Videos are becoming an increasingly important way for businesses to build brand awareness and lead potential customers down the sales funnel. Of the different types of marketing videos, explainer videos might just be one of the most influential, with 96% of people watching an explainer video to learn about a product or service.
Here’s what you need to know about how to make an effective explainer video for your brand or organization.
This article will cover:
- What is an explainer video?
- Why would you make this type of video?
- How to make an explainer video (step-by-step guide)
- 5 examples of the best explainer videos to inspire you
What is an explainer video?
Explainer videos are short videos that explain your company’s product or service. Good explainer videos also promote your brand effectively and reveal to potential customers what you do, who you are, and why they should do business with you.
Explainer videos are typically found on website homepages, landing pages, prominent product or service pages, and social media feeds. They can also be used for presentations, events, and crowdfunding campaigns.
Some benefits of creating an explainer video include:
- Improved SEO search rankings
- Keeping viewers engaged longer
- Increasing conversions in your sales funnel
- Creating content that is easily shared
Why would you make this type of video?
Some reasons you might want to make an explainer video for your business include:
- Increasing brand awareness: Your brand personality can shine through in your explainer video—the tone of your script and your visual style can reflect who you are. If you make an effective explainer video, you’ll provide useful support to viewers who will recognize your brand authority.
- Educating and informing: Whether it’s to teach a new skill, convey knowledge, or tell a story, good explainer videos—including simple animations—aim to educate and inform. Explainer videos also help clarify for consumers why they should choose you over a competitor.
- Selling or promoting a product or service: Good explainer videos enable people to better understand your product or service so that they can see its value when buying your product or service.
- Helping viewers retain information: Our eyes can process images faster than other sensory inputs. The retained information means that people will be more likely to think of your offering when it’s time to buy or pass on the information to others who might be interested.
- Creating easily shareable content: You can share the video on other video-sharing platforms, such as YouTube and Vimeo, using keywords to help people find you, and embedding them to make it easier for people to share.
Browse Project Catalog for more explainer video services.
How to make an explainer video (step-by-step guide)
When making an explainer video, you may want to follow several steps. These include:
1. Research the topic
To make the best explainer video, it’s important to do some research upfront to ensure that it will be as relevant as possible to your audience. You must know the subject inside and out so that you can pick what will work best.
The research can involve tracking conversations about the video topic through social media, conducting surveys to see what customers want to see in the explainer video, and using Google Analytics to get valuable metrics related to the topic.
Your research should be guided by a couple of principles:
- You’re taking something that may be very complex and simplifying it so that it provides a clear solution.
- You’re providing a step-by-step solution to a problem. If you find a problem that a lot of people have and create an explainer video that solves it easily, you’ll have a winner on your hands.
2. Select the type and style of explainer video
This type of explainer video will depend on the purpose of the video, including whether you’re trying to explain a product or service or are focusing on making a sale.
Types of explainer videos
- Animation: Animated explainer videos are great for tackling abstract or intangible subject matters, such as software. They are also good for simplifying or explaining complex processes or subjects.
- Whiteboard: If your budget is small and you want to keep things simple, a whiteboard explainer video may be what you need. This increasingly popular format involves a hand, one person, or an animated person drawing (and erasing) on a white background to illustrate points in the video voiceover. This style can be simple but memorable and effective.
- Professionally shot, live-action video: A live-action video is shot on camera, as opposed to being an animation. It’s best used when you want to depict a step-by-step process for a physical product or a people-oriented service. Having real people in a video can help establish an emotional connection with the viewers.
- Educational: These videos can be defined narrowly as tutorials for students, and more broadly for helping business customers learn about products, services, and processes.
- Sales: Good sales explainer videos are designed to inform viewers about the benefits of a product or service and lead them down the sales funnel.
- Casual/informative: This style of video supplies instruction or information about a product or service using humor, casual methods of address, and simple, clear presentations, helping make it easy to relate to and digest.
3. Write the script
The script is the core of your explainer video. Even if you have a lot of great visual elements, they won’t work without strong ideas presented well in a video script. Even if you’re hiring a production team to make the explainer video, it makes sense to write the script yourself since no one knows your customers better, including their pain points and preferences.
Keep in mind that you’ll likely do multiple versions of the script, so just get something down on paper and go from there. While ideas and storytelling are important, remember that explainer videos are a visual medium. Your script should incorporate important visual elements in its treatment, shown more explicitly in the storyboard.
4. Mock up a storyboard
You have a good script for your explainer video, but if you just use that to create the video, you run the risk of having a finished product that looks nothing like you imagined it. Mocking up a storyboard helps ensure the visuals align with your storytelling intentions.
Using software like StudioBinder, you can create your own storyboard to visualize a project before making a shot list and helping reduce problems that can crop up during production.
With the key frames mapped out in a storyboard, the shooting of the explainer video is much more likely to stay to script and be effective.
5. Record audio
When you create an explainer video, you also have to keep in mind audio elements.
As a result, you may need professional voice help. For the most polished presentation, it’s a good idea to hire a dedicated voiceover actor. With Upwork, you can find top independent voiceover professionals for hire who have experience and focus on different kinds of work.
6. Create the visual assets
You’ll need to create a number of visual assets to put together the final explainer video. These can include moving brand logos, animations, still images, live video footage, infographics, and more. Different visual assets require different software and expertise, so having a plan to create them and make them available for incorporation during editing is important.
However, don’t worry if you don’t have all the knowledge and software needed to create visual assets. Upwork makes it easy to find independent video editors, animators, producers, videographers, and more with the experience you need.
7. Add music and effects
Of course, you don’t just need visual assets for an explainer video. Music and sound effects go a long way in setting the tone of the video. You need a background score designed for your audience (something upbeat and current for a young audience, for example) and sound effects to accompany actions in the video (for example, a swooshing sound as something is erased from a whiteboard video).
While creating an original score for a video can be expensive, the good news is that there are various no-cost and low-cost royalty-free options for music and sound. Freesound and Musopen offer a variety of free music and audio tracks. YouTube also provides free background music options for video creation. AudioJungle boasts that it has more than 1.5 million royalty-free audio and video tracks, starting at $1 each. Or if you’d like to have more input, Audacity offers a free, multi-track audio editor and recorder that can help you create your own music and soundtracks.
8. Edit your video
Once you have all your visual assets created, your audio recorded, your music and sound effect tracks done, the editing—or post-production phase—is where it all comes together to create the final explainer video.
How you edit the video depends on the type of video you have shot (e.g., live action versus animation). The editing process could start with you organizing your video and audio assets with logical names and putting them in well-organized folders.
Once you’ve got your files organized, you can start editing the video. If you’re dealing with a person talking—explaining what the video’s about and narrating the process shown—you might start with a wide-angle shot, using the best footage to get your message across.
Then, you might work in the inserts, close-ups, and cutaways you want to use. You’ll also have to work in any audio tracks and special effects and then fine-tune the video so that it’s exactly as you want.
To do the video editing, you have a wide range of explainer video software packages available. A small sampling of these includes:
- Adobe Spark: This editing software claims that it will help you “create explainer videos for free in minutes.” With it, you can easily add pictures, video clips, icons, or voice to your videos, making changes as you need to text, layouts, images, and music.
- InVideo: This is another free product that has thousands of video templates covering different industries, which can be customized and used to put together the elements of the video. InVideo offers free stock music, pictures, and videos, or you can use your own.
- VideoScribe: Use VideoScribe to create whiteboard videos quickly and simply. It has a drag-and-drop editor and access to a library of thousands of customizable images and music tracks. After a free trial, you can get a plan for as low as $14 a month (if you sign up for a year).
- Vyond: This online animation software enables you to create professional animated videos. It offers a library of templates, sounds, props, and more. After a free trial, the animation editing platform has different price plans, ranging from ones for single users to enterprises.
If you’d prefer to outsource video editing, though, Upwork’s Project Catalog™ offers predefined projects that you can browse and buy in just a few clicks.
9. Test your video with an audience
Before you upload your explainer video, test it with an audience to see if it’s effective. While the audience could be friends or family members, you’ll get more useful results if you use customers from your target audience and professionally led focus groups. Did they understand what the video was trying to do? Was there anything about it they didn’t like?
While it might be a pain to make changes to a finished video, this is better than making something ineffective or offensive. You can also take the learning from the video testing to improve future explainer video projects.
Some sample questions you might ask testing groups include:
- What is the point of this video?
- How would you describe the product or service explained to someone else?
- How likely would you be to recommend the product or service to a friend?
- How likely would you be to purchase it yourself?
- Is there anything we didn’t touch on in the video that you think should be included?
- What didn’t work in the video? What caused negative reactions?
- How does the video affect your perception of the brand behind it?
- Would you be inclined to watch other videos like this from the same company?
10. Publish your video
Once completed, your explainer video can be uploaded to your site, a landing page, or one of your social media channels. You can also use it in social media ads, aimed at people who don’t already have a relationship with your brand to show them why they should.
You can even upload your video to a video hosting service and embed it on your site or share it on social media. Since video-sharing sites tend to have a lot of visitors, you can use keyword descriptions to help people find and engage with your video and brand.
The major video-streaming services include:
YouTube is the top dog on the block. While the huge viewing audience may provide an opportunity to find new customers, you can also get lost in the volume of content constantly appearing on the platform.
Since YouTube is owned by Google, some claim this connection helps your videos get a higher ranking in search results. You can also build your marketing email list with YouTube, using software to embed email signup forms on videos (the videos will politely pause while a sign-up is being done).
While Vimeo lags behind YouTube as far as the number of users, it has made some good inroads with its honest, minimalist presentations of video content.
With Vimeo, there is no cap on the length of videos uploaded and there is less distracting noise than on YouTube (e.g., commercial, gaming, and non-user-generated content). Vimeo is used by a lot of professionals, especially in the creative and film businesses.
While Wistia offers much smaller audiences than YouTube and Vimeo, it has good features designed for marketers. It includes great analytics tools that let you know where your viewers are coming from, where they click, and even where they stopped watching the video. The metrics help you refine your future explainer video offerings.
Wistia also has a customizable video player that can be branded with your colors, right down to the play button, providing a viewing environment that connects people to your corporate identity. For marketing strategy purposes, it also enables calls to action (CTAs) that help you harvest emails or even require providing one before seeing a video.
5 examples of the best explainer videos to inspire you
To inspire you in your efforts, here are five outstanding explainer video examples:
DollarShaveClub.com knows its audience well—20- and 30-something males—using edgy humor to reach them in this explainer video, “Our Blades Are F***ing Great.” Mike, the owner, explains what their service is, the problem (expensive shaving blades and unnecessary features offered by other companies), and the solution (the Dollar Shave Club’s $1 shaving blades delivered monthly to your door). The video continues that there are too many razors with unnecessary features, saying with tongue in cheek, “Your handsome-ass grandfather had one blade—and polio.”
Capital One makes its topic, “What Is a Money Market Account?,” interesting with fun 2D animation. After the voiceover answers this question upfront, the video provides the salient features and benefits of this account illustrated with spare but stylish images (a roller coaster, for example, to show the ups and downs of the money market). It ends with a CTA to find out more and asks its standard refrain: “What’s in your wallet?”
This animated explainer video, with more than 1 million views, asks the timely question, “What is a coronavirus?” The answer takes the complex subject matter and makes it easy to understand and highly engaging with colorful animations. How the coronavirus causes diseases, such as SARS, MERS, and COVID-19, its history, how it spreads, and possible treatments, are all perfectly explained.
Why choose between live action and animation? Airbnb uses both in this great explainer video. In what seems like a single continuous shot (matching the smooth voiceover), the video takes us through moving model landscapes that capture the feeling of adventure and being at home wherever with the international homeshare service.
Coast Mental Health
The whiteboard animation explainer video follows the classical pattern, setting up the problem—the mental health crisis among college-aged youth—and providing solutions from Coast Mental Health. The video is given an engaging style with hand-drawn, black-and-white images filled in with rich color. The strong writing for the voiceover ends with an emotional kicker: “Those voices in your head, they’re gone now, quieted by the compassion of people like Sarah, who can see your potential, and quieted by your own courage.”
A good explainer video is short, simple, targeted, and resonates with its viewers. By following the steps above, you can create a high-quality explainer video to explain a new product, service, or process in a way that satisfies a consumer’s needs, builds brand loyalty, and increases sales. With the right tools and expert help, explainer videos can become one of your most effective marketing strategies.
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