Don't leave customers to figure it out - Explain yourself
Sam Willet gravatar avitar

Don't leave customers to figure it out - Explain yourself

Author: Sam Willet | Posted on: 7 April 2017

Some products speak for themselves, and so have become embedded in public consciousness. Companies like Red Bull, Jaguar and Chanel can focus on branding. But for most of us, our services need a bit more explanation.


Famous brands and simple products rely less on explanation

Famous brands with simple products rely less on explanation


Social media and online search can bring people to your website who haven’t heard of you, and may not know exactly what they are looking for. I can sympathise with this. Occasionally, I still go shopping in real-life, in actual shops. To me, there’s nothing more horrible than being in the Bullring in Birmingham without knowing exactly what I want. Oh, the aimless wandering, the confusion…

You can spare people this misery. I can safely say that whilst most people like buying headphones, trainers, and home furnishings, most people do not enjoy shopping around for financial services, back office software and healthcare. So, if what you’re selling isn’t inherently fun or interesting to the average person, the least you can do is explain it in a concise and engaging way.

When somebody lands on your website, chances are that you are hitting them with a load of unfamiliar language. This can tire your visitors out long before they succeed in understanding your offer. Your business might be multifaceted, with an overall mission statement supported by several distinct services. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that it’s perfectly possible for users to experience a kind of choice-induced paralysis when confronted with numerous tabs, headings and images.

Simpler is better. As a CEO or a marketer, you should always keep descriptions of your products and services to a minimum, whilst still providing the explanation your audience needs. It’s a tough balance to strike.

So, what's the best way to explain?

A video, front and centre and above the fold on your homepage, is a self contained, text-replacing opportunity to explain what you’re offering. You’re exchanging the frustration of having to choose what to read with a simple, inviting play button. A study by Forbes shows that given the choice, senior executives will choose video over text in 59% of cases.

Animation is my preferred method for an explainer video. They are succinct, memorable, and they provide a great deal of control over message, tempo, and brand. If you were to base your explainer video around talking heads, you would be reliant on your talent to present well, keep it concise, and look good. Unfortunately, this is beyond most people.

When we produce an animated explainer video for one of our clients, here’s what we do:

1) Distil the message

You should end up with a short list of key points to get into the video. You can start with a long list, then trim it so that you’re left with a mission statement.

2) Write a script with the voiceover and duration in mind, more than the visuals

You need a skilled writer for your script. You might know your business inside out, but that doesn’t mean you can translate that onto paper and produce an engaging voiceover. So, you might need the services of someone with a track record in this area.

Writing for voiceover is more like writing a speech than an article. If you’re writing your own script, say it aloud as you write, and make sure you punctuate to provide stresses and emphasis. The finished script should make an engaging presentation by itself, so try delivering it to colleagues and get their feedback on it.

It’s important to keep your video as concise as possible. Most of the prospects that land on your website will be at the top or in the middle of the sales funnel. This means that they won’t spare the time to watch something overly long, particularly if their only goal is to make a purchase decision on something of little interest to them, beyond their requirement for that service. As a general rule, it’s good to aim for between one and two minutes. Usually, a voiceover artist speaks at a rate of around three words per second. So, for a two minute video, you need to keep your word count below 360 words, and remember to factor in time needed for branding and a call to action at the end, if you want one.

A quote from the author describing a rule you can use to make sure your script is the right length

If, whilst writing, you see an opportunity to give the animator a visual cue, you should probably take it - but not if this involves shoehorning metaphor or idiom into the video. Only include a phrase if it helps the viewer’s understanding. For example, the phrase ‘putting all your eggs in one basket’ can be a useful way of explaining concentration risk in investing, as shown in our Basics of Investing series.

3) Establish a visual style, and storyboard

Deciding on a visual style can take a conversation or two, but you need to end up with something you’re comfortable with. An animator or video producer will be able to come up with a rationale for a certain style. For the video below, we already new that we were going to use very natural interview clips for our voiceover, and decided that a mixture of hand-drawn and collage styles would complement this, to give an authentic feel with no pretensions.

Storyboarding has three key benefits:

  • It helps the animator come up with visual style and ideas to complement the script
  • You can check the ideas make sense, and the visual style is on-brand
  • This avoids time consuming and costly amendments to the animation

4) Voiceover

For an explainer video, the best tone to strike is one that is conversational and light. In this type of video, the voiceover is the teacher, and the animation is the presentation and props that help keep the class engaged.

5) Animation

The best animations for this type of video are colourful, have character, and a relatively fast pace. It’s important that the movements are lively, and it helps to keep the viewer engaged if transitions are fluid, light-hearted, or surprising. The below video is a good example of this.

Explainer videos are important. So much so, that if you haven’t got one on your website, you probably need one. If you follow the rough process outlined above, or make sure your video provider does, you’ll be able to give your site visitors a clear focus on your products and services.

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Author: Sam Willet

Sam Willet gravatar avitar
Sam is a Producer and Client Manager at Ember Television. He has worked in online media since graduating with an MA in Film and TV from the University of Birmingham, and loves a good human interest story. You can contact him at [email protected]
Don't leave customers to figure it out - Explain yourself



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