How to Create a Promotional Video of Your Service Without Going Bankrupt

Published in Online Marketing.

Translated by Núria Adell.

When you launch a new product or service, the most important step is making people aware of this; reaching your audience is one of the key points to increase the number of clients from zero. In order to do this, creating a promotional video is nowadays something basic that we can’t overlook. People are much more used to watching pictures in movement than reading the advantages of a product on your website.

However, creating a promotional video that looks good and encourages your visitors to watch it and buy your product is not easy. And never mind cheap, as I will now show you. Luckily for you, here I’m going to explain our experience of creating the promotional video for Nelio Content, including all the tricks we have used and explaining how much money we have spent on it.

First Steps: What We Want and How We Do It

As part of the marketing strategy of Nelio Content that Ruth has been explaining throughout several posts, we had the need to create at least one video highlighting the functionalities of the product and how they can help you day to day to create and promote the content of your website in WordPress.

For our previous service, Nelio A/B Testing, we had already made videos presenting the different types of experiments you can try on your website to increase the conversion rate. But in the case of A/B Testing, we are talking about screencast type of videos (you can find them here), where we recorded the computer’s screen while we used the plugin to show how to create these experiments. Basically, something quite simple.

With Nelio Content we wanted to do a promotional video, like an ad, in which we would not only show the functionalities, but also the problem we’re trying to solve. We didn’t want the typical tutorial video. It’s a higher level of complexity, since the video would be a commercial element to achieve more sales without falling into the infomercial style.

Being clear on this, there are plenty of options to make a video of this kind. You might have noticed most businesses (both bigger companies and startups) have some sort of promotional video on their website. Thus, we thought it couldn’t be that expensive for Nelio Content (since everyone has one, it must be cheap…). However, once again we had a rude awakening 😂

If you’re looking for information on the average price for a minute of video, you will find it tends to be between €2,000 and €10,000, depending on what you want. You can even visit this website to see cool projects and find out the cost of similar videos. By the way, the fact that this simple video by Uber that lasts less than one minute cost $8,000 will bring you to tears.

Of course you can find companies or individuals who will sell you the possibility of doing a video for less than €500. However, are you willing to accept having your video in one or more PowerPoint presentations with the autoplay activated? We’re not.

We’re very rigorous. Probably above average. And this is why we’d rather not have a video than having one that doesn’t convince us 100%. Thus, we decided to produce a video ourselves. If we weren’t satisfied with the final result, we would reject it, but at least we wouldn’t have lost any money (just a few hours 😉).

Tricks and Tools Used

Let’s look at the process we followed in the realization of this promotional video, together with the tools we used and the experience as a whole. If you manage to get anything useful out of this, I’ll be happy😁

Previous Research

Before rushing to record, it’s not a bad idea to look at the type of videos our competition has. In our case, we took a list of the plugins with more than 1 million activated installations that Ruth did and we looked at those that had videos on their description. In addition, I also studied the videos of those plugins that could be direct competition to Nelio Content.

This is pretty easy, you just have to dedicate some time to navigating in the plugin directory of WordPress, noting down the videos and then extracting some conclusions. This is what I got at the end of my analysis:

  • The usual duration is between 1 and 2 minutes.
  • It is more common to use a masculine voice for the narration.
  • If you record the full screen, it’s hard to be able to properly see everything when putting the video on the WordPress directory, given the default width it takes. You have to play with the zoom. 
  • There’s not many videos that are well done. Having a good quality video can be an advantage.

This is not much as you can see, but it’s still something. At least now we have a better idea of our competition, which is always good.

The Script

Explaining everything your product or service does in one or two minutes is very complicated. The video should be understandable by itself and not be a chaos. Basing ourselves on this, our initial idea was to follow this organizational structure:

  1. Introduction to the problem we want to solve. Something simple and short, but effective. In the case of Nelio Content, explaining how complicated it is to write and promote content given the amount of tasks to do if you want to be successful. Showing that, with Nelio, this is going to be easy and save you plenty of time.
  2. Promotion in social networks. One of the most important characteristics of our plugin. You can plan the promotion of posts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest while you write the post. And then just forget about it, since the messages will automatically post. It’s essential to highlight this on the video.
  3. Editorial calendar. Another important characteristic to mention. Explaining that Nelio Content simplifies the chronological organization of your content in a calendar. Much simpler than the default list you get on WordPress.
  4. Quality control. Not as relevant as the previous point, but also remarkable. Nelio Content helps you while you’re writing showing everything you have missed and what you can do to improve your posts.
  5. Managing the teams. Instead of going into detail with each functionality we grouped a few in this section, since they’re more useful when Nelio Content is used by more than one person at the same time. We have to show it also includes suggestions, comments and the management of tasks.

These are the five basic points of our script.

The Narration

Once the script is ready, we have to convert it to a narration that’s read by a voice-over in the video. Thus, we have to choose sentences that are not too long and try to ensure the whole video doesn’t pass the maximum duration we want.

It seems easy, but believe me, it’s not. The trick here is reading the narration out loud several times to have an idea of how long it takes, and cut or add more text if necessary. In our case we have about 400 words in the final narration, both in English and Spanish (yes, our video will have two identical versions in different languages). The English version was checked by Núria, Ruth’s daughter who is currently in Scotland and whose level of English is better than ours.

Here comes the good part: who is going to read the narration? If you have a radiophonic voice, feel lucky because you can record it yourself. Sadly, this is not usual. But there’s a website in which you can hire the services of a professional commentator at ridiculous prices. On Fiverr you will find voice-overs for your videos for $5 for every 100 or 150 words read. The end result is very professional, impossible to equal if we recorded it ourselves. And they send it to you fairly quickly.

For our videos we selected this voice in Spanish and this one in English, both masculine. And we paid less than €35 for both. You can’t complain about the price ☺

The Titles

In-between different sections of the video, it is usual to put a title to indicate the change of topic, introducing a good pace to the video, and guiding the spectator. In our case we used this resource 4 times, before the points 2 and 5 of the script.

If you look at examples of videos, you will see there are animated videos that are quite spectacular, but for the video of Nelio Content, we decided to opt for something simpler. We didn’t want big distracting effects. If you want to use very complex effects, you can find websites that will help you with it (paying first). In my opinion, I think it’s not worth it for the type of video we want.

Having said this, what’s most inexpensive is to look for a font you like and use a presentation program to create the titles. You can use PowerPoint or any other you’re familiarized with. In my case, I used Keynote for Mac, but it’s indifferent.

Video titles are created using Keynote for Mac OS X.
Video titles are created using Keynote for Mac OS X.

You can even add transition effects. But ideally, don’t abuse them too much or create something that’s very dizzy. I decided to use the Cube effect, as you can see in the previous caption. Similarly, I used a little animation for the logo of Nelio Content at the end of the video. It’s actually not bad🤔

 

Tiny animation showing the logo of Nelio Content at the end of the video, made with Keynote for Mac OS X.
Tiny animation showing the logo of Nelio Content at the end of the video, made with Keynote for Mac OS X.

Recording and Editing

In the video we wanted to record fragments in which one could see the interface of the user of Nelio Content on the Desktop of WordPress. We have worked hard on providing a good experience for the user of our plugin and this is why we wanted to show it in the video.

To be able to record the screen of our computer, there are many programs we can use, but the one we recommend for beginners is Screenflow for Mac OS X. It’s not a free program (it costs $99), but we had already used it when we filmed the videos for Nelio A/B Testing. We were quite happy with its ease of use and different options. Furthermore, they had just launched the 6th version (we had to pay $39 to update it) with more functionalities. It doesn’t only allow you to record your screen, but it is actually a very complete video editing program with which we have put together all the cuts and audio for the video.

At the offices of Nelio I use a DELL external monitor with a resolution of 1920×1080 HD. If we recorded it directly in this resolution everything would be perfectly shown in the video. However, as I have previously mentioned, we wanted the viewer to properly see the interface, even when the video wasn’t reproducing a full screen. The only way to guarantee this was by zooming in certain parts of the interface of Nelio Content, so that the result would be visible independently of the size of reproduction.

The problem is that if you want to film your desktop in 1080p and then zoom in to some parts of your desktop, and you also want your final video to have a quality of 1080p, you cannot directly film in 1080p. If you did this, the enlarged area would have less than 1080 pixels and thus, it would be pixelated in the final video. Therefore, you need to film your desktop in a better resolution. But, how? Do I have to buy a monitor with 4K? Of course not! 

Once again, we had to use our creativity to save money. There are programs such as SwitchResX for Mac OS X that allow you to increase the resolution of your screen without the need of additional hardware. Their license is €14, but you can use it for free for what we needed it. In Linux, you can directly use the command xrandr to achieve similar results.

By using SwitchResX, I can increase the resolution of the monitor to 2560×1600. Now I can maximize the window of the browser using CTRL++ (which doesn’t pixelate the end result) and make a nice screencast of my computer. Once I have the clip of the video, I can cut the bit that interests me to 1080p and the zoom is perfect, since it’s the one the browser made. A little trick that has saved us money and maintained the quality 😉 By the way, don’t forget to modify the size of your cursor, otherwise it will look very small (though if you use Screenflow, you can change it on the clip itself).

Another aspect that will help your recording look more professional is simulating movement in the cuts you record. Let me explain. You record a screen making the action you want, but then when you edit it, you zoom into the area that you want to focus on and add an effect to the cut. This effect is nothing more than a shift from one side to the other that will provide dynamism (you can even apply it to the three axis of the coordinate system). Check out the following example:

View post on imgur.com

The previous cut looks good, but it can be improved if you add the following effect by modifying the level of zoom of the coordinates x, y, z to make it look like you’re applying a rotation. We have used this effect quite a lot in our final video and the truth is it considerably improves de quality of the video.

View post on imgur.com

Additional Scenes

Once you have recorded the cuts of the video with the interface of Nelio Content and you have mixed them with the titles, there are still some gaps to fill. We not only wanted to show our interface, but also people using the plugin.

Should we then film ourselves? Better not, the result would probably not be very professional since we don’t have the experience nor the necessary cameras. And we don’t have the budget to hire a professional filming team nor a cast. 

The easiest and most economical solution is using clips from existing videos. There are many repositories of video clips, but the most complete and extended one is Shutterstock. Warning to navigators, it’s not cheap, but the final quality is not comparable to what we could have done with our own resources. A pack of 10 video clips costs €519, and this is what we have invested in cuts with real people. Another option is putting in only 5 cuts for €269.

Screenshot showing Screenflow interface with the video fragments edited.
Screenshot showing Screenflow interface with the video fragments edited.

It might seem a lot (and the truth is it takes most of the video’s budget), but it’s worth it. Also, we can reuse the clips for future videos, since they are much longer than what we ended up using (between 4 and 5 seconds, when some of them last more than 20).

The Music

It’s clear that you need more than just a voice over. Your video will gain a lot if you use background music that doesn’t cover the voice but rather goes with it and keeps the rhythm of the video.

Screenshot showing Screenflow with the audio tracks.
Screenshot showing Screenflow with the audio tracks.

Here I’ll tell you that you don’t have to spend one cent on it. You can find plenty of music with no author rights on the internet that you can include on your videos without a problem. What you have to look for is a constant rhythm (without abrupt chances in the melody). We have used this song from the website Bensound.

The End Result

Once we have everything put together and ready, we just have to export the video and upload it to the usual channels. We uploaded it on Youtube and Vimeo. Here’s the end result:

Keep in mind that in order to export the video you have to do it with a sufficient quality to avoid it looking pixelated. We exported our video in 1920×1080 (HD quality) using the video codec H.264 at 9,600 kbits/second.

Screenflow itself gives us the preselection of Web-High when exporting it. What I did was increasing the bit rate of the video from 1,200 kbits/second to 9,600 to gain quality. The rest of it is done by default and it looks good enough.

Conclusions

We are very satisfied with the end result of the video, so we’re using it to promote Nelio Content. Producing it (in both languages) has taken us more or less one person’s week of work taking into account the whole process, and the price (without counting the hours of work) has been of €554 (adding up the clips of videos and the audios of the voices in English and Spanish).

I don’t think it’s necessary to include the cost of Screenflow since it’s a program we had previously used. In any case, it’s still a lower average price than what I was telling you about earlier.

It is clear that it could have been better made and in a faster way, but we doubt an external company would have put in the love we put in this video. On the other hand, this is just an example that if we set ourselves a goal, we can achieve it. Of course, with effort and dedication.

Featured image by Jakob Owens.

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