A useful examination of explainer videos by costs, purpose and effectiveness
By Tim Cumming and Helen Pain, 11 Feb 2021
The term 'explainer video' is commonly used to mean almost any kind of video that tells a commercial story. But it's sooo much more, when you know where the turbo-charger switch is. It's one of the biggest post-pandemic sales tools of them all.
1. What exactly is an explainer video?
An explainer video is a two to three minute film, which explains a specialisim, process, or a capability to your prospective client. It is useful in taking the client behind the scenes, and helps to develop their comprehension and sense of your relevance. So far so good.
But there's more. In transformation terms, it moves the viewer's state from awareness to interest, advancing past the awareness narrative of 'this is what we do' into 'this is how it works'. That, as we'll see, is key.
Best told with a STAR story structure (Situation, Task, Actions, Result, in roughly a 2:1:5:1 ratio), an explainer should have a logical flow, but always be conscious of the pain or challenge at the beginning (Situation), and the remedy at the end of the story (Result). Otherwise, viewing completion tends to fall off around 30-50% (the proportion of viewers watching until the end).
Call-to-action as a guide to budget
A typical response to an explainer will be something like 'book demo' or 'show me how this would work for me'. You can calculate the value of that to your business and set a budget from there, for example, if you convert one in six demos to wins with client lifetime values of £60k each, a demo is worth £10k.
- Pain: Consider your viewer's pain points: what is their challenge, and how will you remedy it?
- Audience: What are their beliefs, or disbeliefs? This is what you must transform in order to incite action
- CTA: What do you want your audience to do with this information? Have you given them enough to risk that next step. For example, did you suggest the demo will reveal three new ways of doing X? Or two major approaches that will save them time or money?
- Value: Estimate your ROI here, and set your budget wisely
2. Effectiveness - Deployment and Placement
These services, offered by many marketing agencies, are all about getting the video seen by your buyers via search, social and advertising. You want audiences noticing your videos:
- On your website
- On search engines such as Bing and Google
- On social media, topic forums and specialist sites.
It's surprising how seldom firms give consideration to this in their video planning - you'll be ahead of most competitors, merely by deployment and enacting a little placement work.
If you have experienced in-house search and social marketers, you can absorb this work internally. If not, the best alternative is to employ your video agency or a marketing agency to handle this activity for you. If you're on a tight budget, pick a single channel (for example, LinkedIn), and master this yourself.
Incidentally, most video production companies don't offer these services - their focus is creating, not distributing your videos. So, when you're searching for video agencies, it's helpful to distinguish between production and marketing capability.
Deployment of your videos
Preparation prevents poor visibility. Your videos need proper publishing:
Hosting and Deployment Checklist
- Prepare thumbnails, description copy and SEO titles for the video
- Upload them to the host, tag them with SEO and human tags, load transcription files
- Optimise the video to look its best - it can take several loads at different compression settings
- Your site should have a video sitemap
- Optimised embed tags (these contain extra SEO elements)
- Embedding the video in your web page
- It's also a good idea to generate short snippet extracts for social deployment.
Furthermore, there's developing video SEO appropriate to the video content. This revolves around:
Hosting and Deployment Checklist
- Tagging it correctly on-page so it complies with Google's video schema markup - this is a big deal. Increasing visibility on search engine results pages is very helpful.
- Titling and tagging the video locally on page so it improves relevance for Google or Bing searches
- Locating that page on the website so it's only one click from home, and if it's an attracter, major promotional or hero piece, give it its own landing page to convert the traffic
- Ensuring that the video is best positioned on the page, above the fold, with high enough visual impact - size and position mainly - to let the video tell its story prominently. It is, after all, the premium content on the page. No point in burying it in a sidebar near the footer.
- And finally, the most overlooked aspect of deployment - starting with high quality shareable content in the first place.
If you're paying an agency for this work, £75-150 per video is a typical low-end price tag, £200-500 for top-end agencies. It's just fiddly, get-it-right-first-time work. If you have the SEO team in-house, you can save on this work (they should know all about schemas and backlinks).
Placing your videos in front of audiences
Outreach is weak if you merely share the video in a social media post. Most platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will share the video in your followers' streams for a mere matter of hours, or less. You don't want to see that effort vanish in a puff of smoke.
It's more about ensuring that the video is placed under viewers' noses, and at a frequency which is likely to garner response. Click-throughs to your site and its landing pages are the high value return that you'll get from your video. This work is not trivial; it hugely impacts the return you make on the video, and can cost as much as the video itself:
- Building a list of target channels (a channel being a group, forum or media) that you intend to engage with
- Targeting each channel with join or connection requests
- Sharing and engaging; targeted tagging, direct messaging, and subsequent hashtag, group and associate tagging.
This approach isn't rocket science, and a little experience goes a long way.
What'll you gain?
- Joins: Research the groups they belong to, filter for size and request to join, followed by research frequency
- Shares: Be helpful there, and then politely share relevant video content
- Engages: Follow-up on reaction, carefully selecting for spinout material
- Hashtag: Your own posts with group-relevant hashtags
- Rota: Rota how to post, link, rota and interleave with other content
Your costs could be around £50-200 per connected channel, depending on agency size. Around 50 to 100 channels would be a modest campaign, 200-500 for a medium campaign, 1,000 or more for a large campaign.
How video boosts SEO
If you intend an SEO programme (and that is no small decision these days, with the increasing cost), when done properly, video will generally enhance results. Here's how:
- Increase CTR: video on your SERPs pages drives a 40-80% increase in organic traffic
- Lower bounce rates: people spend over twice as long on a page with video than without
- Better backlinks: the higher your content quality, the more more likely you are to get backlinks
- Video sitemap: drives visitors to your site instead of YouTube or similar platforms
- Improved ranking: increasing visitors from CTR improves ranking
- Youtube hosting: will improve SEO on video reaction, which feeds into page ranking
- Youtube playlist: use help, hub, hero model, and include videos from other channels
- Domain authority: the more videos you have on SERPs, the greater the SEO
As we covered at the beginning, the role of an explainer is to deepen viewer understanding of - and favourable interest in - your proposition. Ensuring that you have an action that leads that viewer to spend that interest on you, is critical.
Making a video merely to tell a story, and not engender response, is pretty much commercial suicide. This is the largest of the hidden costs (the cost of response waste). And, sadly, probably the most forgotten part of video marketing amongst all businesses.
- Deploy: Don't go light on hosting, embedding and SEO; do them properly
- Placement: Plan in your social outreach from the project start
- Value: Model your response, and calculate its value (it will greatly aid budgeting)
A custom-made explainer can set you back anywhere between £1k and £10k, with 2D animated explainers at the lower end, and most filmed explainers coming in around £3-6k. The addition of 3D, or custom animation and advanced graphics, will push you up towards £10k.
The cost will come down if you buy more than one at a time - by as much as 30-50%.
Alternatively, if your budget is really on the floor, you can buy templated explainers for under £500, (just Google 'cheap explainer video') - you can create your own using tools such as Adobe Spark or Biteable. These are going to push all the hard work onto you, and the responsibility for story-telling, but they'll crush your costs.
Your largest cost element will be using an agency. They'll charge fees for ideating, structuring, planning, shooting and editing the explainer story. Finessing it after you've seen the first cut, too.
The most obvious hidden cost is your time and effort: everything from briefing and recruiting suppliers, to project management, review and approval, prior to going live. If you project manage in-house, that could be 3-4 days of your time.
If you're a good buyer, you'll probably push a portion of that work onto your video agency. Big agencies are good at charging for this work in their retainers and account fees. Mid-size agencies perhaps less so, and can be more affordable in this regard.
One final cost, that rests entirely within your firm, is the amount of unnecessary discussion time taken up with approval and review. Sounds daft, right? Figure this. If you involve four other people (perhaps sales or marketing seniors, or a CEO) whose average opportunity cost to the business is, say, £2k per day, and their total briefing, project management, review, feedback and approval time amounts to approximately three hours each, that is £3k you just added to the budget.
While you might want to inform, even consult, everyone, it's a good idea to keep the approval list small. Be very clear about this from the start - make anyone and everyone who can see the video aware that, while they may wish to have a contributing say on the matter, it takes time. Time = cost.
A more valuable use of consultation is usually at the beginning and not the end of the project. After a video has been made, the most expensive change is to the requirements.
There are also hidden investments. As you learn what works, you're building skill and experience which are assets for when you invest in your next video.
- Your post-launch improvement work will see gains in the video's value
- That, in turn, increases the social, search, advertising and specialist reach and impact
- Deliver more prospects
There are also the gains experienced by your sales people, as they deploy the video into your sales pitches, documents and emails, sales landing pages, or into conferences and seminars. While this cost isn't big, its contribution to sales development and closure is significant.
- Budget: Choose between custom-made vs templated explainers see above for price guides
- Value: List 3 ways of increasing viewings through post-launch work
- Gain: Always calculate the value of your CTAs
A good explainer video shows your clients that you know your worth, and how to solve any challenges you face - this promotes trust through familiarity:
- Challenge: consider your pain points and how you want to remedy them
- Strategy: choose an agency who plan an effective SEO strategy to help audiences see you
- Response: follow agency advice to maximise visibility and SEO optimisation
- Cost: choose an agency who give you value for money with no hidden costs or time wasted
- Post-production: recognise the benefits in value through established video improvements
Remember to guide audiences beyond awareness to interest by sprinkling a little STAR dust into your story, and turn interest to action with a pinch of deployment and placement planning.
So, now you've embraced explainer videos - you've moved closer to your goal. Time to explore the process as it applies to you?