In these times, if you are a product company and you don’t have a video that explains your product, quite frankly, you are asking too much from your visitors.
Your site analytics should tell you how much time people spend on your website. If you are a start-up, and a geeky product company at that, chances are it will be less than 5 minutes. So it is very important you have an effective product video that encapsulates your raison d’être in just a couple of minutes.
Now that is the simple part. Making ‘effective’ videos is expensive anywhere in the world. You are more screwed if you are an India based start-up and want to create a valley-style video for that market, which was roughly our situation.
So how and where do you start? At this point, I request you to watch our video below because I will be referring to and elaborating on the elements in it going further. (Yes, another view doesn’t hurt as well)
OK, this is how we did it and not necessarily in this order.
Step 1: We did the heavy lifting.
Till all the product developers, due to a mutant gene in them, can turn into great storytellers, we have to rely on production companies that will do the job for us.
Ideally, you want to just give them the brief and get the best result within a deadline.
A good production firm that has a track record of excellent work, marquee clientele, and sex appeal (meaning you can brag about hiring them) could do that. But they charge you a hefty fee for having worked their bottoms off suffering boorish, domineering, and hard-balling clients earlier in their career. Unless one of them is suffering from a Jerry Maguire moment, they will be as expensive as they come. I read it here that it costs around US$15000 to make a 3 minute product video in the Valley.
Since we don’t have that money, we got a smaller company to do the job (we found them on Google). The company we chose was cost-effective but we did a lot of heavy-lifting (we actually gave them the complete voice-over script).
Step 2: We id’ed our audience
It is sweet if everyone swoons over your work of art, but you should first really care if your message is hitting your target audience. So a very important step is to identify that audience. In our case, our product Trolly is designed for online retailers, so the video starts with ‘John is an online retailer….’ . You will see the entire script and play is designed for online retailers. Here is a snapshot of the storyboard.
Step 3: We id’ed our market
Again, you will see that in our video we use anglican names and personalities. Why? Because our main market is the US. If our target market were India, we would be better off with Raj or something like that instead of John.
(On a side note, the name of our product Trolly has amused and bemused people. We intended for it to infer to a Shopping cart (a Trolley as understood in India) but Californians were amused because Trolley means a mini-Train to them. Others were bemused at its close resemblance to ‘Troll’. All I can say is none of the inferences were desired. We may have the hindsight now but we do not have the resources to go for a rebranding. Talking about it aloud like this may clear the confusion just as well, or so we hope :-).
Also, you would have noticed the american voice over in the video. A lot of people ask us how did we do it. No, we didn’t get the voice recorded in the US, nor it is an Indian faking an accent (Never do that. It will be what it is, a fake). There are many expats who live in India now, and in a place like Bangalore, it is not hard to find them. Our production company did a good job on this. Sometimes you get even luckier. In the earlier version of the Trolly video, we used a lady’s voice over. She had never given her voice before, but she was a natural. You can hear her voice in the video below.
The voice recording was done in a single take in less than an hour. (The video itself was done entirely in-house using Balsamic at a cost of less than $1000. We have since changed Trol.ly to trollyapp.com)
Step 4: We were clear, very clear, on what we wanted to communicate.
Now nobody knows your product better than you. That is also a problem. You want to tell everything there is about the product. If only the visitors were willing to hear all about it. Since they really can spare only a couple of minutes, we need to choose which parts of our product story we want to tell and which to leave out.
In our case, we didn’t need to tell the online retailers that Social Media is important to them. They’d probably shoot the next person who says that. We may have a chance if we empathized with them instead. Therefore the opening lines.. “John is an online retailer and understands the power of Social Media for his business. But he is overwhelmed by the options…”
From here on we focused on staying clear of any jargon or on how beautiful Trolly is under the hood, but explained how Trolly solves the problem for them in as simple words as possible.
Step 5: We chose ‘effective’ over ‘creative’.
Effective – When the video explains what we do
Creative – When we have to explain the video
The point of the light-hearted sarcasm above is that production companies perhaps feel compelled to be creative. Take a look at this.
As you saw, the part about users sharing purchases and other products with their friends is depicted through morphing and moving elements. To communicate the utility of a software product is challenging as it is, to offer it wrapped in layers of metaphors is to make a tough job harder.
So, while it was creative, it wasn’t effective. We wanted to make our point simple, straight, and quick. So we mercilessly asked them to chop off that part. See how it looks now in the video (see the video at beginning of this post between 0.34 to 0.49).
To summarize, to get an effective video done is not just about finding the cheapest production company. You have to do a lot of homework. You need to –
- Mark your market
- Know your audience
- Be very clear on what you want to communicate
- Find the right production company, and
- Choose the style that is effective rather than just creative.
If it hadn’t been for the appreciation we got from Gillian Muessig, President and Co-founder of SEOMoz for our video (during the Social India Conference organized by Akshaya Patra Foundation), I wouldn’t have written this blogpost. Her appreciation (considering that she is from our target market) made us think we may have done something right, and therefore, sharing our experiences could benefit others.
But that said, we don’t want to be presumptuous. If you did not like the video, please tell us why and what can improve. You’d help us and others who read this post. Appreciate your comments, please leave them below.
[Guest article contributed by Kiran K, founder of Adeptocorp. Reproduced from Kiran’s blog post.]