How to Make a Great Startup Product Video

If you can’t see the video, click here to read this post on the web.

We have a lot of big news happening today at isocket. Check out our blog for all the announcements including the launch of, the premium ad marketplace. We’re also covered in VentureBeat, TheNextWeb & Tracking202

(April 2012 Update) isocket has refreshed the video and added one for their marketplace so I thought I’d include the new videos. They still keep much of the same feeling and style as the original and I think a lot of theses rules still hold true.



I don’t blog much about my work at isocket here but I think you’ll like today’s post on how me and my coworker Ryan (I really don’t ever stop talking about him do I?) put together this sweeet video with our production team in just four weeks.

Please actually watch the video before reading the rest of the post – it’ll make me feel good and you’ll get more out of it. =)

Startups (and bigger companies like Google and Facebook) have to work hard to explain new products or major refreshes to existing products. While you can do a lot with copy, diagrams and photos, sometimes it’s not enough. Video can be a powerful way to engage, entertain and education your customers and get them pumped to use your product.

First off – let’s get it out there: Getting a great video done is not cheap.

Epipheo Studios, who I consider to be one of the industry leaders (along with Picturelab), charges $15k for 90 seconds of video and it takes them 8-10 weeks to do it. We paid roughly the same amount for a three minute video with a turnaround time of four weeks.

The kick-ass team we worked with is MediaSauce.

They are a Indiana based creative agency and Ryan had actually once worked there selling creative engagements – so he trusted the people and the quality of work they could produce. But neither he nor I had ever handled an engagement like this from start to finish and it was definitely an eye-opener for us.

We are very happy with the final product and have been pleased with the initial response. One customer even emailed us saying how they pumped themselves up by watching the video a couple times before applying join isocket. That kind of feedback is what makes videos so awesome.

So without further ado, I offer some things I learned through our engagement that I hope helps you understand more about the creative process and how to structure an engagement if you ever decide to do a video for your product/startup/company:

Make Sure Your Product is Stable

I’ve wanted us to do a video for a while, but we couldn’t because our product was going through a lot of changes. Videos are a big upfront investment and take time to produce, so you really have to be sure that the main product offering (or company offering) is not going to change dramatically. We’re now at that point with isocket and we were ready to get it out the door.

Know Your Audience

Also important is understanding who your video is targeting. This will determine the tone / mood of the video. In our case, the video needed to answer a lot of the basic questions that we often get about isocket like who it’s for, what it does and how much it costs. We think we have a compelling value proposition and the video would communicate that to prospective customers 24/7.

Most of the video is “newbie-friendly” (cartoony style, jargon-free) but we do talk briefly about the advanced features toward the end and used advanced terminology in that section to let the pro’s know we were more knowledgeable than we let on.

Tell a Story

I’ve seen videos that focus mainly on features in the abstract and unless it’s a product where the use case is very obvious, I think it’s better to frame the video as a story. Our video features a publisher who really feels the pain of direct sales: he struggles to keep up with the advertiser demands and starts losing the engaged audience he worked so hard to build. Then isocket comes in to the rescue and saves the day – making him money and protecting his sanity.

Yeah, it’s a little cheesy, but our brains are really wired to understand stories (much more so than bullet points or feature lists) – so whenever possible, tell a story with your video.

Communicate Extensively

The team at MediaSauce had done a variety of great video projects, but never one that related to a tech product – and certainly not one that dealt with advertising. We spent a good amount of time with the over the phone – talking about our product, who uses it, why they use it and how the product works. We also had them read blog posts, look at presentations we’ve given and watch other product videos we liked – so we could be on the same page with the video.

Communicate Frequently

In order to pull off such a quick turnaround with this video, we were basically emailing with the MediaSauce team every day and getting on 30-60 min calls every other day. It sounds like a lot of work – and it was – but that’s what was necessary to give them the guidance they needed to make a great video.

We started off looking at a short brief that stated their objectives for the video (“tell a fun, engaging story about how a publisher struggles with direct sales until using isocket…”, then a text outline of a video “Scene: Publisher shaking hands with an advertiser. Voiceover: “You can make much more money with direct sales”, then screenshots of frames that would get animated, then the animation itself, then voiceover options, then the final product.

During each step in the process we would provide thoughts and feedback that would allow them to really make the video shine. Without the frequent checkins, we would have never gotten this done so quickly.

Small Decision Team

Design by committee never works. That’s a known fact.

Ryan and I were basically the only people working on this project at isocket and we already had a pretty similar vision for what we wanted to make. We obviously got the OK and some general guidance from our CEO, John, but the day-to-day stuff was all us.

Bringing too many people in slows down the process and dulls the final product – so try to keep a small team if you can. I think two is ideal because you can get a 2nd opinion, but it’s not so big that you have internal politics about who’s opinion is “right”.

The one caveat here is that we did bring John in twice during the process (at the screenshot stage and final animation stage) to take a look, as he would need to be happy with it before we put it on our website for all to see. And we did make some non-trivial changes based on his feedback which made the video much better. So do keep major stakeholders in the loop.


Well, that’s all I have. I hope you found this post helpful and interesting. Have you worked on any creative projects and have tips for AOAK readers? Leave me a note!

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