Top Ten Reasons Why Your Last Video Project Failed (…and ten solutions to those problems)

You finally got your senior management to green-light your video project and one month after launch you know the painful truth – it was a bomb. No one watched it, it didn’t achieve what you hoped it would and now you’re stuck explaining what went wrong…

The following are ten reasons why your video project failed:

1. Your video doesn’t resonate with your audience.

The best videos work on a visceral level. They make you think, even better, they make you feel something. If your video is dull (i.e. a talking head) and if you don’t use video effectively (show me, don’t tell me!) then you will quickly lose your audience. Facts are important but a good story is better. While it may be interesting to note that your lubricant is 27% more viscous than any other on the market it may be more interesting to show that your product is the one that your local fire department depends on. Translating the key benefits you are trying to illustrate into ideas and building that into a compelling visual story is part of the important work that has to be done before any crew show up to start shooting. This is the most important part of the video development process and it’s the hardest to get right, yet it’s usually the piece that gets the least attention. How do you find a company with this type of experience? Look at their previous work. If it’s not engaging, I mean really engaging, yours won’t be either.

How do you make videos that resonate with your audience?

  • Start by telling a really good story. Everyone loves a ripping yarn!
  • Your video should illustrate how your product or service solves your customer’s problem and it should do so in an engaging fashion. There is always a personal or emotional hook that can help you deliver your message – you just need to determine what that hook is.
  • Use techniques from other videos that you have seen. Watch some business videos from other industries and employ some of the techniques that you believe make a difference.
  • Ask you customer what matters to them and make sure you include this in your video.
  • Do a little soul searching to determine ‘why’ your business exists and look for customers who care about the same things you do. (Watch this Simon Sinek video to understand how answering the question of ‘why’ can be a very powerful way to reach an audience.)

2. No clear message.

“ABC Consulting is the world leader in the provisioning of leading edge solutions and robust, mission critical systems for it’s global client base.”

Uh-huh. Even if you have a well defined audience, problem statement and customer benefits, you still need to communicate in clear and convincing manner what it is you do and for whom. The viewer has to easily relate to your message and you should be able to articulate exactly what it is you do, why you do it and how you solve your customer’s problems.

Ways to avoid common messaging mistakes:

  • The video shouldn’t be about you. No one cares about you, they only care about how you can solve their problem.
  • Avoid B2N (Business to No one) If your message is so general that it applies to everyone it probably won’t resonate with anyone. Be specific. Pick one audience and deliver one really strong, concise message tailored to that specific audience’s needs.
  • Stop ‘jargon-loading.’ If you “utilize leading-edge best practices to incentivize and leverage your best-of-breed base through groundbreaking, synergistic and outside-the-box thinking” then you’re just another business that doesn’t have a clue how they bring actual value to the market.
  • Don’t say too much. “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter but I didn’t have time to write a short one” – Mark Twain. It’s really difficult to be succinct. Being concise seems risky. Script-by-committee is death to most video projects. In video, shorter is almost always better.
  • Start with the storyboard. That’s where the messaging is finalized. No amount of cool filming or editing or creative is going to fix bad messaging.

3. Poorly defined objectives.

Why are you making the video? What’s the business objective. (‘Updating the website’ isn’t an objective, it’s an activity.)

How to define your business objectives:

Can you easily fill in the following blanks?: This video will help ___{this audience}____ understand that our product or service solves ___{this problem}___ and provides ____ {these benefits)____ . We will measure the success of this video by ___{this rating mechanism}____.
If you can’t clearly and succinctly fill in the first three blanks chances are your video will fail to achieve any measurable results. If you can’t fill in the last blank you’ll never know what was achieved.

4. You started with creative.

“Our VP Marketing has this really cool idea we’d like to try,” “I just watched this amazing video that used ‘man-in-the-street’ interviews to position the company… we should do that too,” “I  saw the coolest animated video…,” etc. Just like graphic design is the last step in the pre-development phase of a website (too often it is first), ‘creative’ should be the last step in the development of your script and storyboard. Creativity should never be be the ‘tail wagging the dog’. Sure, if you have a budget to create a whack of branded entertainment, that’s a different story – but for most corporate video projects, branded entertainment is not the goal.

How to avoid starting with creative:

Start your video project with a business objective.

5. Loose, or no processes at all for the development of the video.

The most important part of the video production process is pre-production. Chances are that if you are either surprised or disappointed by the results of your video it’s because your planning process was either flawed or non-existent. The purpose of the storyboard is to show everyone involved exactly what is being said and what visuals are being shown to support those messages. You should have an excellent idea of what’s going to be in your video from reading a storyboard. Some clients will claim they are ‘visual thinkers’ and really need to see the edited video to formulate an opinion. If that’s the case then you’re likely doomed to failure.The storyboard tells you exactly what is being said and exactly what is being included. It’s up to the director and cameraman to ensure that those tasks are done in an appropriate style, but no production crew can save a bad script or storyboard.

How to ensure you start shooting properly:

  • Always create a storyboard even if it’s a simple video.
  • Always create a shot-list before your shoot that tells you exactly what shots you need, with whom and when.
  • You should be collaborating on the storyboard and script process with the video production company. Unless your video production company has intimate knowledge of your business and market they shouldn’t be the ones telling you what to say.

6. Budget isn’t large enough.

“We took a couple thousand out of our cleaning budget to do this video.” “Yep, that’s all we’ve got, but we still want it to look like Avatar.” “My cousin Eddy said it would only cost him $400 to make the same video.” The cost of video production has decreased dramatically over the last five years. That said, there is little point in developing a video if you haven’t allocated a reasonable budget for the project.

How to budget a video:

7. Your video doesn’t support your brand.

Too often, videos are created in isolation. Video should never be a stand-alone endeavour. Your brand is the sum total of all of the experiences people have with your company – that includes video. Your video has to support and complement the tone and key messages that you want associated with your brand. (Warning: Wacky viral videos often do more harm than good.) Video production is not an isolated activity. Your video production company has to understand how you market your business and has to be willing and able to engage with your marketing department and /or the marketing agency that is helping guide your brand.

How to ensure your video complements and supports your brand:

  • Whoever is doing your video should work with your marketing folks to ensure that they have a clear understanding of your brand – what you stand for, what value you bring to the marketplace and how you want people to feel about your company.
  • It’s incumbent on you to ensure that the video production understands your business. Show them who you are, and what you stand for and show them examples of videos you like that you think reflect values and styles that are consistent with your brand. (Either yours or someone else’s.)
  • A video production brief is a great way to start your project.

8. Wrong type of video.

There are many different styles, structures and types of corporate video.  A thirty second pre-roll promotion video is probably too long and a one minute recruitment video is probably too short. Hiring actors to speak to a technical audience isn’t a good idea. Putting your President on camera may (or may not be) a good idea. A talking head is often a waste of time. A detailed technical video won’t resonate with people in the awareness phase of the sales cycle but can work very well for people in the consideration phase. What type of video you develop and what structure you use for the video is just as important as what messages you chose.

How to determine the best type of video to use for your marketing promotion:

Do your research. Here are 51 different types of video you can develop to promote your business.

9. No call to action.

What do you want people to do after they have watched your video? If you don’t know, your viewer won’t either.

Add a call to action in your video.

10. No distribution, SEO or promotion plan.

Did anyone actually watch your video? Even if your video is amazing, if no one sees it you’ve wasted your money. Making a great video is just the first step.

How should I promote my video:

  • Are you optimizing a webpage on your website with keywords to help promote the video?
  • Are you promoting the video on industry portals or other related sites where you intended audience might be?
  • Have you developed an email campaign to promote the video to your key audiences?
  • Do you have a process to move prospective viewers through your sales cycle once they have viewed the video?
  • Have you tested the video before widely launching it to make sure it accomplishes what you want it to?
  • Do you have any budget for changes or do you assume that you’ll get it exactly right the first time through?
  • Do you have a social media campaign, a PR campaign or some other promotional activity to build interest and awareness for the video?
  • Are you placing the video on social video platforms like Youtube, Vimeo or Daily Motion?
  • Do you have a plan in place to measure any of the above?

The video production piece (shooting and editing) represents about 1/3 of the total value in the video development process. Planning (building the right messages for your audience) and promotion (making sure the video is seen) are both just as important.

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Note: This post is also found in the Top Ten Posts for this blog.

23 thoughts on “Top Ten Reasons Why Your Last Video Project Failed (…and ten solutions to those problems)

  1. Very helpful. Thanks for the direction, which was just as valuable (if not more valuable) than the cost information.

  2. Jimm…I enjoy your writing, extremely informative and well thought out. I’m a firm believer that authenticity is a requirement in a successful video. I’d say your first point embodies that as well. Great content.

    • Scott, great point. There are still examples of over-the-top, zany, whacky videos that produce results but there’s no question that authenticity is the new coin of the digital realm.

  3. Your video can be entertaining, but if it doesn’t have a clear message, you won’t achieve your production goals. You want to make sure people know what you’re selling. Thanks for sharing this.

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