An explainer video is a short (under three minutes) video that acts as part elevator pitch, part infomercial, and part introduction. Companies use it to quickly introduce themselves, engage early adopters, explain their value propositions, and highlight how they can meet their customers' needs.

These videos, which often use animation and are distributed online, have been used by some of the fastest-growing businesses in the world to attract users, raise capital, and plant a flag in new markets. Dropbox, which went public with a valuation greater than $10 billion earlier this year, is said to have generated more than 75,000 early adopter sign-ups using just its explainer video. But adding new users is just one of a myriad of reasons to use this powerful tool. Explainer videos also increase conversion by 80 percent, and shoppers are 1.91 times more likely to buy after watching a video. 

The key to any powerful explainer video is the script. The key to a strong script is having tight answers to several key questions, including:

  • What problem are you solving? Who has that problem? Having access to potential early adopters is more important than you think. Not being able to engage with potential customers on a daily basis has caused the death of many a startup. So make sure you are clear on whose unmet market need you addressing, and don't be afraid to share the ideal customer persona in the video. 
  • How do you solve that problem better? Email wasn't a little faster than snail mail--it was exponentially faster. Make sure your video showcases the "10X value" your solution offers. Is it 10 times faster, cheaper, or stronger than existing options?
  • What proof of traction can you share? Ideas are cheap. Execution is what matters. Show you know that in your video by outlining your company's success to date.  

Advances in technology have made it easier than ever to make an explainer video. You no longer need to outsource the job to a video firm; you can do it yourself online for about $100. Using a tool like Powtoon, Animaker, or Wideo, you can take control of the process from start to finish. Keep the following in mind while you create your video:

1. It's all about the script.  

Invest the most time into getting the script right. Avoid jargon; stick to plain English. Make sure both your grandma and her grandkids can understand the messaging. Replace sentences like "We offer 5G wireless connectivity geo-agnostically" with "We connect you to the internet anywhere in the world at high speed."

2. Keep it short.

Three minutes at maximum. People have short attention spans, so say it quicker and cleaner and with less complexity whenever you can.

3. Focus on the end-user benefits. 

Avoid tech talk. Instead, focus on how life will be better for your users if they adopt your product. If you were making an explainer video about Google search, you wouldn't talk about "gigabits of data" and "WebCrawler digital spiders"; you would talk about "helping users find what they want faster."

4. Showcase your personality.

This may be the only face time you get with potential users, so shine bright and set the tone. Online authenticity and humor go a long way to brand your solution. Don't be afraid to use both.  

5. Use music. 

Just like in the movies, music sets a subconscious tone for most videos, so use that to your advantage. To keep costs down, use copyright-free music that's available on the internet.

6. Apply branding guidelines.

Stay on brand and on message, and stay within the marketing guidelines (color, font, etc.) you have adopted. 

7. Have a call to action. 

You won't know if your video is working if you don't measure the activity it generates, so include a call to action in the video--something like "Sign up now!"

An explainer video is likely the most powerful marketing tool you are not using. To get inspired, just Google "best startup explainer videos" and see the videos that helped turn the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, and Dollar Shave Club into household names.

Published on: Dec 20, 2018
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