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How To Turn Your Tutorial Videos Into Marketing


If you've ever gone on YouTube looking for help hooking up your cable, or fixing a leaky sink, or using a complex piece of software, you've probably experienced tutorial fatigue.

Long-winded narrators. Shots that seem to go nowhere. Inexplicable, swooping transitions.

While it can be infuriating to try and figure out where the 17-minute video in front of you starts to get helpful, the truth is that a good tutorial video is a real challenge to create.

But tutorial videos that are human, entertaining, and break down complex tasks into something that's easy to pick up and understand—these kinds of videos can become pillars of your marketing strategy.

The three keys to a great tutorial video are:

  1. Preparation
  2. Purpose
  3. Personality

Nail these three, and you'll have a tutorial video worthy of showing the world—and your potential customers will notice.

1. Organize And Write Your Script

It doesn't matter how experienced you are at making videos—resist the urge to hop right in. Preparation is key to making professional-quality videos.

Don't just sit down and write down everything that you think you're going to say. Take the time to outline everything that's going to happen in your video from beginning to end, both in terms of shots you'll use and dialogue you'll speak. If you're doing a screencast, for instance:

For live-action videos, you'll want to get your participants together and run through a table read of the script before you start shooting. Find patches of awkward dialogue and cut them ruthlessly.

2. Let Your Purpose Define Your Scope

The success of a business video has to do with more than just the script or the quality of the production. Business video is there to do work on your website—it needs to have a clearly thought out purpose. That means taking into account a whole bunch of context:

Wix's “How to Make a Website in 11 Steps” video seems to have a somewhat unusual purpose for a product tutorial—rather than just walk you through their WYSIWYG website builder, Wix takes you through the entire development of a website from the beginning of its ideation to its final execution. That includes things that you wouldn't expect from a website tutorial, like defining a target audience:

What this tells us is that Wix had a different context for this video than you might expect from a website builder.

Once upon a time, your club or organization or business built a website after it had everything else figured out. Today, building a website is far easier than knowing your target audience or understanding what your customers really want. For many, building a website is how they start answering those kinds of questions for themselves.

Wix realized that they could provide users with a huge amount of value not by walking them through their already easy-to-use tool—but by introducing them to something far more important in the context of their tool.

Rather than teach people to use Wix, in other words, they teach people to build a business through Wix.

3. Remember To Be Human

Videos have an incredible ability to convey personality, whether that's your individual personality or that of your company as a whole.

Why is that powerful? Because of a little phenomenon known as the familiarity principle.

As Kristen Craft from Wistia explains, the mechanism behind both smiling cartoon mascots on cereal boxes and handwritten notes to customers—reach out to your customers in a human way, and their sense of trust and affection for your brand will be increased.

Video is a source of familiarity that you can mine virtually without end. And there's no reason that you can't be human and engaging in a tutorial video, either.

When BetterExplained founder Kalid Azad teaches his students calculus with video, he doesn't rely solely on whiteboard demonstrations or slides. You can see Azad himself through the entire video, whether full-screened or as a picture-in-picture.

He talks through everything that he's showing on the screen. And there's good reason for that.

Whether you're trying to teach, inspire, make someone laugh, or make someone think about your company in a different way, putting a human face in your video can be an incredibly powerful technique. Kristen again:

Videos... have that personal touch. Because of the depth of the medium, you can express the full range of human emotions, explain things in great clarity, and generally appeal to the viewer's humanity. And, best of all, one video can speak to thousands of customers.

"How-to" Marketing

Marketers everywhere are starting to recognize, if they haven't already, that the key to creating a great business is building trust and brand affinity.

One of the best ways to do that is by leveraging the knowledge that your company already has. When you make a product to solve a problem, your organization becomes a clan of experts all trained on that one pain point. Take that expertise and distribute it through video, and you can reach millions with your message.

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* Adapted lead image: Public Domain, via