Planet Nutshell has been making Explainer Videos since 2007, long enough to see this industry grow from just a handful of producers to the dozens and dozens out there today. As the demand for online video grows, lots of folks are jumping in the game.

The good news: More companies and organizations can explain their products, services, and ideas to their audiences.

The bad news: It’s never been harder to choose a producer. With so many options, how do you pick a winner, someone who can make a video that sets you apart from the crowd?

While there’s no magic solution to this problem, here are some tips to make it easier to choose the right outfit to produce your next explainer video.

1. Define Quality for Your Brand.

The word “quality” is one of those slippery and subjective terms, but here are three rules of thumb to make it easy:

A. Does this producer’s work look like it could be on TV?

B. Did you feel compelled to watch their video all the way through?

C. Did you smile or feel anything approaching a positive emotion during the experience?

If the answer is yes for all three, then you know you’re dealing with a top shelf producer. Expect to pay more (but nowhere near as much as actual production for TV would cost). You can also expect to get a product that reflects your brand in the most professional and polished way. You’ve found the benchmark. Now you can set your expectations accordingly.

2. Focus on the Work.

Some producers are great at marketing themselves. Maybe they’ve got a slick website, or tons of blog posts and tweets about #explainervideos to boost SEO. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t always mean they back up the hype with a strong portfolio. The best studios don’t market intensively, relying instead on established client relationships and word-of-mouth. Look for a portfolio that displays a deep range of clients, consistently high quality, and a commitment to the work, not hype. The work should do the talking.

3. Ask Who’s Making the Sausage.

Explainer video production depends on four basic phases: Script, Storyboard, Illustration, and Animation. You should expect a high level of service for all of them, and at the higher budget levels, you should expect that the entire production team is under one roof. Why? Animation is a business of close collaboration, spontaneously shared ideas, and obsessive attention to detail. The best ideas and execution occur when a team is working and communicating a few feet apart. When I look at work, the first thing I look for is tight integration between what the narrator is saying and what’s happening onscreen. When that’s not happening, it’s a sure sign the production team is spread all over the world.

So, ask your potential producer who will be writing your script. Does the writer work on-site with the production team so he or she can provide input on all phases of production? Meanwhile, ask to see a storyboard from a past project. Is the storyboard detailed and exhaustive, covering each and every phrase of the script? Does it show inventiveness and originality? Is each panel drawn by a trained and skilled illustrator, so that the rest of the team can effectively and efficiently animate the video? And again, is the storyboarding outsourced? All of the above applies for illustration and animation, as well.

4. Expect Generous Revisions.

It’s your money, and your brand is on the line, so you should expect a strong collaboration with your producer. Part of that relationship relies on a generous revisions policy. At the higher end of the price scale, you should expect unlimited revisions on the script and storyboard phases. Getting these exactly right is crucial.

5. Avoid Sameyness.

As tons of people rush into producing explainer videos, I’ve seen a rise in sameyness, the tendency for all work to look and sound much the same. Is that really what you want for your brand? Look for a studio that’s doing unique work that will set you apart. The best studios aren’t interested in looking like others. Instead, they focus on what they do well and they hone it to perfection. Maybe they specialize in character animation, or maybe they have a really quirky and accessible style. Maybe they like to tell stories instead of rattling off a list of features (queue boredom here). The point is, the best studios value originality. And that’s what keeps people watching and engaging with your video.

With these five tips in mind, check out this video. See what happens when everything comes together?