Since you’re reading this post, you likely want to learn all about explainer videos. Watch this great explainer video by Column Five to learn the basics, then read on for the nitty gritty explainer video how-to. We also made an awesome script template for your next explainer video.
Explainer videos can improve your conversion rate by an average of 20% and engagement by up to 200%.
I know what you’re thinking –
“… but they’re a lot of work and cost a ton!”
Yes, some avenues will cost you more than your firstborn child. Others will lead you to spend enough time and gain enough skill to deserve a PhD in explainer video production, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Keep reading our ultimate guide to learn the skills and find the resources you need to get your explainer video game on point without wasting time or declaring bankruptcy.
We’ll go through the entire process. Of course, if you want to skip to only the content you need, here’s a table of contents with links to each section.
Table of Contents
- Know your audience
- Explain the problem
- Explain the benefits
- Write the script
- Storyboard the script
- Record the voiceover
- Add music and sound effects
Why you need an explainer video? (Show us the data)
I’m a data guy and when it comes to explainer videos, the numbers speak volumes. Check out these stats:
- 65% of executives have visited a vendor’s site after watching a video – Forbes
- Including the word “video” in email subject lines can increase open rates by 19% – HighQ
- Open-to-reply rates have been seen to increase 8 fold in emails with video content – Vidyard
- 70% of marketers say video is the most effective medium for driving conversions – Demand Metrics
- Video in emails leads to 200-300% higher click through rates – Forrester
- Adding video to your social feeds means audiences are 10 times more likely to engage and share your content – Content Marketing Institute
- 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service before they visit a store – Forbes
Explainer videos are great hooks to get potential customers into your sales funnel, engaging with your content and brand, and quickly internalizing what you do. The statistics don’t lie on this one – if you want to meet that big hairy revenue goal you set, you need an epic explainer video.
Different types of explainer videos (with examples)
Budding Star Explainer Videos
Live action explainer videos involve real people in real settings without much animation. If you want to try your hand at acting (or want to hire someone else), this is an easy way to start with explainer videos. This type of explainer works great for physical products that can be engaged with by a person. Humans connect when they see another human face. Also, emotional connections to a product are easier to create with live action explainer videos. A great example is this explainer from purple mattress.
One downside to live action explainers is they require filming gear, microphones, lights, actors, and a stage. This can be a challenge for many. However, it’s possible to get decent video from your iPhone and by using equipment you may already have.
Moving Picture Explainer Videos
Animated explainer videos are the easiest format to use to describe intangibles such as software services or online solutions. Animation opens the doors to many more scenarios than live action, so it becomes easier to explain the benefits of your services in a short amount of time. Animated explainers are also easier to edit when they become outdated if you have access to the source files. Here’s an example of an animated explainer video from yours truly.
Turbo Artist Explainer Videos
Have you ever seen anyone draw so fast on a whiteboard? A whiteboard video is an explainer video in which an artist (not a skill I have) sketches out each scene of the video on a whiteboard. The sketch is sped up and a voice over is added. These are relatively cheap to make since all you really need is a well-lit whiteboard, a camera, and a dry erase artist. The downside is that it’s harder to animate these so some creative options may not be as powerfully depicted. Many “whiteboard” explainers are actually animated explainers that use the animation of someone drawing the scene as it progresses, but a true whiteboard explainer is just an artist and a board. FitBazaar has a great whiteboard animation explainer video.
Captain EO explainer videos
Okay, maybe you won’t be donning the 3D lenses for most explainer videos, but 3D animated videos are a great way to add an extra layer of oomph to a basic 2D animated explainer. 3D animation isn’t as commonly used as 2D so it stands out a bit more. It can also cost a bit more. it can also be harder to find good resources to get 3D explainer videos produced. Here’s a great example from Leader Studio.
Can I hire someone to make my entire explainer video?
So all these examples of explainer videos are awesome, but you’re probably thinking. “How much did these guys shell out for these videos?” In an extreme case, Dropbox paid $50,000 for their explainer video. It also gave them a 10% bump to conversion rates.
Most explainer video invoices from big-name firms will come in around $5,000 to $25,000 for one video. The turnaround time on that one video may also be well over a month.
Of course, you don’t have to hire a top tier video firm for your small startup, but most video editing companies still charge a pretty penny. Read our article to learn more about the cost of video editing.
You may also be interested in hiring someone from a freelancer site like Fiverr. This a decent option to get started with, but the cost will be a bit more than $5. You can get a decent explainer video made for around $50 on these sites, but any customization, additional features, or rework will raise the price. The quality you get from sites like these is also going to be reflective of the price, so use them wisely.
Can I make an explainer video entirely on my own?
You can certainly make your own explainer video. The tools are out there. Depending on the type of video you want and your own abilities, this may be a good option, but if you don’t already have a handle on editing software, animation, or filming, this path may cost as much or more than hiring it out to the pros.
The reason is the opportunity cost. Think about how much you’re worth per hour at your company. If you pay yourself even $50/hour, you’re a very expensive videographer, animator, video editor, or voice over artist for being a rookie. You may also need to spend money on equipment, software, media resources or materials to get the job done. You also don’t have the economies of scale working to your advantage like a specialized company does.
If you choose to make your own explainer video, the cost is more than just the cash you spend on the project, it includes all your time as well. Not only time actually producing the video, but you’ll likely end up spending plenty of time figuring out the process and working out the bugs. This could easily be up to a month of working time for someone learning as they go. The total cost of your homemade explainer video could potentially add up to the five figure range.
Not only will it cost quite a bit in the end, but the quality will almost assuredly not be as good as what you can get from a pro shop who has all the best equipment and software and knows how to use it efficiently and already has templates and workflows set up specifically for what you need.
Is there a middle ground option?
I may have convinced you that hiring a professional video editing shop is out of the budget, but you also don’t want to take the risk of making your own explainer video. What are some of your other options?
There are myriad middle ground options between 100% outsourced and 100% DIY. Something along this spectrum is likely the best fit for your company. You can hire all kinds of freelance professionals to do different parts of the video from the animation to the voice over. If you have the right gear, you could film it yourself and hire out all the editing and post production. You may choose to write the script and hire someone to create your vision. We’ll be going in depth to writing a winning script in a minute, but for now it’s enough to say that the script is the most important part of the entire explainer video. Writing the script yourself is a great option if you have a creative vision for how to communicate your brand or product, but it can also be challenging to see things in a new creative way. There are creative marketing groups that can help you write a script that you can create your own video for.
These options will each cost you varying amounts and you’ll get what you pay for in most cases, but there are endless options out there for getting professional quality explainer videos made for your brand or product.
Our personal favorite option is Video Butlers. We specialize in video editing and if you bring us a vision, we can turn it into an awesome explainer video for much less than other pro shops. If you need more than one or two videos made. We’re probably the best option for you.
What goes into making an explainer video?
1. Know your audience
Before you even begin writing your explainer video script, you should have a thorough understanding of who your target audience is. This may be your entire customer base or some subset of your customers. Targeting the right audience up front will help you craft a better message. Some questions to ask when identifying your audience are:
- Where do they live?
- How old are they?
- How do they spend their time?
- What problems do they face?
- Who do they hang out with?
- What languages do they speak?
- Where do they work?
- Where do they spend their time?
- What education level do they have?
- What brought them to your site?
These questions should be answered long before the explainer video is made, but must be referenced as you figure out the best way to present your products or services.
By getting the answers to the above questions as well as other questions you may have, you’ll get a better understanding of what’s stopping people from purchasing. It could be that they don’t understand what you do or how easy your product is to use. Knowing what all their concerns are will help you create a better explainer video.
2. Explain the problem
Once you know who your target customer is, you need to articulate what problems they face that your product or service is a solution for. If you’re selling courses on affiliate marketing, you need to know that everyone entering that game needs to identify high-quality sources for affiliate products and links and explain that your course contains all the tools anyone would need to quickly and easily find a great affiliate link for their brand. Make a list of problems your product will solve and hone in on the one key problem for the specific audience you’re targeting with this explainer video. The main headache that your customers have that your product is an answer to is the problem you should focus the explainer video on.
3. Explain the benefits
A common mistake made in explainer videos is the wrong thing gets explained. After articulating the problem your product solves, you need to explain the benefits your product offers. Benefits are different than features. Promoting features would be explaining that your course has five modules, 300 minutes of content, and six case studies. Promoting benefits would be explaining that your course will equip the student with all the skills and knowledge needed to make a bazillion dollars with affiliate marketing. People don’t care how your features will solve their problem, they care about what their return on investment will be – whether the return is financially, socially, or psychologically. Tell them how their life will be better as a result of using your product. Once you have a list of benefits, you can begin thinking of a brief story to demonstrate those benefits.
4. Write the Script
It should be pretty clear how critical rocking the script is to the success of your explainer video. Here we’ll break down all the best practices for scoring a 10/10 on your explainer video script. To help you get it all written out in an organized manner, we’re sharing our explainer video script template with you.You can use it for any kind of video project, but it works wonders on short and simple explainer videos – especially if you use the steps we’re about to jump headfirst into.
Let’s start with the structure
In general, we like to break any kind of marketing video script into three sections: what, how, and why.
As in what do you do? In this section you need to quickly grab the viewers’ attention and tell them what your company, product, or service does. Some sources will say you have about 3 seconds to do this, and that may be true, but in reality, you should be able to effectively convey much of that information before anyone even decides to click play with the thumbnail.
As in how do you do what you do? Be careful here. Many people want to explain all the nuts and bolts of their products. The features don’t belong in the explainer video. The how section should be a quick explanation of how your product or service solves the viewer’s problems. This could be by showing it in the video if you have a physical product, or by explaining it or animating it if you’re selling services.
As in why should the viewer care. This section can lead you many different ways. One successful approach is to explain why your product is the best solution for the customer’s problem. Another is to explain why the objections a potential customer may have are immaterial. Sometimes the how and why sections can be very similar and often overlap some.
We like to brainstorm as many answers to these questions as we can before we even begin writing. We take into consideration any and all slices of our target audience and put ourselves in their shoes. Once you can answer these three questions, you can start writing the script.
Important note: you can outsource your script, but unless you’re ready to spend some serious cash, you won’t find anyone who knows your audience and their problems as well as you do. Don’t hire the people making your video to also write your script.
Get in Your Customer’s Head
The next step is to completely understand what objections, questions, or concerns your customer’s may have as they learn about your product. Will they say “this is too good to be true.”, or “I bet there are hidden fees.”, or maybe “will the customer service disappear once I pay?”. Write all these out and prioritize them. You likely won’t have time to answer all of them in your one minute video, but the big ones should be addressed.
Now that you have all the objections identified, it’s time to get writing. Use our free script template if the writing part is intimidating. Here are the parts we like to think through as we write the script.
- Introduce your product or company – Keep this short and simple. One sentence is typically sufficient. “We edit your raw video footage into awesome finished products.” is an example from our script.
- Explain the problem –you have to clearly state the problems your potential customers are experiencing. For Video Butlers, the problem we solve is simply that professional video editing is expensive and time-consuming.
- Solve the problem – describe how your product solves the problem. At this point you shouldn’t be more than 30 seconds into the video. If you wait too long to show how you add value to the customer, you’ll lose their attention. Don’t list of all the specific features your product offers. Viewers don’t care about features at this point, if you can sell them on the benefit you can offer them, they will come looking for the features.
- Show the benefits – the medium of video is a powerful way to show how your product will make your clients’ lives better. For online tools, screen captures that show how easy you make it work well. For physical products, a clip of someone using your product in a realistic manner makes your message believable.
- Use social proof – this could be showing other people or companies that have used your product with good results. Make this sincere and not gimmicky. It can be as simple as flashing a screen of logos from companies you’ve helped.
- End with a call to action – This should be a no-brainer, but I’m always surprised at how often people fail to tell the viewer what steps to take next. It could be as simple as saying “click the link below” or “call us today at this number”. The goal is to lead potential customers down the funnel one step at a time and the call to action should show them the next step.
Once you’ve written a first draft of your explainer video draft, set it aside, read these tips, and then read through your script to see what improvement you still need to make.
Blaise Pascal is cited as saying “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.”
If your script is about 150-200 words long your video will likely end up being about 60-90 seconds long. This is the sweet spot for explainer videos. Any longer and you’ll lose viewers.
About 85% of people will watch an entire 30-second video, but only 50% will watch a video completely if it’s up to 2 minutes. If your explainer video is more than 2 minutes, viewership begin to drop even faster!
Don’t try to explain absolutely everything about your company in a single 1-minute-long script. Get straight to the point, and take the time to think about the key message you need to deliver to get viewers to take the next step.
Anything you don’t include can be explained later if your viewers move to the next step, but if you bore them before they’re ready, you’ll lose them for good.
Don’t get technical, don’t get in the weeds, just state the problem and state how you can magically make the problem go away.
Keeping your audience in mind is more than just thinking about the solution they are looking for. It’s about remembering who they are, where they come from, their age and background. All of these will help you nail the right tone your video should have, a crucial decision that will determine the setting, narrator, cast, pace and dialogue type for the entire script.
Channel your audience to understand their needs and get straight to the point in your explainer video. Don’t try to sell your audience anything, Don’t give them a sales pitch, but rather, make them understand that you can actually solve their problem. this will build trust and help them see you’re in it for their benefit and not just to make a buck.
Keeping your audience in mind, write your script in a tone and tempo that will appeal to them during the times when they’re likely to watch your video, like while they’re sneaking a mental break to cruise through their social media feed. Most explainer videos opt for a casual, conversational tone. Use second person with words like “You” and “Your.” Use simple language – don’t confuse viewers with technical jargon they won’t understand.
Benefits not Features
I’ve said above that you don’t want to try to sound like a salesman. You do this by talking about benefits, not features. This helps the viewer see how your product can change their lives and solve their problems.
Rather than saying that your product runs at 20 Ghz per second, show them that your product will save them the headache of waiting all day to get the job done. With video, it’s easy to show benefits. Showing you flying through a task because your product lighting fast works way better than saying 20 Ghz. Nobody will even know what 20 Ghz means.
Make it Funny
Most people don’t watch a video on their Facebook feed because they’re looking for a solution to a problem, they watch to be entertained. People also share significantly more when a video is funny. Who doesn’t want social shares?
It’s important to develop a video that resonates with your audience. The data shows that it doesn’t matter who is on the other end of your video (CEOs, marketers, working moms, children), entertainment is the ticket to engagement and should be used liberally.
Ramping up the entertainment and diversity of your explainer video, whether it’s humor, a surprise, or something really odd or disgusting, can go a long way. It gets people smiling and helps them connect with your brand in a way that a wall of text can’t.
Be sure to not force the humor though. If it comes off as unnatural or too scripted, it won’t be that entertaining and will flop. You don’t have to be a comedian to add a bit of spice to your video. Typically a few coffees and a late night brainstorming session will get the punchlines coming.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Once you have a script written for your explainer video, sit on it for a while, read it again, revise it, and run it by some trusted friends and advisers who can provide critical feedback to you before you get behind a camera or hire an animator. This will help refine your message many fold. Also, after you launch your video, you should come back and revisit it every so often to ensure it still matches your brand and target audience.
5. Storyboard the script
Once you have the perfect script, it’s time to storyboard. For explainer videos, storyboarding isn’t always essential, but in many instances it can help reduce cost and prevent rework. To storyboard you simply sketch out each scene of the explainer video. You can use stick figures if you have drawing skill like me, but it should show visually what scenes you need to film, what props or scenery you will need, and what the actors will be doing. Each scene will get a text description of what is happening. The more details you add to the storyboard, the easier it is to figure out how to create your video whether it’s an animated explainer video or a live action one. If you want to get fancy with your storyboard, you can use one of many services like storyboardthat.com. They offer a free trial of the basic version that can jump start your storyboarding process.
If your explainer video will be animated, the next step is to get drawing. If you’re making a live action explainer video, break out the camera gear. Gifted artists or Adobe Illustrator savant will be able to whip up your own illustrations, but if you’re like most of us that can’t draw on a professional level, you can look into finding premade art that will match what your storyboard dictates. Some options we’ve used are openclipart.org, clipartpanda.com, powtoon.com, and Goanimate.com.
You can also purchase packages of animated characters, backgrounds and objects specifically designed for explainer videos. We think the best option is typically to hire a professional animator to create your illustrations for you. This will give you unique and matching illustrations for the explainer video. For explainer videos that may not need to be 100% illustrated you can find graphics all over the web or, if your product is an online tool or software program, you may be able to use a screen capture program such as ScreenFlow, Camtasia, or Jing to record what you need.
Be aware that while the illustrations and graphics you use are important to the feel of your explainer video, they are not the most important part. Having the right script and focusing on solving the viewer’s problem is the key to success. Be sure you don’t go too crazy with the illustrations so as to detract from the main message.
While some explainer videos work well with 2D or 3D animations, others are much more effective with live action. This is especially true if you’re promoting a physical product that potential customers will want to see in action. You don’t have to spend an entire year’s marketing budget to get great live-action film either. You can film your own with basic equipment including your phone.
If you plan to use live-action filming for your explainer video, keep in mind that the visuals are not nearly as important as the message. Even if you don’t have a professional recording studio with expensive lights and camera gear, you can make an impressive looking video by focusing on telling the story of how your product solves the viewers problem. Use the storyboard you created and work through each scene until you have all the footage you need. You can even rent filming studios by the hour if you want to go that route.
If you’ve done solid work in scripting, storyboarding, and gathering visuals, the animation part should be pretty smooth for a basic explainer video. There are a ton of free and relatively easy to use video editing programs out there that will get you to done. You can get great out-of-the-box text effects, transitions, and animations with a free video editor. If you want more custom control and special effects, you’ll have to find a higher end program. We primarily use Adobe After Effects here at Video Butlers, but there are other professional-grade products out there that can do the job equally as well.
Here’s snippet of a recent animation project we made in After Effects.
The basic steps of animation are to add your assets and follow your storyboard scene by scene until you get a complete animation. Some people get caught up with music and voice over before they animate, but we find our workflow is more efficient if we get the animation completed before worrying about the audio, but that’s partly because we are careful to script and storyboard with detail.
For live-action explainer videos, animation may not be necessary, but post-production editing will definitely be required. This is where you’ll cut all the scenes together to create the storyboard you drew up earlier. Here you will also be able to do color grading, add special effects, and clean up any issues that crept in while filming such as shaky footage, bad lighting, or wide or tight shots. You’ll also add intros, outros, text overlays, and scene transitions here. Editing can be challenging to master, and without professional level software, some effects are not possible. There are many good editors available for free that can do many of the basic tasks you’ll need to get a nice looking explainer video.
8. Record the Voiceover
For an animated explainer video, getting the voicover right is an important part of creating a good experience for the viewer. It’s been shown that an annoying or poorly recorded voice is one of the top reasons someone will click away from your video. The right voice will help keep viewers engaged and give emphasis to key points in your video.
You can record your own voicover without too much equipment. The basics are a quiet room that has little echo. This is typically in the middle of a bedroom or living area in most homes. You’ll need to remove anything that makes noise such as a clock or fan. Computers, appliances, and HVAC equipment can also be problematic. Professional voicover artists use dedicated recording studios with noise deadening panels and high-end microphones. You can get great quality audio without all the gear, it just takes a bit more work and patience. Using a relatively inexpensive USB microphone and a pop filter.
You’ll also want a pair of decent headphones so you can listen to your recordings. Here are some we like.
You’ll need some software to record and edit the audio. Audacity is a free audio recording and editing program that can do just about anything you need it to with a few plugins. We record in Audacity and do most our editing there too, but use Adobe Creative Cloud software for some tasks.
It can take some practice and patience to get the inflections and timing right for a voiceover and if you’re like me, the sound of your own voice can be painful, so sometimes a friend with a studio quality voice can be handy. You can record your own voiceover and get good results, but it’s becoming harder to justify DIY recordings with the accessibility and low cost of the pros. You can find just about any accent and style of artist using sites like VoiceJockeys.com or Voices.com. Typically, you can get a great recording for $50 or less, but some of the more well known voiceover artists charge much more than that.
9. Add music and sound effects
Once you get the voiceover recorded and in place for your explainer video, you can add background music and tweak the volume to match the voiceover. Background music should be just that – background. Don’t choose music that distracts from the message of the video. It should be upbeat and match the style and tone of the video and not be too loud. It mostly helps to fill in the gaps between the speech and to add interest to the story you’re telling. Some good sources of music are the YouTube Creator Studio, Shutterstock, iStock, and Pond5.
If your explainer video storyboard calls for sound effects, this is the time to add them to the mix. Most video editing software allows you to add multiple sound clips and adjust the volume of each so you can blend the effects in and allow them to be heard above the background music.
For an awesome list of 30 free and legal media resource sites including video, graphics, photos, fonts, music, and sound effects, check out our post on copyright laws and find a free download link.
After you get all the audio in place, fading in and out the beginning and end of the video is the best way to create a smooth transition for the viewer. Fading in and out the background music is also effective if you have periods of silence longer than a few seconds, but just make sure it’s not too noticeable to the viewer that you’re fading or it will become a distraction to the main message.
Once you get the video edited to your liking and the sound in place, you’ll have to export it for use on the final platforms you plan to use such as YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia. In general, exporting in MPEG-4 format in the highest resolution you can, is safest. Online video hosting platforms will ingest your footage and compress it for optimized viewing on their servers, so you usually don’t have to worry too much about compression settings, but if you choose to host a video on your own server or use it in some other medium besides the web, your compression export settings will be important.
After you export the video, be sure to preview it all the way through to be sure no errors were introduced during the render process. Once you’re good with the results, upload the file to whatever platform you plan to use. The next step will depend on how you plan to use the video, but in general, you’ll paste the embed code on whatever website you want to post the video on. You’ll also likely want to share the video on social media channels, blogs, newsletters, emails, and share it at events. An important part of any marketing project is to track success. Use the analytics features of the video hosting sites to track your explainer video views and tweak as needed to improve reach and impact.
This can involve A/B or split testing with different versions of your video to see which is better at converting viewers to clients. This is where having a dedicated video editor on retainer can be incredibly handy. If you need multiple iterations of the same video – say one with a British accent voiceover and one with an American accent – the costs can add up if you have to pay for each new edit one at a time. If you make it yourself, you can save the money, but it will cost you time to create multiple versions.
If you want to create an explainer video, you have to take the time and complete all of the steps discussed above, especially the script writing. If you want to read more about that, watch for our third post in this series. Also be sure to use our free script writing template that you can get here. If creating your own explainer video seems like a bit too much DIY for you, there are countless professional services out there ranging from about $50 to at least $20,000 and beyond. We would also love to help you create your explainer videos. We offer unlimited videos with unlimited edits and revisions at a flat rate subscription fee paid monthly.