Video can be a powerful and effective marketing tool for businesses any size. The medium can help startups get visibility and allow the biggest brands in the world to connect with millions.
We’ve seen startups, such as the Dollar Shave Club, make their debut incredibly powerful because of a catchy, viral video. We’ve also seen brands such as Doritos make everyone laugh and create viral success after viral success, they have even used them as Superbowl commercials.
Video is a Medium on the Rise
Video is a great medium because it’s within reach for any business. Yes, production value makes a big impact on what budget is necessary to achieve something. But if your expectations are reasonable there’s probably a good company out there who is a good fit. And, what’s more important than production value? Storytelling.
This post will show you how to fine tune your project goals as an organization, how to prepare for your video and what to (and what not to) look for in a potential creative partner for video. Most importantly, this post will help you ensure your story comes across and connects with your customers, fans, and audience.
In today’s digital world, we know that geography doesn’t impact who you work with very much. Does geography limit your reach to potential customers?
YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and other video networks have users everywhere, and your customers are, too. The most important strategy is to remain authentic.
Defining Purpose and Project Goals
Projects with goals are always more successful than those without goals. Why? For one, everyone involved has something to track their efforts towards. It’s difficult to just make something cool without much purpose behind what’s ‘cool’ or even defining what ‘cool’ is- since it’s subjective.
Defining goals means that you’re organized and have a purpose. Typically, a video production team can help you work through this, but doing a little homework beforehand will benefit you in the long run.
Why are we making a video for my product/service/launch?
What do we want people to walk away with?
How will this connect with our core audience?
What impact do we want this video to have?
Every project has it’s own set of parameters, from budget to timing, location and distribution plan. These parameters are not limitations but challenges, and this is part of the reason you’re hiring a production company- to work through the diverse and complicated landscape that you don’t have a ton of experience in.
The biggest asset you have is knowing your brand, your customers, and the benefit of what works, how it works and why it works. This information and insight is the equivalent of gold to any production. All this boils down to the why.
Why? The Most Important Question to Ask Yourself Before a Project
We first need to understand why. Why the product exists, how it helps your customers, why others need this product or service. These are challenges that every marketer needs to ask themselves. Once you understand and are clear on the why, you can set goals. Let’s not put the cart before the horse.
The why of your project defines the purpose. When defining your purpose, ask yourself:
Who are we trying to reach?
Why are we doing it this way?
Why does this video exists to begin with?
How does this improve my customers lives?
When will our audience take action? (and what action do I want them to take?)
What will our intended audience tell their friends?
Defining purpose is less concrete than specific goals, but also more high level. Sometimes, purpose is defined very early on in a product lifecycle, at the onset of product development. Other times, purpose might be the equivalent to your company’s existence.
For example, a product launch video’s purpose might be nearly identical to why a product was dreamt up and developed. Many crowdfunding videos fall into this category.
In these videos, it’s often important to explain why the product exists and how it’s going to improve customer’s lives.
Lifestyle brand’s purpose for videos may be to connect with fans in it’s simplest form. But that simple sentence can actually carry a lot of weight.
In order to truly make that connection, you really have to speak to, and identify with, your core audience. You have to make something click. You need to have your audience literally think “ah, ha!” when watching your video.
When this kind of connection happens, your goals will follow. Connection on this level will make your audience want to share your video, follow your brand on Instagram, and have them seek your brand message out as a guideline for their own lives. You become influential, and in turn they want to share that influence with their networks.
Essentially, when you create a connection so strong with a fan, the feeling they get when watching your video is the exact feeling they want someone else to feel after seeing their share. It’s an incredibly powerful tool.
This is why defining goals and purpose are so important.
Video is a medium on the rise.
How to Set Goals
As noted in our process, we start our creative process with a project brief that helps gather everyone’s thoughts. The exercise is really powerful in guiding you through a thought process that makes you think about what’s important (in terms of goals, areas of focus, and purpose) and separating what’s not important. The questions start off general (timeline, project description, etc.) and get more specific (3 project goals, customer demographics, etc.).
Often times when we’re working with larger organizations, the team will be made up of several people. Each person might have their own thoughts and opinions on the project, and our project brief allows them to talk through questions and goals and get on the same page internally as an organization. It also helps them understand one another better.
The project brief has two main benefits: getting you and us on the same page, but also you and your internal team.
All of this results in a better product in the end. We’re big fans of in-depth pre-production and definitely think it makes for a smoother production and post-production process.
Finding the right Video Production Company to Work With
The Internet has brought so many powerful distribution outlets for creatives, specifically for video, there are a number of channels, with YouTube being the most popular. You’ve probably seen incredible videos out there and thought to yourself how great it would be to do something like that for your brand or company, but don’t know where to start.
Creatives tend to hang out in a few places online. We love to give digital high-fives and share with our networks great work that inspires us.
As technology progresses and our tools allow us to do more, the overlap between sub communities merges. Cinematographers become photographers, editors become producers, musicians delve into motion and so forth.
The central location for this online is Vimeo. Vimeo prides itself on a high quality player and community for creatives. By and large the content on Vimeo is very high quality and there are plenty of groups supported by individuals who love sharing and curating work.
Finding an example can be a great first step in making a video. Once you do this you can easily check out the creator’s other work. Bookmark videos you like and dissect what you like about them. You can write down adjectives and other descriptors from each one such as:
Another great trick for Vimeo is to start following a few creators you like. In the “My Feed” tab on the homepage, you can quickly see when someone you follow has uploaded something new, like or commented on a video, appeared in another video and more. This will quickly introduce you to other people who’s work you might also like.
Be Prepared: Plan & Organize Your Video, then Reach Out
Once you have an idea of what you’re looking for it’s time to start planning out your video. The things you should be planning are logistics such as timing, target completion date, background info on company, goals, budget, distribution channels, etc.
Your company may already have the logistics worked out. If your deadline is based around an event, you can leverage preexisting marketing outlets with your video. If your target demographic is there, then a video can seamlessly be fit into the equation.
When you’re ready to approach a video production company, the more organized you come, the more likely you’ll start off on a good track (hint: read on for an example of this). Videos take time to produce and create, you’ll be spending a lot of time with this team. Working together goes a long way.
You know your company or product much better than the production company will. Be prepared to bring them up to speed on who you are and what your goals are. Don’t worry about creative idea or execution, this is why you’re partnering with them, they will be happy to help you along this path.
Also share with them any restrictions you might have. Is there a hard deadline for this project? What’s driving that? Do you have budget limitations (yes, everyone does) and what are they?
It’s okay to ask for a few ideas from the creative and get an explanation of what each project looks like. Ask yourself the potential ROI of each of them.
When you have a plan and a few potential creators, reach out to them. I’ve found it best to be more detailed up front and get the dialog going right away. Plus, the more details you can provide the less you’ll have to repeat during conference calls.
The details you’ve outlined and adjectives will give the production company a head start on what this project entails going into it. If there’s a project of theirs that you particularly like mention what you like about it and why.
Everyone you talk to will probably have their own way of approaching projects. For us, it starts with the creative brief. We hold off on sharing creative ideas before then because everything we do has a purpose. We’re constantly asking ourselves “Why?” We are so curious we like to peel back layer after layer, until we find the meaning of our project.
Whoever you end up working with, it’s part of their job to create or develop the story your company is telling. Research, scouting locations, talking to potential characters and thinking outside the box can really go a long way.
When we approach projects we like to get the jist of what we’re dealing with, but we like to peel back each layer ourselves. This is how we connect with people, and our audience will have the same feeling.
We do this because we’re storytellers and we have to know how we’re going to structure our story. Settings, demographics, location, etc all play into our storytelling, too.
Others might not do this or have their own approach. Whichever way works for them you should respect it. You’re talking to them for a reason- you like their work and might want them to make something with you. The last thing I would recommend is trying to mix a few things up and end up with a subpar project.
When HouseCall first approached us about their explainer video they had this crazy and ambitious idea. It was complex, involved multiple shoot locations and days and had a somewhat convoluted storyline.
Their idea came out in our first meeting, after a couple of phone calls back and forth. We knew their (yet to be released) product, we knew their market and who they were targeting, we knew YouTube was the primary distribution channels and that the video would be accompanied with press releases. We knew their budget and we knew it was a good fit for each other.
Their idea was too ambitious. Their budget didn’t support it and they were taking a simple idea and making it complex. It sounded good in pitch form, but after producing videos for more than 12 years I knew it was too much, and I had to shut it down.
Taking all the information from our conversations we had and the info from the project brief, we started dreaming up a few ideas. I pitched them the idea for a single take walk through that showed the before and after in one-take. They loved it and that’s what we executed.
The Projects We Look For
While there are plenty of dream projects we’d love to be a part of, we do have to work with limitations on every project. Our best work has always been the projects that sometimes seemed too lofty or the project our client had always been dreaming of tackling. This is why we’re here, after all, to support and work with our clients.
The projects that we’re dying to make are:
- A brand new product launch: The thing you’ve been working on for 2+ years and is really going to make an impact on your company, industry and customer’s lives. We love this!
- Lifestyle, Sports, Technology, Nature: This pretty much sums us up. Anything related to this and you’ve already got our undivided attention. This is what earned us an Emmy-Award nomination. If you really want to push it creatively we may just end up becoming best friends.
- Something that’s never been done before. We’re explorers and creatives, we love challenging ourselves and dreaming of what’s possible. If there’s a story to tell and a way to connect with your audience, we’ll figure that out and make something remarkable.
- Traveling to the edge of the world, and back: We cut our teeth traveling and have flown around the world many, many times. Not only are we expert navigators dealing with complex logistics, chances are we know local resources wherever it is your story takes us, making things all that much easier.
- Storytelling. While there’s a story behind everything, this is what we do best. Sometimes you have to peel back the layers and find the story that will really catch on with your audience. It sounds hard but don’t worry, that what we’re here for.
Also, in the interests of saving all of us some time, here are the projects we’re not a good fit for:
- You’re shopping for the lowest price: Everything we do is based on value and we only take on projects where we feel you can make more money than you pay us. We don’t compete on price and don’t even have rates. Want to know more about how we price projects, we wrote this nifty guide on how our projects are priced. Value pricing has been incredibly beneficial those we work with.
- Projects that need to be done right away: There are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, the project you need completed in 3 days isn’t a good fit for us. We have a process and the only way we can be sure you’ll get value out of what we make together is to stick to that process. Hint: Generally speaking, it usually takes 8-12 weeks from start to completion for any given video production project.
- The project you “just need done.” Filmmaking is a collaborational effort. And while the level of collaboration can vary between you and us, we’ll need your input. Plus, if you already have it all worked out we probably can’t add much value. We prefer to work through and solve problems together.
- Onerous contractual terms: As I said earlier, video is a collaborative effort, and our agreement should be mutually beneficial, too. We feel so strongly about this that we made our contract open-source. If we end up working together this is where we’ll start.
There are many incredible creative communities out there. Finding the right fit for you, your team and/or your project is incredibly valuable. Taking the advice in this post and reaching out to a creative production company or agency can be the foundation that you need to take your project, and your company, to the next level.
If you’d like to reach out to TAR Productions please do so or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell us a little bit about your project, why you’re doing it and why you think everyone will love it. We love hearing from everyone and look forward to our next creative project.
Don’t know where to start or how to reach out? Use this template as a guide, edit as needed to suit your needs.
Hi TAR Productions,
I was checking out your work online and really impressed. My friend [Suzanne Smith] recommended I get in touch with after I told her about a project my team has been working on.
I’m a marketing manager at [Under Armor] and we’re launching a [new line of product based around our new breakthrough, sweatproof technology for triathletes, cyclists and swimmers]. We’ve been working on it internally for 2+ years and it’s going to launch in the next 6 months, in time for the triathlon season to start. I’d love to partner with you on an awesome video that will take the product launch to the next level.
We’ll need to really make an impact with our core customers but also reach out non-endemic customers as we believe this product will have a positive effects on anyone doing general training as well.
You’ll be working with myself and our CMO, so we can move pretty quickly. We need to keep our budget in the $90k-$115k range, but might be able to allocate a bit more if the right creative idea were to present itself.
I’m happy to provide more details and I look forward to speaking with you guys about your process and how you might be able to help us make this launch a success.
Some of our favorite projects turn out to be so great because of the people we’re working with. Often times we remain friends with these clients. The one commonality between all of them is each project was kicked off with excitement and a mutual understanding and respect for one another.
Creating a video is a collaboration and emails like the above example make us feel good about the project. It makes us care even more and want to produce the best work we can. These situations make it feel less like a job and more a journey that we get to go on together.