How To Make An Explainer Video [B2B Guide]
In this article we will examine how to make an explainer video that engages a B2B audience.
Our explainer video production process has helped hundreds of clients reach their goals.
This article will:
- Teach you how to find your audience and tell a story that connects with them on an emotional level
- Walk you through a step-by-step guide to explainer video production: from scripting to filming
- Show you how and where to share you explainer videos for maximum impact
Table of Contents
- Intellectual & Emotional Approach Marketing Strategies
- What is a Story?
Explaining Explainer Videos
- Why Brevity is Key
- Who Are Your Customers?
- Making a Video Brief: The Outline of Your Explainer Video
Script Writing: The Core of Your Explainer Video
- Does Length Matter?
- Finding A Concept For Your Compelling Script
- Determining The Complexity of Your Business
- Explainer Video Categories
Voice-Over: Finding A Voice That Fits Your Brand
- Software For DIY
- Places To Find Talent
- How To Direct a Professional Voice Actor
- Deciding If You Should Record Your Own Voice
Visuals: Using Images to Set The Tone
- Types of Explainer Videos (Examples)
- Animation Explainer Videos, Whiteboard Videos, Live-Action Explainer Videos
Sharing Your Explainer Video With Your Audience
- How To Post An Explainer Video on Your Landing Page
- Sharing Your Explainer Video on Social Media
- Using Forums & Community Sites
- Setting SMART Goals to Track Performance
- The Goal of an Explainer Video Campaign
The Intellectual & Emotional Approach To Marketing
Robert McKee is one of the greatest story writers of our time. His work influenced the minds behind beloved films including Forrest Gump, The Color Purple, and Toy Story.
In an interview with Harvard Business Review McKee discusses storytelling that moves people and how businesses can use stories instead of facts to get potential customers to take action.
There are two approaches companies take to inform potential customers about their business:
Usually a promotional video featuring industry related stats, figures, and sales metrics. This convinces viewers why a company is the best in their field.
This involves a company tying their business and relevant information to an emotion through story.
As Daniel Kahneman writes in “Thinking, Fast & Slow” there are 2 systems working in the human mind.
System 1 is fast, unconscious, and intuitive. It relies on vast experience to make decisions.
System 2 is slow, deliberate, and methodical. It kicks in to complete skilled tasks requiring our undivided attention.
As Kahneman writes, the problem with System 2 is that it’s lazy. It would rather rely on the world that System 1 constructs through metaphors and association.
According to McKee the intellectual system 2 approach to marketing sparks a problem.
Prospective customers have their own authorities and statistics in their minds. This means they’ll form a mental argument against your company while watching your video.
To create harmony between your business and your potential customers, position your claims in a way that gets them to agree. To do this you must read into market dynamics and understand underlying trends and psychology.
While the intellectual approach is enough to get prospective customers to take action, it has difficulty getting them emotionally attached to your brand.
The emotional approach is not easy, and that’s why most companies favor the conservative route. They don't want to rock the boat too much, so they say something, but not much.
However, if you can tell a compelling story about your business, one that infuses an idea with emotion, then you will have a piece of content with the power to drive potential customers to action.
An Emotional Explainer Video Is Not Everything
Achieving this level of emotional impact does not automatically yield a killer explainer video.
The reality is your video could suck, but get distributed, and you could make millions in profit.
Or your video could be awesome, emotionally and intellectually, but not on topic, meaning it never takes off.
Amazing videos tie in emotion and intellect, and get you results such as engagement, views, and comments.
Let’s show you how to craft a killer explainer video that makes sense, and convinces, sells, persuades, or just entertains your ideal audience into sticking around long enough to get to know (and eventually) buy from you.
The most important thing to remember:
Great story-telling exists with or without you.
According to journalists, copywriters and artists, there's a truth about writing -
The AUDIENCE decides what is popular.
And the writer?
They decide what they think the audience thinks is popular.
It's a question of sensing, reading between the lines, and saying what is not yet said.
But Wait, What Is a Story?
Let’s not overthink it. But a story is “an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment”.
This is a GREAT definition because it escapes the romanticism that many marketers put on stories.
Story-telling is another way to say: banter, casual, layman's talk. It’s the unpretentious kind of conversation we have between each other as HUMANS. Not as marketers to consumers.
The best way to relay the importance of stories? Remember that stories communicated simple ideas in the past such as:
“When you hear sounds in the bushes it’s a monster and you better get out”
This is just a story, but it communicates something logical in an emotionally charged way.
Knowing your ideal audience allows you to write a script that speaks to them.
Picture them in your mind’s eye. Don’t picture an entire group, just one customer. Based on your research, form an accurate image of them. Everything from their gender, to their style of dress and mannerisms.
Now imagine having a conversation with them about your business. What would you say, and more importantly, how would you say it? How would you convey the story of your business to them?
This exercise will help create the tone of voice for your script.
The goal is to write as if you were speaking directly to your customer.
Explaining Explainer Videos
An explainer video is on brand visual content highlighting your business idea while promoting your product benefits or services to an ideal audience.
Brevity is key.
Think of an explainer video as an elevator pitch.
The average attention span is 1 second. And the goal of every second is to hook, engage, and educate. Taking the viewer to the next second.
Your explainer video doesn’t have to reinvent film. It should answer a question for your customer:
“What’s in it for me?”
Most businesses answer this question through facts and figures based marketing explainer videos. These videos show why they are industry leaders and why potential customers would be foolish to not buy their products or services.
Instead of agreement, this approach builds resistance.
The goal of an awesome explainer video is not to tell the story of your brand or business. It’s to tell your potential customer’s story and get results. This is how your explainer video becomes useful to your ideal audience and sparks enough emotion in them to take action.
Who Are Your Potential Customers?
Before you begin scriptwriting, think about who your prospective customers are and how your product or service provides them with the perfect solution to their problem.
This process will maximize the usefulness of your explainer video and give an accurate portrayal of your customer’s story.
Any decision you make in terms of friendly tone, style, timing, font, success metrics, and promotion of your explainer video will be based on this research.
Tips To Help You Define Your Target Market
Look for patterns in your current customers. Understand who is buying your products or services.
The goal here is to build out a very detailed persona and cater your video to it.
Research Your Demographics
Age, gender, location, income/education level, occupation, and marital status are all elements you should consider. This keeps your video focused and intriguing to a specific segment of the market.
Personalities, values, interests, hobbies; psychographics allow you to take an in-depth look at the individual person you’re targeting. What are their needs? What is getting in the way of their success? How can your product solve their issues?
You can think of demographics as broad and overarching while psychographics get personal to understand the mentality of the viewer.
Focus on Your Unique Selling Point
How does your business differentiate itself from competitors?
What are your product benefits?
“Explaining why” a potential customer should choose your company will make your explainer video useful.
It also makes your video relevant to your customer’s needs.
As author Simon Sinek states:
“There are many approaches to finding your why, but ultimately it’s about trying things out in the market and not just theoretically.”
Research Your Competition
Find a niche market your competitors are missing and position your explainer video to speak directly to them.
This is also an opportunity to research any keywords competitors are using to promote their own explainer videos or other elements of their marketing strategy.
Spyfu is great for seeing PPC/SEO keywords your competitors are using.
Buzzsumo shows topics and content that is performing well for your ideal audience. This is a good indicator of what potential customers consider “useful.”
Once you’ve painted a clear picture of your target market and discover what a killer explainer video looks like, you can transform this research into action!
Making a Video Brief: The Outline of Your Explainer Video
Before you make your successful video, or hand it off to professionals. It’s helpful to have a brief. Here’s the minimum we’d include:
- 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
Writing An Explainer Video Script: The Core of Your Explainer Video
Your killer explainer video shouldn’t be a history lesson about your company.
You are interrupting prospective customers to learn about your service. You have under 2 minutes, sometimes less than 1.
Your goal? To keep them watching. Start with the best. Cut anything that's boring, irrelevant or too wordy.
Revise dozens of times.
Now you're on your way to writing your first script.
Does Length Matter?
There’s a lot to be said about length. According to Wistia, we’re looking at a few facts:
All of this is great. And useful - in general. However, length is NOT the most important feature.
Stay focused on telling a useful and relevant story to your broader audience.
To do this your script should cover 3 key points:
1. What is the customer’s problem?
2. How does your product or service solve this problem?
3. Why should a customer choose your product over the competition?
If your script features a story covering these three points then your explainer video can be useful and relevant to your ideal audience.
Finding A Concept
At the core of every explainer video is a concept.
A concept conveys your story and all the emotions attached to it.
Your research will tell you what concept will suit the needs of your ideal audience. Here are a few things to consider:
What emotions does a topic bring up?
What kind of imagery?
Where is it practised?
What are the environments?
Who are the people who engage with it?
What kind of metaphors work for this?
Are there any associations that come to mind?
What textures are associated with it?
Who are the people affected by the story?
Remember, you are working on a audiovisual experience which will include sonic and visual stimulus. Don’t get too attached to conveying all emotion and imagery through the words you write. Just focus on setting tone of voice through metaphors, associations, and words that trigger specific emotions.
In addition to this, analyze your business and what your competitors are doing.
What keywords exist in the marketplace in relation to your business?
How is your pricing different from your competitors?
What are the top performing pieces of content in your niche?
What campaigns have worked well for you in the past and why?
Which of your competitors’ marketing strategies are successful?
What If My Business Is Based on a Complex Idea?
Whether you're selling hair gel or cloud-based computing software, your explainer video still needs to tell a story which simplifies your complex idea to it’s core and resonates with your ideal audience.
If you want people to follow you on Instagram and you're giving away an iPhone it's quite easy.
If you want people to buy a mortgage for a house at 500k it will be harder.
The more complex your business idea is, the greater the learning and selling curve becomes, which means you’ll have to find a suitable video structure.
This is easier said than done. Luckily there are 3 types of videos you could make.
These types of explainer videos help to frame your customer’s as protagonists with goals. What stands in their way is a problem; the antagonist. The customer solves this problem with the help of your product or service; the perfect solution.
The type of video you choose should be based on the preferences of your target market.
- Problem/Solution - These successful videos start with a clear problem statement, introduce the product benefits through a product demo, and describe the perfect solution. Quite standard and effective.
- Hero Type - For example, Meet Bob. He’s about to overcome a big problem with our help. You get it?
- Aspirational - Imagine if your life was like this. What if you woke up with six pack abs but had to do nothing? And your car self-drove to work while you finished your entire day in less than 30 minutes thanks to your super smart technology stack.
There’s no need to go where no explainer video has gone before. Each template offers similar key elements. These story types perfectly frame the what, how, and why every killer explainer video covers while simplifying your business idea. In an ideal world there would be no templates. Everything would be customized (i.e when you hire us!)
If you’re building your own explainer video, a template will speed up the process.
A successful video should follow a journalist model of storytelling and always lead with a hook to take the viewer to the next second of video.
Each second should be laced with a CTA or call to action, whether it’s getting the viewer to visit your website or follow your Instagram page.
You now have the essence of a killer explainer video. Now it’s time to record your explainer video script!
V.O - Finding a Tone of Voice That Fits Your Brand
After writing your explainer video script you need to record someone narrating it. The tone of the voice-over plays a huge role in your explainer video.
Making sure you, or the voice-over artist you hire, nails the tone of the script is essential. And again the tone of voice is all based on the personality of your ideal audience and how you would talk to them if you interacted in person.
We recommend you perform the first recording of your script while keeping tone of voice in mind. This will help give the voice-over artist (if you hire one) an idea of where you want to go with the project.
You should be able to read about 140 to 150 words per minute comfortably.
We suggest using one of these softwares:
- Garageband on Mac
- Adobe Audition
- Windows Recorder
If you are planning on hiring professional talent (always recommended) it’s going to cost you between $25 to $125+ per minute of voiceover. It will depend on a few factors including experience, portfolio, and platform.
Some of the places that we source voiceover from include:
- Voices.com - This is our favorite. It’s a bit more pricey but the service and quality of voice overs is much higher.
- BunnyStudio - We have used this in the past, but prefer Voices.
- Upwork.com - This can end up costing LESS than voices, but requires more micro-management and work.
- Fiverr.com - Definitely the cheapest. However also can start getting pricey as you get the add-ons, many voiceover artists here only do 5-10 seconds in their ‘base’ package.
Your Role In The Voice Recording Process
The number one rule is: Don’t Be Shy.
You are responsible for monitoring the artist's tone throughout the piece.
If you want to paint your business as an authority in your industry, then pick an artist with an authoritative yet friendly tone. If you want to simply convey information, choose an artist with a laid back delivery.
Professionals prefer guidelines to work within. Nobody likes a project where “anything goes.”
So take a moment to know exactly what you want.
Next, when you receive the audio - timestamp your feedback.
- 0:00 - Try saying “Hello” in a more positive tone.
- 0:07 - This entire sentence sounds off. Let’s try starting off slower.
- 0:12- Re-write “And, that’s why it’s crucial to..”
Try to avoid being too nit-picky. Unless you’re paying hundreds of dollars, it’s unlikely you’ll get a “PERFECT” read. And keep in mind, most viewers will not notice the same things you do after one view.
The more times you hear a voice over, or see a video, the more familiar it becomes and you start to see minor issues or improvements that the first time viewer does not pick up on.
What If You Are The Ideal Person To Record The Voice-Over?
The decision to hire a professional artist or to DIY the voice-over shouldn’t be based solely on your budget, although that is realistically a huge factor.
The decision should involve your broader audience. Would your script be better served if professionally recorded? Or are you the dominant face of your brand, and the unique selling point of your products and services is your personality? If so, then you should record the voice over.
The best way to go about it - record the full voiceover. Keep going when you make mistakes. After recording, cut out the bad lines and let the recording flow into the good ones.
Most voiceover artists will do line by line, and stitch together the final product. Sometimes re-doing specific lines to get it “just right”. Your best bet is to do something similar.
Don’t try to get the full script perfect, just take it chunk by chunk, and edit together that perfect take. It’s about your final performance, not reading the whole script at once.
Keep in mind that there’s simple ways to mix and master your voiceover audio. If you’re up for that - it will take your self-recorded amateur voiceover to the next level.
Visuals - Using images to set the tone
Just like the 3 explainer video categories for your script, there are also 3 main visual styles you can use to tell your story. Think of which style appeals to your ideal audience.
1. Animation Videos
This involves the use of motion graphics. You can build characters that connect with your broader audience, or simply animate the customer journey. Unless you have a degree in 3-D animation, you’ll need to work with professional animators on a project like this.
Animated video is ideal for simplifying complex topics and visually illustrating statistics. It is also the most evergreen option; meaning years from now customers can come back to your video and still get an understanding of your business.
2. Whiteboard Videos
This is where a person, an animation, or just a hand in the frame draws pictures accompanying the voice-over.
Psychologist Richard Wiseman conducted a study after releasing his new book and having it animated in whiteboard style. He found that people retained 15% more information after watching a whiteboard explainer video than they did watching someone in front of a camera explain the book.
There was also a 66% increase in the number of participants willing to watch the animated video in favor of the “talking head” video.
3. Live-Action Explainer Video
Live action videos are shot on film and involve no animation. This could simply be a person talking to a camera or something more complex like a product demonstration. These videos feel more personal as the viewer gets to build a connection with the person on screen.
The style of video you choose is up to you and should align with your ideal audience and the story you are trying to tell.
Let’s say you are a real-estate agent. You are the face of your brand. Chances are you’ll want to appear on screen at some point in your explainer video to get clients familiar with your image and personality.
There are other video styles to choose from including: 3D explainer videos, Style Hybrids, and Screencasts.
You don’t have to choose one of these styles. You can mix and match to create a style to suit your needs and the needs of your broader audience. If you are breaking down mortgage trends and inflation rates, this would be a good opportunity to switch from live-action to animation to solidify important information while highlighting complex terms.
Posting & Sharing Your Explainer Video With Your Ideal Audience
After writing multiple script drafts, listening to your own voice for an obnoxiously long time, and deciding what style of video will engage your ideal audience, it’s time to post & share your explainer video.
Your Landing Page Comes First
The first place to post your explainer video is on your landing page.
74% of respondents in a Databox survey said videos are more effective for generating leads than blog posts.
A killer explainer video will tell your prospective customers everything they need to know about your business, and answer the very important question: “What’s in it for me?” within 1-2 minutes of them browsing your site.
Sharing on Your Social Media Channels
Your Facebook page can sometimes double as the landing page for your website. According to a Kleiner Perkins study, 78% of American consumers have discovered retail products to buy via Facebook.
Pin your explainer video to the top of your Facebook page so it is the first thing prospective customers see when visiting. Treat your Facebook page like your second website and try to drive traffic to your main page through this channel. The same applies for your LinkedIn page as well.
YouTube & Twitter
YouTube and Twitter can also handle the full version of your explainer video, and you can take advantage of their tagging systems.
This is where the hashtag research you performed during your market research phase becomes useful. You’ll want to use tags your potential customers are actively searching for.
The thumbnail and title you choose for your YouTube post should tell the story of your explainer video.
Check out YouTuber Mark Rober and how he tells a story through his thumbnail and title choices alone. This is before he begins tagging any of his videos.
There are ways to optimize your explainer video for viewing on multiple platforms. You’ll want to post the full video to your website or YouTube channel.
To learn more about generating massive views for your explainer video on YouTube, checkout an article from one of our experts who hit 230K views!
The same hashtag research applies on Instagram. However, Instagram will only let you post your full-length video as an IGTV post. Your explainer video will most likely be in 1920x1080 format, so you’ll have to reformat it for IGTV, which only accepts vertical videos.
This means that your video will feature bars on the top and bottom. You can take advantage of these bars with extra messaging.
Much like YouTube, IGTV allows you to choose a thumbnail and title so implement the same storytelling practices here.
Hootsuite has a great article detailing how to maximize the effectiveness of your IGTV video.
Forums & Community Sites
You can take advantage of forums and community sites like Reddit, which build communities out of users with similar interests. Posting your video in these communities allows you to get your business in front of your target audience.
There are hundreds of communities to choose from, and depending on how you spin the title of your post, this method can significantly impact the viewership of your videos.
For example, if you have a new cloud computing software company you can post your videos in communities such as r/technology, r/computing, r/cloudcomputing, and more. And these communities have thousands of followers who are interested in your niche.
Setting SMART goals
As fun as making videos is, you're looking for results. So what’s the impact of your video?
- Know your goal: brand awareness, lead generation, conversion, where in the funnel is this video going. How will it support your buyer journey?
- Create metrics around it: plays, views, sales, shares, etc.
Without goals and metrics - you won’t be able to guide the process correctly.
SMART goals are:
These will gauge the success of your current explainer video and identify what worked and what you need to change in the future.
This applies to the content of the video itself but also to the way you promote your video on social media.
Let your SMART goals dictate how you achieved the overall objective of your explainer video; tell a story with enough emotion to resonate with your ideal audience and get them to take action.
As mentioned, the emotional approach to explainer videos is not easy. It would be a breeze to explain your business using stats and figures, but it might not be enough to get your potential customers to take action.
A properly framed explainer video telling your customer’s story, making them the centerpiece, will get your ideal audience to align themselves with your products or services, and most importantly, take action.
If you need a final piece of evidence, checkout Apple’s famous 1984 Superbowl ad.
There’s not one stat, fact, or figure present. But it tells a story their prospective customers wanted to hear.
It frames their customers as rebels, fighting against the big blue overlords, IBM.
It means that when you buy Apple computers, you’re different. You’re not like the status quo. You’re special. That’s the story Apple customer’s wanted to hear.
So, what story do your potential customers want to hear?
Your market research is key to answering this question.
Having a solid understanding of your customer’s demographics & psychographics in addition to researching your competition, will help you decide which explainer video will connect and impact viewers.
As Eugene Schwartz states:
“The copywriter’s task is not to create mass desire, but to channel and direct it.”
The goal of a killer explainer video should not be to drum up a new desire in potential customers, or to spark a new interest.
Rather, if your explainer video identifies with your customer and understands them on a personal level, visualizing their inner desire in relation to youtube product or service, then it will successfully serve its purpose.
It will tell an entertaining, interesting, and inspiring story.
Your customer’s story.
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