I have to start this post with a plea: Founders, stop making crappy explainer videos! As someone who has reviewed hundreds of startup over the past few years, I’ve seen more than my fair share of explainer videos that cover the range from truly terrible to great. Unfortunately, the vast majority have fallen closer to the truly terrible end of the spectrum than the great.
However, videos produced by our own KillerStartup favorite Explainify definitely tend toward the great side of things. We first interviewed founder Eric Hinson back in 2012 and since then, his company has grown from a struggling little startup to a company that has is helping Fortune 500 companies get the word out there about what they’re doing.
Luckily for us, Eric was down for a second interview. Keep reading for tales of trial and tribulation – and a whole lot of successes – as well as some tips on how to take your company from startup to stand out.
We spoke with you over two years ago about Explainify. Can you fill us in on some of the highlights for you guys over the past couple of years?
Well first off, I was so honored to be a featured guest on KillerStartups when we got started, and I’m excited to catch you up a couple years later.
We’re a long way away from where we were in 2012. Bigger team, new office, a remodel of that same new office, new positioning. But mostly – we’re much more confident. This is my first real business venture and to be honest, I didn’t know as much in the beginning as I led on.
I was rapidly consuming books, podcasts and trying new things – some big wins, some failures. Every project we took on, my team and I researched the hell out of it – the vertical, the audience, the buyer journey, the problems, the misconceptions.
Now, we’ve learned to come into a business and ask the right questions, remove the jargon and fluff, and fairly quickly walk away being able to tell them their true unique selling point, how they need to tell their story and why their current messaging isn’t working. Along the way, we’ve got to see some lightbulbs go off for some pretty well-versed entrepreneurs and businessmen and women – and that’s exciting – knowing that we showed them something they couldn’t see themselves.
The most exciting part? The results our clients see – Increased conversions online, a-ha moments in-person resulting in major sales, winning of major awards, etc.
We’ve also begun to offer a much higher-end, more valuable product at a higher price point, we won a trip to SXSW, have been flooded with work nearly non-stop, built a better sales process, improved our messaging, rebuilt the website a few times, spoke at industry events, worked on videos for Coke, Walmart, NBC Universal, NetSuite, charity: water and many more big names… and a whole lot more that I can’t remember offhand. All that, and we still get to work with businesses you’ve never heard of but are doing amazing things. I think that’s really cool. Typically a service business like ours either focuses on the small/medium business or the Fortune 500 – we do both. And it’s awesome.
And the lowlights? What have been your biggest challenges?
Aw, are you trying to kill my high from the last question? Well, I’m really working to scale myself out of production but it’s inevitable that with our small size (boutique by design), I’m required to work on a lot of day-to-day tasks, and as a result the influx of new client relationships slows down. We’re working on it – but for example, back in the summer of 2012, things slowed down quite a bit. It was frightening, but we knew (or hoped) it would come back up. We’ve since then put processes and people into place to avoid that affecting us as deeply as it did then.
Some other challenges we’ve faced are navigating the decision-making process, staying in control of our message as it climbs the decision ranks, dealing with software issues, computer crashes and more.
How has the explainer video industry changed in the past couple of years?
It’s changed a lot! During our original interview the “explainer video” was the hot new thing, but that hotness spread like a disease and thousands of cheap, cookie-cutter producers have popped up all over the world. It became a race to the bottom (bare minimum quality and price) and we weren’t about to ride that wave.
Now, I’m not saying explainer videos are bad, they’re not – they’re wildly effective – but only if you get the right producer on the job – one with a phenomenal writer that knows how to tell a compelling story and designers, animators and sound designers that can make stunning visuals and sounds. I prefer to not use the “explainer video” phrase as much these days, but rather describe it as a video that explains or tells a business’s story. Be careful of some of those other guys.
What’s your favorite video you’ve made so far?
I’m sure it’s cliche, but I have so many favorites. Honestly, one of those is sworn to secrecy under the strictest of NDAs. Basically, a sales professional in a VERY large global organization was looking to get himself promoted. Apparently this type of promotion is years in the making and only a couple people get it out of the hundreds that apply. They have to do a pitch that deconstructs their best sale and present to the executive team. He hired us to learn about his sale that took two years, deconstruct it and find the best way to tell the story. The ROI for his company hiring him because of this one deal is somewhere around 3,650% for those two years.
It was a story I couldn’t pass up! We went to work and after lots of back and forth on our end as to what the best route would be to take, we came up with the perfect story. I only wish that I could share it. Maybe one day!
Needless to say, he was promoted, got a mega-huge salary increase and the executive team, and all of his peers absolutely loved our video. It received a standing ovation!
I feel bad not sharing an actual example so another recent (public) favorite of mine would be this quirky video for GoGuardian, a platform enabling educators and school administrators to monitor student Chromebook use. This business excites me a lot!
What explainer video trends do you love?
Trends are hard for me because nobody wants to be “status quo”. We look to approach every project with a completely fresh, blank slate and assess what’s best for our client.
The trend you’ll be seeing over the next few years is a move toward stronger storytelling. Executives are realizing they need to combine the emotional power of storytelling with a deep outsider assessment of their gaps in communication, execution, marketing, sales, etc. Also, tech is only going to get more complicated so getting people to the ‘a-ha moment’ is more difficult. If you have spent any time learning the depths of big data or enterprise management, you know it’s some complex stuff.
And which ones should all startup founders avoid at all costs?
For the love of God, stay away from the ‘Meet Gus’ plot line. You know, the one that goes “Meet Gus. Gus owns a diner but can’t seem to get enough customers to try his delicious food.” It’s overplayed and from what I hear audiences are tuning them out. They’re also a calling card of so many cheap video producers. I suppose it’s not bad in every case, suppose you’re telling the story of a customer journey, I guess just choose a better name and make it more dynamic.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We’re so excited about the future – of our company, the online video marketing landscape – all of it! We used to be afraid that the explainer video space had a short shelf life. Now, we know that brands will always need great storytelling and great video – and we can’t wait to see what’s next.
We’re currently looking for long-term partnerships with agencies. If you own or know an established marketing or ad agency working on cool projects with realistic budgets, please connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.