I am trying to figure out when I first got the idea of creating an explainer video for WhoAPI. I think I read somewhere a few years ago that explainer videos increase conversion. Like any digital marketing expert or growth hacker, I love increasing conversions. Back then we didn’t have any revenue and I was having a hard time explaining what exactly we did, and who our target audience was. I thought that an explainer video would help resolve this. Little did I know that if done properly, such a video can be an amazing exercise, and I recommend that each new business or startup create an explainer video of their own.
But naturally, months went by, budget was limited, and we never got around to creating an explainer video. Then, back in August 2015, we ended up creating a cheap 38-second explainer video. I think we mostly did this to familiarize ourselves with the process, and to see what we could get for $100. Naturally, as with anything, you get out what you put in. We weren’t ecstatic with the results, so I wasn’t confident enough to put this video front and center, above the fold, hero section, on the homepage… And again, months went by.
I think also back in 2015 I started focusing more on conversion rate optimization. I talk about this in some detail in our post “Is this your online marketing grind” and in June 2015 I started using Crazy Egg. I’d like to skip the part where I write about how I use Crazy Egg, and just mention how Crazy Egg fits into this story on creating our explainer video and why. During 2016 I started posting and spending more time on YouTube. I’ve posted dozen of videos on my personal channel and the WhoAPI channel. During that time, every now and then I would see an ad on YouTube that would show Crazy Egg’s explainer video. To those that don’t know, YouTube offers ad rotation opportunities that let you promote your company, and there’s this thing called remarketing/retargeting that allows companies and individuals to show their ads if you already visited their website.
I think I saw Crazy Egg’s explainer video two dozen times during 2016, and then in December I somehow stumbled on Neil Patel’s old blog post “Stop Creating Explainer Videos, You’re Doing It All Wrong!“. In that post, Neil nicely outlined the steps you need to take in order to create an explainer video that converts.
Step #1: It’s all about the script, not the video
Step #2: Here’s what you need before you can write a script
Step #3: How to write a script
Step #4: Find someone to create your voice-over
Step #5: Find someone to create your video
Step #6: A/B test your video
Since according to the steps, “It’s all about the script, not the video,” what intrigued me most was the “how to write a script” step. So here are major points Neil mentions:
- Introduction slide should state what your company does
- Explain the problem
- Create a transition
- Show off your features
- Tell people to sign up or buy
- Answer any last objections
- Use proof elements to seal the deal
I think we missed only one point (answer any last objections), and I think we were able to touch on most of them (what our company does, explain the problem, show off our features) and definitely hit some of the highlights (create a transition, tell people to sign up, use proof elements to seal the deal). Ideally, you want to keep your video to less than two minutes, which we were able to achieve. To be honest, we were aiming between 60–90 seconds, but we ended up landing under 120 seconds.
First I wrote a script, and recorded myself while I read it. It was 2 minutes and 38 seconds long, and I sent the recording to Hendrikus De Vaan. He is the professional who was in charge of our voice-over, music and animation. I was introduced to Hendrikus by Crazy Egg, after I asked for the intro (we had been a paying client for a few years, so I had no trouble asking for this small favor). A couple of days went by, and during one brainstorm Diana and I realized we were missing a background story, like the one Crazy Egg had with the long mustache character in their video. The trade off I had to make during the time constraints, was that I couldn’t go to deep into details how exactly in each different use case our company helps our clients. With 12 very different APIs, and one (whois API) that is being used in different use case, it’s very hard (impossible?) to put it under two minutes. I came up with two ideas/plots I really liked. I am sharing here the raw and dirty text I came up with.
PLOT NAME: MAD SCIENTIST
It’s the ‘90s and Mad Scientist and his cat want to start a startup for cat food delivery. He is off to a great start and the service gets hundreds of signups per day, but the criminals use fake credit cards with U.S. addresses to ship cat food all the way across the globe! So Mad Scientist and his cat send the product and pay for shipping only to realize they didn’t get any money.
Mad Scientist wants a solution so he invents a time machine (he solves all his problems like that) and sends his artificial intelligence robot through the time machine into the future. His AI robot then connects to WhoAPI and starts sending information back to him! His software flags when important emails signup (we highlight the domain), and we red-flag the bad orders. WhoAPI also warns him that MadScientist-Cat-Food.com is about to expire, and we list all the domains infringing his trademark, explaining bad domains are taking his business. Mad Scientist takes action and now it’s a successful startup. His cat is also happy with all the free food.
You don’t need to build a time machine. Sign up now.
PLOT NAME: DISTRICT 9
Aliens are living among us, and they are struggling to make a successful startup. One in particular is rather depressed (think Marvin from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). He is thinking about how to make a lot of money, and realizes humans love cats, so he starts a cat food delivery business. His cat food delivery website gets a lot of signups and he gets paid. Mostly. 🙁 (making a reference to the alien movie). Turns out criminals use fake credit cards and use his trademark to register similar domain names, taking business away from him!
The alien fellow found out about the whois data and it seems he has the ability to read the entire whois… just by looking at it. He is the one. Now he knows when his domain is about to expire, when someone uses an important email to sign up, when an order is suspicious, when someone is infringing on their trademark, and more. His cat food delivery startup is now a success. If you are not alien, fear not – you don’t have to speak Alienish to read the whois. We have software for that. Sign up today.
Since I agreed with Hendrikus (“I think aliens could be fun too, but it’s less relatable, especially if they don’t get the reference”) we started working on our “Mad Scientist” story. I then went on to create a story and a script that grew from the initial concept. Again, a few days passed, and I kid you not, I was watching South Park when the Coon teamed up with Cthulhu. I saw this part, which was shown as a depiction of sliding through a comic book. (Due to strong language, this video is not safe for work). I just screamed, “We should make an explainer video like this – comic-book style!” Diana immediately disagreed, which bugged me, since she was supposed to create all the graphics. But then just a few seconds of silence later, without me saying anything, she changed her mind and agreed by saying, “You know what, that’s actually a great idea!” We shared this with Hendrikus the next day (he is New Zealand, we are in Croatia), and he was thrilled about the idea, and yes, he also already knew that the Coon teamed up with Cthulhu.
Diana started working on the graphics, and mentioned she could use some help with the main character, our Mad Scientist. So she found Evgeny Polukhin on Dribbble. By then I was set on creating someone like Dexter (from Dexter’s Laboratory); we loved some of Evgeny’s work and his style was suitable with Diana’s style of illustrations.
After that, Hendrikus created the initial voice-over and music recordings, Diana started working on the comic book, and Evgeny was working on Mad Scientist. (initial sketches below)
Once six Mad Scientist illustrations had been created, Diana integrated them inside illustrations she created. I would say they were in fact two beautiful worlds. One was a ‘90s laboratory where I had the idea of portraying it with, “It’s now safe to turn off your computer,” and a futuristic world. The connection between them was inspired by a game called Portal, and the movie “Back to the Future.” Those illustrations were then put into the comic book surroundings. I also wanted to name the cat and the robot to give more depth to the story. The cat’s name was a no-brainer: it had to be Albert (Einstein). Hendrikus suggested we call the robot A.R.N.I.E. (short for Arnold Schwarzenegger, a.k.a. Terminator, the time traveler). I loved that idea so much and it stuck for a while – until I saw the cover of the comic book. JSON (the output we use) is often pronounced /ˈdʒeɪsən/, same as the male name Jason. It was perfect that “J.S.O.N.” the robot delivers the data from he future.
By the time we had our comic book layout, Hendrikus was done with the voice-over and the music. Gluing those pieces together meant creating an animation that had them synchronized. You can see the final product below; please tell us what you think about it.