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Lights, Camera, Action: How to Craft a Compelling Pitch Video
As you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, sooner or later you’ll run into the question of how to make a great video. A pitch video is one of the most powerful ways to tell your story. In fact, our research has shown that campaigns with a pitch video raise 4X more than campaigns without a pitch video. Your video can show your idea in action— whether it’s an introduction to your product or a preview of your film. Video gives you the chance to speak directly to your audience and inspire them through music, movement, and human connection.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through how to create a compelling video for your campaign. It can be scary or intimidating to think about making a video but know that all great videos have the same basic elements. Once you understand those elements, you’ll be equipped to create a great video.
Let’s get started! In this guide, we’ll cover:
- What you’ll need before you start filming
- How to prepare for making a video
- How to actually get your video made
- Different ways to tell stories
- Video guidelines
- Tips for going from ‘good’ to ‘great
How do you make a good video great?
Before we dive in, here’s seven handy tips on making the best pitch video possible:
1. Hook the viewer
Viewer attention is very limited. You don’t have time for a slow start. Within the first 30 seconds, you should:
- Grab the viewer’s attention
- Introduce your product clearly
- Show users how it will benefit them
2. Keep it short and sweet
Videos with the greatest engagement are between 2 minutes and 2.5 minutes. The shorter your video, the more likely people are to make it to the end. So keep it short and sweet so people can enjoy your hard work!
3. Focus on benefits – support them with features
It’s important to note the difference between benefits and features. A feature is a technical part of a product. The benefit is how it makes our lives better: GoPro lets us capture awesome memories. FitBit helps us stay in shape. Always focus on the benefits of a product first. Then you can show the product’s features, explaining how those features support the benefit.
4. Be real and personal
Backers get excited about a product when they connect with the team behind it. So keep it real. A personal connection can be deeply rewarding for you and your contributors. It also shows them that they can trust you to build and deliver the product.
So be sure to:
- Speak directly to the camera
- Be completely honest ( never misrepresent your company or product)
- Show us your passion! If you believe in it, we’ll believe in it!
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5. Make sure we can hear you
Good audio is key. Record your video (or audio) in a quiet space and try to eliminate white noise and static. If anything is at all unclear, consider using subtitles.
6. Work with a native english speaker
As most of your potential backers will English speakers, consider working with a native English speaker to review your script. This can be challenging for campaigns launching from outside the US, but don’t worry! Even if It takes a bit of extra time, it’s worth it to get a high-quality script that clearly communicates your message.
7. End with a clear call to action
A call-to-action is a direct statement that asks people to do something. If you want them to contribute to your campaign, or spread the word — then make sure you say that!
What is the role of a video?
Every video should help a potential backer answer some very basic questions:
- What is your product?
- How does it make my life better?
- How will I use it?
- Do I trust you?
- Do I want it?
- Will you deliver?
These questions may seem simple, but answering them clearly can be challenging. Most products are complex but seem simple to your team, who likely know the product inside and out.
Try to see the video through the eyes of someone who knows nothing about your product. You don’t need to explain every detail. You just need to answer the questions above in the clearest and engaging way possible.
Before a Great Video…Comes A Great Plan
You’ll need a few tools in your toolbelt before you break out the cameras. So make sure you have these steps covered before yelling “Action!”
Step 1: Positioning Statement
Before you make your video, you’ll need your Positioning Statement. A Positioning Statement is a brief orientation to your product that will help you (and your backers) understand who you’re speaking to and why your product is perfect for them. For a brief overview of positioning statements, you can read through this article on MaRS.
MaRS recommends using this simple template:
- For (target customer or market)…
- Who (have a compelling reason to buy)…
- Our product is a (product’s placement within a new or existing category)…
- That provides (key benefit that directly addresses the compelling reason to buy)
- Unlike (primary alternative source [that is, competitor] of the same benefit)
- Our product (key difference or point of differentiation in relation to the specific target customer)
For example, an early positioning statement for Amazon could have been: For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.
Once you have your product positioning, you’ll have enough information to build a concept for the video.
Step 2: Write your story
The most challenging part of the video is coming up with a story that clearly explains the value of your product while enticing backers. So it helps to have inspiration. Watch a lot of campaign videos to inspire you, stoke the creative fire, and help you decide what kind of story you want to tell within your budget. The good news is: you can write the story yourself! You know your customers best, and best understand why they might want your product. You know what story the world needs to hear.
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Step 3: Find your tone
As you write your story, start thinking about the tone of your brand. Is your product happy and bubbly? Is it smart? Is it serious and beautiful? Consider your target and their everyday lives. What tone would capture their attention?
California Cowboy owes at least some of their campaign success to a pitch video that matches the upbeat spirit of their brand.
Step 4: Decide your Budget
Great production quality makes a video look sharp and professional, but not every video needs top-notch production. Production quality should match the brand image you’re trying to develop. If you’re a couple of college students in a garage who hacked together an amazing prototype, lower-quality production fits your story. If you’re a medical device company, you should look as professional as possible. Unless you have a lot of experience, you probably won’t be able to produce high-quality videos yourself. But it’s not too hard to find someone who can help (who’s not Steven Spielberg). Here are three common approaches you can consider for actually getting your video made:
Make it Yourself
If you’re light on budget and heavy on time, this just might be the option for you!
There will still be costs: software, equipment rentals, etc. It might look scrappy, but that’s perfectly fine if it’s a fit for your brand. If your story is Garage Startup, the production quality can match that. If you’re doing something very complicated, or want to build more trust, you may want higher production values.
Budget: $0–$5,000 (equipment rental: mic, camera, lighting, etc.)
Time: Lots of yours. Expect two weeks minimum — and it could go much longer. You’ll be planning, shooting, editing, and editing again. You can make sure you get the most for your time (and rental fees) by planning ahead — finalize your script, build out your storyboard, and choose your locations before heading out to film.
You should be good at: Storytelling, photography, editing, sound editing, find a location, make a set, find actors.
Best for: Products with a low-fi brand (i.e. ‘we’re cool hackers who built this awesome thing in a garage…’), teams with strong in-house skills, and creative ideas.
Bad for: Teams with no time to spend, without strong storytelling skills, and uncomfortable in front of a camera. Note: If you’re trying to establish a high-end brand, or if consumer trust is critical (i.e. medical device company), you may want to consider the next two options.
Hire a Production Team
When hiring a team, you’ll come up with your own script and messaging, but you’ll bring on someone who is a talented cinematographer to give professional production. This is a great, low-cost middle ground if you feel confident in storytelling around your product. Before you start shooting, make sure to get feedback from people you know and trust on your script and storyboard. It’s one thing to understand the story yourself, but making sure others will understand it is much more difficult. Video is expensive to reshoot.
Budget: $2k–$10k (you can always spend more if you want to)
Time: 4–8 weeks before launch, depending on the team. What they’ll do: Hire talent, scout locations, shoot the video, edit the video, provide you and your team with a final video.
What you’ll do: Come up with a great concept, script, and storyboard for your video.
Best for: Teams with strong storytelling skills who can put together a good script.
Bad for: Teams without storytelling skills who don’t have a clear vision around the story of their product, or who don’t have time to devote to the video. It’s also not ideal for people who want complete creative control.
PRO-TIP for your video process: Make sure you get a lot of footage you can reuse over the next 2–5 years. Maximize your time and money!
Hire a Full-Service Video Agency
A full-service agency will make your script, manage all of the storytelling, and do top-notch production. And you’ll pay for all of it. This can end up in the tens of thousands of dollars, but should get you a finished product that looks amazing. This option can be a good fit if you have a lot of budget and want everything to be fully professional.
Budget: $5k–$50k (you can always spend)
Time: 8–12 weeks before launch, depending on the team. What they’ll do: Come up with a video concept, write the script and storyboard, hire talent, scout locations, shoot the video, edit the video, provide you and your team with a final video. What you’ll do: Pay them, get interviewed in the video, be present on site during shooting.
Best for: Teams with limited time and lots of budget, esp. those concerned with the reliability of the final result. Bad for: Teams with limited budgets.
Step 5: Pick an agency
If you choose to use an agency, it’s best to first inquire with your personal network about agency recommendations. A personal friend of a friend or your campaign manager’s recommendation can beat out any online reviews. If you’re not able to find something in your area, check out Mandy.com.
Good Questions to Ask When Comparing Different Video Agencies
- Have you created videos for campaigns in the past?
- What does the cost of production include?
- How much flexibility is there for us to make suggestions if we don’t like the first cut of the work?
- How much would you like for me/us to be involved?
- What is your contingency plan if production doesn’t go as planned?
- Doesn’t provide clarity on their process
- Unwilling to introduce previous clients as references
- Poor response time; doesn’t answer email
- Can’t make eye contact when discussing pricing
- Has never done this before
- Doesn’t provide a contract
How to Get a Good Agency to Work With You
- Bring your enthusiasm
- Be curious about their creative process
- Bring rough ideas scripts/storyboards
- Be willing and ready to throw away those ideas for something better the agency can come up with
- Be honest and upfront about your budget; consider bartering
- Make a clear verbal and written list of your expectations
- Don’t nitpick in the early stages
- Test your video on a wide target and amend as needed
How do you create a powerful story arc?
Now let’s take a look at some story models that you can use to build the arc of your story. Below we’ve listed some of the common story archetypes used seen in campaigns, along with analysis about why they work.
1. The Crowdfunding Classic
Most of the crowdfunding videos you’ve seen fall under the Crowdfunding Classic. They cut together a few common segments into a video that describes the product. Typical segments:
- Product introduction
- Team introduction
- Description of features
- People using the product
- The team’s background story and their progress so far
- A call to action (buy one now!)
The Crowdfunding Classic typically isn’t tied through with a single narrative arc but can be held together with a voiceover.
Best for: Almost any technology product
Risky for: (This is the most low-risk, and most tried-and-true formula)
Flux has a dynamic video that incorporates all of these elements. The team does a great job of showing their bike in motion, using a variety of different settings to really showcase the bike’s versatility. Their use of direct-address and voiceover ties together all of these different snapshots into one cohesive narrative.
2. A day in the life
Risky for: Products with complicated use cases
The Furbo video does this perfectly. The video starts with the lead waking up, and ends with them getting back to work (occasionally following her dog in the meantime). Though there is no narration, you understand the features of the product and how they’ll make your life better.
3. The design story
The archetypes above focus on products where functionality is the reason they’re so great. But there’s also a category of products not focused on functionality at all: design-based products. Design-based products typically aren’t sold on a set of features and benefits but sold around a story. This story is based on emotion: a sense of well-being, a feeling of belonging, an appreciation for a particular aesthetic, or a feeling being cool. Connecting to the viewer’s personal desires allows them to appreciate your excellent design.
A sample structure:
- Begin with inspiration. Explain your motivation for building the product. This might be a deep love for the product category, a bad experience with a similar product, or a random moment of inspiration. Keep your target audience in mind!
- Continue with design. Walk the viewer through the design choices you made. Explain to them why it is a good design. What makes it special? What was hard to choose? What makes this design different?
- Bring in your team story. Why do you care so much about this design? What’s your background? The more that a viewer empathizes with your story, the more they’ll want to join your community.
- End with a clear call to action. Let them know exactly how they can help to bring your beautiful product into the world.
Best for: Design campaigns that focus on the quality of materials and have a social innovation aspect.
Risky for: Non-design focused campaigns.
4. The “pitch” video
Risky for: Most campaigners
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