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9 Insider Tips for Creating a Killer Explainer Video

Are you considering investing in an explainer video this year? You know; the videos that explain your product or service in 60-90 seconds?

Explainer videos are a great way to engage potential customers and familiarize them with your business. The hard part is to get them right.

Since an explainer video may be smack dab on your homepage, and the first thing your visitors experience, it’s essential to nail it the first time. Here are 9 insider tips for creating a killer explainer video that clearly describes your business and drives more sales.

1. It’s All About the Script

A well written script is the key to a successful explainer video. It’s the foundation upon which everything else is built. In most cases, it helps to have an “outsider” write the script. Choose someone who can take a fresh look at your company and explain it in a way that anyone can understand.

Many professional video companies will have you fill out a creative brief first. It helps you think about your business at a high level and makes you define what really matters. Make sure you go through a similar exercise before you get started. Here are some typical example questions:

creative brief

Once you finish this brainstorming process, begin writing a script. Refer to your creative brief when writing because it will help you stay on the right track.

Here is an example script used for a Pongo Resume explainer video:

pongo script

2. The Shorter the Better

According to writer and creative director, Helen Klein Ross, “the less you say, the more likely people are to remember.” We realize you have a lot you want to tell people about your business, but this video is meant to be an overview, the “hook” that gets people interested in taking the next step.

The typical rule of thumb in the industry is 150 words per minute. You might be able to read faster than that; but remember, you need breathing room and time for the message to sink in.

Not to mention, the longer your video is the less people will pay attention to it:

video attention span

Trying to keep yourself from telling everything about your product can be the hardest part. The trick is to cut your script down and be very concise.

Be sure to check out the infographic: How To Increase Your Video Viewership for more details on video duration a viewership tips.

3. KISS (Keep it Simple Silly)

In order to keep it short, you need to keep it simple. Good explainer videos focus on 4 simple things:

  1. The problem – Address the pain your customers are having (0:00-0:20)
  2. The solution – Introduce your product or service as the answer (0:20-0:25)
  3. How it works – Briefly describe how it works or how to get started (0:25-0:50)
  4. A call to action – Tell people what to do next (0:50-0:60)

The explainer video below is 60 seconds long. Watch to see how these 4 segments are arranged:

4. Benefits, not Features

Whether you have a new product, app, or web service, the temptation is to try to show off as many features as possible – 100GB of storage, 60” HD screen, unlimited users, etc. The list goes on. However, it’s the benefits that really matter to customers.

Instead of droning on about technical nonsense, tell people how your product or service is going to make their lives better. Swap out “100GB of storage” for “Plenty of space to safely store your family photos.” You get the idea.

5. Use a Professional Voice

Nothing can ruin a video faster than poor audio. We’ve all heard it – the crackly voiceover seemingly recorded on a Talkboy.

Or maybe the quality is fine, but the voice just doesn’t have the polish and delivery that a professional might provide.

Either way, investing in professional talent is a must. There are plenty of options out there, but a good place to start is

6. Have Some Fun

It’s important to develop a video that resonates with your audience. But we’ve found that regardless of who’s watching (CEOs, marketers, working moms, children), one thing is always true – people love to be entertained.

Adding something a little different to your video, whether it’s humor, a surprise, or something downright wacky, can go a long way. It gets people smiling and helps them connect with your brand in a way that a website can’t.

7. Visuals are Secondary

Like having a polished voiceover, professional looking visuals are important. However, they are not as important as you might think. I’ve seen plenty of effective, professional videos that use simple visuals, like the one below for Eventbrite.

The key is using visuals that help illustrate the story and reinforce the voiceover. You’re not looking to create the next Avatar. In fact, too much detail and whizbang visual effects can distract from the message.

To learn how to make your own visuals easily, be sure to read our article: How to Create Your Own Promo Video for Under $100.

8. Set the Tone with Music

It’s amazing what a song can do. Like video, music can evoke all types of emotions, and it has the ability to set the tone and pace of your explainer.

Sometimes we’ll have the perfect song in mind when developing a video, but most of the time we research music after the video is complete, locating a tune that fits the mood. We often use services like, Tunefruit, or audiojungle that have thousands of options for $100 or less.

9. Plan for the Launch

A lot of people get so excited about creating a video that they forget to plan for the launch. A successful video launch consists of 3 things:

  1. Select a video host – There are plenty of options out there when it comes to video hosting, but we suggest looking at Wistia, Vimeo PRO, Brightcove, or Vidyard.
  2. Have a marketing plan – Let’s face it, your video probably isn’t going to go viral, but you can take some steps to get some extra eyes on it. Leverage your blog, newsletter, social media channels, e-mail signatures, and events to share your video.
  3. Integrate the video on your website – Most companies like to put the video front and center on their homepage. Wherever you place it, it should integrate seamlessly with your brand and content.

crazyegg homepage explainer video

If you’re considering jumping on the explainer video bandwagon this year, I hope these tips will help point you in the right direction. They can save you time and money; but, more importantly, they’ll help you produce a video that delivers real, measurable results.

Have you made an explainer video? What are some tips or tricks you learned along the way?

About the Author: Andrew Follett is the Founder and CEO at Demo Duck and Video Brewery where he builds handcrafted explainer videos. He lives in Chicago, loves startups, and enjoys traveling. You can find more video tips and tricks on his blog or follow him on Twitter.

  1. Hey Andrew,

    Excellent post. I just wanted to contribute by adding, people should check out some of the Top Explainer Videos out there. We compiled a list here:

    Your Trulia one is at #22 :)

    • Thanks for sharing! Glad to hear we made the list.

    • Gret Post Andrew! Videos does have a lasting impact in people’s mind, especially having the video hosted on sites like Vimeo, Wistia, BrightCove etc. makes the video embedded on the site stand apart with the awesome video players they have got and especially people would like to view high quality videos on good video players.

  2. Legendary as usual. Great timing for me too. Thanks Andrew, your site looks great too.

  3. Daniel Ripoll Jan 31, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Great post Andrew. We may be in the market for one of these in the very near future. And who better to help a content marketing business explain content marketing than someone who clearly gets how it’s done. Kudos.


  4. Best explainer video out there is from Vooza:

  5. Great tips, this is just what we were looking for!

  6. Andrew, I didn’t know about the attention span graph. I thought that it’s best that a video should be less than 2 minutes but that’s a great statistic that I will use personally so i thank you for sharing this!

    • Nino – I’ve seen a number of conflicting stats about “ideal video length” since it depends heavily on your audience and the context. For example, people required to learn CPR for a class may take the time to watch a 30-minute training video, whereas a busy executive may take 30-seconds or less. For most business explainer videos, 2 minutes or less (the shorter the better, assuming you can fit the content) is a good target.

  7. James Desmond Mar 12, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Great article! There is never enough information on Explainer Videos but I did find a new blog with an article about Profile Videos & Explainer Videos, you guys might find this one interesting too:

  8. Great article. Explainer videos can be really expensive, so being able to DIY would be a lot cheaper.

    Thanks Andrew!

  9. Superb post. I’m about to start writing script for Responsie Email Marketing. This is definitely gonna help me a lot.

  10. Great article. In what cases do you recommend longer videos than 60 – 90 seconds?


  11. Hi Andrew,

    This is a really exceptional post. We are revisiting the prospect of doing an explainer video and following your advice is making me more and more confident with our script.

    Also, I just wanted to offer a bit of advice for your readers who are looking to do a video themselves but that don’t have much of a budget.

    I work for a very small company and had zero experience with anything remotely video-related, although I do have a degree in Marketing, so that aspect of it wasn’t all foreign.

    We made a video but didn’t release it, but we used, which is a pretty great tool that has a ton of pre made cartoon people, business themed, as well as whiteboard animation and some other stuff.

    They have a huge selection of scenes and people and props to depict pretty much anything that you want to in your video. It’s a bit overwhelming at first because there’s so many possibilities of the way characters could behave in a scene, and it takes a bit of time to understand how to maneuver the camera, and add enter/exit movement into a scene, but it all came together in a couple weeks.

    As I said, we didn’t end up using it but we are making another one again using the same website. If someone is really set on making a video for the least amount of money, I think you could probably pay for one month and get a video out in that time or less, depending on how much time you’re able to commit. Obviously you would want to have the script 100% complete and as perfect as you think it can be, so that you’re not paying for the subscription and wasting time on things that could have been done previously.

    I’m pretty sure they have a free trial period too, so you can use that time to learn the system and try to make some sample videos. I would still recommend having the pre-work, like the script, finished before starting the trial, because this is something that we did not do, and wasted a lot of the time that we had with the free trial coming up with the script.

    We tried other sites that have the same functionality as goanimate but ended up going with them because they seemed to have more variety of scenes, characters, props etc. I know other people that have had good experiences with other websites though.

    Also, we used to find a professional voice-over person and ended up spending about 40 bucks to have the guy record the script a couple times, and it ended up making our video look like we had spent much more money on it than we had.

    We used elliott22x and he was really good. We even asked him to redo one thing and he quickly obliged and redid it. I think they all do, but he uses professional equipment and the sound quality was great.

    This wasn’t supposed to be this long of a post, but I’d figure I’d share our experience since I’m sure others are going through the same thing.

    I hope someone can find something useful in this comment!

    • Hi Emily, what’s your position at your company? Curious to see what departments focus on getting a project like this done.

  12. Great Post Andrew! I’d also like to share here the ‘explainer video process’ infographics. I hope the audience here will find this useful as well:


  13. Very well written post! It is key to keep your viewers engaged and keep the video short.

    There are many great examples of well-designed explainer videos and also brand videos like; ‘the man that walked the earth’ (Johnny Walker).

  14. Love this. One thing that I hold as an absolute is that people are forgiving of “not so perfect” video quality but your audio HAS to be outstanding. In fact, you can pretty much get away with a terrible video if the audio is good. Strange isn’t it! Get your microphones people :P -DB

  15. Thanks Andrew, great post!

    I have a question related to your post’s video host section: You have mentioned Wistia, Vimeo PRO, Brightcove, etc – what about youtube? Could you please explain what’s wrong with yt? Thanks!

  16. All fine, but going after a studio is always expensive for startups like us. Is there a better and cost effective way to start. We can always go for a bigger studios once we get funding.

    How about using tools like Voosme, Animaker, etc where it promise better video for affordable price.
    Thanks Andrew

  17. Shella Gardezi Jul 24, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Great post. I would add that knowing your audience is key at every step. Especially when you are doing your Creative Brief.

  18. Thanks for sharing such a great post, you have merged many things together and with the results I am reading the master piece.

    I would like to share something from my 5-years experience working on explainer video (and since the terms “explainer video” was not even existed before 5-years ago, I consider myself a somewhat expert).

    I mostly focus the two main things 1. Keep it short and 2. Keep it simple.

    By the way great post!

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