The 90’s Chicago Bulls: A roadmap to explainer video greatness

A client recently wanted to create an explainer video for their upcoming product launch – a potentially great idea since video content can explain complex products in a concise, engaging way.

The problem? The product launch was in only three weeks.

After some brainstorming, we proposed decoupling the video from the product launch and investing a little more time in making a flagship explainer video. They had the budget; we had the experience, and the added lead time meant we could work on a video giving a complete overview of the company – something they didn’t have (and needed).

All in all, the process for deciding to make this video was relatively straightforward — but involved asking direct questions about our client’s goals, resources, and limitations in the moment. In this post, we’ll provide a roadmap to help you make the same type of educated decisions regarding explainer videos — with a little help from the 1990s Chicago Bulls.  

Wait…do I need an explainer video?

Explainer videos can serve many different purposes: introducing your company, explaining your new offering, recruiting talent, etc. This versatility sometimes leads startup teams to conclude that they’re a silver bullet for solving any marketing problem.

Spoiler alert: explainer videos can be game changers – but they’re also huge investments that can siphon time and budget from other initiatives. So before deciding to move forward with a video, you should solidify what your goals are – and whether video is the most effective way to achieve them.

Scenario #1 (full steam ahead!)

Your marketing campaigns are reaching lots of prospects, but relatively few are converting to demos. In the few demos you set, you keep getting the feedback that they didn’t understand what your product does, but now that they see it in action, they love it (based on a real client).

In this case, having a video that outlines your product’s features and directly ties them to business benefits can encourage your audience to make that connection sooner and improve your conversion rates. With a clear goal and ROI defined, you should definitely look to create this explainer video (and fast).

Scenario #2 (here be dragons)

Imagine you’re experiencing the same low demo conversion problem as the startup in scenario #1. However, your startup is competing in a well-established market.

In this case, having an overview video on the benefits of your product won’t break new ground with your audience since they’re already knowledgeable about your space and can understand your product by skimming through your website. Instead, focus on highlighting your differentiators (check out our guide to healthy competitive analysis).

While a video explaining how you differ from your competitors can be effective, it’s not the most efficient way to get this point across. Whitepapers, competitive takedown collateral, and dedicated landing pages are often a better option as they take less effort, time, and money, without sacrificing digestibility.

Okay…what do I need to make it a slam dunk?

Now that you’ve established that you need an explainer video, you have to assess whether you have the resources. After all, anything short of amazing can damage your brand and mean money down the drain. 

There are three main resources you need to create a killer explainer video: time, budget, and experience. Ideally you have all three, but some are more important than others. To help explain the nuances, enter the 90’s Chicago Bulls 🏀.

Think back to the greatest NBA team ever, the ‘95-’96 Chicago Bulls. Led by their big three – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman – they won a then-record 72 regular season games and capped off their season with an NBA championship.

The must-have: time. Think Michael Jordan. You need to have the greatest basketball player of all time to create a great team, let alone a chance at winning a championship. No ifs, ands, or buts.

Similarly, you can’t compromise on time in order to create a successful explainer video. The simplest 2–D explainer videos take at least 4 weeks to complete:

  • 2 to 3 days to come up with a script and evaluate video production agencies
  • 1 week to solidify your design style
  • 1 week to illustrate a complete storyboard and record a voiceover
  • 2-3 weeks to animate

This is also assuming you have a short approval process and a dedicated in-house person sending edits and feedback immediately. Since most startups might not have one or the other, we recommend doubling the time you think you’ll need to put this video together.

The critical complement: budget. Think Scottie Pippen. You might have a competitive team with Jordan, but you need Pippen to win a championship. Together, Jordan and Pippen aren’t the greatest, most dynamic team ever – but enough to win. After all, Michael Jordan never won a championship without Scottie Pippen.

Likewise, you need to have a budget – along with time – to create a successful video. We’ve seen good results with a small budget (less than $1,000), but we don’t recommend this route if you’re looking for anything more than a simple video to play at a conference.

Generally, you get to professional-level videos starting at the $5,000 – $10,000 mark. Anything more and you start to see diminishing returns in speed and quality, so be wary of the agencies that charge more than that.

The X factor: experience. Think Dennis Rodman. You don’t need Rodman to win a championship. In fact, you’ve done it three times without him. But with him, you can hide rebounding deficiencies in your other two stars and become unequivocally the greatest NBA team ever, i.e., the ‘95 Chicago Bulls.

Similarly, you don’t need any experience project managing a video in order to see good results. Any decent agency will give you a project overview before sending over a contract and explain in-depth what they’ll need from you. But previous experience can lend invaluable knowledge, like knowing what to prepare before approaching a video production agency so they can turn around an estimate quickly or even something as simple as knowing video jargon to avoid creative miscommunication, so you can fast track your project and overcome any deficiencies in time or budget.

The bottom line

Startups are keen on having an explainer video, but they aren’t the silver bullet to any marketing problem. Establish what your specific goals are for this video, evaluate whether the ROI is there, and make sure you have the resources required before you sign any contract. Then you can let your creative juice flow, and – before you know it – you’ll have a winning explainer video.

Tim is a Marketing Director at Blue Seedling, avid surfer, and proud cat dad.

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