TBV Insights

Creating an explainer video may be harder than you think

creating an explainer video may be harder than you think

In one of the generally excellent HubSpot blogs, I recently ran across this bit of advice:

Compiling an explainer video isn’t much more complicated than putting together a slide deck in a PowerPoint presentation. You decide what to say and find some relevant graphics to jazz things up.

Leaving aside the question of whether your video should be like a PowerPoint presentation, this might be the case if all of the following apply:

  • Your technology solution is easy to explain on the phone
  • There are no competitors with similar solutions
  • Your prospects’ preconceptions and levels of interest are all pretty much the same

If you ticked all three boxes, stop here.

It’s hard to decide what to say

The 30-or-so words you say in the first 15 seconds of your video are critical — attention spans are short. So, exactly who are you talking to and how do you greet them?

If you need to talk to people who will actually be using your solution, you may want to start off by talking about ease of use. If you’re talking to their bosses, you could start with the staff productivity gains your solution provides. Or an interesting use case.

Meanwhile, their bosses may be impatient to learn about the risks associated with adopting your new solution, or how it differs from others they’re evaluating, or where the ROI comes in.

If you’re in doubt about whose concerns matter most, you should consider splitting your video into several shorter videos for different audiences.

It takes time to make every word count

The process of writing a video script is not at all like “putting together a PowerPoint deck” because every word counts and should contribute to helping viewers understand your message as it plays out on the screen. And making every word count can add up to a lot of time spent writing and rewriting the script.

Here’s an example from a project we’re currently working on. The video explains a management app for cultural organizations like theaters and museums. One of its key differentiators is that it runs on the Salesforce platform.

In an early draft, we wrote this:

“Built right into the premier CRM platform, Salesforce.com, [the solution] is cloud-based software — so you don’t need to maintain it.”

That’s about 10 seconds. It’s not bad. It includes a benefit: maintenance-free vs. customer-maintained servers used in competing solutions.

But will viewers, hearing “the premier CRM platform, SalesForce,” register the implied benefits of technology leadership, CRM integration, mobility, etc.? Or will they nod off to the soothing sounds of brand-speak?  The words by themselves also fail to make clear that competitors do not have this advantage.

So, do we need to say everything we want viewers to take away in words, or can we cinch the case with explanatory visuals? What visuals?

We’ll go through several versions of this 10 seconds-worth in the script before we’re done. Each time, we’ll need to combine words and images to deliver the message in the allotted time— or rewrite what’s said about some other feature.

Such rewrites may end up taking hours before we arrive at exactly the right way to put the message across.

Showing, not telling, can be really hard

The quest to “find some relevant graphics” for your explainer video may be arduous.

To the extent that existing PowerPoint presentations contain explanatory graphics (as opposed to bullet points and decorative graphics), they are usually block diagrams that the presenter takes several minutes to walk the audience through. Your explainer video needs to use simplified versions, and you’re going to need to decide which features to emphasize, and how much to show vs. how much to tell. That’s never easy.

In many explainer videos, the “graphics” are mainly character animations reacting to, or acting out, whatever the narrator is talking about. It’s a challenge to put across anything complex or technical in that style.

The purpose of an explainer video

Sometimes, it’s hard to remember the purpose of an explainer video. It is not so much to explain a technology in a minute or two as to use that time to persuade a buyer to seek more information. And that’s not often easy.

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