You’ve probably heard that explainer videos can boost conversions anywhere from ten to ten bazillion percent. You may even be toying with the idea of doing one for your company.
The question is: Can you make it any good?
With more than 100 years of movie and video history embedded in our collective subconscious, your customer’s expectations are really high. So high, in fact, that 60% of visitors are far less likely to return to your website if your explainer video doesn’t stack up.
What is an explainer video?
An explainer video is a short video that explains what you do, the customer you serve, and the problem you solve.
Explainer videos are like value propositions on steroids.
A well done explainer video clearly identifies the problem, details the product, and showcases the company’s personality.
An explainer video is not necessarily a:
- Viral video;
- Company overview;
- Product demonstration;
- Promo video.
Even though your explainer video may incorporate some of these elements, the focus should always on be “clarity first, packaging second.”
Why should you use an explainer video?
Quite simply, they work.
If you’re a B2B company, you’ll be happy to know that a Forbes study revealed that 59% of C-Suite executives prefer to watch a video over reading text if both are presented on a page.
The value of video content isn’t limited to B2B. If you need more statistics to back up an investment in video, just Google them. They’re ubiquitous.
How many people can you expect to watch it—and for how long?
Let’s look at some benchmark data. We’ll use what we find here to help guide the video (re)creation process in the next section.
Average video view/pageview rate
A study by Wistia found the average play rate for “business videos” hosted on their platform was roughly 30%.
In another study, Wistia dug into visitor data for their own homepage video and found that roughly 30% of their video views came from prospective customers.
While these may seem like sturdy benchmarks, don’t put too much stock in them.
For one, the Wistia studies are a bit data. More importantly, this is an example of “averages lie.” The visitor/view metric is one for which you should compete only against yourself.
The ratio of viewers to visitors depends on a number of factors, namely:
Because Wistia hasn’t segmented their “business videos” into industry categories (like Mailchimp does for email ) or provide details on which videos, for example, used optimized thumbnails. That means that the 30% benchmark is, sadly, pretty useless.
According to production company DemoDuck, 3 out of 4 visitors clicked to watch ZenCash’s explainer video. Great, right?
While a 74% video view to pageview ratio is impressive, what if most people shopping for invoicing software watch videos—when given the option—instead of scanning a bunch of text?
What if other invoice software companies saw similar results? Or, what if none of the other key players use explainer videos, so comparison shoppers watch simply for the novelty of it all?
Without knowing the benchmarks for your audience, it’s impossible to know whether any single number is “good.” It’s also unlikely that your competitors will share that information any time soon—you’re better off focusing on improving your numbers rather than comparing yourself to others.
There’s another challenge. Let’s take some video statistics from interviews we did a few years ago.
Our most-viewed video, an interview with Noah Kagan, had a view-to-visitors rate of 36%. Our least-viewed video had a 23% rate.
Relying on that metric as a benchmark is unreliable. If I added the traffic from the ZenCash study and my two videos, then divide it by the total number of views, I end up with a 56% view-to-visitor rate.
As I add more videos to that mix—related and unrelated, optimized and unoptimized—that percentage would go down and skew the data beyond all recognition.
This also doesn’t take into account other factors, like mobile and tablet visitors, who are three times more likely to view a video, or that consumption behaviors for mobile are dramatically different than desktop viewers.
Sadly, without better segmentation, using benchmark data is pretty unreliable. What’s a better optoin?
Average view-to-completion rates
Going back to the Forbes study of C-Suite executives, more than half (57%) reported that they prefer to view videos between 3 and 5 minutes in length.
Another study that measured the total amount of time students interacted with an educational video found that students were most engaged with videos ranging between 3 and 6 minutes.
What’s interesting is that students who were in the certificate program had a tendency to watch longer, suggesting that higher education levels may also result in slightly longer engagement periods.
In another study by Wistia, they analyzed engagement across millions of video views, and found that engagement starts to drop off dramatically after the two-minute mark.
That doesn’t mean that every video needs to be short, however. There’s another stable period of engagement between the 8- and 12-minute marks.
So what’s the takeaway? Wistia explains:
Every second counts between 2 minutes and 6 minutes, but there’s hardly any drop-off between 6 minutes and 12 minutes [. . .]
Beyond 2 minutes, focus entirely on the content. If the viewer would benefit from brevity, go short. If they’d benefit from depth, don’t cut just for the sake of cutting.
5 steps to create an awesome explainer video
Making a high-quality video isn’t as simple as picking up a camera and shooting. This section covers the pre-production process, which is often overlooked, even though it’s critical to the video-making process.
Step 1: Select a style that best communicates your brand and offer.
To make a professional-grade video, you first have to know the style that will best communicate your message.
If you find yourself saying, “Let’s do a whiteboard video because they look cool!”, you’re doing it wrong.
The style of the video sets the tone for the company’s personality, and it helps to position the product in the most powerful way possible.
Mint tackles a hard topic: personal finance. Rather than overwhelming viewers, they go with a simple, clean video—a design that reinforces Mint’s ability to help you manage your finances effortlessly.
It also showcases the product in action so that you can see how easy it is, for example, to set a budget or get due date reminders for your bills.
Step 2: Nail the script.
After you’ve settled on your video’s style, you need to focus on your script.
According to Neil Patel, a good explainer video script should contain the following elements:
- An introduction to your company and an overview of the problem you solve;
- Why the problem is valid for the industry;
- Specific example of the problem;
- Show off your features and how they solve the problem;
- Give the call to action;
- Answer any objections and state your guarantees;
- Use client proof to seal the deal.
Generally speaking, one minute of video is equal to 150 written words, so everything has to be as conscience as possible.
Unless you have someone in-house who has written amazing explainer video scripts before, I’d recommend working with a professional who specializes in the format.
Also, always do qualitative research and conduct customer development interviews to help your script address as many pain points as possible. Tools like Qualaroo and SurveyMonkey can be extremely helpful in this situation.
For more on writing explainer video scripts, check out:
- How To Write A Killer Explainer Video Script (Video Brewery);
- Making An Explainer Video: Writing The Script (Go Animate);
- The One Page Guide To Demo Video Scripts (Simplifilm).
Step 3: Create storyboards.
A major problem with creating explainer videos is that nobody else can see the movie that’s playing in your head.
While that seems fairly obvious, the biggest source of stress and frustration with making videos is when two (or more) parties see a different movie in their head and fail to show each other what they’re imagining.
Avoid the headaches and use storyboards. When everyone knows what the video will look ahead of time, everyone stays on the same page, and there’s less room for confusion.
John Lasseter, director of Toy Story 1 and 2 and co-founder of Pixar, swears by storyboarding:
In animation, it is so expensive to produce the footage, that unlike live action we cannot have coverage. We can’t do multiple takes of a scene [. . .]
We edit the movie before we start production. And we use storyboard drawings to do that. We quickly get away from the written page and the script, and we really develop the movie in storyboards. A comic book version of the story. And we do it the way Walt Disney did it. We have 4×8 sheets of bulletin board material, and we pin up drawings and we pitch them to each other. To see how things flow.
Step 4: Get your timing right with an animatic.
An animatic is a rough version of the video that combines your storyboards with a rough idea of the music, sound, voiceover you’ll use.
While an animatic seems like an extra step, it’s one that gives you a true sense of what everything will look and feel like.
When something seems to be working great then we’ll go on to the editing system and we will make a version of the movie using the still storyboard drawings.
And we’ll put our own voices in it as scratch voices, we’ll get temporary music from some soundtrack album that has the right emotion we want, and put sound effects in there. And we can literally sit back in a screening room, press a button—no excuses, no caveats—and we just watch the movie with still drawings.
I will never let something go into production unless it is working fantastic in that version with the still drawings. Because no matter all the great animation you can do will never save a bad story.
We will work and rework and rework and rework these reels—sometimes thirty times before we let it go into production. We’re really adamant.
We’ll even slow the production down or stop production to get the story right because we believe that it’s the story that entertains audiences. It’s not the technology. It’s not the way something looks. It’s the story.
Animatics are simple to create and can be made in Windows Movie Maker or iMovie.
Step 5: Get everything else right.
From lighting to audio recording, cameras, and music selection, there are too many extra things that go into making high-quality videos to cover here.
If you’re shooting live action, I recommend checking out Wistia’s video production tutorials.
If you’re doing animation, hire a professional. (Here’s a list of some of the best explainer video companies out there right now.)
What about user-generated videos?
As a nice bonus, if you’re using user-generated testimonials, a comScore study found that “professionally-produced video content and user-generated product videos are highly synergistic, driving higher levels of sales effectiveness when used in tandem.”
By combining both user-generated and professionally produced video, publishers generated +35.3 points with comScore’s “Share of Choice” metric for featured products and +28.0 points for the brand’s total line.
Share of Choice quantifies the ability of an ad to influence brand preference and has been shown to be predictive of advertising-induced sales. The metric captures actual consumer preference for a brand among a competitive set.Greg Jarboe
As comScore also found, combining video types resulted in customers feeling more emotionally connected to the video content:
Examples of great explainer videos
Dollar Shave Club
First things first: Don’t expect some random industry stats to tell you how your video should perform. Focus on improving the performance of your videos and, in particular, how many viewers watch most or all of them.
When it comes to production, most of the hard work is up front. Anyone can pay a video production company to make a professional-looking video. Whether that great looking video does its job hinges more on how well you planned that shoot.
Finally, if you’re ever short on inspiration, know that there are hundreds of great examples out there. You don’t have to begin with a blank sheet.