We love B2B companies (especially the concepts, ideas, and founders behind them).
We've created thousands of explainer videos, scripts, and storyboards for them over the last 13 years.
We know they can be complex. Weird even.
They can have quirks, like having 25+ features/value propositions for one product. Or being the product of five years worth of esoteric post-doc research.
So how do you take your idea, and boil it down to a one to two minute video? How do you make sure it's aligned with your video marketing strategy?
Well, it all starts with a good explainer video script.
In this article, we'll go over the basics of writing an explainer video script. You'll learn:
- The video script template we use. It's very basic, but it's EXACTLY what we use on every single project. (When you see it, you'll get why you don't need a template 😉).
- How to write visually for storyboards to maximize your video script's clarity.
- Advice on how to come up with ideas. How to boil it down. How to write something that matters. How to find visual associations. Etc, etc.
- What's the perfect video length? (Spoiler: there's more than one).
But - before you spend time on this:
Is it really worth it?
We suggest doing an ROI calculation on your app explainer video first.
One last note: We're going to share what works for us - simplified. Since the actual process we use to write scripts takes around three to ten days to complete.
Explainer video scripts, simplified: The two column script
The template we use when writing our explainer video scripts is very, very basic.
The goal is simply to organize our thoughts and vision for the video, and communicate them to the creative team effectively.
It's called a two-column script.
Like the name implies, it's just a table with two columns.
In the right column, we describe the video's scenes and visual elements. In the left, we put the script that will be read over the video content.
We want to reiterate: This doesn't need to be sophisticated. A simple table in Google docs could do.
After all it's the quality of ideas, creativity of visual narrative and execution of production that will make the REAL difference in the end.
Realllly don't want to make your own?
Fine, start writing with our free explainer video script template here!
Why write a two-column explainer video script?
Smarter: Creates a more coherent video overall
Whether you're making an animated video or live action, a good script leads to amore coherent and cohesive.
It allows you to see if your first script will get your message across to your target audience, or if you need to go back and review it.
Does it create the right tone? Does it use appropriate word choices? Does it show the pain points your product is addressing? Is it aligned with your organization's video marketing strategy?
This all leads to a good story structure that just flows better.
Better: Shows the creatives your video's vision
You write a video script so that you don't have to improvise it.
A good script gives the animators, editors, and voiceover artists a better understanding of the end result you want. Seeing the script side-by-side the visuals and producer's comments helps them internalize the tone and atmosphere you're trying to create.
For example, instead of wondering whether a sentence should be said with an angry tone or a disappointed one, the voiceover artist can just look at the two-column script to understand the scene's big picture direction.
Faster: Get your videos in front of your viewers' eyeballs earlier
The next big advantage this gives you: More time.
Writing the video script is not only one of the first steps in the video production process. It's also the quickest and easiest stage to make changes at.
A well thought-out video script can save you hours, days, and even weeks of work later on in the video production process.
And what is all this saved time for?
Time to re-iterate, continuously come up with better ideas, to just sit there and edit.
This is the secret to a lot of art, and especially script writing.
The keys to writing a killer explainer video script
Video script pre-writing: Identify your goals, constraints, and inspirations
Before you even try to write something down, you'll want to clarify some key considerations.
Taking the time to think through these questions will help give you some direction when you start writing your video script.
This is especially helpful if you tend to get caught up in writer's block and stare at a blank page for hours.
Identify your video's goals
First, you'll want to think through how to best communicate your product or service, and how to best capture your target audience's attention.
Make sure you consider:
1. What pain points and problems does your product or service solve?
Try to think this through from your prospects' perspective.
Are they even aware they have the problem? Are they already comparing different solutions to the problem?
2. What benefits does your product or service provide?
You don't just want to show the specific problem you're solving, or the features that differentiate your solution.
It's important to show the results that customers get from your product. A good rule of thumb is to find out the main value and two secondary benefits.
3. What key information do you want to share with viewers?
You most likely already have internal documents with convincing data and arguments. Go through these source materials, facts, figures, and sales decks and put together they key takeaways.
You can also go through your competitors' marketing campaigns to get an idea of what's working for them, or if you've missed any key points.
4. Who is your target audience?
Go beyond just demographic information.
Try to get as specific and detailed as possible, and then create personalities for each target persona.
What type of video will appeal to each persona? Will live action or animated videos be more appropriate? Can one video engage more than one of your personalities? Or will you need to create an entire video for each?
5. Where does your video fit in your sales funnel?
Do you want to create more brand awareness, convert leads, or bring past customers into your loyalty? The modern consumer journey can be very complex and non-linear.
Knowing where in your audience's journey your video fits helps further inform the direction you want to take your video script.
6. Is your video going to be product-focused or concept-focused?
Do you want to focus more on exploring the "what" and "why" of your problem/solution? Or will videos that focus on how to use your product be more useful to viewers?
You can include aspects of both in your video.
Usually top-of-funnel videos are more concept/problem focused, and they get progressively more focused on the product/solution as you move down.
(You might even want to just create a product demo video if you're in the B2B SaaS space, and your viewers are already high-intent prospects).
7. What is the final call-to-action?
What is the next action you want the viewer to take?
It could be going to a specific landing page, signing up for a demo or trial, or even just following your social media page and sharing the content.
Whatever it is, take a copywriter's approach to your explainer video script:
The only goals of every single component you include in your video script are to (1) get the viewer to keep watching, and (2) take the desired action.
Identify your video's constraints
Next, you'll want to consider any constraints on your explainer video. You want to make sure you're not writing scenes into your script that you can't realistically produce.
1. Budget and deadline:
Animated videos can vary significantly in price. Adding variety, detail, and complexity to your video all increase the production costs and timelines of a video production.
2. Brand voice and style guidelines:
Animation gives you a blank canvas to work on. The worlds and experiences you can create are virtually endless.
The drawback is that it can be difficult to know where to start (and where to stop).
Creating some guidelines for style and voice beforehand helps keep your explainer video script on-brand, and will even help farther down the line when you're reviewing and editing the video.
3. Proprietary information and NDAs:
The aim of explainer videos is often to share new solutions to old problems. The problem is that these new solutions are usually the source of your business' competitive advantage.
If confidential information leaks out through your explainer videos, you might lose your edge over your competitors. Or even worse, you could violate an NDA and be sued.
Making a list of information you can and can't share will help you avoid all these issues.
Find some inspiration
Finally, look for some sources of inspiration for your video.
There are a lot of great explainer videos out there already. The old adage applies: "Good artists copy, great artists steal."
If you don't already have a swipe file made, you can start with:
- Find three to five examples that you LOVE. Try to explain why you like them.
- Key lines and phrasing to use. You can look through internal material and commentary, sales scripts and customer feedback, branding and marketing campaigns, etc.
- Any visuals which you often see in your niche. This style and symbolism could give you a good idea of what's resonating with your audience.
By this point, what you have is a lot of unconnected thoughts, but this is the first step to letting your ideas ferment.
Be loose about this plan. It's not set in stone how long each step takes, but it's well documented that specificity leads to better results.
Visualize your video before committing
The point is pretty simple: Think visually.
See the scene. See it play out with voiceover & visuals. What will you want to show?
The best producers can plan their entire sequence on a napkin, and you can immediately SEE the power of the visuals, narrative combined.
The benefit of course, is you save TONS of time when you plan and visualize what you will create with care.
Create a moodboard to give the final visual direction
Itching to write? Not yet.
Now it's time to make a moodboard.
This just means putting all your sources of inspiration together to show a visual direction. It helps "see" the world you want to create.
We use tools like Miro, and Google Docs and Slides. Other good options are Milanote, Figma, and even Pinterest.
The exact format and tools you use aren't important here. Just compile all the things that you like, and inspire you.
In the end moodboards end up looking like a collage:
Storyboarding your explainer video script using software
Use storyboards to help bring your vision to life.
We're almost there. It's time to storyboard your script.
You or someone you know, need to be able to draw and upload some ideas to the computer. You can also grab images online - this can substitute but leads to a lower quality result.
We recommend using a service such as https://boords.com to get you started
It is a free to try service, but it helps you with two things:
First, organizing your script, audio and visual ideas.
Second, creating a play by play with your voiceover known as an animatic.
And it's extremely easy to move slides around + collaborate with your team, it's a versatile software for people starting out.
How to make an engaging explainer video script
Now it's finally time to start script writing.
It's impossible for us to give you step-by-step instructions for this stage.
You have to use your own creative juices to develop a video aligned with everything from the pre-writing stage.
However, we can give you some tips and approaches to script writing:
- Think of your video as a pitch, or a sales deck. Trying using the format Andy Raskin uses in his Greatest Sales Deck in the World.
- Hear the voiceover tone in your mind. Define it.
- Starting out? Use frameworks like problem, aspiration, solution.
- Lead with value. The best comes first. Think journalist model.
- Questions are powerful for contextualizing what will come next.
- Your intro, logo reveal, and outro are KEY moments.
- Relevant & obvious metaphors only. Nothing complex.
- Include reference images. Screenshots. Everything helps.
- Don't try to fit in everything - One main theme or narrative.
- Lead with emotion. Start with something spicey.
- Avoid adjectives, explain your point with verbs/actions.
- Sound effects and music can change the tone.
- Be meta. Think about the systems at play. Not just tactics.
- Know where this fits in and why. Too many assets go unused.
- Start with an outline and main points, and fill in the details after.
- What is your brand tone or brand story? Include words and phrasing that express it.
How long should your explainer video script be?
Now it's time to get creative, put pen to paper, and stare down that blank sheet!
We're getting close, but length is pretty important.
What if you can do something in 30 seconds instead of 90... Wouldn't that be useful in time, energy and money saved?
Sure... And to achieve that, it may take dozens of revisions.
Some of our projects will get done in 1-2 rounds. Others in 20. And in some instances, the script shrinks significantly over time.
Is that the best thing to do?
So, what is the perfect video length?
According to Wistia there are three drop off points:
- 30 seconds
- Two to three minutes
- After 12 minutes
However, this is to be taken as a general idea - not gospel.
After all, you'd expect engagement to sharply drop off early on. A lot of viewers are just deciding the video isn't for them, or that they've found the information they need.
After the initial sharp decline, it becomes a slow taper in engagement. What, did you expect engagement to start going up after a few minutes ;)?
So the best advice on length?
"As long as it needs to be".
How many words are in an explainer video script?
While you contemplate where perfection lies, keep this in mind:
There are usually 140 to 170 words in a 60 second video script, depending on the read speed and the amount of visual scenes.
It can be a challenge to whittle your messaging down to a couple hundred words.
To do this, you'll want to interplay the visuals with words.
Apply the classic "show, don't tell" maxim to free up more script space.
Don't feel like writing a script? Then create a solid brief.
Take these 9 steps and you'll have a killer explainer video in no time.
NOTE: Not every studio can write a script for you, but all will need as much information as possible. Some will only work on production or from the storyboard phase.
Here's a quick list of helpful information which can save you time vetting vendors:
- The scope: What is the style, length, any other constraints, budget, deadline.
- The emotion: What are we trying to evoke?
- The market: Who, what, where, when, why, and how the product solves the problem
- Tone: How should it be said? What are the messaging guidelines?
- Visual: The branding, fonts, colors, all files necessary
- Illustration: A few references, moodboards if necessary, some general guidelines
- Animation: Understanding of what the end result will look like
- Sound + music: What's the feeling/ambience?
- Final renders: What you need, any social media edits, formats, sizes etc
Want to know all the details to include in a brief?
Check out our guide on preparing a video production RFP.
The free video script template
Remember that template we linked to at the top?
That is what we use. Day in and day out.
Because it's not really about anything except:
Can you visualize the whole sequence, the entire animation in your minds eye?
Want more? See our in-depth B2B Explainer video guide
And if ever you need that video produced, check us out.
We're a San Francisco video agency that produces video video content around the globe.