Category Archives: Marketing

How much does it cost to get an overview video done? By type of video

When creating startup overview videos, “begin with an end in mind” is more true than anything else. I have noticed by reviewing over 30 company videos from the latest YC cohort, that the length of the videos is directly proportional to the level of commitment required for the call to action. If the level of commitment requires you to sign up for a 30 min demo, the video was longer (3 min) or if it required you to sign up for the laundry service (3.5 min) versus it required you to download a free app (2 min).

The call to action (what you expect your visitors to do next) determines the length of your overview video.

While we talked about format of videos yesterday, today I want to focus on the categories of videos.

There are 5 types of videos, with different goals and slightly different calls to action.

The overview video is an introduction to the company, the demo video would like you to sign up for a free trial, the tutorial video helps you get further along on the onboarding process, while the testimonial video is social proof, requesting you to explore pricing and finally the storytelling video urges you to get on a waiting list.

Most, if not all of the videos ask you to give them something in return for watching the video – that’s typically an email address.

1. Overview: Typically this video is the first a company creates because they have “finally” nailed what they do, for who and why it matters. This type of video might involve professional cameraman, producer and multiple shots and actors at times.

Cost – $5000 and above.

2. Demo: In this type of video there are 2 formats – one that’s professionally done and one that’s done by the founders. In the professional done video, the voice over is usually an actor and the script is written by them after input from the founders.

Cost – $0 (DIY – your time is precious though) to $3000

3. Tutorial: Most tutorial videos are made by the team – either a marketing person in your company or by the founders themselves. Since many tutorials are typically made for different aspects of the product, these tend to be self made and cost much less to produce and deliver.

Cost – $500 to $3000 – depending on the amount of time to produce. Expect every minute of video to take 1 to 2 hours of production.

4. Testimonial

5. Storytelling: These  are typically the most expensive videos to make, most being professionally produced, longer format and have actors or hired artists as well. They tell a story in the day in the life of a typical user.

Cost: From $5000 to $15000 depending on the number of hired artists, production quality and required animation.

Take a look at this storytelling video as well for a professionally done example. (Sorry Embeds were not permitted).

What I learned from looking at 30 startup videos of the recent YC batch

Video is the fastest growing medium on the mobile web. Turns out even if you are a B2B company these days, the word-of-mouth affiliation you need is often easier to achieve if you have a video more than text, audio or images. Of the 114 companies in the lastest YC cohort I looked at, most had a video on their website. I focused on the ones that had done a good job of explaining their overview using video.

Not surprisingly even CIO’s and traditional B2B buyers also prefer to view videos to reading whitepapers these days.

As a startup, if you are in the consumer space, I’d wager that you want to get your overview video faster than your “text website” which might be SEO friendly. Why?

Most of the early influencers and younger audiences are using YouTube as their search engine more than Google.

So, having reviewed 30+ videos from startups that graduated from YC last cohort, what did I learn about the types and kinds of videos you need for your startup?

I am going to assume that you are just launching your app / service or about to launch it soon. What you are trying to do in less than 2 min is give potential customers and prospects a chance to understand the problem you solve, how you solve it uniquely and how they benefit from the problem solved. I have noticed these 5 types of videos that startups have used so far.

Types of Overview Videos

Types of Overview Videos

In most cases the “goldilocks” overview is less than 2 minutes and there are 7 popular formats for these videos:

1. Product tour on mobile or web: In this type of video, there is a person “showing” the app on their mobile with some upbeat background music. In many ways it is more a demo than necessarily a overview, but it serves the purpose well to get people to understand “what the product or company does”. It was hard to figure out which of these were actually using the product live versus screen captures, but slick production was the key.

2. Live action video with professional actors: As it suggest these are much more produced and directed, and will cost your more, but they tend to show “real” product users in “real” scenarios. I think these are pretty expensive if you are bootstrapped, costing upwards of $10K in most cases, but among consumer Internet (eCommerce especially) startups they seem to be pretty popular.


3. Animated Simple video: In this type of video, there are props used with simple cutouts and voice over. In most of these videos, I found that the startups used animation to to explain abstract complex, or non-intuitive problems, largely in B2B scenarios.


4. Whiteboard explanation: Fairly common as well, is two or sometimes just one person going to the whiteboard explaining what is it the startup does. In many cases, these are fairly technical products and companies, so Open Source product companies tend to use them the most.

5. PPT based slide videos. Used when the founders are not technical, bootstrapped and have strong B2B backgrounds in sales or operations. Since they are unable to put a professional looking video, these are used by folks who dont have a shipping product yet. They are not very effective, but I think they are better than text based pages.

6. Screen capture: Typical to the #2 type, these “show” product, but the screen capture videos are less professionally done. Authentic to a fault, they tend to be quickly done, rather poorly produced, but effective to “demo” the product more than give an overview.

7. Live story with founders: Rarely used, but common in Kickstarter campaigns, these are when the founder (s) are a key part of the sales pitch.


Over the next few days I will showcase a series of posts on the use of video, the types of video and some techniques I use to produce better startup showcase videos.

The “Goldilocks” overview presentation for #startups – not too technical, not too fluffy

Many #developer founders struggle with their pitch to anyone but their customers. Too technical and they end up losing 90% of their audience, like investors or potential employees not in the engineering team. Too high-level and everyone thinks they are hand waving.

The problem is fairly acute in B2B companies overall – if your product is aimed at a very technical audience – for example finance managers, statisticians, or climatologists, then you will end up getting “into the details”, in your overview pitch.

The right level of presentation is very hard to get right. It almost seems likes a “Goldilocks presentation” – not too technical, which most people wont get and neither too fluffy – which many dismiss as “does not get the problem right”.

The simple answer is to keep it on the right side of technical. From my experience it is better to be specific and articulate than come off as condescending or “hand wavy”.

The good thing is that this also will ensure that if some folks in the audience dont get it, they are probably not the right target for you.

So, the question is what is the right level of technical? The answer wont be easy, but the best thing to do is to A/B test your positioning with the soft audiences first.

The most important part to remember is that it is not only investors who are the audience you are initially trying to get on board. 

Sometimes senior executives in your potential customer base have a problem relating to very technical presentations, as well.

If your customers dont get your pitch – again either because it is too technical or too fluffy, then I’d recommend you revisit the lucidity of your presentation.

Let me give a specific example of one startup we are helping now. They target a very new and a developer audience. Most of what they end up doing is “Educating” their audience.

When they talk to potential customers at the right level in the organization, the bells toll, but in many cases when they describe their problem statement to folks higher in the org of their target customer base, things get difficult.

Here is what I recommend:

Most people understand the BEFORE and AFTER story the best for representing technical products.

If you have to explain a trend you might want to articulate that quickly, but I’d focus a lot on sharing what the “CURRENT” problem is – which is the BEFORE situation.

For example. The pitch they were using was to show code screen shots of deployment tools and how their product was much better. That went well with some developers, but they were unable to sell that to the managers who needed to understand how it will help developers.

Most managers, when they did not understand it clearly enough, dismissed the tool as “nice to have”.

Here is a better “framing” of the problem in my mind.

1) Your developers need to understand agile methodology since they are being asked to ship products quicker and in incremental fashion instead of once every 6 months.

2) Developers like the agile methodology but your systems are built for the waterfall approach

3) If you use the tools like abc and def which were built for the waterfall methodology, the compromises they will show up in more outages, more defects and slower release cycles.

This helps put a context to the person listening to the pitch even if they are not using the tool daily.

You will still have to tailor your “standard” pitch so it appeals to the audience, but this is at the “right level”. Again, you want to keep testing, until you can get head nods quickly, within the first 1-3 minutes.

That’s when you know you have the pitch “Just right”.

The first 30 seconds of your “demo day” pitch – sell to the heart, mind and wallet

There are 2 schools of thought that most people assume are contradictory.

First that, people buy from other people – so folks buy because they like the other person and if they like the person they will buy anything (or everything from that person).

The other school of thought is that people want to buy from a trusted brand, so even if the individual goes away the business remains to support what they bought.

Actually they are both true.

People dont just buy from other people, they buy from people they like.

Which brings me to the demo day pitch. If you dont create an emotional connect with your audience quickly enough (first 30 seconds) you are likely to be perceived as wooden, robotic or impersonal.

The best entrepreneurs realize they are saleswomen and show-women first and CEO’s next. That does not mean they are “watch your pocket near them”, sales people.

One of the things I learned very early in my sales career was that you need to appeal to the “heart, mind and the wallet”. That means, you have to emotionally connect with your buyer, then appeal to their brain, by solving the problem they have and finally ensuring they are willing to part with money to solve that problem.

Hopefully if you solve a problem that they have, then parting with money is an automatic, but if you dont appeal to them emotionally (or to their heart), then they will likely try and make the decision purely on the merits of your product, company, website, etc.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing for some people, but if the emotional connect does not exist, then they will look for reasons to not want to do the deal, if it does not meet any of their criteria (or “features”).

The first thing your audience at the demo day is trying to do is answer the question – “Is this worth my time, or should I go back to looking at my smartphone and get distracted for a few minutes”?

The best way to answer the question is to appeal to them with a problem they likely have themselves or ensure they know someone with this problem.

After that they are evaluating if the problem is large enough – market.

The last thing they try to assess is if you are the right team to solve it.

Surprisingly all this happens in seconds if not minutes.

I have seen many investors decide in the first 60 seconds if they want to “Work with the person” and then do their “due diligence” over the next few weeks, months or quarters to consummate the deal.

So the best thing you can do for yourself and your startup is to tell a personal story that appeals to your audience, with something they can relate to.

See to their heart first, then the mind and finally their wallet.

How to A/B test your startup’s positioning statement

I had a chance to talk to 2 of our startups at the accelerator yesterday and we discussed positioning. One of the first things that we focus on is to ensure you position your company and product well. That may seem like “fluff” and “soft” to many folks, but we find that to be critical to ensure that people who you interact with – customers, partners, potential recruits, investors, etc., get it quickly and accurately.

What I have found is that depending on the background of the entrepreneur, the positioning statements tend to be very long, mostly filled with buzzwords – (no, really 99% of the people in this world dont know ARM, resin-conductors or DevOps, and most likely 90% of your target audience does not either) or overly complicated.

The positioning statement should at its simplest help explain who you are at your core.

Most folks will try to explain their positioning by using the framework below.

For (specific customer description):

Who (has the following problem):

Our product (describe the solution):

That provides (the following difference):

Unlike (your competition):

Now, for most parts this was 15 years ago. This is still a valid exercise for you to come up with your positioning, but most of this may be not as effective in our Twitter driven world.

There are 3 more manifestations I have seen for this statement:

1. Position your company / product in less than 8 worlds so that someone coming to your website can get it in less than 5 seconds

2. Positioning by successful similarity – We are XYX (an awesome product, e.g. Uber) for ABC (a very large market, e.g. school kids needing rides)

3. Retweet ready positioning – A positioning statement that is retweet worthy, so it should be less than 100 characters – so you can still provide a link to your website

The important thing to note is that your website should reflect positioning for your biggest audience – target users or customers, not potential investors or employees.

I am also not a fan of using multiple positioning statements by audience – so you should avoid telling investors you are a disruptive solution for ABC market, and tell potential employees you are X for Y.

It never adds up and wont scale.

Instead, I’d recommend you start with first making a list of segments of your customers. Preferably you are able to segment a small niche customer segment to start.

Then write down the list of problems your customers have. For example. a) the existing products are too hard to use b) the existing solution is too expensive c) the existing solution is to do something manual d) potential customers are unable to be successful since no solution exists to help them with this pain, etc.

Then you have to document the features of your product that correspond to solving the problems you listed above in the problem statement. For example: a) Our export to excel feature allows customers to get the data via API’s b) our API based mechanism lowers cost of delivery. etc. This is also sometimes the “how you do it”.

Then you have to record the differentiation associated with the features. How do you do something different to enable that feature(s). For example: our algorithm for ranking generates a proprietary score for each customer segment.

The next step (which you may not need for the positioning, but will later on) is to document the benefits of the feature / differentiation. Benefits are fairly easy to document based on cost savings, revenue generation, etc. and are based on the feature list. For example, if you have X feature and Y differentiation, that results in a reduced cost compared to existing competitive solutions for customers,.

This should suffice for you to start A/B testing. Now, use these in your web copy, presentations and when you are describing your company to others at events, meetups, etc.

Keep a log of the first 100 people (or some good enough sample size) of people you to talk to, and get a sense for which statements resonate.

Test different positioning statements until you get to the minimal set that gets people exited enough to ask you to tell them more.

Until that point, keep testing.

What to do the day after the launch of your company or announcing new features

There is always a sense of euphoria after a “launch” of any sort. Especially if you have been working on your product / service for many months and are not particularly sure how it will be received. Then you get a chance to go “public” with your features / product or company. It tends to be exhilarating, but brings its own set of things to do after the launch.

There are 3 major buckets of items that you will encounter the day after the launch.

They fall into the “do now”, “do later” and “do never” bucket.

First the “Do Now” bucket. I would put thanking people that supported you on the top of the list. Send personal emails to the reporter, initial users, advisors and mentors with a list of links (combine all coverage instead of sending multiple messages) that indicate the coverage your received for the launch. Even if all you did was launch it on HN, it helps to take a screen shot, or even provide a link to the comments. If you have a team, I’d highly recommend you collate all the links, and put them into a document to share and discuss when you meet. It helps to set context to something you have all been working on. Even if the feedback on the launch is negative or “meh”, I’d still recommend you put it together.

I’d also immediately put together a spreadsheet with the major items of feedback and perspectives, and put them into feature requests, comments, questions and general feedback. Some of them you can action and others likely not. Either ways, it is quicker and more helpful to capture all the feedback just after the launch rather than go back and revisit it later.

Finally I’d spend quite a bit of time providing customer support – helping answer user questions, addressing their issues (without coding new features immediately) and also documenting the bugs they encounter – maybe you might want to even fix the blockers or P zeros (priority zeros).

Second, for your “Do later” bucket. I’d write a blog post to collect your thoughts, and write about your experience overall – what were the highlights when you got your start, what the low lights were, what your journey was and how you made critical decisions. In that blog post I’d also add the links to the launch coverage.

I would also spend some time after day 1 on your traffic analytics – where did you users come from, where they spent time and finally what they did. These will help you prioritize the key elements of your go forward plan and help you target the right press or channels going forward.

This is also a good time (do later, not immediately) to check all your social channels – Quora, FB, Twitter etc. to capture your feedback. I dont put these in the do now bucket, because while you might get some feedback that needs immediate attention, they tend to be a big drain and time sink. You will end up responding to some of the feedback, but most of the response from your side will be emotional – either happy, because your launch was well received, or sad because you were panned.

Finally the “Do never” bucket. You will get a lot of email from potential recruiters – who have “a rock star ninja” who wants to join your team and mentioned your company by name, or potential partners who “want to set up time over coffee to talk about potential ways to partner” or other principals and associates at investment firms who “followed” your launch or were tracking you on angel list or tried your product and would like to setup some time to learn more.

These waste the most amount of your time. I’d highly recommend you push them all out by a few weeks and use it as a technique to buy some time and gauge their interest after 3-4 weeks. While I have learned that there’s some truth to the “strike when the iron’s hot”, these are rarely hot irons, but more “flat coal”.

I’d love your feedback. What’s been on your do now, do later and do never bucket after launch?

The transition year of 2014 – from developers to customer acquisition specialists #startups

Here’s a prediction for the year 2014 based on talking to over 1400 startup entrepreneurs in 2013.

2014 is going to be the every entrepreneur will start to focus on hiring a “customer acquisition” specialist. This could be someone who can be called a hustler, a growth hacker, a marketing developer or any other title.

What I have realized after looking at over 2800 applications at the Microsoft accelerator and interviewing over 300 entrepreneurs is that they have little idea about how to acquire customers that pay for their solution.

They can do the first 10 customers, but after that, it is a slog or a stall.

They dont have a way to scale their customer growth.

Many developers who stall in their careers will take up growth hacking courses and classes. The reason they will do well is because developers will make the best digital marketers in the next decade.

The #1, #2 and #3 questions I get from entrepreneurs, is trying to find a way to get paying customers.

The #1 question last 2 years was around funding.

That has dropped dramatically this year.

The years prior to 2011 I got most questions around hiring good quality engineers and finding and hiring good engineering talent for startups.

Maybe it is the maturity of the ecosystem, but this is the transition I am seeing.