A marketing professional’s essential guide to commissioning and delivering business videos.
Introduction: Tell your story with video
Video is an invaluable tool for any business needing to communicate with investors, staff, suppliers or customers. In the last decade it’s become as ubiquitous as a business card. It’s an essential medium to present information about your business to today’s hyper-click-through society. The evidence is overwhelming, without professionally-made videos, a business will lose custom to their competitors.
90% of customers say videos help them make buying decisions
Video on landing pages can increase conversion rates by over 80%
But videos done well require planning, research and trained professionals who are experienced in producing videos day by day.
It’s a craft that requires an immense amount of training and constant development.
Choosing the right professional Filmmaker, knowing what to expect, and working with your videographer effectively can be challenging. Unless you have some knowledge of the process and can productively collaborate with your Filmmaker, achieving a video that meets your objectives can be stressful and unsatisfying.
This guide is designed to give you core knowledge of the video production process, how to define objectives for the video, choosing a Filmmaker and how much involvement is needed at the various stages of the process. It also highlights likely pitfalls and helps to reduce potential conflict points between client and Filmmaker when expectations are mismatched, thus keeping the project on time and budget.
Ultimately the intention is to educate and inform, hopefully leading to a rewarding video production experience and long term relationship between you and your video production provider.
If video is the answer, then what is the problem?
Before you engage a professional Filmmaker or production company, a good place to start is to jot down some answers to these questions:
Who is your audience?
What type of video do you need and what should it deliver?
Is there a particular style of video you want?
What is your budget
Define the target audience
As with any marketing project, you need to define your audience first.
Who do you want to watch your video?
- Will they be a captive audience or do you need to drive them to your video?
Before we go further, a quick word about terminology. I generally use the term ‘Filmmaker’, however, this could equally be a Videographer, Video Producer or Production Company. The important thing is that whichever professional or organisation you work with, they have the right skill set or experience to produce a video that meets your objectives.
Similarly, Film and Video are largely interchangeable. Pretty much everything is produced with digital video these days, except from the occasional art film which may be shot on actual celluloid film. So for general use, Film and Video mean the same thing.
A ‘Shoot’ is the filming of the live action content.
The ‘Edit’ is the process of bringing all the content together and assembling it into a video with sound.
The Footage is the material that is actually filmed, also sometimes called Rushes.
- If they are customers, can they be defined by demography or location?
Are they new customers or existing?
How else can you define your audience?
What channels, eg: facebook, website, events will they be looking at?
Select the type of video and what it needs to deliver
Once you’ve decided on the target audience, then give some thought to the type of video you need. The type of video is decided by:
The chosen audience.
The relationship the audience has with your business.
Whether your audience are customers and where on the buyer journey they are.
The message you are trying to communicate.
Here’s a list of the most common types of business videos.
Brand awareness video This addresses what your brand is and why the viewer should care. Takes a viewer from zero knowledge of your brand to recognition or brings previous knowledge of the brand to the forefront of the viewers attention.
Educational videos The purpose here is to share information with the viewer so they learn and gain knowledge on a subject.
Product or demo videos These describe a product or service. They familiarise the viewer with how the product looks, works and what benefits it offers.
Company culture videos People buy from companies they like and share values with. Culture videos present a company’s values, story and work ethos. They are used to generate trust in the company and can be aimed at potential customers, investors and future employees.
Explainer or Instructional videos Different from educational videos, these present the step by step of how a product, service, or business process works. By showing as well as telling, the viewer will get a more useful experience than reading an instruction manual.
Case study or Testimonial videos The most valuable marketing is that done by satisfied customers. Ask any previous customers if they mind giving your business or an employee a testimonial. Even if they’re camera shy there’s other effective ways to get that invaluable content onto a video.
FAQs These are especially useful if the answers are clearer when shown to the viewer or they demonstrate how a particular product feature should work.
Training videos These are similar to instructional videos, but focussed on internal knowledge building with your team. Especially useful for remote workers. Can be used for presenting any business process or announcement: sales; marketing; health & safety to name a few.
High value tip
Many of these video types will have overlapping content. Talk to your filmmaker about shooting for more than one video even if you plan to produce it a few months later, thus saving time and costs.
Corporate messages When it can’t be done in person, but your CEO needs to address the entire company, a professionally-shot video carries the gravitas required for those big strategic messages.
A 360 degree experience immerses the viewer in a location where they can look around. These are very popular in the property sector and for exhibitions.
Choose the styles that meet your objectives
Don’t get too hung up on this now, budget and logistics may limit the possibilities and your chosen Filmmaker will be able to add guidance on these. Being ready to show your Filmmaker some examples of other work often helps.
1. Drama / story style
2. Interview led
3. Documentary / narrated style
4. Live action or motion graphics / animation
What's your budget?
You need to have a rough idea of budget and be willing to share that with your chosen Filmmaker. If they know what resources are available they can plan appropriately. If they don’t have a rough idea of what your business is willing to spend they may well come back with an impossible proposal for you. This will leave you unsatisfied and waste a lot of their time. It’s fine to give a budget range, but be fair.
Choosing a Filmmaker
Like designers, copywriters and photographers, professional Filmmakers come with many diverse skill sets and varying degrees of experience and knowledge about your industry.
There are specialists and generalists, the experienced and the novice, technical wizards and creative geniuses. So how do you choose the right professional
Filmmaker for your business video project?
Do have a look at their website or YouTube channel and see what videos they have that shows their work.
When I judge the work of Filmmakers, I apply the 70:30 rule: 70% importance to technical proficiency, eg: focus; exposure; framing and a mastery of the basic skills and 30% to creativity. The measure of any video must be how accessible it is to the viewer. If they find it awkward or uncomfortable to watch then they’ll either click away at speed, disengage or worse, they’ll equate the quality of the video and the quality of your brand.
Filmmaking is a collaborative process, so it’s important that you’re able to talk freely to the Filmmaker. Do they appear intuitively aware of the problems that your video needs to solve? Are they coming up with ideas?
Even if you like their work and feel you can quickly build a strong rapport with them, it’s important to ask the following questions?
Have you made any similar videos previously or worked within our industry?
How many review / revision cycles are included?
Do you have public liability insurance, and how much per claim?
What are your cancellation / postponement terms?
What is the risk of overrun and how much is the contingency budget?
The amount of planning involved depends on the complexity and scope of your video project. At the very least your Filmmaker should provide you with a brief synopsis of what they are aiming to achieve and a schedule.
You would need to check the synopsis meets your objectives and solves the problem you’ve identified. You should also provide them with any brand guidance at this point, especially regarding colours and themes that are important to include or even exclude.
More complex projects might necessitate a storyboard and script. You would need to approve these before the shoot is confirmed.
Likewise if the video features acting talent, voiceover or key locations then you might either want to choose these yourself or confirm that the Filmmaker’s choice aligns with your brand and objectives for the video.
The Filmmaker will likely want to perform a ‘Location Recce’ (reconnaissance)
If this is a location within your business then you can help by making this available to the Filmmaker and be ready to answer many questions about it.
The Filmmaker will judge the suitability of the location for the shoot. Of particular interest is whether there is sufficient space, are their external noises? is there enough natural or artificial light? is there ease of access and facilities?
They will tell you if an alternative location needs to be found. It would also be a good idea for the Filmmaker to meet any of the interviewees in advance of the shoot.
Before the shoot the Filmmaker should provide you with a rough / detailed schedule and what contingencies have been made for non-cooperative weather or technical difficulties.
They may also provide you with a list of resources required that you would need to provide on shoot day. Usually this will be limited to items you would source from within your own company.
Shoot days are fun, dramatic, surprising, thrilling and so much more. It’s the culmination of all the planning and still amazes me that so many things can come together successfully.
Be on-hand to answer questions and support the crew, interviewees and talent if needed.
Your perspective as the client is valuable so you’ll be asked for your opinion on various shots and setups during the day. This is not the time to rewrite the script, or change core concepts but fine tuning and polishing the ideas is welcome.
The Edit: Be involved, at a distance
After the filming is the post-production stage, known as post. The post process includes, editing, sound design and mixing, colour grading, titling and graphics. It’s where the pictures and sound come together and are crafted into a flowing film.
Many professional Filmmakers like to work through the edit on their own, involving you the client, a little at first and then more frequently towards the end.
There’s a fine line between too much involvement, which can curtail creativity and is usually quite dull for onlookers, and too little, where the Filmmaker gets so far down the line that small changes become a big deal to implement.
Here’s where the relationship you’ve built with the Filmmaker is key. It’s fair to ask for updates and oversight, but if you’ve picked the right person, then trust in their professionalism.
During post-production, films often evolve in ways not previously imagined and usually end up much better for it. Be open to creativity and small changes to the original plan and enjoy the magic, but don’t lose sight of your objectives.
Similarly, if the Filmmaker sends you a ‘draft’ or ‘rough cut’, there is likely to be many areas that look unfinished. It’s easy to get enthusiastic and list the finer details of everything you feel needs attention. Save your time and ask the Filmmaker the specific areas you need to be looking at and assessing.
At the ‘rough cut’ stage, it’s likely they’re asking your opinion on structure, story and content rather than the finer details.
Work with the Filmmaker to get the best out of the content and ideas. It may take several iterations before you are completely happy with the film, this is a natural part of the editing journey and should be embraced.
The video’s finished, now what?
Brilliant, well done, you have a great new video that surpasses all your expectations. Your boss is delighted and you’re glowing with accomplished pride. You can’t wait to get the video out on social media. In your agreement with your Filmmaker you should both be clear as to what delivery formats or distribution channels the video is intended for, ideally before the shoot.
High value tipIf you require multiple distribution channels then the Filmmaker should take a Highest Common Denominator approach before the shoot. Ie: Produce the content for the distribution channel that requires the highest technical specification and then reduce down for the others.
|By that I mean: websites; social media channels; events and exhibitions; a conference room setting; television ad, cinema etc… There are many.
Sometimes a video produced for one type of channel cannot be reformatted easily for a different one.
Compromises may have to be made in terms of cropping the image.. In some cases, particularly motion graphics, the content will need to be reproduced, adding costs.
The right Rights
I’m not a legal expert and you should of course get your own professional legal advice about any of the content here, but these are some pointers to the legal areas that can crop up from time to time.
When somebody films and produces a video for you, Who owns the rights to the material or content? What can you use it for? Are you permitted to use the material for any purposes you want?
Before you sign a contract with a production company, be sure to ask about copyright. Just because you are commissioning or paying for the video does not mean you automatically have unlimited rights to all the material recorded or in the finished video.
Usually, the opposite is true. The Filmmaker will grant you a license to use the completed work for the intended purpose and they will retain the rights to all material they create. This is broadly similar to how photographers have operated for decades.
By following the steps in this guide and engaging a professional Filmmaker who’ll take your ideas, produce a clear concept, shooting plan and finished video, the complexity and risk of producing a business film is significantly reduced.
In the end you’ll have a better film that contains the right message, focussed at your target audience, within a predictable timeframe and budget..
Good luck and enjoy your films