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How to Storyboard a Marketing Video (When You’re Not an Artist)

by Today's Eggspert

Whether you like it or not, content marketing is embracing the visual culture of today and moving towards video.

According to HubSpot, 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers, and four times as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.

Which, unfortunately, doesn’t bode well for blog posts.

With written content becoming less effective as time goes on, you’re probably already thinking about creating video content as a part of your marketing strategy. You might be eager to jump right in and start creating videos, but planning your content first has proved invaluable for keeping your story — and your creative team — on track. This is what I’m here to help you with today.

Before you grab the camera and hit the studio, make sure you’ve got a storyboard to back it up.

What is a Storyboard?

A storyboard is a series of sketches that represent the individual shots planned for a video, film, or commercial. They often include directions for camera angle, lighting, and transitions, along with dialogue and other notes.

Just like all good writers begin their articles with outlines, good marketers begin their videos with storyboards. You’ve probably seen them used for animated movies. John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer at Pixar, calls them “a comic book version of the story.” Here are some storyboards his team used when creating Finding Nemo:

Cartoon story board

But I’m creating a marketing video, you might object. Does this technique really apply to me? While storyboards for marketing videos may not need to be quite as detailed as those used by the major Hollywood studios, they’re still essential.

Why Are Storyboards Important?

Storyboards help you plan your video, truly from start to finish. What will the lighting be? How will it flow? Do you want voiceovers or dialogue? How do you want viewers to feel? Storyboarding allows you to collaborate with other team members to flesh out your shared vision for the video.

In many ways, storyboards are like a dress rehearsal for the real video. Storyboarding lets you figure out the kinks and identify any gaps in your video – before you spend money on production.

Working on these things ahead of time helps ensure the final product is exactly what you envisioned. Storyboarding allows you to provide directions for the people who will take your idea and set up, film, cut and edit it into the final product.

Make sure your marketing video is what you want it to be. Start with a storyboard.

A Few Examples of Some Great Marketing Videos

Let’s take a look at three, extremely effective marketing videos. In the next section, we’ll refer to these as we explain the basic components of a storyboard.

1. Dropbox Introduction

Dropbox’s Intro Video came out in 2009, but marketers are still talking about it. At the time, Dropbox was still fairly unknown. Then they placed the video on their front page, where it was viewed 30,000 times per day for several years, bolstering the company’s swift growth.

The results make it clear that this was a successful video. But why, exactly? Its unique, cut-out animation style grabs the viewer’s attention. Dropbox makes the problem of digital file organization relatable to all aspects of life, such as everyday issues as mistakenly leaving your wallet at home. Dropbox can solve your organizational problems at home and at work. It’s also short enough to keep the viewer from getting bored and ends with a clear call to action to download Dropbox.

2. Facebook Tip: Stickers

Facebook’s Tips marketing series highlights 12 unique features of the social media platform. These videos are no longer than they need to be and get the point across in a personable way quickly. This encourages people to keep watching, learn what they need to do, and get back to using Facebook. Rather than being a boring tutorial video, they relate using the Stickers function to fun event and conversations in the Facebook user’s life, such as celebrating running a marathon with your friends.

3. Salesforce Demo

Salesforce’s demo video walks salespeople through a day-in-the-life of using their software. It includes aspirational messages about how it solves your problem (+29% higher win rates), social proof of well-known companies that use it, and a strong CTA in the form of a YouTube annotation so viewers can click through to their website directly from the video.

Salespeople are especially motivated by glory, winning, and competition. Smartly, Salesforce ends the video with several shots of the user receiving accolades from colleagues and their boss for “crushing your quota.”

Basic Structure For an Effective Marketing Video

Every successful marketing video follows this basic story structure:

  1. Opener
  2. Problem statement
  3. Solution
  4. Call to action

Let’s review each of these in turn.

Opener

The opener needs to grab your viewer’s attention immediately. It needs to intrigue them and encourage them to keep watching.

For example, the Dropbox video begins, “You’ve been there. You’re about to buy lunch and you realize your wallet is in your other pants.” Now, the viewer is wondering, “Okay, that’s happened to me. Are they about to tell me a way to fix this? I’ll keep watching to find out…”

Aim to establish a sense of urgency or mystery in your opener.

Problem Statement

The problem statement outlines the problem facing the viewer.

As you determine the scope of your problem statement, be thoughtful of who your target audience is. The Dropbox video wanted to be as relatable as possible, so it landed on a universal problem like organization. On the other hand, the Salesforce video is going after Account Executives, so its message is much more targeted: “What if you could spend more time selling and connecting with your customers?”

Up next, in the solution part of the video, you’ll explain how your brand can solve this unique problem for the viewer.

Solution

You’ve hooked the viewers with an intriguing opener. Then you connected with them by recognizing their problem. Now is the time to show the viewer how your product can solve their specific problem. Here’s where you’ll go into detail, show people happily using your product, and include explanatory screenshots.

All three of our example videos excel here. The simple 2-D animation of Dropbox’s video mimics how easy it is to organize files with Dropbox. Salesforce walks the viewer through their entire sales process with a point-of-view presentation, helping the viewer imagine what it’s like to use the platform and how great it will be for their career. The Facebook video demonstrates how Stickers make using Facebook a little (a lot?) more fun and help you better connect with your friends – it is a relationship product after all.

Call to Action

Finally, the money maker. The call to action is where you literally call the watcher to take action: by filling out a lead form, visiting your website, or purchasing your product.

If their video wasn’t already compelling enough, Salesforce further primes the viewer to be easily persuaded by the final frame. Leading up to the last CTA, Salesforce flashes expected results across the screen and shares logos of major name brands using the platform. Then it ends with a strong CTA and includes YouTube annotations for users to quickly click through to their website rather than having to type it in themselves.

Make sure your brand name, website address, and CTA are all clear on the final frame of your video and linger long enough for the viewer to process.

8 Steps For Creating a Storyboard For Your Marketing Video

Now that you have an idea of what makes a compelling video, let’s review the steps to develop your storyboard. Working through these steps will move you toward your ultimate goal: creating a marketing video that aligns with your vision.

1. Establish a Timeline

Storyboarding is all about structure. In this step, you want to figure out the sequence of events for your video. What is the narrative you’re telling?

marketing video timeline

Make sure you follow the order of opener – problem statement – solution – call to action.

2. Identify Key Scenes

key scene in dropbox video

Besides the ending call to action, determine the pivotal points in your video. Perhaps it’s a zoom-in on a differentiating feature of your product, a montage of customers using the product, or a grand opening shot.

Essentially, which scenes are engaging the viewer and driving them to take action?

3. Decide How Much Detail to Add to Each Scene

Do you want to take a cleaner approach like Dropbox and Facebook, which focuses on cut-out animations or screengrabs? Or do you prefer the busier Salesforce approach, where you see the salesperson using the platform in different scenes? Maybe you want another concept entirely.

You don’t want to overwhelm the viewer. Whichever route you take, make sure your product and your message cut through the noise.

4. Write Your Script

marketing video script

Whether you’re relying on dialogue, voiceovers, or a combination of both, your script should outline all the spoken words for the video.

In a later step, you’ll overlay your audio on the corresponding thumbnails.

5. Choose Your Storyboarding Tool

Here’s the good news: you have a veritable smorgasbord of storyboarding tools to choose from.

You can choose the retro option, and use a pen, colored markers or pencils, and paper. Or you can go high-tech with any of these:

  • Presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides
  • Graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe InDesign
  • iPad software like Adobe Photoshop Sketch (often requires a stylus)
  • Storyboarding software like Amazon Storyteller or Storyboard That
  • Storyboard templates like this one for Google Slides or this one from Vidyard

video marketing institute

As you set up your storyboard template, make sure your thumbnails are approximately the same size as the dimensions of your video (i.e., square, 4:3, 16:9).

6. Sketch Out Your Thumbnails

uberlift drone scene three

Here’s where you get to work and start sketching out your scenes.

Depending on your artistic ability and bandwidth, you might draw out fully-formed characters and backgrounds, or you could use stick figures for people and simple geometric shapes for objects.

7. Annotate Each Scene With Details

A storyboard is a visual tool, but you need to add in the non-visual details to get the best result.

Add the dialogue and/or voiceovers from your script to each thumbnail. Add directional notes for the people who will be working on the video, such as desired lighting and camera angle. Number your thumbnails so they don’t get jumbled up.

8. Add Cuts

A “cut’ is whenever the video zooms in closer to highlight the action. All three of our example videos use cuts to highlight certain actions you can take with their product or software.

Indicate in your storyboard where you want cuts, as well as any other directions regarding transitions or flow of your video.

Storyboarding For Success

The next best marketing video can’t exist only in your head. To help others understand your vision, you need a storyboard. Define your narrative, sketch it out, and add dialogue and production directions to your scenes. Then watch your video come to life.

About the Author: Michael Quoc is the founder and CEO of Dealspotr, an open social platform connecting emerging brands, lifestyle influencers, and trend-seeking shoppers in exciting new ways. He was previously the Director of Product Management for Yahoo’s media lab, where he spearheaded the launch of several innovative services in the live video and mobile social networking areas. Michael has been awarded nine patents relating to mobile and social network applications and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelquoc.

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  1. Ida says:
    October 16, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    What if there is a song that I really want to use in my video.. should I listen to the song and map out the storyboard first, or should I storyboard and then edit accordingly to the music?
    Thanks! 🙂

    • Michael Quoc says:
      October 19, 2017 at 2:02 pm

      Hi Ida! That’s a great question. Since marketing your brand/product is the #1 goal here, I’d suggest focusing on the storyboard first. While you’re mapping that out, keep the song you’re interested in in mind — odds are you won’t be able to use the whole song anyway, so highlight moments in the song you’d like to use and try to work those into some of the story elements in the video. Hope this helps!

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