How does Charles Alexander generate anywhere from 100% to 1200% ROI for his customers using animated explainer videos?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, small business advisor and video creator Charles Alexander explains how he helps customers create animated explainer videos, and how those videos are quickly generating huge returns on investment.
From why and when to use an animated explainer, to how the video production process works and how companies can use animated explainer videos in their marketing and sales process, Charles shares a wealth of knowledge on these types of videos, along with how you can create them yourself if you don't want to outsource.
Highlights from my conversation with Charles include:
Charles is a small business coach who also has a business creating 90 second explainer videos.
He specializes in working with people in an advisory role (ex. real estate agents, insurance agents, financial advisors, etc.) and helping them more clearly explain how they stand out from the competition.
Charles says that 80% of online traffic today is video, and whether people like to admit or not, video is one of the main ways we all consume information.
Unfortunately, many people are either very uncomfortable being on camera or very awkward when they are, and an animated video is an inexpensive way of reaping the rewards of video without having to put a subject matter expert on camera.
The main reason to create video of any kind is to build what Charles calls a "know, like and trust factor" with your audience.
Many people are uncomfortable or awkward being on video, and creating animated videos is one way to move quickly with video even where the subject matter expert either cannot or will not appear on video themselves.
Charles's process for creating videos begins with his customer filling out a six question form that is all about their end client. He asks about the people they work with, the problem they solve, how they solve the problem, why they're different, what the steps are, and what the end result is.
From that, he writes a 250 word script, which equates roughly to a 90 second finished video.
90 seconds is the sweet spot because anything shorter makes it hard to get a point across, and with anything longer, it can be tough to hold the attention of your audience.
This also forces his customer to strip away all of the jargon and useless information that they might typically include on their websites and boil everything down to a simple story that is customer-focused.
From there, Charles sends the finished script to a professional voice over artist, marries the audio with video that he creates, and produces a finished product.
Charles has created a 12 point checklist that walks his clients through how they can use their animated explainer videos in their marketing and sales. It includes advice on using it for social media, on your website homepage, and in follow up emails to customers and prospects.
The cost to create an animated explainer video can range anywhere from $300 to $20,000. Charles charges $999 for one video, but also offers packages with volume discounts.
For many of Charles' customers, the payback period on this investment is very quick. He's had customers who have used his videos in their marketing and sales process and almost immediately closed new deals. For one client, landing one new customer meant 100% ROI, and for another, one new customer from a video translated to 1200% ROI.
Charles is very transparent and shared that he uses software called VYOND to create his videos. He says anyone can do it, but it makes sense financially to outsource because of the learning curve and the amount of time you would need to spend.
I'm your host Kathleen Booth. And this week my guest is Charles Alexander, who is an expert in making story-based animated explainer videos. Welcome Charles.
Alessio and Kathleen recording this episode.
Charles Alexander (Guest): Thank you so much Kathleen. I appreciate you guys having me on.
About Charles Alexander
Charles: Just real quick about me. I have a couple of things that I do. I am a full time, small business coach and right now I am as about as busy as I have ever been working with small business owners in a trying time.
But also I have started, probably three years ago, creating 90 second explainer videos for people in an advisory role.
A lot of financial advisors, insurance agents and other people that consider themselves advisers on what they're doing to stand out in the corral, work with their potential clients and really tell the story of how they help them
Kathleen: Love it. That's the perfect segue into me saying, if you're listening, this is the first inbound success podcast interview I have done now that the world, or at least the United States, is kind of quarantined and, and we're all working out of our homes.
And so I'm gonna preface this with, we're probably going to have audio issues on this interview because I'm using Zoom to record and I don't know how many of you out there listening have been using Zoom, but the world has definitely discovered it as a tool for video conferencing.
And so it is great for zoom. But they're having some bandwidth issues. If I had a crystal ball, I'd say that there are going to be some audio glitches as we talk today.
So if you're listening, please have patience. Bear with us. We're going to do the best we can to get through it as I know everyone is doing during this time, but you know, it's important to keep things going.
So with that, Charles, how did you get into making animated explainer videos?
How Charles got started making animated explainer videos
Charles: So, as I said, I am also a small business coach for a small business development center.
And about four or five years ago, I decided I needed to probably eat some of my own dog food so to speak. And I thought, "Oh, there's a variety of things that I'm capable of doing." I always write, create content, training material.
So I started out by doing some website content and email marketing for CPAs and banks. And one of the very first CPAs I made a pitch to, I had basically three tiered pricing — anchor pricing, same as the rest of us.
And one of the pitches was the high highest price item was that I would take the written content and create videos out of it.
Well at the time, I really didn't know how to create videos. I was using that to get them to pick the middle pricing.
The only videos I had made at that point were home videos. So I had to quickly learn on the fly. And the first few I made were pretty bad. They were actually a bunch of still images of me doing the voiceover.
And for you guys listening out there, this is a very Southern accent. You know it's cute for about five minutes and then it wears on you.
Either way. I made videos. Even though the videos were bad, they still beat the written content and I realized I was quickly on to something.
So from there I'll fast forward to where I am today. I learned a variety of different softwares, finally settled in on one that really works, have a formula that works for creating a story for my clients that helps them stand out and be set apart.
So this is, you know, the part time gig is basically the equivalent now we're bigger than the full time gig and I work exclusively with a bunch of fine folks that are out there trying to create some kind of content that ties everything else together.
And that's what an explainer video really does. And I like animated because you know, people can relate to it, it lowers their guard a little bit. You can have a lot of fun with it and still be professional.
Why animated videos?
Kathleen: Yeah. So that's, that's interesting that you just said that because that was going to be my next question was I feel like within the marketing world at least, it's been incredible for me to watch in the last few years how companies have begun to embrace video and to recognize that it's really becoming a necessary part of the marketing mix just because of the way -- and this is at least my theory -- the way people consume content.
I mean when you look at younger generations and how YouTube has supplanted television and most other forms of content, you know, you can see the tide has turned and people want to consume information via video.
So I'm curious though, knowing that that's the case, when when a marketer or a business owner is thinking about having to use video to market their business, when is the right time to use animated versus talking head or some other form of video?
Charles: That's a question I often get. And going back to what you were saying just a second ago about video becoming more popular, we're close to about 80% of online traffic being video. And that's not decreasing. That's increasing.
That trend will not reverse anytime soon or even at all. And it's not just millennials, it's gen Xers, it's baby boomers.
People that say "Well, I'd really rather read something than watch it" because it sounds more sophisticated -- they're not telling the truth. The data doesn't lie on that.
So when somebody says to me, well, should we do a talking head video or should I have an animated video? I tell folks that if they're trying to build a know, like, and trust factor and they think that their face on camera can do it and they can speak through it clearly enough and they can tell an interesting enough story, you know, maybe you should go for it.
But what I have found, especially a lot of the professional advisers that I work with, they are awesome in a workshop. They do well in a one-on-one presentation, but something about the red light on that camera takes them from Zig Ziglar to Elmer Fudd and they aren't suddenly so clean and easy. There's a lot of bad talking head videos out there.
I'm heavy in the LinkedIn. Same with Facebook. Same with Instagram. There's a lot of, as you scroll through, somebody awkwardly adjusting the camera and looking into it, and then the first 30 seconds is, "Hey um, hey guys, well here again, so I wanted to share my thoughts, blah, blah, blah." And then they ramble for five minutes and never really come to a point. Or if they come to a point, it's generic.
So I learned that a lot of these folks can save time, effort and energy, spend a couple of bucks, but use that time — I mean, the money they spend is well invested because they'll have a video that they can use forever.
An evergreen a piece of content as I like to call it, and it ties in all of their other marketing and it will make them way more money than they ever spent on it, versus the bad talking head video that convinces them that video doesn't work.
I kind of equate that to exercise. People will tell me, "Well, I tried video once and it didn't work" is the equivalent of saying, you know, "I bought an elliptical or the Peloton bike. I rode it for a week and I'm still, you know, I'm not in the shape I want. What's wrong with it?"
What's the process for creating a 90 second animated explainer video?
Kathleen: I wish it worked that way. I wish I could just do it for a weekend. I would buy lots of Pelotons.
It's interesting because there are a lot of people that are uncomfortable on camera for sure.
And so this does seem like it could be a good way to, for them at least, you know, unless and until they're able to get comfortable or to be trained to the point where they're good on camera too, to not let that be a thing that stands in their way.
So, if somebody wants to do this, talk me through the steps. Like, if somebody comes to you and says, "Hey, I want to do it. I want to do a video. What's your process?"
Charles: I high five them first.
But then after that, my process, and this is my process, anybody can use their own. I have them fill out a simple six question form that allows me to write their script. The simple six question form is really focusing on their client.
And I think that's where a lot of people miss the boat when they create any kind of script. They generally make it all about themselves.
But the client really doesn't care that much about you. I mean, only in the fact that you can help them in some way, shape, form, or fashion. But they're, they're there to hear more about them.
So, you know, if I'm creating it for Kathleen, you fill out this simple six question form about the people you work with and the problem you solve. And then a couple of questions are about how you solve the problem and why you're different, and then what the steps are and then what the end result is.
And from there I'll write a 250 word script. And to me, 250 words is important because that keeps it at about a 90 second range.
Anything shorter than 90 seconds makes it very difficult for you to get your message across. But then anything longer than 90 seconds gosh, almost has to be Oscar nominated worthy in order to hold our attention.
Kathleen: That's interesting because 250 words is not a lot. So you gotta be tight. You gotta be really careful with how you say things.
Charles: And that's where you know, I think that's where we have a big benefit beyond just the video because I've had to force people through an uncomfortable exercise they really haven't done before.
So if you take, let's say, I'll use financial advisors as an example. You go to the average financial advisor website and it is filled with words, all of them, lots of text, lots of jargon. "Customer service", "best in class", blah, blah, blah -- same thing that everyone else says.
When you want to put that into a video, it takes away from a quicker and a finer point that you can make where you're focusing on your customer. Telling them all that stuff is basically telling them nothing cause everybody else is the same thing. So it doesn't matter. You not saying it doesn't make them say "Well they must have crappy customer service because they never told me how world-class they were."
So we really scale all that back, take all of that out and make it really fine tuned to make it story based, to make a focus on the customer. And at about 250 words we can do that.
And then, you know, from there the process is really simple. I'll take the a script, I send it off to a professional voiceover artists. And when I say I take the script, I let the customer review and edit, tweak it, but the professional voiceover artists does it, gets it back to me and then I create the video and then my client has unlimited revisions of the video until they're happy with it.
Once they're happy with it, I lock it in and send it to them.
How to use animated explainer videos in your marketing and sales
Kathleen: All right. Now do you have any guidance for your clients when you work with them about what should they do with the video once they get it?
Charles: I sure do. I actually created a 12 point checklist that they can follow step by step. And I don't tell them to use all 12 examples of how to use video -- find three or four that really work for you.
And that goes back to figuring out who's your best customer in the begin with. And where are they? Social media is always kind of the layup answer, but that's not the only answer.
As a matter of fact, where I have found this thing really works best is on the home page of your website. When people come to you, most likely, even though you have a variety of marketing methods, they're coming to you through referral and word of mouth.
That is still the preferred method. And that's still the way a lot of people will find you. But if they find out about you, and they probably also asked somebody else, and a friend referred, you know, to this insurance agent and that insurance agent, what's the first thing they do?
They don't necessarily pick up the phone and call anymore. They do what? They visit your website.
So if you had that nice little video above the fold, so to speak, what's the first thing they see? They will watch it. The competitors' website? Don't worry, it'll have some bad stock images they see on all the other websites with a bunch of jargon.
But they'll watch your video and if the video they watch is about themselves, the story opens and it's got the average person that's in the same situation they are and it goes through this hero's journey, so to speak, over they have the issue, they find the helpful guide.
In this case, that insurance agent finds the right policy at the right price and then they kind of go back to their life as normal. That's gonna resonate and mean something to them.
And then also when they contact you, you should have an email followup unless you just close them right away. Well, the email followup does not need to be, again, a bunch of texts, a bunch of jargon or a boring PDF.
Send them a different video, a follow up video or that, you know, again, kind of tells their story that those two things are almost, well, not almost, those two things are worth it in itself if you never use the video in any other way.
But yes, I give them extra instructions on how to use it on Facebook or LinkedIn. More importantly on those tools, where it really works is in the inbox or in the messenger apps.
If you're sending somebody a one on one message and chatting back and forth with them, that animated video will make you stand out very quickly versus just anything else you could possibly send them.
But then on top of that, you know, regular email marketing, during your presentations, there's just a ton of ways to use an animate a video like that.
What does it cost to create animated explainer videos?
Kathleen: You talked in the beginning about how you work with small businesses and I really love that because I do feel like it's easy to talk about best practice marketing for big companies with big budgets and lots of experts on their teams.
But I've been a small business owner and I've walked in the shoes of that person who's like, "I don't have the money and I only have, you know, three employees" or, or "It's just me. I'm a solopreneur. I'm the owner, the salesperson, the dishwasher, the vacuumer and the marketer."
So I love exploring ways that small businesses can get better marketing results.
Putting that hat back on right now, the question that that person is always going to have when they hear something like this is, can I afford it?
So can you talk a little bit about what it costs to do this kind of video?
Charles: I'll give you what the investment is that I ask for from my clients, and in kind of a generic way, what is it all the way across the board?
It's still a wide variance. There's a lot of folks that will create something truly custom made that, you know, 15, 20 grand that you know, is unlike anything you've seen.
And then you have few out there that will do it for three or 400 bucks, but they're probably overseas. You won't be able to talk to him or you ever get an update on it ever. And it might not be the quality you want.
So I kind of tell folks where I'm at is the loaded Camry, so to speak.
Kathleen: I love it.
Charles: I'm not the Yugo that's falling apart in the driveway.
Kathleen: I drove a Camry for a long time and you know what? Those cars last forever.
Charles: Boom. Great example I made. But yeah, they're great. So I have three video packages — a single video, two videos, or three or more videos.
The single video is only $999. I take care of everything from beginning to end and the only work my clients do is fill out a six question form. And from there I, I do all of the work. They just have to approve it and then they'll get a video 17 days or less from script approval.
The most popular one I have though is the three or more videos at only $797 each. And those are even invoiced out monthly through PayPal. So it fits within somebody's marketing budget.
And what I see quite a bit is that somebody will have an an idea of what they want for their homepage video that's a kind of not just about their customer but explains who they are, why they're different.
But then past that, people will have different targets or different niches. And I know you probably say niche, but I'm right here in middle Tennessee. We say niche.
Kathleen: Potato, Patato, nish, neesh.
Charles: They have different things they offer. They have one or two other products or services that they really want to advertise and make sure that people are aware of or they may have different customer bases that, you know, if it's, let's say it's business to business, maybe you target healthcare, but then you also target CPA firms.
Listen, you know, if it's direct to consumer, you might have a product that targets women ages 30 to 40, but you also have a product that targets men 55 to 65 that are soon to retire, needs a golf lessons, whatever it is.
You can create additional videos for that. And the investment piece is simple because in most cases you need a client literally to probably pay for it.
And then you know, you're, you're ahead of the game and then you've got the evergreen content you can use forever and will continue to help you close those clients.
The ROI of animated explainer videos
Kathleen: That's great.
Now you've done this for plenty of small businesses. Can you talk a little bit about what impact it has had for them in their marketing? Because of course on this podcast, we're all about results and how that translates into results.
So what has this done for your clients?
Charles: So just a couple of quick examples. I remember I had a pest control client that wanted one for termite damage. They created a fun and engaging video that explained how termite damage affected the client's home in this video.
They sent it out in one of their email marketing newsletters and closed, I forget how many, she said several clients immediately. They watched the video and then right away after, after watching, called them and quoted what the video had told him.
He said, "Hey, we need you guys come out and check right away."
One of the best ones I had was for a real estate agent. She had a series of six videos where she would, you know, upon initially meeting a client, she had a followup video and then it was a, she had them about buying, selling, pricing, negotiating.
She said there was a particular client that, well, somebody that became a client, but as they were going through the process, you know, they were still kind of feeling around, shopping around, and you know, that's a very personal process— finding somebody that can help you with your biggest investment.
But she said toward the end, right before they became a client, the husband and wife were sitting there and the husband started saying something that was a little negative and the wife said, "Hey honey, we're not going to be like those people in that video that are, you know, being negative about selling a house."
She quoted a line from the video. They all laughed and then immediately signed Sandy to become their real estate agent.
Kathleen: Oh, that's funny. I love it. So have any of them been able to, I mean it sounds like they have real, concrete stories of like these people became, my client. Have any of them been able to share, like I, you know, I made this much more money because of my video or translate any of that into dollars?
Charles: I'd love to give you these great stories about how they told me all about their ROI. And what I've discovered is that even though I'm creating these videos, they have to already have in place a way to truly measure great return on investment.
Do you know how many people out there are really measuring return on investment for marketing dollar?
Kathleen: Yeah. Especially in a small business community. That's, that's tough.
Charles: It's well, they, they do it by the number of clients.
And in this particular case, you know, Sandy, for that one client alone, that was a $400,000 plus dollar house or whatever, you know, 6% of that was, but that was just that one client only or the termite, you know, that's a, they were doing Sentricon not the board paper with details, but that's $2,000.
Kathleen: So let's actually do the math on that. A $400,000 house, and I'm really bad at math, so I might get this wrong.
Four times, you know, let's say you get half the commission because you're only the buyer agent or the seller agent. So $12,000 on a $1,000 spend. So that's a 1200% ROI.
Charles: Awesome. See, that's what I need to be out there. I have some content written on ROI. And I've got 40 plus testimonials on my page, but when I come back to ask people to help me calculate it, they kind of, they're on to their next thing.
It exists. It works. But you know...
Kathleen: No, but that's, those are great stories because like, even the termite thing, if it's a $2,000 sale, you know, that's double. Right? Right, right. So I love that.
So it definitely points to, you know, this can be a really quick way to, to see some increased sales quickly. I love that story.
And, and I would love to include links to example videos in the show notes. So send me some links, Charles. We will put all the links in. So if you're listening and you want to see examples of these kinds of videos, head to the show notes.
Getting started with animated explainer videos
Kathleen: So what advice do you have for somebody who's listening and thinking that they might be interested in doing this?
Charles: So first and foremost you can actually go to my site and you can find that six question form there at yourcharlesalexander.com.
So the first question is if you should do it, you know, there's, I've already, I felt like I've already made the case. You need a video in some way, shape, form, or fashion. You probably need three or six.
So the next thing is, do I want to do it? And I don't tell folks not to do it. And I know if they're in a real startup phase and they're trying to wear all the hats, maybe that, maybe that's a scenario where you need to start and try to create your own. There are some tools out there you can use.
But the point is you can create your own, but in most cases it looks like you created your own. I tell folks, where's your time better spent?
This goes back to my small business coaching hat. Are you better off working on the business or in the business, or are you going to be the one that is doing the $10 or $15 an hour activity? Are you the $150 to $200 an hour person now?
And you need to outsource that to somebody else and figure out where the true return on investment is. And that's when you decide if you should outsource it or not.
Kathleen: Amen to that because I have played around with some of those tools in the past and I'm not a video person. Yeah.
Charles: Like anything else, once you start digging into it, you find there's a lot of nuances with it.
Kathleen: Right. Let me just tell you, I could lose days trying to create a 90 second video. No, it would not be good. So that's, that's interesting.
I appreciate you sharing the names of those platforms because it's good to, to, you know, and it's not smoke and mirrors. I like that you're, you're really transparent about that and that you shared your prices. That is very inboundy of you. That's awesome.
Kathleen's two questions
Kathleen: Cool. Well, let's shift gears. I have two questions I always ask all my guests, and I'd love to hear your answers to them.
The first one is, you know, we are all about inbound marketing on this podcast. And I'm curious, when you think of inbound marketing, is there a particular company or individual that you think is doing it really well? Right now?
Charles:John Nemo from LinkedIn Riches, and he has a variety of online content that he creates, but it's all about inbound marketing and one-on-one messaging.
So I'm a heavy LinkedIn user and he talks quite a bit about, you know, especially if you're doing B2B or you're using other businesses to help you create a center of influence to get clients, Linkedin is a fantastic platform, but a lot of people still don't know how it works.
I hear comment time and time again, "Man, you know, I created one a few years back. But I check it now and again, I really don't understand it. It's just like somewhere where I post my resume or people tried to poach me to go work at a different job or do something, do something else or sell me something."
John has created a really good business for himself. And he has his own podcast Nemo radio. But if you ever get a chance to interview somebody that really understands how that works, how to create evergreen content, how to bring in inbound clients over and over, he's your man.
Kathleen: And is that Nemo? N? E M. O?
Charles: That is, just like the fish.
Kathleen: All right, I'll check that out.
And then the second question is, you know, the, the most common pain point I hear from just about every marketer I talk to is that they feel overwhelmed with how quickly the world of digital marketing is changing and how hard it is to stay up to date with all of that.
So how do you personally stay up to date with all of those changes?
Charles: So what I do is I have found three or four things that really work for me. Not every single thing on planet earth, not every social media platform, not every email marketing tool, not every CRM. Find the three or four that really work for me and stick with those.
It doesn't mean you can't be aware of other tools that might be better, that you might need to change. But like you just said, they're changing all of the time. So one of the big questions I always get is "Charles, since this is video, you must know everything there is about SEO, Facebook ads, Google pay per click." And I tell them, actually no. There's a ton of other video folks that do that. They're knee deep in it and it changes every minute of every day. I don't do that.
What I have really works for me. Again, I've already mentioned his LinkedIn, so I stay on top of that. You know, I've got John and I stay connected with him and keep up with his content. So I figured out what the changes are through him.
For email marketing, that's something I read up on and stay up on. But quite frankly it has stayed the same throughout all of this, which is crazy. People will tell me from time to time, they don't feel like it works.
But I can tell you right now, email marketing in terms of social media has about three times the number of accounts that social media does all put together and it has stayed the same.
So there's not a lot to stay on with it other than creating something that's compelling. Just think about it simply. What would you want to watch or read? If it's a bunch of jargon and a boring stuff, don't do it.
It's that simple. It's a litmus test.
And you know, those are the primary things.
I hope this is a still fits within an inbound marketing, but I still do some old school stuff. My best clients and my centers of influence, I write them notes. I send them stuff in the mail.
Even just this last week I had created basketball cards. It was supposed to be for the NCAA tournament. So I told them, you know, I had some downtime from not watching the NCAA tournament. So I create these silly little basketball cards with their cartoon picture on it, instant stats and send it all to them. And I got tons of feedback from how much they enjoyed this.
So to answer your original question, find your lane, find two or three influencers so to speak, and then just stay on top of it. Don't get overwhelmed and try to be all things all people
Kathleen: Amen. And you know, it's, it's funny that you say that about the cards and March madness. I had a lot of plans in my marketing strategy to do some direct mail that was kind of account based marketing and that's gone out the window because nobody's at their office to receive it. So we all have to shift gears right now. Right?
Charles: The word, the word "pivot" hasn't been overused at all, has it?
How to connect with Charles
Kathleen: No, no, no, definitely. Well, thank you so much Charles. This has been so interesting. If somebody wants to learn more about the videos or get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that?
Charles: It's super easy. Go to my website. I got really creative with the name -- yourcharlesalexander.com.
You know what to do next...
Kathleen: All right, I'll put that link in the show notes and thank you Zoom for mostly not glitching out on us in this conversation.
Charles: I think we did pretty good.
Kathleen: So yeah, so hopefully this, this'll be a bellwether of things to come for future future podcast interview recordings.