Information Maven: Greg Meyer

Customer Development, Customer Strategy, Life Hacks, Marketing Strategy, Startup

How to Make Your Own Explainer Videos (for under $149)

Creating an Effective Explainer Video

A prospective customer may have only 30 to 60 seconds to understand your Unique Selling Proposition. When you’re not right there with the customer, one of the best ways to share the benefit of your product is a brief and effective “Explainer Video”. You’ve seen them – they are the 2-4 minute video clips that accompany almost any product these days. Depending upon your budget, the time available, and your level of effort, it’s easy to spend lots of money building an explainer video and not end up with much in return. The goal is to create a “good-enough” explainer video for a minimum amount of money that won’t embarrass you or your company and will give you a good template for future action.

Creating an effective piece of content requires some time and effort, but it’s not that hard to start. I created an explainer video for creating explainer videos (how meta) to demonstrate the process and have eight tips to get you ready for “lights, camera, ACTION!”

Tip 1: Write a Script.

It’s easy to come up with words on the fly, and they sound even better when you took a few minutes to write them down. To get the right level of detail, think of your script either as talking points or as a word-for-word reading that you can record and re-record until you get it right. The basics that you’ll want to follow are as follows:

  • What will happen in the videowhat’s the big idea that you’re trying to convey? Usually this is a bite-sized concept that someone can understand in two to five minutes.
  • What you will say – what idea are you trying to convey right now? Demonstrating a portion of the screen or an easy-to-use idea makes more sense if you don’t just read your script or your slide.
  • What you will demonstrateshow, don’t tell to get the maximum impact.You may need to show something more than once to get the viewer’s attention and to communicate what you mean. As a teacher friend of mine says, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, Tell them, and then Tell them what you told them.” It’s a good model for planning your teaching approach.

Practice each of these until you have a relatively smooth delivery. Some explainer sections may come together in a single take, while others require a bit of editing to get right.

Tip 2: Create a Motion Graphic Intro or Exit.

Video walkthroughs always look more professional when they have a snappy introduction and exit. Perhaps this is because we are all conditioned on 15- and 30-second commercials, and it remains that the intro is a worthwhile investment of your time. You can use iMovie or ScreenFlow (as I did in the overview above) or you can use a service like GetMoovd to build a 5-10 second introduction. The key here is to end up with something that looks and sounds professional – that look and feel lends credibility.

Note: if you’re not good at this part, this is an excellent item to outsource. Whether you use oDesk, 99Designs, or some other source, getting a freelancer to create an intro clip is much cheaper than hiring a designer to build the entire explainer video for you.

Tip 3: Buy a Decent Microphone.

bluesnowballThe first thing that many people recognize about a video (paradoxically, it seems) is how it sounds. The better a piece sounds, the higher the quality bar to the listener. You may not be a professional sound engineer, and there are a few things to do and make an immediate impact on the results.

First, use a real microphone, not just your iPhone earbuds. I recommend the Blue Snowball – it’s a USB mic and works well to eliminate a lot of the typical background noise you might here (clicks, etc). I also found that investing in a $5 microphone shield made it easier for me to avoid some of the vocal “pops” I’ve heard before when I try to record.

The Snowball has a standard microphone mount so it will also fit on a stand if you’d like to go “professional”. If you don’t want to spend $50 on a microphone, you can probably get away with a $25 headset that has a noise canceling boom microphone.

The Blue Snowball is a great choice for getting started however, and also makes you feel just a little bit like a newscaster or a Rock Star while you’re laying down your lines.



Tip 4: Spend $99 on Screen Capture Software

screenflowImageOnce your audio sounds good, you’ll also need to make some improvements on the video side. Creating videos with solid, consistent transitions and unobtrusive titles is also a great investment toward the goal of winning customer trust and time.

ScreenFlow is the best screen recorder you will find for the Mac. I’ve used Camtasia, Premiere, iMovie, and Flash. This one makes it really easy to record the screen (even allowing you to record the ScreenFlow software itself or record output on an iPad or iPhone.

Adding transitions, editing sound, and fitting things together is really easy. When you’re ready to publish, ScreenFlow also connects directly to popular video hosting sites like YouTube or Wistia. In short, this is money well spent and the investment (a small one, really) is worth your time and money.


Tip 5: Take the time to Smooth the Vocals


Now that you’ve invested in a microphone and the screen recording software, make sure you invest a little time in making the audio sound better as well. You can use software like Audacity or GarageBand if you want to do some serious processing, and I’d recommend just using the tools in ScreenFlow. Simply lower the background audio, smooth the volume levels, add a small amount of vocal effect, and remove background hiss and the vocals will sound much better.

A note of caution – it sounds like a great idea to filter the vocals with a fancy filter. It never comes out sounding like you want, so just a touch of filter is probably a better idea.

Your goal is to bring the vocals out of the background and make sure that they sound consistent – not to have the listener be surprised by an overloaded vocal.


Tip 6: Add Callouts to your Video

Professional explainer videos help you to know where to look in each segment of the video. This might take the form of a low-key “lower-third” caption on the screen, an animated callout to accompany a multi-step procedure, or other styles of getting the customer’s attention.


Good callouts are:

  1. Not necessarily a repetition of an audio track
  2. Limited in the number of words – they are not a book – and help to bridge gaps in audio or video
  3. Linked to the “Big Idea”

Bad callouts have these characteristics:

  1. Take too long to read
  2. Distract the viewer
  3. Leave more questions than answers

Building callouts is easier said than done. One good method of determining whether you have the right level of instruction is to show the video to testers when it’s partway finished and ask them for feedback. If they ask for callouts, it’s a good sign that the script needs to be refined or that callouts are needed.

Tip 7: Create Standard Transitions

In addition to callouts, you’ll need standard transitions between sections to help the viewer know what’s happening next. These provide a visual and mental break for the viewer. You might think of using a “Lower Third” technique, e.g.


A simple treatment catches your eye. Use Bold to set off parts of your text or italic to emphasize a point. And try not to do too much. Transitions should show up gracefully, add meaningful value, and then disappear. If they become the focal point, you said too much with the graphic.

Tip 8: Add some background music

Last and certainly not least, the tone of the background music sets the mood for the video. Consider adding a backing track to your video at a very low volume level, in addition to whatever main music you will be adding. Whether you create a simple loop that adds a sound texture or do something more elaborate, building sound layers will make your explainer video sound more professional and interesting.

While these tips give you the fundamentals for creating a great explainer video, they are hardly the last tips out there. If you’d like to read more about the topic, check out The Greatest Explainer Videos or read the book The Art of Explanation.

Want to do this yourself?

Find these resources at – a Dropbox link to the raw files I used to create this video – the script you can use to create your own Explainer Video.
Customer Development, Customer Strategy, Customer Success

Your customer wants to be entertained

Meghan Trainor at the Neptune Theater, Feb 14, 2015, Seattle, WA
Meghan Trainor at the Neptune Theater, Feb 14, 2015, Seattle, WA

We are all very busy. When someone asks for our attention, we want a show. Not just a “dog and pony” show, but a real experience with a tight structure, strong production values, and a Big Finish that we can record for posterity. Pop Stars have it down – they know that a customer’s experience with a single song has to translate into a customer experience that reinforces the brand. The key insight is that we don’t want to have our time wasted and we want the time we invest in an experience or a product to have value that extends beyond that experience itself.

What’s the first experience customers have with your product?

Think about the encounter with your product as a show. At Disney Parks, management refers to the customers as guests and the employees as on stage talent to help everyone know that the experience is a magical (and also fragile) construct where the guests want to be entertained and the employees do their part to make sure everything seems right. This is the exchange customers make for their time: show me something of value and I will commit my time, energy, and effort into seeking and finding that value.

The first time a customer uses your product, they need an easy task that demonstrates immediate value so that they will want to come back. A common way to accomplish this is to use the customer’s own information (connect your Twitter handle, enter the name of your web domain, or even the most basic tell me the preferred name you wish to be called) because it’s more likely you will get that information right. Get the first customer interaction right, and the customer will come back. Give them garbage, and you lost the chance to be considered in the future.

How do you set the stage?

In a rock show, there are roadies and advance personnel that ensure that the stage is set “just so” and that the experience in-theater (or stadium or venue) is similar to the way the talent practiced. There are rituals (the opening act, the lights, the backing music) that help prime the audience for an experience. And there are built-in mechanisms for checking audience participation (the welcome “HELLO CLEVELAND” to indicate a special experience in your town, the encore for making sure that you know the singer appreciates you). All of these actions set the stage for a great customer experience.

Setting the stage for a product involves setting the stage, suggesting a clear and immediate benefit, and then showing the way with the minimum of gates to take customer through the sign-up funnel.

The best sign up pages have a Sell (“try my product”), a Benefit (“When you try my product you’ll get this immediate benefit”) and an Action (“Get the benefit by signing up Now”). Here’s an example of a few pages from the Pinterest mobile UI that do this well.

example onboarding, courtesy of
example onboarding, courtesy of

Not everyone has as clear of a benefit as offering beautiful pictures in a free product (and therefore has quite a low barrier to entry) but the principles for any business should be crystal clear. Show (don’t tell) the customer the benefit; Demonstrate the easy steps to get started; and Ask the customer to participate.

Add an Easy Button if You Don’t Have One


photo by
An Easy Button.

Customers – as we’ve said before – are really busy. That means your product needs to be dead simple to start, even if the insights you deliver and the value you aspire to is less than dead simple. Start by listing the reasons the customer should try your product today, and keep them simple. One, two, or three benefits are probably as many as people can handle in one go (model your pitching on the idea of short-term memory – we can hold only 5-7 items in that memory and a few of them are probably already busy right now).

What’s next?

Make the first win easy, and then start sharing all of the insight and benefit your product gives in an easy to use format. For many people this is still email. Email wins because it is asynchronous, can be opened in many clients, and is reasonably easy to produce. Email loses because people have too much of it and they just don’t like to read.

Remember, customers are busy. Their time matters. Provide more value in less time and create a great experience that inspires them to share and they’ll come back to see more.

Marketing Strategy, Product Thoughts, Social Networking, Sports

Who won Super Bowl 49 on Social Media?

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Photo by

Who won Super Bowl 49 on Social Media?

We all know it now — in Super Bowl 49, The Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots left their bodies on the field as they battled for the NFL’s Lombardi Trophy. While all of metro Seattle is still smarting from the loss, and New England continues to celebrate, I thought it would get my mind off of the game to take a look at the results from the Super Advertising that took place during the Super Game.

$4.4 million was the going rate for this year’s Big Game, so clearly the biggest winner was NBC — the owner of all of that valuable advertising time. And many of the brands that advertised during the game generated a lot of engagement on social media — so I thought it would be interesting to compare the Battle for Super Bowl Attention across a number of different channels for all of the Super Bowl 49 advertisers.

Continue reading

Customer Experience, Customer Service

Noreply@ Emails Are Dumb

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photo by

Imagine if you had a store and on the front door you placed a sign stating, “We’re not open for business.” You wouldn’t expect many people to come to your door, much less people to come back and see you again. Yet that’s exactly what your company does when you place a “noreply@” email address in an email that you send to customers. You’re missing an opportunity to communicate with people who could tell you valuable things about your business.

“” tells me that you don’t really care about customers. That email address tells me that you don’t read your email. And it tells me that replies to that email are going into silent oblivion. Yes, you say – it’s hard to answer all of those pesky emails – I agree. It’s a lot of potential responses. But most people never think to let you know what they are feeling when you put up a virtual Do Not Enter sign.

Here’s another thought. Why not start by having a “PleaseTalkToUs@” email alias tied to your emails that you send? Or “WeLoveToHearFromYou@” or “YourThoughtsMatter@”? It’s just an alias – you can keep the “noreply@” hidden somewhere if there is someone grumpy at your company who just doesn’t want to read email.

But consider the value of having the first time someone hears from your company be a personal touch, like “love@” or “WeLoveCustomers@” and see how the emails change from “Get Me Off Of This List” to “I’d love to tell you something important about your product, and I just need someone to listen.” It all starts with being mindful about the face you show to customers. Start with a smile and see what happens.

Career, Customer Experience

The first goal is to keep learning

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photo by

My first goal as a college senior was to have the kind of job where I would never have to wear a tie. Achievement unlocked. But that didn’t really get to the core of the issue. I was really trying to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. A person who helps customers every day was the answer.  Continue reading

Customer Success, Marketing Strategy

Why should an Influencer Care About Your Brand?

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Photo by

How do you define influence? Simply put, it’s the ability to ask for something from others and have them follow through on your behalf. Following through could mean completing a specific action – like “share this article” or “buy this product” or “try my product” or something more subtle, like “recommend this to your friends”. Or it could mean something a bit more complex, like “make sure that people whom you know will think of our [brand] or [idea] when they consider others in the same type of product or brand”.

Influence is not just the ability to ask – we do that all the time – but also the forecast that you will be able to count on people to take action on your behalf. It is a tremendous force that needs to be used judiciously (as Stan Lee said, with great power comes great responsibility), and it can disappear quickly with the wrong ask.

What are influencers?

Influencers are individuals who persuade people to take action (including purchase decisions) through their authority, facts, charisma, or relationship.

Influencers have the power to get others to do what you ask just because you ask. –@meshfire

If you don’t know what this feels like, try advocating for a brand or a service or an organization that you respect and use. Try pitching their goods or services to a friend, and see what the reaction is like. You might find that you do this every day, or it might be unfamiliar. Sharing a recommendation is a powerful way to help others. When that recommendation is a good one, it’s wonderful positive feedback. When that recommendation is not acted upon or when the person says, “not for me” it’s also great feedback that you need to refine your pitch or pick the person more carefully.

Influencers may also be brand advocates (highly satisfied customers) and are more credible to consumers when they are knowledgeable consumers and wield influence.

People engage in these activities because they feel intrinsic motivation (satisfaction from just the action of helping someone out) or extrinsic motivation (sharing content that is popular can make you more popular, or a trusted resource, or a linchpin for a process). Finding the key that makes people respond due to intrinsic motivation leads to a stronger bond.

What are some of the reasons someone might be an influencer?

Influencers engage typically because they share an affinity group (perhaps an alumni group from a university); a place (geography); an activity (athletic or otherwise); or an interest (may overlap with activity or be distinct – a combination of one of the other types).

Influencers share information to help their communities; to gain influence themselves; and to be a source of knowledge and information.

What can you do to help them understand what you do?

Start by putting yourself in their shoes. WIFM (What’s In It For Me) is a good acronym that helps you think about why they would want to take action on your behalf:

What are you asking them to do? Do they know how to do it, is the goal attainable, and will they want to do it?

When do you need them to do it? Have you given the person enough time to consider what you’re asking them to do and have you made it very easy for them to comply? Have you asked them to do anything else recently?

Why should they do it? Does your action present an obligation for them and are they putting their reputation on the line by completing your task, or are you simply asking them to share information?

Then, THANK them for taking action on your behalf – and do it in a way that matches the communications you’ve had before. Not everyone likes being thanked publicly. You might send an email, a card, or pick up the phone. You might send a tweet. And you might say hello in person and buy that person a cup of coffee. The point is to display gratitude – to let that person know that their action mattered – and to help them stay motivated to help you in the future.

Career, Life Hacks

What is your Superpower?

Courtesy of ap-photographie on Flickr
Courtesy of ap-photographie on Flickr

What is your Superpower?

Are you Super? Some programmers are 10x+ times better than their peers. And this distinction applies to team productivity in general. It makes it really important for you to know the thing you do better than anyone else. Doing more of that thing will make you happier at work and in general.

What is the one thing you do better than anyone else? If other people were to talk about how you interact in the world, what’s the “signature strength” they would talk about when they talk about you? Continue reading


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