6 Ingredients for an Awesome Explainer Video

Creating visual content to support a marketing strategy has proven to be crazy effective across all industries. As compared to the written word, visual content assets—in particular, whiteboard videos and explainer videos—are fun, memorable, and a more engaging way to get the word out on the value your business delivers.

The proof? Check out these statistics from a 2018 State of Video Marketing Survey.

  • Where both video and text are available on the same page, 72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service.

  • 95% of people have watched an explainer video to learn more about a product or service.

  • 76% say video marketing helped them increase sales.

Additionally, marketing videos are more shareable than other forms of content. According to Forbes, 54 percent of senior executives share work-related videos with co-workers every week!

Before we dive in, let’s be clear: not all whiteboard videos are explainer videos, and not all explainer videos are animated on whiteboards. We’re using the terms interchangeably because if you’re new to creating visual content, whiteboard videos (as opposed to live action or 3D animation videos) are a manageable place to start. Also, an explanation of what your company does (one type of “explainer video”) is a fitting first story to share with your prospects.

Explainer videos are not only effective, but relatively cost-effective and simple to create. So ready to get started? Here are the key ingredients:

1. An awareness-stage audience

If you’re familiar with HubSpot’s model of the buying cycle, you’ll remember that the awareness stage comes first; it happens when a customer identifies a need and realizes your business could potentially fit the bill.

Whiteboard videos are effective at this stage because they help you illustrate that need (kind of like reflective listening), while affirming that your website is a good source for answers and related topics. The customer’s problem might be very complex or highly technical. By unpacking it with simple drawings, diagrams, and “handwritten” headings, you can quickly prove that your team understands the terrain.

But be warned: whiteboards may not be the best vehicles for consideration-stage audiences—especially if yours are comprised of engineers, IT professionals, or other B2B folks who expect to compare options based on substantive features/capabilities. When communicating the real meat and potatoes of what you provide, cartoony figures and fonts usually fall flat; you’re better off content mapping these prospects to case studies, whitepapers, or professionally-produced demo videos.

2. A clear concept

Whiteboard videos are amazing content assets because they fulfill just about every rule of inbound marketing: be engaging, be helpful, be concise, be human. Whiteboard explainers can convey your “what we do” message, educate your audience in the form of how-to tutorials, or simply tell your company’s story. Believe it or not, your “About” page is likely among the most highly trafficked pages on your website.

Again, whiteboards work best when the topic is very narrow. If you can’t capture your intended concept in a simple, five-part outline (context, problem, solution, outcome, call-to-action) it probably won’t translate well.

3. A solid script

Now it’s time to put your story into words. Even if you’re a decent writer, it often helps to let a marketing agency take a crack at the script. Outside writers aren’t bogged down by all the complexities you deal in every day. They can crystallize your main point so target audiences hear it loud and clear. They can also keep the language concise. (Many video concepts quickly turn into three or four-minute narrations without some disciplined copywriting.)

How long is too long? HubSpot says 30-90 seconds is the ideal length for a whiteboard/explainer video, but anything under two minutes is still easily digestible. Most voice-overs average 150 spoken words per minute. So if your script is longer than a page (not including animation direction), it’s probably too long.

Remember too, longer scripts naturally require more animation to illustrate the additional words, so script length will affect your project cost. (More on that below.)

4. A dedicated designer

Whiteboard videos aren’t always first-pitch home runs. Whether you’re creating the video in-house or working with a video production vendor, be prepared to make edits. Video designers should be flexible, detail-oriented partners who are willing to tweak sound and animation across multiple rounds of revision.

Here’s a list of DIY video tools and outsourced video vendors for whiteboard/explainer videos:

  1. Wooshii.com

  2. Fiverr.com

  3. Truscribe.com

  4. eLance.com

  5. GoAnimate.com (DIY)

  6. Powtoon.com (DIY)

  7. Prezi.com (DIY)

  8. Motion for Mac animation software (DIY)

  9. VideoBlocks.com (DIY)

Before choosing a partner, take the time to browse sample work portfolios and read vendors’ online reviews very carefully.

5. A verified voice-over

Unless you want your company voice represented by a robot, don’t leave the voice-over piece to last-minute decision. There are three main options to consider: recording the voice-over yourself (with a USB microphone for optimal sound quality), hiring professional voice-over talent (separate from your video production vendor), or opting for the voice-over that comes with a video production package (the line item cost for voice talent can vary a lot, depending on your video vendor). Many companies find that the cost of professional talent and sound editing is well worth it. And sites like fiverr.com make it easy to shop for your ideal narrator.

6. A biggish budget.

As with any professional service, you get what you pay for. Past research surveys have revealed that high-quality content production ranks Number One as both the most effective and the most difficult SEO tactic to master. That holds true for text-based content marketing, as well as video.

You can find whiteboard video offers starting at $20 (not including any revisions or customization), but these are much like the $20 blog posts you can purchase from a content farm or fly-by-night freelancer. Search engines (and customers) are adept at sniffing out poor quality; both have the power to penalize your brand.

More realistically, you should expect to pay anywhere between several hundred to one thousand dollars—depending on how much of the work you do yourself.

Here’s an example of an explainer video we recently created for a client that checks off all the boxes we’ve talked about here. Watch in one minute – and tell us what you think!

Looking for more video marketing tips? Leave a question in the comments section below! We're always happy to help.

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Allison Woodbury | Director of Content Operations
About the Author
Allison Woodbury, Director of Content Operations

Allison Woodbury has been a Content Marketer for our agency since 2016. She’s a content marketing, writing, social media and branding guru who spends her writing time alternating between getting in the shoes of her readers and scrutinizing super-niche industries. She loves to see what her readers like – so tell her what you want, what you really, really want (to read more of)!