Animated Video Production

Making Your First Animated Explainer Video: A 10 Question Checklist

Shawn Forno 12.19.2017

Animated explainer videos are one of the most effective ways to promote your business. Big name brands like Dropbox, and Venmo, and startups like Crazy Egg catapulted themselves from obscurity to household names with little more than a 60-second video. But the path to explainer video stardom isn’t easy. A great animated explainer video doesn’t just happen. You need to think about your objective, your budget, your target audience, and how you’re going to use this awesome new sales marketing resource before you even think about making your first explainer video.

Here are 10 questions that you need to answer before you even think about making your first animated explainer video. And you totally should make one. Explainer videos are amazing.

1. How Are You Going to Use Your Video?

This might sound like a simple question, but explainer videos are more than just something for your homepage. Animated explainer videos work on a variety of different platforms and perform in a lot of different ways. Heck, you don’t even have to use your explainer video online. Trade show booths, presentations, and product reveals (I’m looking at you, Apple) are all fantastic opportunities to feature your animated explainer video. Other popular uses for you video include:

How you plan to use your video determines a lot of the production process.

For example, if you need a video to liven up your trade show booth or presentation, it should probably be short, visually arresting, and audio-heavy, as there will be distracting din from the floor. However, social media videos (Facebook, Instagram, etc) and mobile viewers don’t really care about audio. In fact, most mobile users don’t even have the sound on for most videos. So if you make an explainer video with an expensive, intricate soundtrack, but don’t include any text or subtitles, your video is likely to fall flat.

Videos aimed at getting a lot of social shares need a short run-time and benefit from humor or intrigue (not to mention a CTA that prompts sharing). And of course homepage and landing page videos should direct users to perform a specific action on your website. The kind of explainer video you need all depends on how you plan yo use it.

2. What Is Your Video Objective?

Education, SEO, increased conversions, email signups, and plain old awareness and engagement are all common explainer video objectives. You’ll likely want your video to accomplish several of these objectives in tandem, but you need to make your video with one objective in mind in order to track (and actually achieve) success.

If you want an engaging video aimed at views and shares, you probably can’t spend tons of time explaining the details and specs of your product. Explanation is a great subject for an explainer video (obviously), but detailed product rundowns belong in videos that are aimed at converting users that are later in the buying process, not attracting top of the funnel views. Your objective determines your script, tone, voice, and messaging, not to mention video length and story.

3. How Long Should Your Video Be?

Aside from a few fringe cases, your animated explainer video should be between 15-60 seconds. That’s it. No, you don’t need more time to tell viewers about your amazing new accounting software. No, your video is not the exception to the rule. Companies have crunched the numbers and the data is clear, attention rates start to drop off after 60 seconds, and take a nosedive around the 2-minute mark.

Don’t pad your video with bells and whistles. Prioritize your key selling point and make it interesting. Respect your viewer’s time and they’ll be more likely to engage with your brand in the future.

4. What Problem Does Your Video Solve?

How are you positioned in your industry? Are you providing a new technical innovation? Is your customer service off the charts? Is your platform so simple to use my grandpa could use it? In the dark? Define the problem that you solve, and if possible highlight what makes you better than all your competitors. Your video is a chance for you to literally show your customers how easy their life could be…if they only had what you’ve got.

5. What are the friction points or customer concerns when making a sale?

Talk to your sales team. Bring them in on the conversation early in the pre-production process so they can help you make a video that actually moves the needle when it comes to sales. When you pitch your company, do you get a frequent objection or concern? Every time a customer asks a question or lodges a complaint, they’re giving you information on how to improve your product to better solve your target customers’ needs. Listen to them. Some of the best videos come from FAQ sections and customer complaint forms. Seriously.

6. What is Your Brand Personality?

This one is more important than you think. If you’re a B2B arbitrage investment firm, you don’t want a cuddly teddy bear pitching your state-of-the-art algorithms to potential clients. Or maybe you do. Make your branding choices deliberate and definitive to avoid sending the wrong messages to potential clients.

7. Do You Have a Visual Style and Logo?

If you already have a distinct brand identity, feature it in your animated explainer video. Bring your mood boards, hex color codes, and defined palettes to your first production meeting. Honestly, when a brand knows what it wants a video to look like, it saves production companies a ton of time and gives you a better video. This explainer video is going to be an integral part of your website. It’s probably going to be the first thing visitors see when they visit your website. Make it a good representation of your brand.

animated explainer video

Some of our clients have used their explainer videos to discover a new visual style, while others have gone so far as to incorporate the characters and concepts we create into their redesigns. Whichever way you go, make your video a part of your larger branding and it’ll be more effective for years to come.

8. What are Your Audience Demographics?

Are you exclusively B2B or is there an opportunity for a B2C play? If so, who are the decision makers in your target audience? How do you describe your consumers? Where do they live, what do they like, and what are similar complimentary brands? Are you targeting C-level executives or stay at home Dad’s in the Midwest? Your audience determines your video’s style and content.

9. What is your CTA?

What do you want people to do once they’ve watched your video? Design a path for viewers to take that leads to your objective, and integrate that pathway in your video with a clear, easy to accomplish call to action. Engagement is great, but if you don’t drive viewers to action, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. The right video CTA can singlehandedly improve your video’s conversion rates and ROI. Take the time to create the right one.

10. Are You Ready?

Let’s face it, startups often pivot after a few months, and even established corporations need to innovate to stay competitive—especially in today’s competitive business environment. Make sure you want to investment in an explainer video, because a good explainer video is a big investment. Don’t just make a budget explainer to have something on your site. A bad video is worse than no video at all. Commit to a quality explainer video, and you’ll see the ROI in no time.

Making Your First Animated Explainer Video

Making an explainer video is hard. Don’t be discouraged if your branding, marketing, and animation goals are still a little murky after reviewing the above list of questions. In our experience, the scripting process often helps companies successfully develop and enhance their overall branding. It’s just nice to come to the conversation armed with as much info as possible.

Shawn Forno

Shawn Forno is a massive Studio Ghibli fan who does content marketing. In that order. Find his other writing and extensive travel blogging here.

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