You’re ready to start your first (or next) corporate video project. You can’t decide whether to shoot it on your iPhone or call the Coen Brothers to see if they can squeeze in a corporate gig between films. What to do? The following is a list of things to consider before you reach out to a video production company:
1. Establish and communicate a budget
A few weeks back someone called us to get a ballpark figure on a video project. I tried to elicit enough information from them to help frame a reasonable response but I was unsuccessful. I then suggested that they find a reference video, something similar to what they had in mind that would help me come up with a ballpark figure. They did. They sent me a link to an Apple commercial they rather liked. After I explained that a video like that would cost at least $100,000 to make they finally volunteered that they had a budget of ‘around $1,000… for everything.’ Everyone has a budget.
‘But if I tell them how much my budget is I won’t get a good deal!’… or so it goes. I’ve been on both sides of the desk – client side in two different fortune 500 companies and also on the agency side. At the end of the day everyone has a budget and the sooner you communicate that budget, the easier it is for the production company to frame a viable solution. I’ve had a lot of success in the past approaching agencies or production houses and telling them “I have a budget of ‘X’ dollars, I want to achieve Y, what can you do for me for this amount?” I believe I always got more than my moneys worth with this approach – especially if I approached two or three agencies to bid on the same project.
A production company can help you ballpark the costs for various types of videos. Having a reference video will speed the process up considerably. To help you understand what goes into developing a quote for video production, here is a link to 25 factors that affect the price of a video.
2. Establish your business objectives first.
Your video production company should have some skin in the game – they should feel responsible for helping you achieve some business objective. (Hint: Developing a ‘kick-ass’ video isn’t a business objective, unless your sole objective is to win an award.) So instead of asking “can you develop a really cool /creative /dynamic video for me,” you should be telling your prospective video production company that ”I need a video that will help me achieve this specific business goal, can you help me with that?” and then ask the video production company to explain how the video they produce for you will help you achieve this objective. If you create a wonderfully irrelevant video for your client you shouldn’t be surprised to never hear from them again. It’s in everyone’s interest to develop a video that solves a measurable business objective. And remember, one size does not fit all. You have to think about where your customer is in their buying cycle and how your video addresses those specific needs. The ‘awareness’, ‘interest’ and ‘consideration’ phases of the buying cycle all require different approaches.
3. What should you look for in a video production company ?
Videographers and video production companies come in many different shapes and sizes and have very different skill sets. Are you looking for a television or film production company to do your corporate work? Are you looking for a videographer to help you position your company? Are you getting your ad agency to do your video because they handle all your other stuff? Every video production company has a specialty. You should be able to see examples of their work and that work should have a close resemblance to the type of work you are looking for. If you are looking to develop an in-depth product demonstration and the video production company you are talking to shows you their latest cable reality show as reference, you may want to keep looking. If your budget is low you might get more interest and effort out of a younger, hungrier company. Keep in mind that the playing field is continually being leveled in video production. Experience is still key – no question, but you don’t need a big studio or a big budget to get great work. It should be clear what skills and experience the companies you are considering bring to the table. There is a great deal more to developing a successful marketing video than shooting and editing.
4. Trust is more important than ever.
I’ve read a number of recent marketing research articles that list ‘trust’ as the single biggest success factor online. If your website does not engender trust, people will flee. The same holds for video. Authenticity is the new coin of the digital realm. Do you really need a bubbly spokesperson talking on your behalf or should you or one of your employees represent your company. ‘Slick’ isn’t nearly as important as it used to be. Sounding and looking ‘professional’ will always matter but now more than ever, substance has considerably more weight than style. There will always be a place for high production values but spending a whack of money on motion graphics, paid actors and expensive sets just doesn’t move the dial the way it used to.
Start with the goal of delivering a simple, clear message that you know will resonate with your target audience. (The ‘what’.) Then decide who should deliver that message and what visual devices you need to develop your video. (The ‘how’.)
5. Create a storyboard before you shoot.
Once you have established and communicated the business objectives you need to build a storyboard. Your budget will determine how much time goes into this activity. Your storyboard can, but doesn’t have to, include a complete script, but any video plan you create should at least consider all of the following:
- What are the key messages that have to be communicated. Are they general themes that can be answered extemporaneously by a company representative or do you need a more formal script.
- Are there calls to action in your storyboard that need to be included.
- When, how and where do you include branded information. (Talking about your customer and their issues is always better than talking about yourself and your products.)
- Is there a ‘concept’ behind the video that ties it together.
- Do you have a style in mind. (A reference video is a good place to start.)
- Based on the concept and style, how should the message be delivered. It can be delivered as voice-over, delivered on-camera interview style, it can be acted out in a typical use-case scenario, it can be presented direct to the camera with the aid of a teleprompter, it can be delivered visually using kinetic text or motion graphics… there are many ways to communicate the key messages you need to deliver.
- What is happening in the video as these messages are being heard. Are you supporting the messages with b-roll, motion-graphics, animation, on screen text or something else that helps to support the key messages.
- What are the list of shots by location, speaker and time required for the production.
6. Do you have a plan to promote and distribute the video after it is produced?
No? Why not? Video is not an end in itself. (…although it used to be.)
Online marketing video is evoving in many of the same ways websites did 15 years ago. At first it was enough just to have a ‘web presence’ – a brochure in cyber-space. Today having a website is table-stakes for most companies. In fact your website is less relevant than it ever was because people are not ‘going to websites’ they are looking for solutions to problems wherever and whenever they occur.
You need to start thinking about how you are going to get your video to your audience. They may view it on your website, but there are many innovative ways to ensure your valuable content gets noticed.