The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Explainer Videos

Stephen Conley
Stephen Conley
Stephen is Gisteo's Founder & Creative Director. After a long career in advertising, Stephen launched Gisteo in 2011 and the rest is history. He has an MBA in International Business from Thunderbird and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he did indeed inhale (in moderation).

Stephen Covey’s famous self-help book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” provides a principle-centered approach for personal and professional effectiveness. 

It’s a timeless classic, having sold more than 25 million copies in 40 languages worldwide, and remains one of the best selling nonfiction books in history.

So I got to thinking: can these 7 habits also apply to not just people, but professional services such as explainer video companies? 

I say “yes!” Maybe it’s because my name is so similar to Stephen Covey’s but I think each one of the 7 habits are absolutely relevant to the world of creating effective explainer videos 😀

Before diving into specifics, let’s quickly summarize Covey’s 7 habits:

  1. Be Proactive: Take initiative and responsibility for your actions.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind: Define your vision and goals clearly.
  3. Put First Things First: Prioritize important tasks over urgent ones.
  4. Think Win-Win: Aim for mutually beneficial solutions in interactions.
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood: Listen empathetically before expressing your views.
  6. Synergize: Collaborate to achieve more together.
  7. Sharpen the Saw: Continuously renew and improve yourself.

And for a bit of a deeper discussion of these 7 habits, here’s a great whiteboard explainer video


Now, let’s apply these habits to the creation of effective explainer videos.

1. Be Proactive

Successful explainer videos start by taking the “bull by the horns” from the outset. Too many explainer video producers are reactive, simply taking orders from clients and trying to do exactly what the client thinks they want. 

This is the wrong approach! Producing effective explainer videos starts with having a proactive approach

Proactivity in the explainer video context includes:

  • Planning

    Work closely with your client to define the project goals, target audience, and key messages early on. Transparency is always the best policy. 

  • Research

     Do your homework before jumping into scripting and design work. Gather information about your audience’s preferences, challenges, and interests. Well before production starts, you need to obtain a deeper understanding of who you’re speaking to in the video. Clients may or may not readily “cough up” this information so you may need to collaborate with them to gain insights into their Ideal Customer Profile (ICP).

  • Anticipation

    Identify potential obstacles and plan solutions in advance. This includes setting a realistic timeline and budget, and assembling the right team according to these objectives. For example, you may have a particular writer who is stronger at developing B2B scripts than B2C ones. Make sure you’re setting up the project for success by planning out your resources and schedule accordingly. 

2. Begin with the End in Mind

This can be seen as a continuation of our first habit above but includes more specific tasks. What does success look like in your explainer video production?  

If you don’t define this up-front, there will be too much guesswork involved and it will be difficult to create an effective explainer video. 

As such, having a clear vision of what you want to achieve with your explainer video from start-to-finish is crucial. This involves:

  • Setting Objectives: Clearly define what success means with your video explainer. Is it increased sales, improved brand awareness, or better customer understanding?  All of the above? None of the above?  A lack of clarity on this can be detrimental to your end result. 
  • Call to Action: Determine what action you want viewers to take after watching the video and design your content to lead them there. Mostly all successful explainer videos utilize some sort of call to action. 

3. Put First Things First

Effective explainer video production is a step-by-step process and it’s important not to put the “cart before the horse” by just jumping into the execution. 

It’s key to ensure the most important elements of your video are given the attention they deserve. This includes: 

  • Scriptwriting

    Focus on creating a compelling and concise script. The script is the backbone of your video and should clearly communicate your message and the previously define end goals. 

  • Visual Design/Storyboarding

     Invest time in creating engaging visuals that support your script. This involves developing style frames and a storyboard to share with the client. 

4. Think Win-Win

Creating a successful explainer video is a collaborative effort, both internally and when working with clients. Aim for solutions that benefit all parties involved:

  • Audience-Centric: Ensure your video provides value to your target audience. 
  • Team Collaboration: Foster a collaborative environment where ideas are shared openly, and everyone’s input is valued.
  • Client Relations: Work closely with your clients to ensure their vision is realized while also delivering a product that meets high standards. 

5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Explainer video companies and clients don’t always see eye-to-eye. They may want slightly different messaging when you share your script with them. 

They may want adjustments to the visuals upon seeing the storyboard. They may even ask for adjustments later in the production process. 

There’s a fine line between being a “yes person” and a professional in this industry but listening to your client’s POV is critical. True professionals are capable of understanding why a particular piece of feedback is given and having a discussion about the merits of the feedback.

 Sometimes adjustments are completely justified. Other times, you need to counsel clients about why they might not necessarily be the best approach…but it all starts with listening and understanding. 

6. Synergize

Synergy in explainer video production means leveraging the strengths and talents of your team to create something exceptional:

  • Collaboration: Encourage brainstorming sessions and creative input from all team members, including writers, designers, and animators. Also, be open to ideas and suggestions from the client. They have a depth of experience in their category so their ideas are important too. Some creative services companies are territorial and close-minded in this regard. 
  • Integrated Skills: Combine different skills and perspectives to enhance the overall quality of the video. 
  • Innovative Solutions: Use the diverse skills within your team to solve problems and create innovative content that stands out.

7. Sharpen the Saw

Continuous improvement is essential to maintaining and enhancing the quality of your explainer videos. Trends and visual styles come and go and it’s important to evolve over time to meet client expectations.  

You’ll want to consider the following:

  • Professional Development: Invest in training and development for your team to keep their skills sharp and up-to-date.
  • Feedback Loops: Regularly seek and incorporate feedback from clients and viewers to improve future videos.
  • Staying Current: Keep abreast of the latest trends and technologies in video production to ensure your content remains relevant and engaging.


By integrating these habits into your explainer video production process, you’ll be in a better position to create videos that not only engage your audience but also achieve your desired outcomes. 

Remember, highly effective explainer videos come from a balanced approach that combines planning, creative collaboration, and continuous improvement.

For more detailed information on producing successful explainer videos, feel free to explore further resources and industry insights on our blog or contact us to discuss a potential project.

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