There are two main methods for onboarding new SaaS (Software as a Service) customers: traditional sales and the freemium subscription model.
Regardless of the method a marketing team is using, product demos can be a useful tool to move the sales process forward. An animated product demo video gives potential clients the opportunity to see the software in action, get a visual feel for how it can solve their problems, and answer specific questions they may have.
Freemium marketing models give away a basic version of the SaaS for free. This method tends to use videos on a website to demo the free product. On the other hand, traditional marketing uses live product demos. These require both a salesperson and prepared visual content.
Whether using a video product demo or a live product demo, quality animation is useful for making demos flow more engaging, for emphasizing key points, and for building trust with an audience.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the main types of animation you’ll encounter, how exactly to use animation in product demos, and how to measure your success.
Types of animation for product demos
35 years ago, the art of animation was fairly standard, but it took a lot more time and effort to get to the final product. Advancements in video creation and consumption mean more people have access to various forms of animation and video technology, and consumers expect more video content within their journey.
Today, there are multiple ways to animate a video, and modern software means some videos can be produced within a week by a single designer while other videos still require significant amounts of work.
So, what types of animation are available for product demos?
1. Traditional animation
Classic animation connects with people in a compelling way. For certain SaaS presentations, this can be leveraged as a powerful sales tool. Although the cost of a completely hand-drawn animation sequence is prohibitive for business product demos, SaaS marketers can incorporate the feel of classically hand-drawn characters animated using modern animation tools.
The bright colors and playful animations in this video transform even the most basic of topics into something entertaining and fresh. Source: Vimeo.
2. Whiteboard animation
Whiteboard explainer videos made their way onto the market a few years back and many people still enjoy them. The minimalist spacing, straightforward animation, and whiteboard animation tools make this style a key part of many business marketing toolkits.
Within a SaaS product demo, a whiteboard animation may be useful for giving a high-level view of the product or focusing in to show more technical info regarding how it works.
The elements of surprise and creativity are woven into this whiteboard explainer video are what make it stand out. Even if your product isn’t highly visual, use your explainer video as a chance to show your brand’s personality and style.
3. Recorded product uses
A recording of a product demonstration is not an animation. But, many salespeople use specific animated instances within these recordings demonstrate product usages. Some animations are useful within the body of a web page, and .gifs are great micro-animations for product displays. Other animations showcase something special about a product with instructional overlay animated onto the video.
A recorded product use functions like a tutorial, showing your users exactly how your product works.
4. 3D animation
3D Animation is perhaps the greatest result of recent advancements in computing hardware and algorithms. A 3D Animation can be very useful for showcasing aspects of a SaaS product that involve hardware integration, like an Enterprise Resource Planning Program (ERP) or Warehouse Management Program.
3D animation pulls out all the stops, allowing you to illustrate the inner workings of your product.
How to use animations in product demos
Within a product demo, there are multiple opportunities for animated segments of the presentation. Demo animations can be embedded within blog posts and products & services pages. During live demos, salespeople can use animations to showcase more complicated tasks, to set the scene, to tell a story, or to answer questions from a prospective customer.
Animation on a website is great for demo-ing specific parts of a SaaS product’s features. Animations can also be useful to give an overview of a product, especially whiteboard-type animation videos that explain the software and how it benefits a user. Animations and illustrations can also be used as part of instructional demos for blogs and software documentation.
Integrated live and animated video
Using animations within a live demo may seem complicated, but it really simplifies the demo process. When there are prepared clips answering questions and objections, animating potential software uses and demonstrating that your company truly understands your customers, animations used within a live demo really set a marketer apart.
How animations help convert product demos
A growth marketer can use animations in various places, but how do they use them to help get potential customers to convert into actual customers? The great thing about marketing with animation videos is that they help at each stage of the demo process: qualifying the lead, presenting to the lead, answering questions, and closing.
With the right educational tools and demonstration materials, engaged leads qualify themselves. Animations as tools for engagement can help draw people into the story. Animations can also help bring up questions that people might not have asked at another time.
For example, a simple whiteboard animation video to introduce a demo can bring up the questions that a lead might be asking. Questions such as “How can I integrate the functionality of a CRM and an ERP?”
If the customer says: “Actually, I don’t even know what those letters mean,” then the salesperson has the opportunity to educate a prospect while determining if the user is a good fit for the software that is being presented.
Sadly, SaaS customers rarely ask if the software they are purchasing is interesting or beautiful to look at. They’re looking at the utility of the software: what does it do for me?
Animations during the presentation part of a demo sales process help show how the software helps the customer. Video product demos help inspire those who watch them.
While the presenter absolutely needs to show the software in action, there are also things that software does over the long term or in larger deployments that cannot be demonstrated in the typical software product presentation.
An Enterprise Resource Planning software designed to integrate POS systems and e-commerce sites with a network of warehouses would not be able to actually show each of the steps — from inventory being sold online to the software pushing the order to the right warehouse to the handlers pulling the software to shipping it FOB to the customer. A good animation video would be useful in this demonstration of how it works.
Showcase user experience
One of the best ways to answer questions in a demonstration is to show other customers that asked the same question. If used properly, animations can provide a visual to go along with the salesperson’s storytelling abilities. Not only does user experience help answer questions, but animated user experiences can also be used to demonstrate case studies within the presentation part of the demo.
How to move forward with animations in demos
There are significant advantages for animations, but how exactly do you use them?
You first have to decide which type of animation (whiteboard, traditional, animated software uses, 3D animation) you want to use. Then, you’ll need to plan out how to use the animation within the body of the demo. Finally, you will need to create the animation and practice it within the demonstration.
The type of animation depends on budget, market, and a marketer’s preference. To choose the right type of animation, consider the fact that whiteboard videos are more affordable, software animation requires more variety of expertise, and 3D animation provides the highest level of immersion for customers.
The salespeople who do demos are the best resource for planning where animations are needed within the demo cycle. Their experience talking to customers, showing off software, and overcoming objections is priceless for finding the parts of the demo which would benefit from an animation.
If the SaaS marketing team does not have enough experience with the sales process, then before deciding on an animation, take time to gameplay a software demonstration multiple times.
Once the type of animation and ways it’s going to be used have been decided, it is time to create the animation. The design skills necessary for whiteboard animation, 3D creation, or other animation are not part of the average SaaS team member’s UI qualifications. Because of this, SaaS companies should look to bring in some outside help for creating the animation within the demo. This is where turning to a professional designer or videographer comes in handy.
You’ll want to choose your designer based on the type of animation you are seeking.
For example, if you’re going for an in-depth 3D piece, you’ll probably want to seek out a design service that specializes in 3D animation. Platforms like 99designs can help you connect with a range of animators with different skill sets. For instance, if you need a 3D a specialist they can help match you with creative professionals like JG10G depending upon the specific needs of your brief.
Animated product demo video illustration by 99designs designer Zarkum
You’ll also need to decide whether your marketing team needs help with the implementation of the demo, and if so, you’ll need to find a designer who can not only design but also code.
Implement, analyze, and refine
Once the design is executed by qualified creatives, your SaaS team will be ready to implement and begin the process of getting people to look at a demo. Have your sales or marketing team set up tracking so you can analyze how the demos are working. Once you understand how users are interacting with the content, you can continue to refine the demos to suit your individual goals. Throughout the whole process, paying continual attention to where animations are working will help create a more engaging sales process.
Brea Weinreb is a Marketing Specialist at 99designs, the largest creative platform that connects people with graphic designers, videographers, and photographers around the world. See what we’re up to on Instagram.