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7.5 Ways to Avoid Producing a Mediocre Explainer Video

Many businesses, especially startups, choose an explainer video as a tool to increase conversions by up to 20%. However, some people mistakenly (and expensively!) believe that just having an explainer video will magically lead to viewers taking the desired action.

So which is it? Is having a mediocre explainer video better than no video?

Turns out, research by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst indicates the answer is “No”. People will stop watching a video if it fails to hold their attention, loads too slowly, confuses them, sounds horrible or is grainy to watch.

A mediocre or bad explainer video will not only lead to fewer conversions, it may lead to frustration and distraction, both of which are likely to send visitors away from your website – the exact opposite of your intended goal for them to stay and convert.

Ideally, you want to put together an explainer video that increases both engagement (so it’s watched till the end) and conversion (so viewers take the action you desire, whether that be buy, subscribe, download, etc).

7.5 qualities your explainer video must have to help it convert better:

1. Your video depicts the message in a complementary visual style

Explainer videos come in many forms and types. Deciding how to depict your message is obviously crucial to the success or otherwise of your video.

Here are some visual styles you could choose from:

  • 2D or 3D Animated Video
  • Live Action
  • Whiteboard Animation
  • Cutouts
  • Stop-motion
  • Talking head
  • Screencast
  • Motion Typography

… or some blend of the above.

So, how do you pick one?

Ultimately, the right type of homepage video is the one that:

  • Matches the style of your product – be it flamboyant, fun, elegant, cute, etc
  • Conveys the message using relevant and appropriate visuals
  • Considers your audience. Are they young, hip, old, internet savvy, male, female, etc?
  • Matches your intended outcome – do you want to shock and awe or inform and educate?
  • Matches your budget (this one’s a no-brainer!)

A great example is this explainer video by which matches their product and audience perfectly!

2. Speaks Directly to your Intended Audience

Your explainer video should talk directly to the person who’s going to use your product. The viewer should feel that this video was made just for him or her.

Who should this person be? Why, your ideal customer of course!

If you’ve spent some time identifying your ideal customer then you can easily match your video’s style and tone to speak directly to this customer.

For example, consider the Springpad explainer video.

They highlighted the story of a mom, told from a mom’s perspective, narrated by a female. Even though the application could be useful for countless other types of demographics, you can see how easily moms leading busy work and home lives can relate to Springpad.

If you can understand your customer’s pain points, you’ll understand the overall feel your video should have.

For businesses who may have more than one type of ideal customer, it’s important to focus on just one use case so that you’re able to make a focused video and have a greater impact.

3. The Script Weaves a Compelling and Easy-to-Understand Story

The script is perhaps the most important element of your explainer video. Get the script right and everything else has a better chance of falling in place.

The best scripts tell a compelling story. So should yours.

A story typically has three parts. There’s a problem. Your hero (customer) needs to solve this problem to achieve a benefit. Your product/service offers a solution to this problem.

In the storytelling world this is called setup, confrontation and resolution.

Notice how in the story your customer is the hero, while your product is his weapon of choice. Your product empowers the customer.

When writing a compelling story, follow the rules of good copywriting – each sentence’s purpose is for the next sentence to be read. Use words that invoke curiosity and direct the viewer to want to know more.

Stories often use characters to help audiences relate to the problem. For example: “This is Jack. Jack needs to lose weight.”

Make sure the tone of the script is consistent with your brand’s personality. A fun quirky brand deserves a quirky video.

Take a look at this video for Dietbet, which incorporates the all-too-familiar story of someone wanting to lose weight but who gets demotivated dieting alone.

4. Visual Elements Captivate and Guide the Viewer’s Eye

The sequence of events and visual elements of your landing page video – the storyboard – needs to be pre-planned and co-ordinated. However, the story needn’t be flashy or expensive looking. It just needs to effectively explain your product or service.

Your storyboard will depend on your script and the visual style you’ve chosen.

Your visual elements should:

  • depict the concept or essence of your story
  • not look cluttered
  • follow the design principles of your brand
  • contain cues to guide the viewer’s eye

Commoncraft is famous for using cut-out animations as visual elements to explain concepts and for using a finger pointing technique to guide you on where to look and what to focus on.

Other visual cues involve the use of arrows, highlighting specific areas, blurring what’s not important, magnifying areas of study, etc.

When choosing visual elements for your video, remember to try and follow the style of your corporate branding for a consistent, put-together look so that viewers can recognize your videos irrespective of the platform they are being viewed on.

5. Memorable!

Stories that invoke emotion, resonate with the reader, make them laugh, or present a concept in a novel way all have the power to be memorable. If your corporate video manages to hit any of these hot buttons, chances of message retention go up.

According to stats quoted by ThinkMojo, a memorable explainer video may invoke 95% message retention even after three days. This is comparable to 65% retention for images and just 10% for text.

Videos that people remember are shared more and increase brand recall.

To increase your video’s memorability:

  • Make it fun or funny – especially if that goes with your brand’s personality (for example the humpty dumpty style character used to depict the Crazy Egg brand)
  • Talk about benefits versus features (instead of saying “granular sharing controls”, Dropbox says “just quickly share a Dropbox folder with Mom”)
  • Make it highly relatable so the viewer has an emotional response (remember Springpad: “this is so me”)
  • Keep it short – under 90 seconds if possible
  • Make the first 20-30 seconds count with a hook. A hook is something that will immediately grab your viewer’s attention. A hook could be a surprising visual, a well-described problem, or any other tool that will hold and captivate attention.

A truly unforgettable video is one by DollarShaveClub – it’s funny, sassy and pokes fun at itself (and you). It’s so wacky that it’s instantly memorable!

6. A Professional Voice Over or Music

You can have the best quality HD video with slick post production effects, but if your audio is unintelligible, you might as well throw money down the drain.

Great audio can make even a mediocre production sound fabulous whereas poor audio will make your video unwatchable!

Good audio works in tandem with the script by following the nuances of emotion detected in the text.

Aside from the technical aspects of a voiceover, great audio starts with a professional voice over artist.

When choosing a VO artist, pick someone who injects personality into their voice. Ideally you want the voice to sound personal, so the viewer feels that the narrator is talking to him directly.

Choose voice over artists from or hire a freelancer over at Elance.

Or if you’re choosing music to accompany your video, consider this video for Swipp, which uses music to create an epic atmosphere to great effect.

7. A Clear Call to Action (CTA)

Tell your audience what to do next. Sign up, buy, download etc. Make it a verb. Communicate deal-maker benefits (“free”, “open source”). Talk about how it’ll help (“simplify your life”). Add encouragement (“money back guarantee”). Make it convenient (“install in 30 seconds”).

Your goal with a CTA is to remove or reduce as many barriers to entry as you possibly can and give people an incentive to click.

Pongo’s resume building service does this effectively with their closing where they ask you to “Sign up for a free trial today”.

7.5 – Bonus Tip!

One of the most common traps mediocre explainer videos fall into is explaining every feature of their product or service in detail. Don’t do this. We get it –it’s your baby. You think it’s awesome and the world should know about all of its functions.

But an effective explainer video is one which is not a product demo. Your explainer video doesn’t have to walk the reader through all the product’s features.

Instead, your explainer video should focus on benefits. For example, don’t talk about the “API enhancer” you developed (whatever that is), instead focus on how your app can “help companies save time and money by integrating with other software out-of-the-box”. If you talk about too many features, peoples’ eyes glaze over. Stick to the benefits and you’ll give people a real reason to buy.

Take a look at this explainer video by Synergyse – which makes in-app training for Google apps. They emphasize benefits such as “quickly access training with one click”, “learn and take action at the same time”, “save valuable time by not having to leave your current application to learn about it”.

So, in a nutshell: Prioritize the message. Speak to your ideal customer. Style and visualize your video. Don’t skimp on audio quality. Choose the right format. Tell a compelling story. Make it memorable. Mix, upload, promote and watch the conversions increase!

Written by Salma Jafri
Salma Jafri is Chief Dragon over at She specializes in helping her content marketing clients get more value from their content – be it online videos, social media or blogging. And yes, apparently Dragons and Ducks do get along! Follow Salma on Twitter and Google+ for a dose of zany marketing nuggets.