What did we do before the internet, besides talk to people in their actual faces? How did we find out if penguins have knees, whether “funner” is a real word, what Obama’s last name is, or how to win the lottery? (All, by the way, real questions people have asked Google.) We have a wealth of information at our fingertips, and, believe it or not, most of us use it to find solutions to real problems and challenges. With educational video, your brand has the opportunity to become a trusted resource for prospects and customers. And what could be funner than that?
The Power of Educational Video
YouTube channels including TED-Ed, Khan Academy, PBS, and HowStuffWorks educate - and entertain - millions of users (each); the sheer variety of content is unfathomable. We have access to how-tos, demos, explanations, and lectures on everything from psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy to IT, home projects, and arts and crafts.
A recent Pew survey found that 51% of YouTube users turn to the platform when they need to figure out how to do new things (e.g. knot a tie). Moreover, even irregular users fire up a video on a how-to topic. All told, 35% of all US adults rely on these free videos to learn.
Consider this: organizations like the nonprofit Khan Academy provide high-quality free educational videos for learners from pre-school to post-grad in math, science, history, economics, and computing. Anyone, anywhere, can access a solid education, expand their horizons, hone new skills, engage their brains, advance their careers…
Two lessons here: first, people want educational content, particularly in a video format. And second, if you’re not delivering value to them, they will find a competitor that does.
Learning Videos: Put the Focus On the Viewer
We don’t want to hurt your feelings, but we have to tell you something: prospects and customers don’t want to talk to you. At least not at first. Just 29% of people wish to speak with a sales rep to learn about a product; 62% opt to go to Google. Further, almost half (47%) of consumers watch at least three to five videos before making the decision to speak with a salesperson.
The appetite for targeted educational video is clear, as is the necessity of ensuring that yours do not blend into the woodwork. Americans are exposed to anywhere from 4000 - 10,000 ad messages every day; as a result, we’ve developed finely-tuned BS filters that allow most of them to go in one ear and out the other. Your content needs to break the conventional mold and make an impact on your audience.
There are three cardinal sins when it comes to corporate and educational video:
- Making it all about you.
- Using it as a sales pitch.
- Being so mind-numbingly dull that people cannot click away fast enough.
Educational video is your chance to… you guessed it… educate. To teach. To inform. And to do that, you must approach your topic from the customer’s point of view. What are their challenges? What are their needs? What do they need to know?
This is not a platform for you to expound on how great/innovative/earth-shattering you are. (Again, not to hurt your feelings, but no one cares.) It is your opportunity to provide information, answers, and, above all, value, to your prospects and customers. By not selling, you are, in fact, selling your customers on you, winning their trust, and positioning yourself as a solution.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty. The following types of educational video can help you connect with your audience, provide useful information, and earn their trust - and business.
Demo videos provide you with the opportunity to have a one-on-one sit-down with prospects and customers, showing them how your product or service works - and more to the point, how it will work for them. There is tremendous demand for this type of content: 72% of people prefer to use a video to learn about a product/service. Moreover, there is tremendous potential for you as a brand: 73% more brand website visitors who watch product videos will make a purchase.
We’ve talked about the importance of delivering value to your audience: demo videos are tailor made to serve the customer, providing them with essential, actionable information. Let’s take a look at a great example from Headspace:
Headspace explains its meditation app in a simple and straightforward manner. They begin by sharing a relatable pain point: chaotic, busy lives! Then they show you how to achieve your goals (e.g. less anxiety, better sleep, more energy, etc.) by accessing the app’s guided meditations. Try them. Like them? Subscribe. Easy as that.
Peloton also puts in a solid effort:
After a little of their origin story, they move into the benefits of their equipment and connectivity, as well as how they make fitness more convenient and accessible with experienced trainers, thousands of classes, and a strong community.
Both Headspace and Peloton address viewer pain points and challenges, while offering viable solutions. At the same time, these demo videos are ideally suited for a variety of purposes, including:
- Sharing on social media
- Embedding into product pages
- Sending to prospects via email
- Featuring in a live training or demo call
- Broadcasting at trade shows
- Adding to newsletters
- Including in blog posts, articles, and whitepapers
The list goes on and on. Not only can you connect with your audience effectively - you can get a lot of mileage out of your video assets.
What is the number 1 reason people visit YouTube? No, it’s not cat videos. It’s to learn how to complete a task. Not to beat the point to death, but with this type of educational video, you are providing value to your viewers. You’re giving them steps by which they can solve a problem. Does this mean they don’t need you? No. As entrepreneur, investor, and influencer John Rampton says:
"Teach the customer everything you know. Give away the farm. Honestly, they will be too lazy to do the work. They are coming to you for a reason and if you teach them everything, they will recognize you as the ultimate source of information."
It’s a little cheeky, but the point is that while people do want actionable information in the moment, they also want to know who to go to with more complex or time-consuming problems. When you establish yourself as the “ultimate source of information” - you become the go-to.
Watching an instructional video is a strong indicator of purchase intent. The viewer is ready to buy, from someone. When you are the one providing solutions, it gives you a competitive edge.
How-to and instructional videos are ideal for the sell without selling mentality. You don’t need to focus on your product/service at all. For example, say you run a dental practice and want to bring in more children and families. Creating hygiene how-tos is a natural way to gain traction. This is just what My Kid’s Dentist - a “fun” children’s dental practice - does:
The simple, easy to follow how-to video features animated teeth and clear instructions. It’s simple and focuses on the viewers’ needs. They do have a CTA at the end to find a location or schedule an appointment - a great way to tie it back to the brand without making it all about them.
Food brands tend to navigate this terrain exceptionally well. Take a look:
Pillsbury does show its product in the video but not in an obnoxious “look at me! Buy me now!” way. There is value - even if you use generic crescent rolls. The quick step-by-step tutorial puts the brand top of mind next time you’re craving carbs or looking for trusted recipes.
Show, don’t tell. How-tos connect you with your audience’s needs, boosting both your authority and their trust in you.
Selling By Teaching
Given the variety, accessibility, and quality of educational videos, consumers have the tools they need to research products, services, solutions, and brands thoroughly. Sales videos, though, are too often glorified PowerPoints that drone on about the benefits of working with a company. They’re bland, and worse, they’re nothing more than thinly disguised (if disguised at all) sales pitches.
Let’s reframe the “sales video” as an educational video in which you educate consumers about a problem; teach them about your industry; convey what the experience of working with you is like; and inform them of the results they can achieve when they tackle their challenge with a solution like yours. By taking this approach, you are providing value and establishing a connection.
In this Home Depot video, for example, you learn how to remove mold from your home. These are useful tips that anyone can apply - and, conveniently, you can find all the supplies you need at this home improvement retailer. The focus is not on them or even their products; it is on you and the challenge you face.
Here’s one for all of us who work at a computer all day and suffer the aches, pains, and fatigue. Via Christi Health offers some simple desk exercises to combat workday stress, incorporate more activity, and prevent Quasimodo posture.
Both of these educational videos provide no-nonsense information, while building trust in the brands themselves. You’ll also notice that they’re… well, they’re not that exciting, right? It’s not like watching a Nike ad and getting goosebumps or chuckling at a Geico commercial. And that’s ok. Instead, they’re simple, straight-foward, and clear. Sometimes that’s all you need. We love a good story, told differently, but when it comes to educational video, sometimes a good story, told simply, is more effective in achieving your aim.
Beyond the Explainer Video
Remember back a few years ago when whiteboard videos were everywhere? Oh look, someone drawing little cartoony graphics as the presenter spoke. Fun. Here’s one from HighTower that explains the difference between brokers and fiduciaries:
Now, we have to hand it to them. They did manage to explain the difference in a way that lay people can understand. And if this was the first whiteboard video you ever saw, chances are you would find it rather innovative and entertaining. But when it’s the 135th one you’ve seen, the format quickly gets stale, and you kind of want to take a giant eraser to the whole thing.
Not only are they passé, they’re cheap and simple. And this is not a compliment since they do not compel audiences. Viewers are likely to see them as gimmicky and played-out, and we don’t blame them! There is a better way. Take one of our all-time favorite explainer videos:
Here, Dollar Shave Club had to explain the basic premise of their subscription-based business. Imagine if they’d chosen to do a voiceover/whiteboard - would they have catapulted their startup into a multimillion dollar force in the shaving world? Not likely! They took a chance and created an entertaining, snarky, and, ultimately, viral video.
(Hear the rest of the story in our Mind of AGP podcast, “David vs. Goliath: The Dollar Shave Club).
You can - and should! - go beyond the basic, tired format, capturing your audience’s attention and driving them to action with compelling stories.
If that’s the route you want to take, AGP is ready for the ride. “Your Story. Told Differently,” is more than a tagline or motto: it is what we do. Educational videos have the potential to influence your prospect and customers perception of you - and transform your marketing forever. Seize the opportunity to teach your audience, and they will also be ready for the ride.