There are tons of options in the marketplace when it comes to companies who will create video assets for your company.
Most business owners, and even many marketers, have very little subject matter expertise and experience regarding video production. So, it makes sense that they may find it to be a difficult challenge when it comes to making an educated decision about hiring a video production agency.
If you’ve never been through the process before, or even if you have, it can be very difficult to know how to evaluate proposals from production agencies. How do you know if you’re getting adequate value for their price? How will you measure ROI for what you spend?
As a member of the sales team at IMPACT, I’ve helped dozens of companies evaluate and execute video projects. Before I came to IMPACT, I was the content marketing manager at ACIS Educational Tours where I both led video production projects internally as well as evaluated and hired outside production vendors.
All that to say, I know a thing or two about evaluating production agencies for video projects.
Having been through this process on both sides of the table many times, here are five questions worth asking every production agency interested in producing videos for your business.
1. How much does a video project cost and why?
This one might seem obvious. You don’t need me to tell you to ask how much the project will cost.
Understanding why agencies charge what they do is critical before you judge whether the price tag is worth it or not. How production agencies outline their pricing speaks volumes to how process-oriented they are. If they give you a flat fee of let’s say $10k and simply tell you that it costs this much because they’re worth it, that should raise a red flag.
I’m not saying production agencies who ask for high fees aren’t worth the cost. I am, however, saying production companies who ask for high fees but will not take the time to educate you on how and why they arrived at the price they did, are a cause for concern.
Some aspects of video production pricing to consider:
Do they break the project into three categories: pre-production, filming, and post-production?
Do they give you itemized pricing around days of filming and minutes of edited footage so you know exactly where your investment is going?
Do they respond to budgetary challenges without completely arbitrarily discounting their service (revealing a lack of thought into their pricing model) or rigidly standing by their pricing (revealing a lack of flexibility and compromise)? Or do they work within your budget to create a solution that works for both parties?
2. Do you have a strategy for how to leverage the videos in our sales and marketing once they’re finished?
Some agencies believe that realizing ROI from the thousands of dollars you invested to create those video assets isn’t their responsibility, it’s yours.
You want to partner with an agency that takes the time during the pre-production process to understand your business, your sales process, and your prospects.
Imagine if you invested tens of thousands of dollars in a redesigned website. Your new website looks great and uplifts your brand but doesn’t help generate leads and sales. Would you be happy with your investment? Would your agency?
We think a video production partnership should be based on the same expectations. Creating video assets shouldn’t be just a branding exercise. Videos, if they’re made with the right strategy, should help your sales team close more deals or drive demand in the form of leads and traffic. The videos you produce must be in the context of your larger sales and marketing strategy, and your agency needs to take that larger strategy and integrate it into the video’s they’ll help produce for you.
You may be asking for or being pitched to do a single big budget “who we are” video. Take it from our experience working with dozens of organizations on this: spending a lot of money on one big budget video that will live on your homepage, your social media pages, and be in all of your sales reps email signatures isn’t going to cut it anymore.
82% of all internet traffic will be to consume video-based content by 2021 according to a study by Cisco. Spending a lot of money on one video with no plan for how to leverage it in your sales process is an outdated strategy and it’s not coming back anytime soon.
3. What’s your process (and is it detailed and thorough)?
Seeing a video, a collection of videos or, even worse, an agency’s promo reel and thinking you’ve seen enough to evaluate the production company is a mistake.
Why not judge them on their ‘final product,’ you ask? Well, the problem with that approach is an agency can send you the most amazing looking video that looks and sounds great, is engaging and illuminating and fits exactly your need, BUT you have no idea what the process was like to create that video. You don’t know if it was on time or on budget, how many edits it took to arrive at that point, or whether the featured company would ever hire that agency again.
That’s why asking about a production agency’s process is critical to your evaluation. Their ability to produce great work is certainly important, but if they’re a total mess process-wise they’ll be a nightmare to work with. Artistic geniuses are great for Hollywood, not for your business.
Ask them what to expect at each stage of the process:
How many revisions will be included in editing?
Who’s responsible for scripting and interviews?
How will they hit their promised timelines?
How much or little will your team need to be involved?
Will you be responsible for any aspects of the production process?
Will members of your team need to be on camera — if so, how will they be prepped and coached?
If they don’t have satisfactory answers to all of these questions, then you should keep looking.
4. What example work do you have that correlates with what we’re trying to do?
While I already cautioned against the danger of being lulled by someone’s promo reel, I want to doubly stress the importance of identifying a production agency that knows how to accomplish the specific goals you have for your video assets.
There’s no substitute for production value; either someone knows how to produce quality video or they don’t. That being said, it won’t help you to hire a videographer who specializes in wedding videos to create case study videos for your business.
It’s not critically important that they have experience in your specific industry or vertical, but think about what specific goals you have for your video assets. How are they going to prove their ROI? How are they going to help your business drive revenue? If the production team you’re hiring doesn’t have any sense of how to help you solve that challenge, they might not be the best fit for your project.
Just because their past clients have been happy with nice looking videos that cost a lot of money and don’t show any ROI doesn’t mean you have to be.
5. Is your tool set appropriate for the job?
This last one might not be as critical as the others, but the cost of working with a production agency is often dramatically affected by the cost of their equipment. If they’re insisting on renting a $10,000 camera for the day because that’s the only one they’re willing to use (and passing that cost on to you) then they probably aren’t a good fit for your project.
On the other side of the equation, you don’t want to work with someone who doesn’t know how to use professional tools. If they’re turning up to your office with an iPhone and charging you thousands of dollars for their services, that will also raise a red flag.
Neither extreme is what you want, so it’s worth asking during the evaluation process what their toolset includes. You don’t need to have an expert level understanding of all the names of every piece of equipment to gain a sense for whether the team you’re thinking of hiring knows what it's doing or not.
It’s also not a bad idea to ask how their equipment translates into cost for you. Do they own their equipment already or are they renting for the day, and will that cost be passed on to you? That’s not necessarily a red flag in and of itself, but if it doubles the cost of the project, that’s a concern.
Be an informed consumer
Hopefully these five questions get you thinking a bit differently about how to evaluate vendors for video production projects. It’s not always easy evaluating service providers for something you have little to no expertise in.
At IMPACT, we try to deliver the maximum amount of value in our video production projects as it pertains to ROI so the next time you go to your boss and make the pitch for another video project, you don't get an eye roll and a reminder about how expensive the last project was and what a nightmare the agency was to deal with.
Hopefully, your boss will say something like, “Well, after that last video project, our sales team's close rates went up by 15% which translates into $50k more revenue for last quarter, so yes, let’s hear about your next idea!” You’re only going to get a response like that if you’ve thought in advance how you’re going to measure ROI and produced the kind of videos that garner the results you’ll need.
Videos are great for branding, but why not have them drive revenue as well?