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7 mistakes you should avoid when making an explainer video

Author's avatar By Carolanne Mangles 08 Sep, 2017
Essential Essential topic

Plus examples of what make an effective explainer video

Oscar Wilde used to say that experience is the name we give to our mistakes. However,  you don’t need to be as seasoned as good ol’ Oscar to know that. When it comes to video marketing, you can’t afford to make those mistakes in the first place. Especially when it comes to creating explainer videos.

Developing explainer videos capable of summing up who you are in under 90 secs can be truly challenging. You can’t go into it blindfolded and full-out swinging – you need to have some certainties from the get go.

But before diving into the specifics and giving you some much-needed insight on the things that you should never do, there’s a question that perhaps you might be asking yourself right now:

Where exactly do explainer videos fit into my marketing strategy?

Well, if we take into account the classic structure of the customer's journey (and we do), you know, the different stages that a person “travels” before actually purchasing a product or service. Explainer videos fit perfectly into the “Consideration” phase.

Take a look at this image to better understand what I’m saying.

The buyer's journey


So, after the awareness stage, the prospect already knows what the specific problem is or what he or she needs to solve, and is now deepening the research and assessing the different solutions. Explainer videos are a really useful type of content here since they allow you to summarize the problem, explain how the solution you are offering works, and to introduce your brand in a short amount of time. They are good tools to guide your lead to the next stage of the journey by providing the exact information they are craving at that exact step in their research.

And now, are you ready? I said are you ready? Let’s dive into the mistakes you should avoid when creating your video. Here are the 7 most frequent ones:

1. Dragging it out for too long

In the age where everything has to be entertaining or face oblivion (or worse, indifference), you can’t be boring. And that’s exactly how your video will feel if you make it too long. People have dwindling attention spans, so you can’t overstay your welcome.

Avoiding this mistake is easy to explain but tricky to master. You’ll have to keep the following in mind:

  •         Make your message as concise as possible
  •         Don’t make your video longer than 90 seconds
  •         Use the typical rule of thumb: no more than 150 words per minute

Basically, your explainer video will have a better shot at success if you remember 3 simple words: keep it short.

Let’s watch the following ad, perhaps the epitome of “to the point”:

2. Forgetting who your target audience really is

You won’t sell your product or service to everyone out there. The one-size-fits-all mentality will only have you failing left and right. You’ll end up frustrated and convinced no one.

Instead, accept the fact that you are talking to a specific group of people. Limit your attention to whoever is actually looking for what you have to offer. Craft your message around those potential customers and make it as evident as possible. How? Here are some key points:

  •         Use characters that look and behave like your target audience
  •         Put them in scenarios that will be familiar to your prospects
  •         Be very careful with how you say things – use the words they’d use!

Knowing who you are talking to is the foundation to believable characters and effective messages.

3. Ignoring the value of a good script

The script is the bedrock of all great videos. It’s like the first step in a journey – you need to take it with confidence and a clear sense of where you’re going. Yet, some people take this step lightly and don’t flesh out the script as they should.

An effective video script will have a clear message and provide a brief yet informative look into your brand. It’ll define your characters, your scenarios and what will be said. It’ll also determine the whole video structure, the backbone of it all.

The best way to build this backbone is to focus on 4 aspects or key moments:

  • Present the problem – talk about the issues your potential customers are having.
  • Introduce your solution – tell everyone watching “you have this problem? Here’s how to solve it”
  • Explain how it works – just promising a solution won’t cut it. Show your audience how you’ll solve their problem.
  • Call your audience to action – invite your audience to learn more, check some numbers or whatever call to action you wish to promote.

Let’s see one of the most memorable examples of the last couple of years: Yes, you got it, it’s Dollar Shave Club.

This video not only presents a classic structure, subverting its tone a little bit to fit a very refreshing and somewhat sarcastic humor. And on top of a very tight script, the direction is also excellent, managing to converge the words, the camera movements and the actor’s blocking perfectly. Very nice.

4. Neglecting the video’s quality

We’re way past the times where having an ok video was enough. People grew accustomed to high-quality content and won’t even pay attention to anything that looks cheap. So, although you might feel tempted to do so, don’t skimp on your video’s budget.

The right way to look at an explainer video is to see it as an investment. When done properly, these videos can bring in new leads, increase brand awareness and visibility and make you look trustworthy. You can’t get all that without the high-quality factor that makes you stand out from the crowd.

What does high quality mean when talking about explainer videos? Great animation, perfect editing, clean and crisp sound, professional voiceover and a unique tone. That’s a lot of things to tackle but that’s why there are video companies that offer their services exclusively focused on these kinds of videos.

To exemplify all of the factors above, let’s watch this explainer video template conundrum mix, that’s basically everything that is wrong with explainer videos:

Can you see it? Let’s summarize:

  • Poor drawing and animation quality
  • Lack of branding and customization
  • Mediocre direction and script

5. Focusing on features

People don’t want to hear about your complex algorithm and its overwhelming processing powers, at least not at this stage. They don’t care about how well your product tested in some boring test.

What they truly want to hear is how all of those things will make their lives better. Instead of the algorithm’s power, make them see the time they’ll save by using it. Don’t talk about the test, paint the scenario where that test means more security or satisfaction. Don’t throw out pretty technical names for your features, make it clear how those features will solve their problems.

In short, you don’t want your video to sound like a list of tech specs that will only impress the people in the know. Focus on the benefits. Bring your message down to an emotional level. People have to picture themselves using your product and be able to see how good it’ll all be. You can’t get that with a boring list.

6. Sounding too serious

I know you take your business seriously – we all do! However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with your video. I’ve said it above but it bears to be said once again: people want to be entertained. If your video can do it, you’re halfway to marketing heaven.

Of course, being funny doesn’t work for everybody, yet you should consider it before dismissing the idea. A more relaxed tone can go a long way. There are several things you can try to spice things up:

  •         Work your story up to a punchline or joke
  •         Put in a surprise at the least expected part
  •         Do something wacky or really different for your industry

Let’s take a look at the following example:

7. Not planning for launch

Many people worry all too much about getting everything about the video production right that they end up forgetting about planning the next steps. You don’t want to be ambushed by this mistake just a few steps away from the goal line – you need to know what you’ll do with your finished video!

There are several things you can plan beforehand, yet you shouldn’t forget about the top 3, namely:

  •         The video in your overall marketing strategy. Where will you use it? What do you want out of it? Which other marketing techniques can you use to make it more visible?
  •         The video hosting. Yeah, you’d probably think YouTube is the right answer, always. But why end there? Perhaps it is a good idea to consider other hosts, like Vimeo, Facebook, Wistia.
  •         The video on your website. Use it in one of the best places where it can make a difference. Using it in your homepage seems like a must, but does your homepage have the proper space for it?

Many people have already made these mistakes. So, let’s loosely follow Wilde’s thought and let’s name them “collective experience”, an experience from which you can learn without actually having to make the mistakes. Doesn’t that sound great?

Author's avatar

By Carolanne Mangles

Carolanne Mangles Dig DipM is the Digital Marketing Executive for Click Travel, an award-winning corporate travel booking platform. She is a specialist in B2B SaaS and enjoys planning and optimizing the full customer journey across all digital channels to create brand awareness, great user experience and copy that really sells the benefits of the product. She was previously Digital Marketing Executive for Smart Insights where she was involved with multiple digital channels to manage fully integrated membership campaigns to boost new customer acquisition and current membership retention. She has spoken and given masterclasses at B2B Expo on Search and Content Marketing, holds an IDM award in GDPR and loves a glass of red wine. Connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.

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Explainer videos for marketing

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