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5 Lessons to Make an Effective Animated Demo

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Content Marketing
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Jay Baer Blog PostSoftware from TweetReach offers a compelling value proposition: allowing users to figure out precisely how many potential impressions a tweet, brand name, or hashtag has accumulated on Twitter recently. They’ll even show you which Twitter users are spreading a particular message the most. (Note: they now have similar data for Tumblr, which is very handy).

But, TweetReach also suffers from a malady shared by most social media management and analytics software companies, which is that the majority of its potential customers have never used anything like this. Thus, a major marketing hurdle in the social media software industry is to quickly and coherently explain WHAT the software does, WHY anyone should care, and HOW they can benefit from its wonders. (We’re working through this very issue right now at Little Bird, a social discovery tool in which I’ve invested).

Enter the animated demo.

Proliferating like sales of a Taylor Swift album, animated demos are popping up on the websites of even mature software companies, hoping to use the power of video to persuade attention deficient prospects.

But there are right ways and wrong ways to create an animated demo, and I want to help you avoid a disaster whereby you’re doing your company more harm than good (see the new “Worst Infographics” Pinterest board from Sean Mcginnis). So, I interviewed Jenn Deering-Davis, co-founder of Union Metrics (TweetReach’s parent company), and Dean Jutilla, founder of Demo60, who built a snazzy animated demo for TweetReach, about lessons learned.

Anatomy of an Animated Demo – TweetReach Case Study

TweetReach isn’t a brand-new product, and most of the information contained in the demo already existed on their website, just not in a linear format. Deering-Davis determined that a demo might be a better approach, because customers and prospective customers were consistently asking the same questions about the software. One of my favorite aspects of the TweetReach demo is that is tells a story from the customer’s perspective. What are her needs? How does TweetReach help make HER the star. Smart. Lesson #1: Devote your animated demo to answering your customers’ questions, not pushing your agenda

Once they committed to attempt an animated demo, the TweetReach team decided early in the process to work with a professional. Deering-Davis and others at the company were already familiar with Jutilla and Demo60, and turned to them to handle the project based on their track record and affordability (Demo60 productions are ~$5,000 for ~1 minute demos). Certainly, you can in theory do this yourself, and I use ScreenFlow software to do some walk-throughs for clients on occasion. But remember, this is not a software demo, it’s a marketing demo. Take a look at the TweetReach example above. There’s a story, characters, custom animation, and more. It’s not, “click this button to sort your data.” For those kind of projects, feel free to go it alone, if you’re comfortable. But for the signature demo that you hope will convert tire kickers, do it right.  Lesson #2: If you care enough to do an animated demo, care enough to do it right

After meeting with Jutilla to talk about TweetReach and their goals, Demo60 created an initial script and storyboard, that were then refined by both sides across several rounds of tweaks and polish. This is a critical piece of the success formula. Leave enough room in your timeline to go back and forth a bit, and make sure to at listen to suggestions from the professionals. They do this for a living. Yes, you know your product better, but that doesn’t mean you can communicate about it the best. A huge hurdle for many software companies (especially early stage) is they get so immersed in the product, it can be very difficult to put yourself in the psychology of the prospective customer that knows nothing. Lesson #3: The best animated demos are bred from collaboration, not mandate

Even though you can do a lot of different things with TweetReach, Jutilla counseled keeping the demo short. Remember, you’re not trying to explain the entire company in an animated demo, you’re trying to answer the key questions, and get people fired up enough to take the next step. Demo60 very much recommends two minutes or less for animated demos. Even though two minutes doesn’t seem that long on television (it’s the length of many commercial breaks), it seems much longer online. The difference, according to Jutilla, is that TV is a lean back medium, whereas the Web is a lean forward medium. We’re always looking to scroll and click online, and sitting still for even two minutes is asking a lot of site visitors (perhaps sad, but unquestionably true). Lesson #4: Shorter is better for animated demos

Deering-Davis knows the video is a success because the flow of customer questions about the same topics has slowed to a trickle. And, views of the demo on the home page of their website are consistently strong. That’s an important distinction, however. Even though the TweetReach demo is available on YouTube and Vimeo, the overwhelming majority of the views come from the home page of the TweetReach site. Do not confuse a “viral video” and an animated demo. With the former you’re trying to boost awareness; with the latter you’re trying to improve conversion rates. Totally different objective. Lesson #5: Understand that the audience for your animated demo are prospects already on your website

Thanks to TweetReach and Demo60 for being so forthcoming with information for this case study. 

Have you created an animated demo? What’s been your experience? Any favorites out there? Link them up in the comments.

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