Animated Video Production

Your Ultimate Explainer Video CTA Guide

Shawn Forno 11.30.2017

Video marketing without a clear CTA is like fishing without bait. Or a hook. Or a rod. In the desert. You can’t catch fish without the right bait. If you’re lucky enough to grab people’s attention with your high quality explainer video, you have to immediately direct that interest toward the next step in the process — conversion — with a strong, clear call-to-action (CTA) that gets results. Make better videos and get better results with our complete video CTA guide with 7 simple steps to create an effective video CTA, 3 different types of video CTAs, and 5 common call-to-action mistakes to avoid.

Take the next step towards increasing conversions with CTAs that actually work.

Your Ultimate Explainer Video CTA Guide

explainer video CTA

Video CTA Guide: Focus on One Goal

Every CTA starts with a goal. Whether it’s sales, visibility, brand awareness, signups, downloads, or just plain views, every video has an objective. That means your CTA should have a single objective as well. One thing that you want viewers to do next. One thing, and one thing only. Start with the basics—the action words—then hone your CTA as you refine your target audience and desired next steps:

  • Click
  • Buy
  • Listen
  • Download
  • Watch
  • Share

The best CTAs begin with simple commanding verbs. Even marketing juggernauts like Facebook uses action verbs in their app install ad CTAs.

If you’re promoting a free eBook about how to sell your house, your goal is to maximize downloads. Once you’ve hooked them with the ideas in your now must-have book, tell viewers to download the book. Don’t mention subscribing to your email list or watching other videos you’ve produced. Both of those are great actions for later down the sales funnel, but they’re not things people can easily do right now. Every extra click is another chance for users to get bored, tired or busy and click away.

Craft your CTA in the form of a simple command: “Download My Book,” and give people a straight simple path to conversion. Your explainer video is short and to the point (hopefully), and your CTA should be the same.

  • Define one goal
  • Provide a one-step action to accomplish that goal
  • Optimize word choice using A/B testing for the right action words

Video CTA Guide: Be Specific

Now that you’ve established a single goal—book downloads—and told them how to get the book—“click to download”—it’s time to make people click that sweet, juicy button. Your video CTA should always leave the viewer with a clear idea of what to do next, and a compelling reason for why they should do it. This is where you stress the problem facing users while emphasizing how your product is the solution.

Sample copy for our hypothetical house selling eBook could be:

  • “You can sell your home in 30 Days with these three steps”
  • “Sell that money pit in days—not months—with my free eBook, available at _website homepage.com”

Video CTAs are a little different than landing page buttons. You have the opportunity to pitch specific actions in your script. Don’t just ask people to “click” or “download” – tell them how your product is going to make their lives better. Be specific. People want solutions, and your CTA is how they get them. And speaking of solutions…

Video CTA Guide: Create a Sense of Urgency

video CTA

Effective CTAs inspire immediate action. This is something that can’t wait for later. If viewers watch your video and “put it on their to-do list” you’ll never hear from them again. A great way to energize your CTA is by creating timeframes.

One common tactic is to limit availability. While a little heavy handed, these tactics are a huge part of business models for companies like eBay, Amazon, and other online retailers. “3-day sale,” “limited time offer,” even just showing customers how many are still available, is a great tactic to motivate users to take your CTA seriously.

Another way to supercharge your video CTA is by creating a clear time-driven use cycle. “Get rid of zits this weekend,” or “Eliminate credit card debt in 60 days.” These tactics rely on the age old “If you lived here, you’d be home by now” technique of providing latent value. This product is so easy to use, if you had it, you’d be done already. Immediacy is an important selling point and a prime CTA motivator—if it appeals to your demographic.

If these tactics sound a little too “salesy”—you’re right. Time sensitive CTAs are obnoxious and sales forward. But they work. If you’ve ever made an impulse purchase on Black Friday or Cyber Monday because you felt the clock ticking, or you just couldn’t stand to deal with the same old slow way of making your coffee in the morning, you have been motivated by time-sensitive CTA marketing. Don’t believe me?

Here’s a list of 60 classic CTAs that are still relevant to today’s marketer.

Time limits encourage action and raise the perceived value of your product (only 10 left! – Buy NOW!”). Specific use cycles create an implicit contract or guarantee that addresses doubts about the effectiveness of a product. Establishing a set number of days to measure the success of a product is a great way to sell it, if you can follow through on your promises.

Note: While it’s important to stress exclusivity or create immediacy for your product, don’t get carried away with these tactics. If your store is perpetually having a “Going Out of Business Sale,” you’ll lose customer credibility pretty fast (and your CTA tactic might become a self-fulfilling prophecy)!

The best way to add a timeframe to your CTA is by stressing its effectiveness. “Sell your home in 30 days” is a bold claim that’s enticing enough to override doubt about the product, but only use this tactic if you can deliver on the promise. Sleazy sales copy and bald face lies aren’t sustainable CTAs. That said, nothing says “professional” like setting an outrageous timeline and delivering on that promise.

If your product doesn’t work in a timeline, or you’re wary of sales copy, simply add words like “today” or “now” to your CTA. Mentioning time—even vaguely—is the easiest way to spur action.

Video CTA Guide: Make it Obvious

explainer video CTA

Don’t wait until the end of your video to wedge your CTA in. Most people don’t finish videos, even engaging videos like the Dollar Shave Club explainer video. Wistia notes a noticeable drop-off in viewership in the last 15 seconds of a video, and honestly, anything over 60-seconds is going to face engagement troubles.

The Dollar Shave Club CTA—“Join the Club Now”—pops up in their YouTube video 0:10 seconds in, and doesn’t go away. Say your CTA early and often. Your CTA is the whole reason you made your marketing video. Don’t bury it at the end. Repetition is ok. Remember Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz? She repeated her CTA over and over and over throughout that whole dang movie, and now it’s everywhere. Just saying.

Video CTA Guide: Use Social Proof

explainer video CTA

If other users like your product, talk about it, especially if they’re influencers. Positive peer reviews establish authority better than almost anything else, and authority leads to conversions. “People trust people—not brands—and are more likely to click on something if a real person has endorsed it,” claims Jillian Woods, Content Marketing Manager at Influitive:

“Instead of saying how awesome your content is yourself, why not include your customers’ words in your CTA?”

Mention how you’ve helped others with the same problem your viewers face. Better yet, use the positive feedback and reviews as part of your CTA to show that you really can make things better. Solutions speak for themselves. If you can include proof of a positive end result, your CTA will be incredibly effective.

Video CTA Guide: It’s Not About You

The best CTAs aren’t about you. No one cares that you’re the industry leader. No one cares that you’ve been a family owned and operated business for over 70 years. Those are both great brand assets, but they don’t add much weight to your CTA, because they’re not about me.

Your user is all that matters. Make your CTA about them. Fix their problem. Save them money. Give them free solutions. Use second person wording—you, your, you’re—and keep the spotlight fixated firmly on the viewer. Your only reason for living is to make their life better. They just have to subscribe for more helpful video tips.

Video CTA Guide: Set Realistic Expectations

This last step is simple, but important: Deliver on your promise.

Your CTAs have to be attention grabbing, but they can’t disappoint. You have to set the right expectations and then deliver on them. The only thing worse than someone ignoring your CTA is someone that hates your final product. Find the balance between promotion and over-promising, and deliver on your CTA, and your business will grow. Remember the power of social proof. If you waste someone’s time, they won’t be an ambassador for your brand. They’ll be the opposite. An outlandish claim might seem like a great way to get quick results – but just like the tortoise and the hare – steady hard work and realistic video CTAs win the day.

Your video CTA is one of the most important–and neglected–parts of your branding and video marketing strategies. Be mindful of what you promise and how you package it, and you’ll get the conversions that drive your business forward.

3 Types of Animated Explainer Video CTA

explainer video CTA

Every explainer video is unique, which means that every explainer video CTA should be different too. Your video might require a heartfelt voiceover CTA from a trusted narrator, while another startup simply needs to flash their website name in bright shiny letters. Don’t panic. I can already hear you complaining about slimy, pushy salesy CTAs. You don’t have to hard sell your viewers with a cheesy, self-promotional CTA. If you’ve invested in a high quality animated explainer video, your video has already done all the heavy lifting and impressed the heck out of your viewer.

All you have to do is provide your highly motivated viewers with a clear path to conversion. That’s the easy part. And while video CTAs take many shapes and styles, the three most common video marketing CTAs are:

  • Visual
  • Audio
  • Actionable (Clickable)

Each of these CTA methods has its inherent strengths and weaknesses, so A/B test them with your explainer video to see which method gets the most conversions. Here are some of the strengths of each CTA style to help you get started.

Explainer Video CTA: Voiceover

Hopefully your animated explainer video has a professional voiceover artist. The right narrator or well-acted protagonist can build rapport and trust with your viewer over the course of your (hopefully short) explainer video, so stick with a single narrator throughout your video, including the CTA. Switching to a new voice at the end will only jar viewers and make them less likely to act.

At 0:40 into the explainer video clip below, PG&E uses the soothing voice of the narrator to confirm that they’re on your side. The CTA uses language like “us” and “help” in the simple CTA at the end of the video, asking viewers to take the next step to energy efficiency billing together with PG&E, and it’s extremely effective.

A voiceover video CTA conveys confidence and trust in your brand while also providing a persuasive voice of reason. Literally. People like being asked to take next steps by a voice they recognize. That’s why Morgan Freeman is everywhere. However, voiceover explainer video CTAs have limitations.

Many viewers, particularly younger viewers, routinely watch online video without sound. This shift towards rapidly consumed silent video content via social media and sites like Facebook means that you have to compensate for this avoidance of audio with multiple CTA options, including text CTAs and closed caption information for “audiophobic” viewers.

While voiceover CTAs are incredibly persuasive, be sure to format your video with subtitles, or include a clear text based CTA as well.

Animated Explainer Video CTA Best Practices: Voiceover CTA

  • Use a consistent voiceover actor throughout the video — Don’t switch it up for the CTA
  • Keep the pace consistent — Don’t speed up or slow down. Keep it natural
  • Maintain a neutral tone — Don’t shout or use a salesy voice. Just explain what to do next

Explainer Video CTA: Text

Plenty of animated explainer videos don’t use a voice actor at all. These explainer videos rely on stunning visuals and music to convey branding and tone, and the shift to mobile video means that text-based videos (and CTAs) are becoming more important. If you use text in your video, be sure to format your CTA for maximum results.

Your text CTA should never obscure the important content of your video. That means no annoying pop ups in the center of your YouTube video. Don’t cover a crucial scene or product feature with CTA text. Stay away from overly animated text flying in and out of your video at odd times and in odd places. I know it’s hard, but during the video, animate CTA text using lower-thirds.

When your video is wrapping up, it’s time to get bold. Use bold text and legible sans serif, and dedicate the end of your video to the CTA text. Let it dominate the screen and let it linger. Viewers that finish a video are the most likely to convert. Also, if you employ a lot of text during the video—either captions or product descriptions—differentiate your CTA text with either larger font size, font family, all caps, or font color. You want your CTA to stand out from the rest of your video.

explainer video CTA

Make sure that people have enough time to actually read your text CTA. Keep important information like your website, contact info, and the product or service name on the screen as long as possible. Extend the run time of your video by several seconds if need be. People have already made it to the end; they’ll appreciate a few extra seconds to make sure they’ve got the CTA info correct.

Animated Explainer Video CTA Best Practices: Text CTA

  • Provide a short link to your website—not the full http://….version
  • Prioritize one social media platform—don’t include every single account you own
  • Keep the CTA on screen for at least 7 seconds

Explainer Video CTA: Clickable Links

The last and arguably most effective (if most difficult to execute) video CTA is the clickable or actionable video CTA. These come in all shapes and sizes, but typically include a hypertext link or clickable button that viewers can tap or click to direct them straight to a dedicated landing page. This CTA might seem like the most common sense action—and it is important to provide the shortest path to conversion with actionable links—but executing successful clickable video CTAs is tougher than it seems.

YouTube video CTAs or ads are one of the most popular way to direct viewers with clear CTAs, however, they don’t work on mobile videos or on the YouTube app. Millions of people watch mobile video every day, and the shift away from desktops means that your clickable CTA might cost your thousands of potential leads as viewers go mobile. Another problem with clickable links is that urls change, and a dead link is almost worse than none at all.

Consumer attention spans are short, and failing to meet expectations of actively engaged users—they actually clicked the link!—can result in negative branding and consumer backlash. If you provide clickable links, test and retest them to make sure the links are still active after any site redesign, update, or refresh. Make sure any 301 redirects are still taking viewers where you want them to go.

The best way to ensure that viewers get to your landing page is by providing one clear, concise link at the end of your video. No matter what your objective—app downloads, email signups, direct point of purchase sales—you have to provide a simple clear CTA for viewers to click. If it’s a button, make it central, large and a branded color. If it’s a link or text prompt, obvious and easy to read. Keep it simple.

Animated Explainer Video CTA Best Practices: Text CTA

  • Prioritize one link — Don’t split your focus with multiple CTAs
  • Keep it short and sweet — Your CTA text should make a tweet look like War & Peace
  • Make it obvious — Your CTA should stand alone. Inevitable, not ignorable

5 Common Call To Action Mistakes That Explainer Videos Make

explainer video CTA

It’s easy to dismiss CTAs as a simple, cut and paste part of your video marketing strategy. It’s not. “Sign up today.” “Try a free demo.” “Click to Download.” People don’t respond to cookie cutter video CTAs anymore. To help maximize the ROI of your explainer video,and drive people to your site, here are five of the most common CTA mistakes to avoid.

Explainer Video CTA Mistakes: Asking for Too Much

While increasing conversions is the ultimate goal of your explainer video, it’s important to remember that CTAs don’t always have to sell a product right there on the spot. Depending on your business, small entry-level CTAs are more important than closing the deal. It’s all about how your particular buyer’s journey works.

If you’re selling luxury yachts, a CTA that says “Buy your dream boat today!” might sound clever, but it’s way too big of an ask. A more effective CTA might involve something like downloading the season’s latest yacht catalog online or signing up for the Yacht Lover’s monthly newsletter to get potential buyers familiar with your brand and then address them with more targeted marketing further along the sale funnel.

Urgency is great, but realism is important. Don’t stifle great interest and momentum with an overreach from your CTA.

So how aggressive should you be with your call to action? It’s tough to say, and can only really be answered by truly understanding your target audience. However, all things being equal, less tends to be more. Getting viewers to take an action—even a tiny one—is a big deal. Add value to your leads and let that turn them into clients. Think about your video CTA (and your explainer video in general) as an easy way to nudge viewers into your sales funnel, not a last call for your product.

Explainer Video CTA Mistakes: Asking Out of Nowhere

Even when you create a great, balanced CTA, the way it’s deployed can be as important as what’s actually said. A common mistake is when the CTA feels rushed or tacked on at the end. Abrupt disjointed CTAs are confusing, and a jarring last impressions is a great way to scare interested viewers away.

Imagine the CTA as the finale of a Broadway show (your explainer video). Finales tend to be big and grandiose, but effective ones don’t just come out of the blue and knock the rest of the story aside. Final numbers enter organically, elegantly and the best include call backs and resolution earlier experiences from the show. Weave your CTA throughout your explainer video, and the “big number” at the end won’t seem like such a jarring transition from entertainment to action.

Explainer Video CTA Mistakes: Asking Too Quickly

A lot of times, the most logical CTA is to ask viewers to visit your website. Homepage visits are a great way to get people interacting with your brand. They can see samples, watch product videos, read user reviews, and even purchase right then and there. A homepage CTA is a gold mine. So why wouldn’t you give people enough time to react to your CTA? Don’t just blurt out your url like a pharmaceutical company listing side effects. Don’t flash your website address onscreen for a fraction of a second just to keep the run time down.

Allow time for your CTA to breathe. Let people see your logo, read your company name, and hear your website. The CTA is why you made the video in the first place. Give people time to react to it.

Explainer Video CTA Mistakes: Acting Like a Salesman

An explainer video is a sales tool, but it should never feel like one. Don’t hide the fact that you’re offering a good or service—that’s a lie. Instead focus on how this product or service will improve the viewer’s life and why your quick little CTA is worth their time.

Your tone is crucial when you deliver your CTA. It’s not about deception—people know you’re selling something—but a great CTA doesn’t feel salesy. CTAs should feel easy, honest, and above all else provide value to the potential lead. It’s not about getting their email address, it’s about giving them access to important information that they need. Every CTA needs to sell the benefits.

Make sure that when selecting your voiceover artist that he or she is able not only to hook viewers and deliver a message, but that they can also deliver those final lines in a helpful and insightful (but non-salesy) manner. It makes a big difference.

Explainer Video CTA Mistakes: Tone-Deaf

On paper, sometimes, a call to action might look perfect. It seems logical and fits with your brand’s overall objective. But, as we all know, just because something looks good on paper, that doesn’t mean it works in execution.

Anticipating that disconnect can be tough, but the best way to ensure that your CTA aligns with your target audience is to make it about them. Keep the wording, the action, and the tone focused on your target audience. What do they need? How can we help them? What does their next step look like? Are they on a smartphone or a desktop? Are they watching your video at home or on the go? These are simple user interface questions, but they matter a lot to CTR when your your CTA ends.

Keep your target audience front of mind when crafting not just your CTA, but your entire explainer video and you’ll see results.

Animated Explainer Video CTA

The point of any animated explainer video is to increase conversions. You’ve enticed viewers to your site, you’ve engaged them with a great video—make sure to direct motivated leads to the next step in the buyer journey with a video CTA that gets the results you want so you get the absolute highest ROI on your explainer video.

Download our free eBook to find out how to grow your business with animated explainer videos. You’ll be surprised at what animated video can do for you.

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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