How to Make a Product Video When You Have No Product

A product video is a great way to introduce a new offering, but what if your product isn't ready yet? Jenny Beightol, formerly of Belly, knows the secrets.

Jennifer Beightol is a fantastic Chicago startup marketer. Below is a transcript of a great presentation she gave on November 11, 2016 at the first Here's How Startup Marketing Conference, where she shared her product-video experience from her time as director of words and reputations at Belly (she's now at ContextMedia). It's great advice for any startup that needs to create a product-marketing video before your product is even a product.

Hello, everyone. My name is Jenny Beightol, and I'm the Director of Words and Reputations at Belly, a Chicago startup. You're probably thinking that that's a made up title, and it definitely is. I actually came up with it myself about five years ago when I was hired to develop Belly's brand voice.

For those of you that don't know, Belly builds and designs loyalty platforms for small businesses. And then it was actually a few months ago in the summer, when our founder grabbed me, grabbed a few others of us on the team, pulled us into a room and said, "Hey, I need you to put together a product video for our new enterprise platform called BLUE."

Sounded like a great thing, except BLUE wasn't in development yet. Well, it was in development, but it didn't exist yet. So, okay... Situation was, make a product video showcasing our new enterprise platform that communicates the innovative capabilities and features to retailers, investors, and consumers alike. And do it for $5,000 and in 21 days.

So here's how I did that.

1.  I didn't freak out (kind of a lie, 'cause I did).

But I just had to acknowledge that pulling off a task like this was... It was gonna be a huge deal and take up basically the next 21 days of my life, 24/7. But that was okay, and that it was gonna be fine. As long as I could keep the goal in mind, everything would turn out just fine. So as long as I could make a video that showcased BLUE, that highlighted the features and capabilities and we could communicate that to investors, retailers and consumers alike, everything would be just okay.

2.  I asked for help.

I scoured the Internet and reached out to my network to find a video crew that we could hire, who would be able to help us bring this product to life. We actually went it with Indirap Productions, here in Chicago. And the reason why we went with them was because they were going to be as scrappy as our team was and work as hard as we were.

So it was important that, even before we had developed the storyboard or the script of what we were gonna do, we needed to find that team that we're gonna be working with and loop in all of the necessary stakeholders so that we could actually make this video happen.

3.  I emptied my brain.

I just did a brain dump into a Slack channel, and we just threw out all of our ideas for what we wanted this video to be. And once we had done that, we were able to go through and refine, like, "Okay, this is the necessary, mandatory information that we need to communicate to these retailers, investors, and consumers, and this is the information that we don't need to have in this minute-and-a-half video that we're trying to put together.

4.  I was a copycat. I wasn't trying to win an Oscar.

I just needed to get this video shipped and delivered, so I drew inspiration from those before me that had succeeded. I found example product videos that I really liked, and I just tried to replicate them. There was one, I think it was UrbanSitter, that was the video that I really, really liked. And so, I basically just printed out, like, actually printed, frame by frame, that video, taped it up on the wall, and then I inserted our product into that storyboard, so that then we could figure out like what our narrative was actually going to be, how we could communicate our new BLUE enterprise platform to our audience.

5.  I built a foundation.

Since BLUE was still in development since our engineering team was actually still building a prototype of the product, I needed to make sure that every other aspect was real.

We had to develop very, very strong and clear positioning statements so that we actually knew how we want it to communicate what the product was. We needed very, very thorough feature descriptions.

It was also important that we determined what the overall vision was. What's the goal? And also, what problem is BLUE going to solve? And the more real we could make everything else, the more real the actual BLUE product would be. I pretended I worked at Apple, 'cause who doesn't wanna work at Apple?

But you know how like in every single Apple commercial, there's a short story that's woven throughout, and there's balloons flying through the city, and everything just gonna comes together in a nice, pretty little bow at the end? Just do that. Create a recurring theme or color, or character, anything that your audience can kind of recognize and grab onto, and have that guide them through the video that you're making. And you'll see that when we show the little clip of ours.

6.  I made it up.

Since BLUE didn't exist yet, I really relied heavily on great design and animation in order to make it seem real. We didn't have the final dashboard of what the loyalty platform would look like, but working with our design team and some animators, we were actually able to show what that login process would be, what different capabilities and feature sets were actually built inside the product. And so, by using a bit of our artistic license, we can say, we were able to exaggerate and explain what these features would look like, even though our engineering team was still building it.

7.  I live-edited.

This is really important. It's very hard to make something out of nothing, so just work with what you already have and refine as you go along. So we shot extra scenes that we weren't sure if we were actually going to need. We recorded extra VO, and then as our engineering team was pushing more finalized versions of the BLUE product through, we could live edit and add that into the final video.

8.  I relied on those who knew nothing.

Don't just wait for your CEO or your VP of sales to give you their feedback. Really, ask your friends and families for their input as well. And every time the video crew sent me a new draft version of the video to watch, I would immediately text it to my mom and ask her to watch it. And if she didn't understand something, then we revised and made sure that an outsider completely understood what the product was.

And then, results. I launched the BLUE video in time for our press launch, and a few days after that, we submitted BLUE and the full BLUE product to Street Fight's Local Visionary Awards. And we actually found out at the end of October that we won an award for Best New Solution For Multi-Location Retailers. So I think we did a pretty good job.