If you're a self-funded company, you've probably dreamed of getting an animated explainer video for your company.
The benefits of having a killer explainer video are big. You turn more website visitors into customers. You instantly stand out from competitors. And if you're lucky, you might even go viral.
There's only one problem: explainer videos are expensive. For most bootstrapped entrepreneurs, the $2,000 to $5,000 price tag for a video agency is too much. Most self-funded startups, unfortunately, are simply priced out of the game.
Recently at Drip, we wanted to get four separate explainer videos done without breaking the bank. So we came up with a process to create multiple videos quickly, with the help of a couple inexpensive services. In the end, our total out of pocket cost was just 11 dollars.
Below is the entire process I used to create 4 explainer videos in about 8 hours, for $11.
(Pro tip: watch the videos before reading the creation process by visiting Drip's home page and scrolling halfway down.)
Without further ado, let's dive in.
Step 1. Write the script (Estimated time: 45 minutes)
To kick things off, I wrote a script for the first video. It wound up taking a form quite similar to a sales letter, starting with a narrow focus to grab the visitor's attention, then expanding on the details of what Drip can do.
Sometimes writing a clear, persuasive script can take hours, but this first one took me about 45 minutes - partly because I'd had so much experience explaining the product in screencasts, sales calls, and on the long-form homepage, but also because explainer videos need to be super short (so there wasn't much copy to write).
Your video should not be any longer than 90 seconds, and to be honest, the shorter the better. If you can make the case for your product in 45 seconds, that'd be great, but for most people, the video will end up being at least a minute long.
Try not to worry about duration while you're writing, but keep in mind that you need to be clear, precise, and straightforward.
Here's how it turned out:
Frank is interested in your ebook, software or other digital product, but he's not quite ready to buy.
So Frank gives you his email address and downloads your sample.
Over the next few weeks Drip sends Frank amazing educational content, convincing him you're an expert in your space. And when he's ready to make his buying decision, it's a no-brainer for Frank to buy from you.
In Drip, you've setup an automation rule for purchases, so Frank is automatically moved from your lead nurturing email campaign into your customer campaign that follows up, provides more educational content, and ultimately leads to Frank buying more of your products.
You also tag him as a Customer so you can easily send one-off promotional emails when you're having a sale, release a new version, or just need a quick influx of cash.
Drip is unlike any email marketing platform you've ever used, and it can handle every phase of your customer's lifecycle, from website visitor to sample downloader to paying customer.
All this and so much more is possible with just a few clicks, with Drip.
Step 2: Walk Away for a Day, Then Edit (Estimated time: 30 minutes)
In order to give the copy a solid revision I put it in a drawer for a day. Coming back for a "cold" read highlighted a number of flaws right away.
After the first round of revision, I started reading the script out loud, which brought out a few more flaws right away.
With those fixed I edited for length - I think I was around 1 minute and 55 seconds, so I cut a paragraph or two to reduce the length to under my self-imposed 90-second limit.
Step 3: Record the Audio (Estimated time: 15 minutes)
This is one of the easier parts - I used a free piece of software called Audacity to record and edit the audio (you could use Garage Band or any other recording software), as well as a high-quality mic.
I used the same headset I use to record my podcast since I know it's up to par, but it's important that the mic connects through the USB port and not the little headphone jack; the audio quality is much better on USB mics.
Don't put yourself under any pressure to nail your first take here... just hit record and read through the script. Any time you mess up, start the sentence over and cut the bad sentences out during editing.
Editing is what takes most of the time here, but since you're just cutting out sections of one audio track, it's still relatively fast.
Render the file as an MP3 and you're all set.
Step 4: Turn the Audio into Visuals (Estimated time: 1-4 hours)
Turning ideas from my recording into physical images was the longest part of the process by far. I knew I wanted to find drawings that I could move around to "animate" the video, but it's hard to find high-quality drawings to license, and even harder to decide how to visually represent technical terms.
For instance, when I mentioned "Frank" visiting your website and being tagged, it took me a while to track down an image of a guy with a laptop and a question mark next to his head, and to come up with the idea of using a luggage tag.
This is the creative part of the video, though, so it's worth the time investment and in retrospect I'm glad I took the time to search as long as I did to find decent images.
Stock image sites tend to have a large collection of clip-art style drawings, and 123RF in particular has a lot of drawings that you can search before signing up.
I was surprised at how long this section took (for me, it was close to four hours). That included finding them, downloading, resizing, printing them out, and cutting them out.
Step 5: Filming (Estimated time: 1 hour)
Once I had all the drawings printed out, I grabbed some butcher paper from my kids' art closet to use as the backdrop.
If you have access to high-end video equipment that's great, but it's not necessary - I just propped up a consumer-grade HD camcorder. I didn't even have a tripod for the first videos (which was ridiculous, in retrospect... I bought one the next day before I recorded the remaining three videos).
It probably took me 10 takes to get the first video right. Timing is definitely the hard part, because I was listening to the audio recording while trying to move the pieces around in time with the words. It took some practice and coordination to get to a point where it didn't look ridiculous, but the final product turned out great.
Step 6: Editing and Rendering (30 minutes)
I edited my videos in iMovie - it isn't the world's best video editor, but it works (and if you're on a Mac, it's free).
Then I rendered and exported it as an MP4 and voila!
Here's the finished product:
Step 7: Repeat
I made sure to focus on getting one video right before I worked on the others. Once I was really happy with the first version, then, and only then, I went back and did the next three.
This was to ensure that if I made a mistake in one of the later steps, it only screwed up one video, not all four of them.
By practicing that way and ironing out a process, I made all my mistakes on the first video.
Once I had the process and coordination down, I cranked out the other three.
I wrote the scripts for the next three videos, used basically the same clipart, and recorded all three in under two hours.
Here are links to those:
This process may not be the best fit for everyone, but it's an inexpensive way to build yourself a decent explainer video.
My videos have worked out really well for Drip. I've used them in countless email exchanges to quickly explain Drip in terms that are very specific to their niche. And around 25% of home page visitors watch one of them.
Would I have gotten prettier videos if i dropped 5,000 bucks on them?
But my videos work for now, so it makes more sense to put that budget towards other marketing approaches (or building new features).
And of course, I'd love to see your videos if you follow this process. Just ping me on twitter: @robwalling.