The popularity of explainer videos has skyrocketed over the past few years. And no wonder: they are proven to rank better in search engines, they increase your website traffic, and they help your audience retain information 30% more than static text does.

Having created dozens of explainer videos over the past 8+ years, I have gained a lot of insight into avoiding pitfalls and developing effective videos. If you are considering investing in a marketing video in 2017, read these useful tips for creating a video that can help you drive more sales.

1. Keep It Short

Think of your explainer videos as your company's elevator pitch. That concept comes from the studio heydays of Hollywood, when a screenwriter would catch an executive on an elevator ride. The screenwriter would then "pitch" an idea to the decision-maker in 30-60 seconds. And that length is the sweet spot for capturing your audience's attention, we've found. In fact, the shorter the video, the more likely your audience will continue watching it. Moreover, if you don't capture viewers' attention within the first 10 seconds, you'll immediately lose 20% of your audience.

Tip: When writing a video script, keep in mind that 150 words equals roughly a minute of voiceover (VO).

2. The Script

Without a well-written script, you won't have a solid foundation for your video.

In my experience, it's almost always better to hire a scriptwriter. Some companies like to try to write their own scripts, but if you're not familiar with the process you can wind up wasting time and effort. Using a writer allows you to be direct and to the point, and to stay on track.

The first few seconds are the most important part of a video, and a scriptwriter can help you create a hook to grab the viewer's attention. Scriptwriters also have a good sense for how much time to allow for pauses and breaks, leaving breathing room so the message can be easily retained.

Tip: When reading a script, allow for pauses—a few seconds for an interaction and a few seconds for the call to action. If you don't account for this time in the scriptwriting stage, the video will likely require additional budget.

3. Storyboard

A storyboard is a key element in video creation. A storyboard is a series of slides with text descriptions to define the look and feel and animation style of the video. For a 1-2-minute explainer video, the storyboard might include roughly 24 still images with text descriptions. This process will help you better visualize the entire video and save you time in the animation stage.

Tip: When creating the storyboard, try to be as detailed as possible to ensure less backtracking later on.

4. Use a Professional Voiceover Artist

The right voice will help keep your video interesting and fill any dead spaces or pauses in your video.

Voiceover artists record themselves in a soundproof room and use equipment to edit out any irregular sounds. If you were to try to record the script yourself, you'd most likely end up with irregular tones, pops in the audio, and background noise. Unless you are a professional VO artist with a soundproof room, there's no need to record it on your own.

Years ago, it would cost a few thousand dollars to hire a professional voiceover artist, but today there are various online options, with costs ranging from under $100 to just a few hundred dollars. It's as easy as going online and picking the right VO for your video.

Here are a couple of websites we like to use for our audio:

5. Grab Your Audience's Attention

You've noticed the running theme about keeping your video short. And, as I've already noted, it's important to grab the viewer's attention as early as possible. You can do that, and keep their attention, in several ways:

  • Use teasers: If you're selling a product or service, you can mention that a particular piece of info will be revealed later in the video.
  • Use simple language: Try not to get too crazy with the professional lingo. Keep it conversational. The goal is to explain your product or service as quickly and clearly as possible.
  • Use typography: Even if your video includes voiceover, it's good to back that up with some overlaying text that points out the major points of your product or service.
  • Keep the video moving: My biggest pet peeve, and the reason most whiteboard animations don't work, is the absence of movement. Your audience will surely drop out if they are looking at the same old graphic, or a repetition of animation, throughout your video. Keep changing things up to keep the video interesting.

6. Live Action Isn't Necessarily Better

One of the biggest misconceptions when creating a video is that it's very expensive. But explainer videos don't have to be; in our experience, most fall within the $2,500-$5,000 range.

Many people think of video as live footage, but around 90% of our video work is graphics and animation. By using typography, photos, and illustrations, you will achieve the same effect as a live video—and save yourself thousands of dollars.

7. Music

It's amazing how background music can bring an entire explainer video to life. Music helps fill in any pauses in the VO or animation and keeps your video interesting from beginning to end. It also sets the mood for your video, so choose carefully! Is your video funny? Serious? Is it for a corporate presentation? Picking the right music will help hook your audience. These are some of our favorite music sites:

Tip: When using music with VO, keep the volume very low so it doesn't interfere with the voiceover. Listen to the VO and music with and without headphones so you can better determine the correct audio balance.

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image of Steven Cotroneo

Steven Cotroneo is president and creative director of SAC Designs, a Boston-based motion, Web, and print design agency specializing in explainer videos and website design and development.

LinkedIn: Steven Cotroneo