Must Haves For Your Startup’s Explainer Video

OK, you’ve got thirty seconds on the clock and the question you need to answer is this: What is an explainer video? And… Go! Feeling a little confused? You’re not alone. As a startup you’ve likely heard the term “explainer video” a million and one times, but you might not know what it is exactly. Or, even if you know what it is in theory, do you know what “must have” elements should be present in your explainer video? If you’re shaking your head from side to side, never fear! Fabulist is here with our top tips for creating explainer videos that work.

So first things first, what is an explainer video?

Simply put, an explainer video is a short and informative video about your brand that usually includes a bit of fun to hold a viewer’s attention. While there are no hard and fast rules on length, current best practices say you should aim for around two minutes. Your explainer video is not just a commercial for your product or service; it’s a way to introduce your brand to people who haven’t had the pleasure of working with you yet. It should answer these questions: “What do you do?” and “Why are you the best brand to do it?” Chances are you’ve seen many explainer videos before (they really are quite popular). Some well known examples include Dropbox. Dropbox’s explainer video explained how they could securely store all a person’s digital info in one place to be accessed anywhere. Their video focused on the benefits of what life would be like if your digital info was accessible anywhere and they didn’t spend a ton of time on the features (yes, the age old benefits vs. features advice…there really is something to it).

Another great example of an explainer video comes from Airbnb. When Airbnb first came on the scene, they had a fairly wild proposition to sell: go stay at a stranger’s house — and pay to do so. What may have sounded completely crazy was made to sound easy, painless, totally normal, and dare we say fun thanks to their explainer video that showcased the benefits for both hosts and guests.

It’s worth mentioning that explainer videos don’t need to be animated. After all, I think we are all a little sick of “Meet Bob.”

Why do they work?

Explainer videos work so well because they combine your messaging with something that your viewers (AKA future customers) can see visually. The power of visuals and audio presented together can get your name out there in a way that is memorable. Right now video is what’s hot online, and it’s also what’s getting shared on social media. Video is an enjoyable way to learn something new. Rather than read page after page of benefits for your product or service, a viewer can instead spend a couple minutes watching your explainer video and coming to their own conclusion on why you rock. Oh, and in case you’re a little skeptical about whether they actually work, it has been reported that 90% of people say that video has been helpful in their decision making process. We’re thinking those are some pretty good odds that your video can have an impact!

I’m sold! How much does it cost?

Before you set out to create an explainer video, we need to have a little chat, and that chat involves a bit of good news and a bit of bad news.

First the bad news…If you really want to make an impact with your new video you will need to spend money to have it created professionally. In the beginning of the video surge, it might have been possible to get away with DIYing your production and still reaping the benefits of video marketing. But, as we’ve explained before, people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter these days. If you’re going to get noticed in this crowded marketplace you need to wow your potential clients with your video.

Now for the good news. You absolutely don’t need to spend $10K on your startup’s first video, which we’re assuming is great news for you! You can get a quality explainer video for under $500 (sigh of relief).

Ok, so now that you’re convinced that you need an explainer video and you know you won’t have to sell your house, car, or firstborn to get one, you’re probably wondering what elements are must haves for that first video. Read on my friend, we’ve got you covered!

Have a simplified message

When it comes to creating your first video it might be tempting to shove as much info as possible into sixty seconds, but that would be a big mistake. You will have more reach if you keep the message as simple as possible. Think of your explainer video as your elevator pitch (boring title, but very important sound bite). What is it that sets you apart in your industry? Why should people care about the product or service you sell? Sometimes what you do is complicated (we get that) but you still want to make the message as simple as possible so that people can grasp the main benefit quickly. Think about Dropbox again — they could have talked about feature after feature, but instead they focused on one benefit and drove that point home. You can always explain more details later in the sales process. This is not like a bad round of speed dating — you can have more of your viewer’s attention later, if of course you earn that right by grabbing their attention with this first impression. Give your viewers the info they need (infused with personality) to make the decision to take the next step in your buyer’s journey.

Keep the style simple and to the point

Regardless of your budget, there’s no need to overcomplicate an explainer video when something simple will do. In the same way that simple messaging will have a big impact, a simple video style will make your message easier to understand. If you have crazy lights, big drums, and fog machines blazing in the background there’s always a risk that your messaging will get completely lost in the show. Case in point — have you ever watched a commercial and thought, “Wow, that was pretty awesome,” but an hour later you can’t remember what the commercial was actually selling? You might even tell someone about the commercial (in detail) except for one small detail — you can’t for the life of you recall the product it was for. That is of course an epic fail and an example of the very problem you could run into if you try to be too clever with your video style. When it doubt, keep it super simple. You want people to remember not just your awesome special effects, but more importantly — your brand.

Professional voice and sound matters

We honestly can’t stress this enough. The use of professional voice and sound matters big time when it comes to having a video that will be effective. You’ve probably seen examples of the opposite of this and know what we mean. Perhaps you’ve seen what could have been a great video, but the voices were too quiet to understand, or there was a lot of background noise getting in the way. Since your video is likely to be the first impression your viewers will have of your brand, the last thing you want is to annoy them with bad sound quality.

Use music (properly)

You may already have an idea in your head about a song you would like to use for your production. Here’s something to keep in mind about music though. You can’t just play your favorite track in the background while filming and call it a day. Not only will the sound quality be unprofessional, but that’s also a little (ok a lot) illegal. What a lot of people don’t realize when creating videos is that you can only use music that is properly licensed for commercial use. This doesn’t mean you should avoid music, just use tunes you have the right to use. Music really can add a special touch to an explainer video. Just watch what it did for Airbnb if you haven’t already. Would the vibe be the same without music? Probably not. So, how do you find music that is legal to use? If you work with a production company they will have access to libraries of music licensed and ready for commercial use. This is by far the easiest way to make sure you stay on the right side of the law (and get a great soundtrack for your video).

Have a professional script

The best video graphics in the world can’t make up for a lousy script. #truestory It’s super important that your script be engaging, on brand, and fun (if that fits with your brand personality of course). Your script should remain in your startup’s brand voice and should feel consistent with the other marketing you’re putting out to the world. If you’re not a script writer (no shame in that!) you can and should hire someone to create it for you. Speaking of scripts, how long should your script be? This one might surprise you, but you really only need about 150 words for each minute of video. That means 300 words or less for your explainer video (feeling a little relieved?) Now, if you’re worried about that being too short, think about this — a lot can actually be said in a little time. Just look at Twitter where people are sharing entire news stories in 140 or less characters. While 300 words is not a lot of space, it also means you don’t have a lot of room for filler content or filibustering (not that you’d do that of course). Focus on getting your message out in a short, sweet, and fun format and you’ll be good to go.

Show off your brand’s uniqueness

When creating an explainer video it’s not enough to just tell people what you do, it’s equally important to showcase who you are as a brand. People do business with people

(or companies) that they like. There is no better way than video to show what makes you special to a massive amount of people all at once. So, if you’re quirky, be quirky! If you’re flashy, be flashy (but don’t flash anyone — please). While we could throw a bunch of woo-woo quotes at you like this zinger from Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” We won’t go that route because that’s not our brand personality. (See what we did there?) This is your chance to engage with your people and let them know that they are in fact YOUR people. Don’t be afraid to be yourself so you can draw the right crowd to your video and your brand.

So, where do you go from here? Well my friend, now it’s time to make that first video! If you haven’t decided exactly what style you want to create you might be happy to learn that we cover that in depth right here. Click on over when you’re ready!