Whether you’re a solopreneur, in a small business or work for a large company, one of the main tasks on your plate is being able to explain your product to customers or would-be customers.
Regardless of your status within the company, you are an evangelist for your company’s product or service. Not only do you have to explain how your product actually works, but you need to explain why the company started and where you see the future direction of the company.
The simple fact, however, is that many people do not know how to actually explain the product that they are selling.
It is deceptively difficult. It is actually one of the most difficult things to do whether you work at a small startup or a larger enterprise.
Why is this?
There may be many reasons, but one of the most obvious is that we are stuck in our own heads. We can get consumed with our ideas and our vision for the company that we make assumptions when explaining our product to others.
What is second-nature to us about the product is unfamiliar (and perhaps scary) to current or potential customers.
Because of this simple reality, we need to take special care when creating an explainer video for our product.
The benefits of an effective product explainer video, however, can be massive. You only need to look at one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent startups to understand the power of a compelling, simple, and easy-to-understand explainer video.
Back in 2007, Drew Houston was working on a young startup called Dropbox. He had tried different methods of spreading the word about his startup, including social, paid search, and affiliate marketing. That said, it was Houston’s legendary explainer video for Dropbox that led to massive name recognition (and later growth) for the company.
While I can’t promise that your explainer video will achieve the same traction and impact as Dropbox’s, there are some best practices that you can follow to create an easy-to-understand, yet compelling product explainer video.
Explaining Your Product: General Principles
As with all video content, there are no hard and fast rules that you absolutely must follow in order to create an effective video. Sometimes, it is best to completely think outside of the box and try to shake things up.
I spend a lot of time thinking about video content and product explainer videos. I have found that there are some common traits in some of the more successful explainer videos (both the videos themselves and the processes for making those videos) versus those that are less successful.
- Embrace Simplicity
This is one of the most important things to remember as you are creating your explainer video. Your would-be customers are living extremely busy lives. In all likelihood, they are multitasking as they are watching the video.
Because of this, it is critical to make your video as simple as possible. If you release a complicated, complex explainer video, viewers will become lost or will simply lose interest.
You want to avoid this outcome. Therefore, when thinking about how to create your explainer video, you want to embrace the basics. Think of explaining your product as you would to your 80-year-old grandmother. Try to avoid any complex vernacular or lingo that only you and your co-founders would understand. Speak slowly and clearly, making sure that every word you use is relevant to helping the audience understand your product.
Simplicity is a great tenant to embrace even beyond your explainer video. Entrepreneurial heroes like Steve Jobs made simplicity a crucial tenant of their work.
You should do the same.
- Brevity is Your Friend
Along with simplicity, you should embrace brevity in your explainer video.
You don’t have all day to explain how to use your product. Again, users have busy lives and it is extremely easy for them to become impatient.
But by embracing brevity, you can ensure that your script is tight and crisp. For example, you should be able to explain your product and its value proposition in ten seconds or less. Take Dubb for instance. At Dubb, our secret sauce is helping you grow your business with humanized messages. This is a brief and simple explanation of Dubb that viewers will be able to quickly understand.
Along with a brief description of your product and value proposition, it helps to keep your explainer video short. Limiting the total length of your video forces you to think creatively.
Constraints can be your best friend. That said, making shorter videos is actually more difficult than making longer videos. It forces you to be disciplined and to include significant little details—especially if it is a tutorial video.
Because of this, sit down with your team and agree on the length of your video before you begin producing it. While you may not be able to include everything in your explainer video, your audience will accept this trade-off. If users have more questions about how to use your product, they can always go to your website for further information.
- Lay Out the Most Important Features
In your explainer video, it helps provide viewers with the most important steps or features to use your product. But because of time constraints, you can’t cover every step or every feature.
The goal is to provide the most important features so that viewers can get started with your product. Think through the minimal amount of steps that users need to get started with your product and incorporate those in the video.
Like in the Dubb demo video, embrace visuals in your step-by-step guide, as viewers will remember your visuals more than your video’s texts. And once users get started, they can explore additional features within your product.
- Prioritize Action
The bottom line is that you have to ship your video.
Perfection is the enemy of progress.
As with many things when launching and scaling a product, good is better than perfect. You want to be agile and quick—especially if you work at a startup.
Therefore, if you feel like your video is good enough and that it explains your product in a crisp, concise way, you should go ahead and release it. If it isn’t as clear as you like, you can always iterate and release an updated version.
The General Process in Creating Explainer Videos
With these tips in mind, I also want to share some actionable tips in actually creating your explainer videos.
Like creating any product, there are several key steps in this process.
First, you want to gather your team and start a brainstorming session. Think about all of the necessary steps and features that you want to cover, all while keeping in mind the general principles above. When brainstorming, it helps to write all of your ideas on your whiteboard. Start by embracing the quantity of ideas over quality.
Once you feel like you can’t contribute any more ideas, you should then start filtering your ideas based on quality. As with any brainstorming session, make it a safe space where your peers feel comfortable to express themselves.
Creating the Visuals
With your idea in hand, you can begin creating your explainer video. Your creativity is rewarded here. Ultimately, however, make sure that it is as clear and as simple as possible. Also, make sure you monitor the tone and language of your copy so that it appeals to your particular audience.
In addition, don’t forget to include a call to action at the end of your video. By including that call to action, you can make it as easy as possible for viewers to learn more about your product and features that they can leverage.
Add a Voiceover
Finally, you will want to add a voiceover to your video. You should record the voiceover on a high-quality microphone (which is a relatively cheap purchase on Amazon). While the quality of your microphone isn’t going to make or break your video, viewers will appreciate it.
The voiceover should only take a few takes. From there, you can make any additional edits necessary and then release the final version of the video.
A Crucial Task for Your Startup
As a solopreneur or employee at a small or large enterprise, you must be able to explain your product in a clear and concise way. An explainer video gives you the opportunity to do so in a deliberate, planned manner. It can be a critical part of your marketing strategy as well.
That said, the challenge with any explainer video is to create it in a way that is interesting. This isn’t an easy task. Users only have so much time in their days and your explainer video is competing with other distractions on the internet—like cat videos.
Whatever your strategy, I recommend that you follow the above principles and guidelines in creating your explainer video. By doing so, you’ll have a better chance of helping viewers understand the key tenets of your product.