Previously we shared some tips for how to develop DIY video; today we’re going to take a look at what you should expect — and how you can prepare — if you’re considering hiring some outside help to create your marketing video.
We contacted four leading video production companies to get their take on what questions small businesses should ask, what they should have prepared beforehand, how much they should budget and what the key ingredients are to developing effective video content.
What should a business consider before deciding on making a video?
Tyler Mose: Who are we trying to push this messaging out to? What's our goal with the content? Who in our organization will use this and how? Where will we display this, platform wise? What's our story and what type of look, vibe, and feel do we want to display to viewers/ customers?
Jerry Jacobs: How long will you make use of the video? This question may help to speak to the issue of the investment that will be needed. You need to make sure you are going to be happy with the end results, you may be living with it for a while.
What should businesses have prepared before contacting a production company?
T.W. Li: The more thought you put into your video, the better, but if you don’t have to have a script or even a written description, I think what you have to ask yourself is, “What do I want this video to achieve?” After your audience watches the video, what do you want them to know or feel?
James Haba: The more you prepare, the more likely you will achieve your desired outcome. A goal or a plan puts everyone on the same page so there is focus from the start. If you and 6 friends wanted to go out to dinner, you’d probably have some kind of a plan, after all.
Having a pretty good idea of what needs to be accomplished saves the business time and money.
"I think what you have to ask yourself is,'What do I want this video to achieve?'" - T.W. Li
What questions should businesses ask production companies before making a decision?
T.W. Li: When deciding on a producer for your video, I think the decision should be based on a combination of things. It shouldn’t be only the portfolio or the cost. The real key is whether the producer really understands your vision, needs, and goals. Will this producer be able to adapt to the way you like to work, or the way your boss or your committee needs things to be? Are they flexible, and can they fit with your culture?
It’s really all about service.
James Haba: One great question to ask is, “Who will be the producer for this job and can I talk to that person?” Lots of people can sell, but the producer is the one who guides the entire project, organizes crew and equipment, and safeguards the client’s message.
To embrace the client’s vision, the producer needs to start by asking big picture questions. These include: Who is the audience? What is the message? How do we know we have achieved our goal? By listening to these answers, the producer can get a pretty accurate picture of what the client wants.
After chatting with the producer for a while then ask yourself, “Do they seem to understand what I want?” and “Are they able to guide me so that I can understand the process and can make informed decisions?”
Follow your instincts. Most people may not know if the person is really qualified or not, but they suspect!
How much guidance can a small business expect throughout the process?
T.W. Li: Any good video company should offer as much guidance as you want. If the people you’re working seem unforthcoming, or stingy with their time, that’s usually a sign that they do not value your project.
There are also video companies that seem to want the whole process to be communicated with PDFs, questionnaires, and checklists. This is usually an attempt to put as much of the work as possible on their clients. That video company approaches their projects like it’s fast food — pick a number and they’ll serve up a package of pre-made clichés.
Jerry Jacobs: Our clients run the gamut of those that need a lot to a little. This comes under the heading of service. If you’ve settled on the cheapest bid possible, don’t expect much. For our company we are proactive about it and offer a lot. We want our clients to return to us because they’ve had a good experience and are happy with the final product too.
"One great question to ask is, 'Who will be the producer for this job and can I talk to that person?'" - James Haba
How much should a company budget to make a video?
James Haba: Ahh, the big question asked by everyone. My answer is always the same, what do you want to do? It’s like asking how much will it cost to go out to dinner, it’s all food, but obviously steak will be more than a burger.
It could be a video that will only play in house (no customers) and is 90 seconds of the CEO delivering some message, for example. This is way different video than 90 seconds of testimonials and drone shots from six locations across the country.
Bottom line, there’s really no set answer. You can make a video for $5,000 or $25,000, they’re just going to be different videos. This can be brought into better clarity if the client asks themselves: Who’s going to see it and how good does it need to be?
If it’s for training use in-house, it probably just needs to have a clear image and sound. On the other hand, if you’re selling your product to the outside world, it should have a bit more polish because now it’s about presenting the company and how you are perceived in the market place.
Jerry Jacobs: A few examples to consider when it comes to budgeting…
- A 10 minute on-camera video of a message from the president containing no cutaways and only adding a video title frame and a name/title of the person speaking. This bid could also include a teleprompter and minimal video editing. Starting at about $2,600.
- Shoot and edit a 3-hour business seminar (with simple requirements) - $3,700.
- A full blown 1 to 4-minute video that includes writing a script, video shooting, minimal graphic design, professional narrator, library music, audio studio, video editing and compression - can start at $6,400.
A general thought on budget. The same 1 to 4-minute video described above might be better served by spending more time gathering additional shots, spending more time on graphics or on editing. All of that can cost more but may deliver an even better end product. It all depends on what you want.
T.W. Li: Cost is only partly related to the duration of the video, but if you only have $2-3,000, you will be limited in your creative options. If you can afford to work in the $8-15K area, you’ll be able to have the things that make a video more professional looking – art direction, lighting, a hair and make-up person, a setting that’s more creative than your conference room, and so on.
Tyler Mose: This really all depends on time and materials. The larger they want to go on the production end in regard to locations, people within the production, graphics/animation the higher the cost. If it's something as simple as 2 to 3 locations and staff/team members, they'd be looking at something in the range of $5K - $10K.
In your opinion, what makes a successful video?
Jerry Jacobs: A good script with a clear vision is a blueprint for a successful video. It’s a roadmap to success and something everyone involved can agree to before the majority of the production budget is spent. It specifically details what will be seen and said. It defines and executes all of the objectives. Like how a cookbook is instructional to preparing a good meal, a video script is an interim step to the production of the final video. In the hands of a professional with great techniques and creative ideas a chef or a video producer can do really good work. In the hands of someone less qualified… well you get the idea.
T.W. Li: It really depends on a lot of things, but if I had to pick one, I’d say solid pre-production. Careful planning and thoughtful scriptwriting are among the most important elements for success. Also, budget and plan for the ideas you haven’t thought of yet. Leave yourself some room so when a good idea presents itself you can act on it to make your good video a great video.
James Haba: Did the video deliver the intended message to the intended audience? This is also part of safeguarding the client’s message. Businesses sometimes try to make one video that does everything; sales, marketing, training and troubleshooting to name a few. The problem becomes if everything is important, then by default nothing is.
What is our message and who is our audience? A good producer will ask the client about things that don’t seem to fit that goal and suggest options.
Tyler Mose: Energy, transparency, great narrative, motion and storytelling. You need to put your best cheerleaders on camera that have enthusiasm. People feed on one another’s energy. If you have energy for your product or service, then you need to display this to your consumers with a great story to connect emotionally.
Lifestyle brands are becoming more and more the norm everyday. Storytelling helps to showcase your story and people connect with this. They have no idea what you do and need to be able to understand that quickly – make your story simple and brief.