OK, yes, it’s true: there are in fact numerous errors that can be made when planning or hiring professionals for a video production. So how can only one be prioritized?
In my years of producing over 1000 videos for TV, web and social media, the #1 error that I encounter boils down to this: Someone with good intentions and influence — usually an executive or business owner — initiates a project by saying, “I’ve got a great idea for a commercial. Let’s get it made.”
Indeed, this is a source of good business for video production
professionals. And having a clear vision can make the process of
creating a video more efficient. But it’s usually ‘not’ the best way to
represent a company’s economic and/or marketing interests — particularly
Does this mean it’s always bad? No. But the odds are stacked against
any gut instincts when such may lack the experience to embrace all the
factors that make a successful video — whether that be a brief
commercial or something more substantial.
A better approach would be “We should consider video. Let’s explore this.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that one’s gut instincts or
inspired ideas should be ignored. The idea could be valuable to
informing the general concept. But it would be wiser to consider such
within the context of what you’re trying to achieve in parallel with
To put this in perspective let’s explore a few key points.
First of all, it’s common that an inspired video idea might be beyond one’s budget, which would immediately curtail the project.
Secondly, is the budget just to produce the video? Or does it also include money for broadcasting, distributing or in some way getting the video seen?
Sure, you could post it on Facebook and YouTube for free. But if you spent any meaningful resources on the video, the likelihood that it will generate enough exposure to make the project a success is low. (Viral videos are an exception to the rule, in the same way that winning the lottery is an exception to sound financial planning).
By the way, using Facebook and YouTube as part of a strategy to get
your video seen is quite relevant. But getting it viewed is only
reliable if you are “paying” to put it in front of the right viewers on
YouTube and Facebook, not just posting it online.
Thirdly, if the video is intended to be used as part of a sales strategy, the idea of “return on investment” becomes a factor, and here the variables can become capricious. (Good news follows below in this article regarding how to make the ROI more predictable).
It could be argued that this next point should also be under the
heading of “budget,” since the lack of a strategic vision, all in
addition to a video vision, could contribute to inefficiency and waste.
Nevertheless, its singular importance deserves its own heading.
You can ignore this if you are a marketing professional, since it’s so obvious you would not overlook it. But I’ve observed this to be true even with business executives who achieved a certain level of success in the past through their inherent marketing savvy. You could say they allowed their own enthusiasm for a video project to eclipse the fundamental context of their existing marketing strategy.
Stated another way, does one’s “inspired idea” or “gut instinct” for a video actually align with any existing company messaging?
If you want to get the most bang for your buck, your video
should align with your current marketing materials so that all your
messaging presents a unified presentation.
Unless, of course, a whole new campaign is envisioned, which would
then include new messaging for your website, newsletter, printed
materials and other advertising. Specifically, if you decide you want to
go after a younger demographic by making a commercial or promotional
video series targeted to the younger generation, but your website and
messaging is written for a different demographic, then the dissonance in
your strategic implementation will reduce the effectiveness of your
“OK,” you may say, “That’s too obvious.” And so right you are. But let’s get a little more nuanced.
Let’s say you’re a tech company and your website and existing
promotional materials all emphasize your cool hardware. But you are
inspired to explore a “more human approach” to your company’s
presentation by emphasizing the benefits of your products or services
over and above the technology, by conveying a touching story. Such is
fine and opportune as a vision. But it should also be represented on
your company website in pictures and words as well as any other
marketing channels in use. Not just in the video.
Video is such a potent way to convey messaging that a one-off production that does not fit into a broader strategic plan is rarely going to be as effective as one that fits into a holistic strategy for your entire business or nonprofit.
MESSAGE AND VIDEO TESTING
OK, this next point is not without controversy to smaller businesses,
even though its merits are inarguable. It’s just that its value becomes
even more important as your budget becomes more meaningful.
A core problem that many small and medium-sized businesses have is
related to strategic implementation — or more specifically, lack of
strategy to begin with. In my experience, a number of businesses view
marketing and advertising as “let’s try this and see if it works.” Given
that as a starting point, always bet that it won’t work and you’ll be
living a lavish life versus anyone who would bet against you.
Of course, it could be argued that such an approach is the result of business owners or execs being too busy to understand that every marketing channel, whether that be email marketing, display advertising, search marketing, commercials or any type of video promotion, has its own factors that should be respected for optimum results.
The good news is that your marketing/advertising ROI can be
optimized. As well, your strategy can be informed and refined by data.
That data needs to be derived by message testing, which is a disciplined
comparative analysis of how to represent your own products or services.
In practice, there is much that can be known about this topic. But to
keep this brief for any reader unfamiliar with the subject, the idea of
testing is to present multiple ads or messages at a time (to different
viewers) for comparison. Always present at least two. Online, it’s
relatively simple to test many different ads at one time, which are
swapped out in real time to different viewers. In other words, viewer
“A” sees one ad or message and in the same instant viewer “B” can be
shown a different version of the same ad. The marketer then analyzes the
data to determine which ad or message generated the most desirable
response. The ad with the best response becomes the “control” ad and
then new ones are compared against that to find an even better
performing control message.
Not only can this be done with video itself, but it can be done
before you produce the video. By testing messaging via simple online
text ads, you are then better informed to approve video scripts that you
already know will perform better. (Read “better return on investment”).
And then after you get to to the video production, you can create
inexpensive variations of your video messaging to further refine
performance. For example, sometimes you’ll find that a woman
spokesperson will perform better than a man. Other times, it’s the
opposite. Sometimes an older actor will engender more response,
sometimes younger. Sometimes it’s obvious. For example if you are
selling to a mature or young demographic it’s best to feature those
kinds of people in your video. Other times it may not be so intuitive.
For example, you may be targeting grandparents by featuring young
children who would represent the viewers’ own grandchildren for the
purpose of selling childrens toys or clothes to the grandparents.
Although testing is an ironclad path towards greater video
performance, as well as more effective marketing, advertising and
messaging in general, the argument against it, typically for small
businesses, is that it takes longer and costs more. That can’t be
ignored. It does take more time and resources. But when done well, the
whole point is to generate a higher ROI on your marketing and
Testing is how you can build more predictability into your ROI. And
by the way, in some cases, testing inexpensive online text ads before
moving to video may demonstrate early on that your gut instinct for a
great video doesn’t seem to generate the positive traction you were
desiring and you may determine to “not” produce the very vision that
initially inspired this exploration.
Testing is not only the path towards more effective video production. It’s the path towards marketing and advertising success.
Of course none of the above deals with the details regarding pressing
“record” on a video camera. For those familiar with the overarching
three phases of the video production process (pre-production, production
and post-production), the above would be categorized as planning and
A briefer statement regarding the #1 error in commercial video production would be neglecting that the more you invest in pre-production and planning, the better your ultimate results.
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