Not all products are as intuitive to use as the iPhone – The service or product you sell may have more than one button, brilliant but optional features or even a concept that is so revolutionary even your early adopters won’t get it the first time ’round. Explaining the full advantages of your product can take thousands of words — and you can’t be sure that prospective customers will make it past the first page, let alone digest it all.

What’s the alternative? Creating a great demo, or explanation, video. Just as a picture can be worth a thousand words, two minutes of video can be worth pages of written explanations. And the best demo videos don’t just explain or sell your product, they propel your business and become a valuable tool for email, social and other digital marketing channels: witness the phenomenal growth that online file storage startup Dropbox has attributed to a well-received demo video the company used to educate potential consumers.

Your company may not be the next Silicon Valley star, but the video format works just as well for many products and services. The trick is doing it right the first time.

Melinda Rainsberger, the founder of the Providence-based video agency They’re Using Tools!, says: “A great explainer video is like making breakfast on a workday: it should be fast, filling, but not full of junk. Folks need to know something, and they’ve turned to the Internet to pick up the knowledge they need in a quick manner.”

An explanation or demo doesn’t need to go viral or get passed around — most of the views it will receive will come from your company’s own website or marketing. Your video should be a clear walk-through of your product and it should be professionally edited and polished. It can be fun, but entertainment is not the most important factor for a successful explanation video.

Rather, the secret to creating a useful demo is offering an explanation that works for both complete beginners and more advanced users. You have one to two minutes to show off what your product or service does to the market you’re targeting. So before you create your demo, you need to look at where new users or customers struggle with your product. You may even need to go back to the beginning and track where and how you lose leads or prospects to find out if product features or complexity are to blame.

Rainsberger suggests answering the following questions before making your demo video:

  • How does your target market recognize the problems your product solves? How do they know they need what you’re selling?
  • What does your target market search for when looking for a product like yours? What industry jargon do they use?
  • How savvy are members of your target market when choosing solutions? How much education do they need before making a purchase decision?
  • What processes and platforms does your target market rely on? How does your product fit into those?

With answers to these questions you’ll have a better idea of what your video needs to address and what success looks like.

Make sure to test whether your video is having the right impact by measuring how viewers respond after watching, asking whether they have more questions, tracking purchase decisions and getting reactions from potential customers as they view your video so you can you improve it. If you test and tweak your video before releasing the final version, you’ll be able to improve the overall quality and impact.

One common problem businesses run into with explanation videos is that they try to answer every question, every possible customer might ask. After all, there can be big differences between two customer groups you’re marketing to, including the language and terminology they use when talking about your company. Creating a universally appealing video drives some companies crazy.

Rainsberger explains: “If your audience is ‘everyone’ go back to the start and try again. Your audience is never, ever everyone. Even if your product is pretty universal, the same product marketing that appeals to pregnant moms isn’t going to appeal to 13-year-old girls.”

You likely have a target market in mind to which you’re particularly interested in selling. Focus on answering the questions that people in that specific audience will have — at both beginner and advanced levels — and leave other audiences for future marketing campaigns. Your video needs to be easy for customers to connect with, which means you need to address the audience that you can connect with.

This post was contributed by guest author Thursday Bram. 

© 2013, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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