You may have decided to buy a video for your app. Great.
Let’s make sure that it’s great and that it will work. Lots of people will say “hey, buy my video.” That’s cool, what we want to do is share what works, and what doesn’t. The text below is a longer version of the slides above. Watch whichever makes sense to you.
Make Software Demo Movies that convert.
Every month, just over $25,000,000 in software and services are sold using a Simplifilm as the “last mile.” We’ve done this because conversion is king around here.We’ve worked with funded companies, bootstraps, and enterprise software machines- all focused on conversion.
We’ve made those mistakes into a “dos and don’ts” guide for making films that convert.
This is not a guide about how you can get the cheapest $100 film or take short cuts. There are tons of mediocre explainer videos out there, and we believe that they are anti-marketing.
If you have two videos, and one costs $20,000 and sells a ton, but the other sells nothing for $2,000, what’s the better deal?
Insist on Testing Your Video (And Don’t Hire Any Company That Won’t Strongly Suggest It)
We no longer take projects without testing.
The lean companies already know how effective it is at getting users to do things, we believe it’s vital for conversion.
If a video company isn’t testing, they are basically stealing. Stealing leads, conversions and customers from you. Stealing insight, and charging you to essentially spitball.
The difference between a properly iterated and tested video, and some “wild guess” by a low end company are stunning. It’s not been uncommon to double sales. Sometimes there’s not a lot of change between versions. Other times, there is a profound difference in the impact of one video versus another, but testing gets you insight into what drives your company.
- Headway themes doubled their sales after the Simplifilm’s final version went live.
- Verified Credible increased conversions by 184% and time on site by 100 seconds.
- RescueTime reports a major lift when they deployed their Simplifilm (in conjunction with some other improvements).
This is largely because we’re disciplined and we use testing to confirm what we are supposed to do. Good results come from taking a great guess and following it up to make it even better.
When you run experiments, your high impact areas are:
- The still-frame that asks them to play the video.
- The First 8 seconds.
- The last 4-6 seconds
- The gender and accent of the speaker.
- The action you’re requesting people take.
Other areas matter too, but we focus on the “low hanging fruit” and make good guesses where this lies.
We provide a minimum of 4 versions of each video on all of our project packages. This means that we start with a great idea and can drill down and cause more lift.
When you’re making something, include 20-25% of your ad budget on testing different versions.
We believe that any company that isn’t testing is spitballing, and we believe that that is stealing.
Avoid character art (It converts poorly. Seriously.)
Through testing, and delivering a lot of work we’ve learned a few things about conversion from feedback from clients.
We’ve learned that when characters are displayed for more than about 120 frames (4 seconds) the next 5 seconds have measurably higher abandonment rates.
This led us to abandon character art as a viable style. We believe it will be the Comic Sans of 2013.
The reason it’s so popular is that it is the easiest style that even a beginning animator can create. It’s not difficult to create a “This is Doug” story where Doug, some poorly drawn cartoon guy uses a product over some gradient backgrounds. That doesn’t work – at all.
When you’re on a budget, instead of the easy route, try one of these…most of the time it performs better:
- Talking head (webcam)
- Slides (well done slidedeck.com and other sources often out-convert cartoons)
- Hybrid (talking head + slides, for example)
All of those are almost certain to convert software sales more than the ubiquitous clip art style cartoons we see everywhere.
Exceptions: Certain consumer products and professional organizations may use character art to relate a product to a consumer. Also, if you’re telling a story with a lighthearted tone (poking fun or creating a parody of another product), cartoons may be a viable option. In those cases, cartoon work may not negatively impact conversion.
Show your Interface or your product in action.
You can say anything you want about your software. But you must prove it. You must make people feel like “They can do this,” and zoom in on the things your software does. We combine the actual interface with a metaphor to yield great results.
Showing that there is one to begin with gives people reassurance that the product is for real. Second, even if icons change, or if the layout isn’t exactly the same, your customers aren’t going to take screen captures to compare to the final interface. They will likely only watch the video a couple of times (a whole lot less than you will when you’re in production, and after it’s done). If it looks like you’re avoiding the interface, potential customers are less likely to buy in. Including one makes what we’re pitching tangible, and believable. People download, click on, and try things that they are reassured by.
By the way – even if you don’t have a fully finished interface, show what you have. Showing one is better than not showing one.
We know animation is expensive. We make it so that interface revisions are a fixed cost so that if you do change, we can make the Simplifilm grow with you.
Don’t Cram Too Much Into Your Video.
Most software companies want a large feature list to be in their video, and this is a big mistake. Think of the way Apple sells their products. Sure, we see the features, but one or two per ad.
This is a Goldilocks kind of thing- you have to get it “just right”. Too fast, and people abandon the video. Too slow, and they abandon the video.
Just right, and they tune in. Pace is relative: something can have a slow, classy progression and still have an interesting pace because of the way that information is revealed.
Selecting a music track will set the pace. A faster track will have more movement, a slower track may be delivered more slowly.
An easy way to check is the “sentence test.” Putting 8 word sentence on the screen should take someone about 3 seconds to read. After those seconds are up, they will get impatient. Visual ideas work roughly the same way, you have to calibrate based on what most people will take in, and practice does make perfect.
Just set the pace correctly and intentionally.
Make Sure Your Video is About You, Not A Cookie Cutter that Promotes that company.
When you order your video, be sure that the video you’re buying is about you, not the company who creates the video. Most production companies that create a video to tell your story need you to fit their mold. They want you to to take on their look – their style.
We’d never make the same video twice. It’s not respectful to any client, and the easy way out isn’t our way.
The bigger problem for software companies is brand confusion and tuneout.
With the common styles (whiteboard, character art) people look and think “Oh, gee, here comes another dorky cartoon video”. Bounce rates and abandon rates are higher than average. You end up getting lumped in with all of the companies that used their service. In addition to the video looking unoriginal, you wind up endorsing their brand and becoming a marketing piece for the company you hired.
At Simplifilm, when it comes to your video, we want to be invisible. We want your video to be a reflection of your company, your style, your logo – a reflection of you. If the company you hire doesn’t put you first, they’re not worth hiring.
Write a High Quality Script
Our blog archives talk a lot about writing scripts. A great script can lend itself to many different visual looks.
The script and concept is an important piece of your puzzle. While we’re primarily successful because of the skill of our visual artists, a script is the “second piece” of the puzzle that looks and feels great.
For your 45-90 second video, the script should have about 110-180 words, total, including:
- A solid beginning – 10-15 words.
- A “nuts and bolts” section about how it works -40-75 words.
- Contextually aware calls to action (go to the website if it’s on social media, buy now if it’s on the website. – 10-20 words
- A good, subtle close that informs, not sells. 10-20 words.
These aren’t inflexible rules, but they’ll be a great starting point.
One of the things we’re experimenting with is the ending. We’ve learned that sometimes a low information density logo reveal can outperform a specific call to action when it’s on a website.
Create a first-class visual metaphor
At our core, Simplifilm is about visual metaphor. We’ve learned that a fusion of metaphor and interface produces the best results. So we tell stories around ideas like:
- Robot arms building websites.
- A conveyor belt that produces more orders than a salesperson can do.
- A marionette with strings to show controlling him.
Metaphors are translators. They can be something simple – like the common “folders” metaphor we’ve used on our Macs and PCs for years that effectively helps us find files.
Their job is simply to convey what the product does in a way people can understand.
Whatever your product is, we have to translate it so it’s instantly understandable and obvious for human beings. The metaphor has to work. There can even be mini-metaphors within it (a network, a globe, price tags) that can all be stand ins for what’s working.
Caution: overdoing it with a metaphor can be cheesy and can make an extra metalayer for people to have to contend with.
Make every frame worth watching.
The first 10-12 seconds are the most vital, but there can’t be a sudden drop off in quality, either. We’ve learned that the whole thing has to move fluidly.
If there are weak ideas, when we go through the analytics, we can spot them, and it generally confirms our suspicions.
In practical terms, the script (see the next item) must be written in a sequential flow. It must lend itself to more.
At every point in the script, we fight to hold the viewer’s attention against their email, their bladder, Facebook or a zillion other distractions. We have to be better than that, so each part of the script both has to inform and hint at more information coming down the pike.
Focus on conversions, not watch rate or shares.
Sometimes, we’ve run tests where people will watch a video featuring a male (or female) voice over longer, but people download at a higher rate from an alt version featuring the opposite gender.
Many people don’t look at all the analytics behind a video, and they assume that they are going to go with the one where someone watched all the way through.
Getting through the whole video is nice, but what would you prefer:
- 20% of the people watching the whole thing and 10 sales?
- 100% of people watching the whole thing and 2 sales?
A lot of conversion experts presume that getting to the end of the video is the goal.
No, No. No.
Downloads are the goal. Trial users. Sales. Not “just people watching it all.”
When you get conversions, then you can find other ways of getting people to watch your video, you can buy traffic at a predictable return, there are many other things that you can do to make that happen.
Getting the product bought is the goal. Never forget that. See what actions people take, and make it easy for them to say “yes”. Big buttons and directions help with that.
Insist on quality
“Swing for the fences. Join The Company of The Immortals” -David Ogilvy.
Respect yourself and your work. Make magic. Every frame, word, scene, and detail will be justified.
Low quality, sloppy, or indifferent marketing signals that you are not taking your product seriously. Cheesy or tired clichés don’t sell.
We chose to perfect one form – the under 2 minute web commercial – so that we can be the best in the world. Our clients believe we are. We have the ability to be versatile and beautiful within that form.
Whichever form you pick (screencast, animation, live action) work with someone that does their form better than anyone else. Create the fit and finish that shows that you are taking your product seriously, that you are here as a force to be reckoned with.
Things that show quality:
- no ‘clip art look’
- smooth transitions
- sensible, understated script
- few to no “jump cuts.”
- no character art in animation
Exceptions: A quick and dirty founder created video may be best in the early going, but down the road you want to upgrade to something that has been proven to convert people that are other than early adopters.
Respect your audience.
People don’t want to be pitched, ever. They are looking at a video to solve a problem that they have.
Honestly, they don’t even want to watch “sales” videos. They are looking for features and signals that your software is as good as you say it is. They are looking to see if it’s got the fit, finish and polish that you would hope that it has.
Jamming in all the features and use cases in the first video isn’t smart. You’ll confuse them and lose them.
Remember: we’re still competing with ex-girlfriend pictures on Facebook, their boss, their bladder and all the other things that could distract someone.
Respect your audience. Show people what the product does, show them that you’ve thougth about the details, and that your product is real.
When you do, you’ll win the war to make a great video.
Listen, we love videos, app trailers, and animation. It’s not cheap, and it’s not worth it to skimp because when you skimp you’re doing things that may hurt your business. Signaling to people that you accept obvious mediocrity isn’t going to help your business do well or grow to great heights. This is why we believe that you should do it right – if you choose to do it.
Many people will make an app trailer, and at Simplifilm we require:
- That the app is great.
- That the story is a fit for what we can do.
- That we will have some access to the interface and screens as the customers see them.