply using your smartphone’s HD camera to capture a live-action video, perhaps mingled with some screencasts using ScreenFlow (Mac) or Camtasia (PC).

No matter which method you choose to make your video, the most important part of your explainer video is creating an effective script to either read or write out on the screen.

Writing a Killer Script

You should aim to keep your script to somewhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes when read aloud. Somewhere around the 1 minute mark seems to be about the sweet spot for something that is long enough to convey relevant information, while short enough to keep your visitor’s attention span.

Explainer video scripts typically follow one of these two patterns:

Character-Driven - A character-driven script usually starts off with a story about a person (with a name), and how they are frustrated by something. Next, they discover your product, and now they are enjoying benefits A, B, and C. Finally, the video ends with a call to action so the viewer can experience the same benefits.

The key with a character-driven plot is to connect with the pain points of the viewer. If the viewer doesn’t have the same pain points, they will likely abandon watching the video and perhaps even the site.

Solution-Driven - A solution-driven approach doesn’t focus on one user, but explains a general pain point within an industry and how that company provides the ideal solution. If the product is more of a lifestyle enhancer instead of a pain-point solver, then a picture is painted of how much better life is once you buy into the product.

The key with solution-driven plots is to focus on how people’s lives will be better using your product, not simply listing out the product’s features.

Optimizing the Audio

With a script in hand, you can either read it yourself into a microphone, or use a service such as VoiceBunny to hire a voice actor to read it for you for as little as $8. Voice actors have high-end audio equipment and produce a professional sound to go along with your video. Just make sure that the voice doesn’t sound too stale if you are going for a less corporate feel with the video.

As far as music goes, you can purchase some royalty-free background music audio from AudioJungle for under $20.

To pull it all together you can either pre-mix your script and background music in a tool such as Audacity, or typically right within your video editing software (iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or the software that creates animated videos).

Hosting Your Video

Finally, once you have a video ready, you can upload it to Vimeo, YouTube, or Wistia. Wistia is a paid service, but you can upload up to 25 videos for free. The advantage of Wistia is that you have advanced analytics on video views, and it looks more professional than a YouTube video embedded on the site.

However, YouTube has a big advantage too, it’s owned by Google and YouTube videos rank well in search engines. By hosting with YouTube, you open up the opportunity for more people to view the video, and make it easier to share if in fact it is share-worthy.

Wrapping it Up: A Sample Budget

Ironically enough, I am working on an explainer video for a client right now, so I’ll break down our project flow and costs:

  1. Wrote a preliminary script using the solution-driven approach.
  2. Sat down with the CEO and product manager to refine the script and get the terminology in sync with what resonates with our target audience.
  3. Hired a VoiceBunny actor to read the script ($120).
  4. Used VideoScribe to create a whiteboard animation to pair up with the text ($29 for the month, but about 4 hours of learning and 6 hours of work).
  5. Used a background music loop included with VideoScribe (free).
  6. Hosted on Vimeo.

Total project cost: $149 and about 2 days worth of work.

While an explainer video can be an expensive and time-consuming process for your business, it doesn’t have to be. There are lower-cost options to get you off the ground and running. It might be worth pursuing a lower-end DIY solution when you are just getting started (unless you have the funds), and scale up to a professionally-produced video down the road.

In fact, you’ll probably want to refine the video down the road anyway as your product positioning will likely change while seeking out product/market fit, making a less-expensive solution ideal for companies just getting started.