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Video Production Retainers: a win-win for both sides, but buyer beware

Alright, let’s be upfront from the start. As a production company owner, I love the idea of video production retainers, but you might be surprised by the reason.

Sure, they provide a steady and predictable cash flow for my business, but the reason I really love them is because retainers are mutually beneficial for our customers.

However… if you’re considering a retainer with a video company, you do need to be careful. Not all retainers are created equal.

Buyer Beware

Okay, let’s get this out of the way before I give you all the positive reasons to sign-up. 

Retainers are not for everyone.

Consider these things before you commit:

  • Be real clear on what you’re getting for your money.

Some video companies can be kind of vague about what you’re retainer actually gets you. I don’t think it’s done with malicious intent, they just haven’t done the best job explaining what’s involved.

So… make sure you know what you’re getting.

  • Don’t sign-up unless you’re really going to use the retainer.

This sounds simple enough, but we’ve all been there. We’ve signed-up for a monthly service or membership we know is good for us, only we don’t end-up using it (hello, gym membership).

Don’t let that happen here.

About the VIP Video ClubThis is exactly why we treat our video production retainer a little differently. We don’t even call it a retainer. It’s our VIP Video Club.

The biggest difference? We build-in actual human interaction.

That includes a quarterly video chat or phone call to help you plan what types of videos you can produce over the next few months, and a monthly reminder email to get them scheduled.

In short, we don’t want you paying for a service you’re not using, so we do our best to make sure that doesn’t happen.

  • What happens if you slip one month and don’t produce a video?

It’s bound to happen. Even if you’re extra careful, even if you set-up reminders, you might miss a month.

Now what?

Make sure the company you choose offers some sort of rollover. 

You probably won’t find a production house that allows you to rollover every missed video. From the video company’s perspective, that could cause a huge production back-up with all of their other customers.

However, they should be willing to offer you some sort of a limited rollover.

If they don’t, find someone else.

Time for the Benefits

Okay… now that we got that stuff out of the way, let’s get to the good news. 

Video retainers provide a ton of benefits. They include:

  • Cost savings
  • Better quality videos
  • Better service

But that’s not all. Let’s get into the many benefits and how they play out.

Time Saver

If you’re hiring an independent video producer or production company to create your videos, there’s an upfront time cost because you have to vet potential candidates.

Even if you work with someone regularly, you still have to spend time having them submit a proposal to get a price for the project, and then get a contract signed.

Having a video company on retainer means no more time spent researching video companies. Now you have one ready to go when needed.

Access

Even if you work with a production house regularly, it doesn’t mean they’re have time for you when you need them

Video production can be a lengthy process. Stack one customer on top of another and video producers’ calendars can fill-up fast.

Do you think retainer customers take priority? You bet they do.

Video production retainer customers get dibs on all sorts of things.

We usually require a signed contract and deposit to secure shoot dates. Our retainer customers can reserve potential shoots instantly and make changes when needed.

When it comes time to schedule script creation or video editing, they’re first in. That goes for making revisions when the video is done as well.

Trust

We’ve received a lot of business over the years from customers who were unhappy with their previous production company… A LOT!

Reasons include…

  • the company being hard to work with
  • not being flexible on creative vision
  • unexpected charges on their final invoice

Finding a production company you like and locking them in with a retainer takes away stress.

You know the video you’ll be getting is top-notch and the people behind it are easy to work with.

There also shouldn’t be any surprises when it comes to cost since you’re paying a monthly price.

Integration

When you put a production company on retainer, they become an extension of your own team.

This improves the quality of your videos and saves you valuable time because the production crew shares your vision and goals for your communications strategy. 

Knowing these things allows them to make production decisions behind the scenes without having to bother you with every little detail.

You’ll also be able to establish a consistent branding within your videos. Each video can have a similar look and feel.

We have customers who actually share their style guide with us… that’s a HUGE help. In some cases, we even developed our own style guide for certain customers.

It saves a lot of back and forth.

Demand

Many people don’t consider this one, but it’s incredibly powerful. Your videos’ effectiveness increases with the more videos you produce and share. 

Think about it. The more you watch a TV show or someone’s videos on YouTube, the more you listen to a radio show or podcast, the more you feel like you know those people.

Businesses can benefit from their videos in the same way. Producing quality content on a regular basis allows viewers to get to know the company and the people who work there.

This is so powerful because we’re more likely to buy from people we know and trust.

Having a production company on retainer will encourage you to keep at it, producing videos on a regular basis that will help you build that trust.

Savings

You didn’t think we’d forget about this, did you?! Savings can vary from company to company, not to mention how they handle video production retainers.

Some production houses will offer retainers on billable hours, others do it by a set number of videos.

Our average video costs $5500. The bigger the package you buy, the less you pay per video.

So our retainer customers who purchase one video a month pay $5000. Two videos a month, they pay $9000… and so on. 

Those savings add up fast.

Think of it this way, in the case of our most basic package, our retainer customers save $6000 per year compared to paying per project.

Agency Bonus

A special benefit for communications agencies is that they don’t have to pay for the retainer themselves.

Say what!?

Yah, you read that right. They don’t have to pay for it. They can spread the cost across all of their clients.

I can’t tell you how many times agencies have contacted us to get a video quote only to have the client turn it down because the video costs too much. 

They get so frustrated!

On the other hand, an agency that has a video retainer doesn’t have to worry about this. They can build the cost of the retainer into their own pricing, having each of their clients pay a little bit of the retainer.

When one of them needs a video, price is a non-factor. The video has already been paid for… by the entire stable of all their clients.

Now you don’t have to ask the client for a video budget because it’s already built-in.

Corporate Bonus

Agencies aren’t the only ones who get a savings bonus. I’m going to show you how to differ the retainer cost if you work in-house at a company/organization.

Let’s say you work in the marketing department, but you don’t have the budget to pay for the retainer every month. 

Good news… you’re not the only department that needs video!

Marketing needs video… but so does PR, HR, internal communications, et cetera. 

Make friends with people in the other departments and talk about sharing the retainer. If everyone kicks in a little from their budget, all of a sudden it’s not too hard to pay for.

Then, divide-up how you can share the retainer. One month HR gets to produce a video, next month it’s marketing, then PR, and so on.

Your bosses are going to be so impressed. Not only is the company getting great video content, they have team members who figured out how to get it done by working between silos.

Additional Savings

Since every production company is a little different, they might offer additional savings as well.

In our case, we offer our retainer customers a special discount on travel.

We’re based out of Chicago and Milwaukee, but we have customers all over the country and travel regularly for video shoots.

Normally, we charge for the time it takes us to get there and back ($800 per leg of the trip); however, our retainer customers only pay the travel expenses. That’s $1600 savings right off the top of every project involving travel.

Other video companies might offer other retainer incentives for their customers.

Video Retainers Are Good for Both Sides

No doubt about it… retainers are an incredible source of income for videos companies. The consistent cash flow takes a lot of pressure off the constant task of finding new business.

On the flip side though, it’s also a huge benefit to their customers. Providing trusted work at a lower price.

Both sides win.

–Tony Gnau

T60 Wins Two 2019 Telly Awards

Honored, humbled, grateful… once again we have been selected as Telly Award winners. This year we won another pair of trophies for our work. T60 has now won 17 Telly Awards since 2007.

We want to say congratulations and thank you to our customers who are always an important part of the production process. We really appreciate their contributions in making these great videos.

One of the things I love about this year’s winners is how they demonstrate our storytelling versatility. The first story is driven totally through a single interview. The second one features multiple interviews and blends a scripted message with an unscripted story.

Ironically, we used the same royalty-free music for each video. Guess that track is a winner!😆

Both videos are Silver Award Winners. The first won in the category for Non-Broadcast-employee communications and the other was for Non-Broadcast-educational institution.

We hope both videos provide you with some inspiration for your own video projects.

The Story Behind Johnnie

Oh, Johnnie… if only we ran into more people like you, both from a video production standpoint and a human one.

We were shooting video for Catholic Health Initiatives at one of its hospitals. Johnnie was one of about eight people we were interviewing for a single video about spirituality in the workplace.

However, while we interviewed Johnnie, we realized we had struck gold. She was just amazing, so we kept asking questions and it turned into a separate video from the one we were their to produce.

CHI is big on its corporate values: reverence, integrity, compassion, and excellence. We put together the Johnnie video for them as a surprise, and then pitched the idea of an internal communications series on employees who embody the core values.

Needless to say, they loved the idea and we went on to produce the series.

Scripted or Unscripted?

Alverno College has long played a video for incoming freshmen at orientation. Last year, school leaders decided it was time for something fresh.

They did present us with a challenge. They had a scripted message they felt was important to get across, but they also wanted something authentic that would appeal to the students.

Hmmm… scripted but authentic. That was a tough one!

Thankfully, they trusted we would figure out a way to get it done, and we did. The results put smiles on our faces every time we watch it.

–Tony Gnau

 

From tellyawards.com

The Telly Awards is the premier award honoring the finest film and video productions, groundbreaking web commercials, videos and films, and outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs. Our mission has been to strengthen the visual arts community by inspiring, promoting, and supporting creativity. The Telly Awards receives over 12,000 entries from all 50 states and 5 continents.

HR Videos: what you need to make them better

HR Videos: what you need to make them betterLet’s start by being honest with ourselves. There are countless examples of terrible corporate videos. Irrelevant About Us videos, boring product videos, uninteresting testimonials… but the crown jewel of them all are HR videos.

Whether it’s the company culture video or a department training video, there might not be a better way to put people to sleep.

Another moment of honesty? In many cases, it’s nobody’s fault. Well, it might be legal’s fault. I’m fine with blaming them.

But in all seriousness, there are contributing factors that lead to boring HR videos that are beyond your control. Maybe the biggest factor is asking highly trained human resources professionals to do something they don’t have any background in… producing a video.

We can change that. I’m going to help you make better HR videos.

A little bit of knowledge goes a long way!

You’re not in human resources anymore

Let’s start with something that could be cringeworthy for some of you, but once you accept it will make the process much easier.

When you accept the responsibility of helping produce an HR video, you are no longer in HR. You’re now in marketing.

Your job is to deliver information about HR issues, but if you want to deliver it well… in a way that people will pay attention to and dare I say enjoy… you have to take off you HR hat and put on your marketing hat.

I know, it’s not what many of you want to hear, but thinking like a marketer in this case is going to help you make a better video.

Again, your job isn’t just about delivering the information. You want to deliver a message that’s going to be received, understood, but more importantly… you want buy-in.

In short, you need to market your ideas and policies to team members.

Need some help getting into this mindset? Go make friends with the people in your marketing department! Doing so can benefit you beyond making better videos.

One of our customers is Prophet, a global growth agency, and they have written about why a teaming of HR and marketing makes sense.

“Career change” will benefit your HR Videos

Marketers (at least the good ones!) understand that video isn’t about facts and figures. It’s not about information. Video is about emotion. It’s a medium that allows you to tap people’s emotions.

Now, you might be thinking… I don’t need to connect with my audience on an emotional level, I just need to communicate what our policies and programs are.

You’re right. That is what you need to do.

However, if you want people to take notice of those policies and programs and remember them, then you do need to connect with people emotionally.

As humans, we are widely guided by our emotions. They influence what we buy, and in this case they impact what we buy into.

Is it starting to make sense?

I laughed, I cried, it was better than Cats!

Keep in mind, you don’t need to tap big emotions. It’s great if you can create videos that make people laugh or cry… yes, as a video producer I work in one of the rare fields where we relish making people cry! But you don’t need to do that to make an emotional connection.

Your goal should simply be leaving people with a specific feeling.

In the vast majority of corporate videos we produce, we just want the audience to feel good about the company. We want them to feel confident in the company.

You can achieve both of those emotions with your HR videos.

Another good one for HR might be understanding. You want people to understand why the company has a certain policy. You want people to “get it.”

What’s awesome is once you produce a quality video, all that information you’re trying to get to people will sink-in and they’ll retain it. And the more quality videos you produce, the more people will attach those emotions to your information. It snowballs from video to video.

OK, let’s produce an HR video

Now that you’re an honorary member of the marketing department, let’s talk about the videos themselves.

We’ll cover a few types of typical HR videos, but really you can apply the lessons learned later to just about any type of video.

About Us Video

The About Us video is the one video I say every business/organization needs. It’s the video that tells people who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

And good news… you might not even need to produce it! Marketing might have done it for you because it’s a terrific marketing asset.

If they haven’t, start talking with them about producing one.

Look at you working between silos!

Regardless of whether you or marketing produces it, this video has multiple uses for HR. Need a recruiting video? Check! Need an introduction video for new hires? Check!

Company Culture Video

The company culture video is sort of the cousin to the About Us video. It’ll probably have a similar look and feel, but might be a bit more focused on the who you are as opposed to the what you do.

Recruiting? New hires? Again, these audiences are ideal for this type of video.

It provides you with an opportunity to show people what makes your organization special. Whether it’s a certain leadership style or company perks, you can use video to highlight aspects of the business that make it unique.

This is a great opportunity to take people behind of the scenes of what it’s really like to work there.

Company Program Videos

Whether you’re launching a new company program, or highlighting existing ones, you can use video to spread the word.

It goes from being an easily missed (or ignored) email, to something that will grab people’s attention.

Training or instructional videos

Ugg… the dreaded training video. We’ve all seen how awful they can be, but even a training video can draw people in.

I’ll admit, you’ll really have to stretch your creating thinking here. It can be done though.

My favorite examples come from the airlines. They have gotten increasingly creative in the videos they show passengers to teach them in-flight safety procedures.

In many cases, they use big budget productions to facilitate their creativity, but you can be creative on a modest budget as well.

Highlight team members

I LOVE THESE VIDEOS! Do you have an employee of the month, quarter, or year? Don’t just highlight them in the company newsletter, produce a video about them.

But don’t stop there… I highly recommend finding ways to produce stories about your team members on a regular basis. One of our customers features employees who demonstrate the company’s core values.

And while you can certainly do it to highlight professional achievements, don’t shy away from producing stories about who they are away from work.

The more your employees learn about one another on a human level, the better they will function as a team.

By the way… this can be another joint effort between marketing and HR. Employee profiles are useful for both departments.

Before you begin

Now, as you start your video project, let’s really start thinking like marketers.

We’ll start with some pre-production questions.

  • What are you trying to communicate? Simple.
  • How are you going to communicate it? Video… see this is easy!
  • Where are you going to post the videos? Intranet, email, digital newsletter, social media?
  • What’s your goal and how are you going to measure it? You can certainly count the number of views and time spent viewing the video, but be more tactical about it. Try to attach an action to having watched the video. For example, tracking many people signed-up to take part in a new program after having watched the video.

I haven’t scared you off, right? These are simple but important questions to ask before you start producing any video project.

The most important question

There is one thing I didn’t list there and it’s because it requires extra attention. Dare I say it’s the most important question to ask.

Who is your audience?

It seems obvious, especially from an HR perspective, but you’d be surprised how many people glance past the answer to the question or over-simplify it.

When it comes to HR, the answer is usually employees, or team members, or whatever way you like to refer to the people who work at the company/organization.

And in some cases that’s good enough because the video is meant for everyone at the organization. However, depending on the size of your company, you might have specific videos for people with specific roles, or maybe it’s intended for managers only.

It’s very important to get as specific as you can about your target viewers, and I’ll explain why.

It’s not about you

At the end of the day, you need to realize the video you’re producing isn’t for you. It’s not for managers. It’s not for the company, per se.

The video is for your audience. Every decision you make regarding the video, from the content to the look and feel, needs to take into account your audience.

Ask yourself…

  • What to do they really need/want to know?
  • How would they like to receive the information?
  • Are they loose? Buttoned-up?

And brace yourself, the answers to some of those questions might not align with your wants and desires. You might have to set your ego aside… or worse… have to tell someone higher up they need to set their ego aside.

When in doubt, do this

Being a temporary marketer is starting to get a bit more daunting. I get it.

Well… when answering those questions gets difficult, here’s a universal guidepost to follow.

Be authentic.

I don’t care whether it’s an outward facing marketing video or an internal company video… my advice is the same… be authentic… be genuine.

If you’re excited about something, be excited, and don’t be shy about spreading that enthusiasm.

On the flip side, if you’re trying to communicate something you know isn’t going to be popular, don’t be a phony.

Don’t try to sugarcoat it and fool people. Treat your audience with respect and treat them like adults.

The more you do that, the more respect your videos (and policies) will receive. When your audience knows you respect them, they’ll continue to watch video after video.

It all sounds great, but…

I hope all of this sounds good to you. I hope you’re thinking to yourself, yeah, I want all of those videos for our department! And I want them all to be authentic and respectful!

But you might also be thinking… how are we going to pay for it? Or… there’s no way we have a budget for any of it, so how can we DIY it?

Let’s make a deal

Let’s start with the best case scenario and go from there. If you have a budget for video, use it. Hire a professional to produce them for you. Let them guide you through the creative process.

Need help with that? Check out our Milwaukee Video Production Buyers Guide. It has great tips that apply to any city you live in.

Stick with me

I’ll give you one quick suggestion from the guide. Share you budget with the production company.

I know, everybody wants the best deal possible. It seems counter-intuitive to share your budget.

The problem with video production is you’re not dealing with an apples to apples comparison when shopping for a video company. They’ll each provide you with a video at the end, but you’re not buying a widget. It’s more like buying a piece of art.

Each video company has a different style, different capabilities, different thoughts on video production cost.

So instead of looking for a deal, look for value.

Contact a few companies that interest you, share your budget with each of them, and see what they can do for you at that budget.

DIY HR Videos

Now, the other less desirable option. You can DIY these videos.

It’s not the best option because you’re an HR professional, not a video production expert.

So… the first thing you need to do is manage expectations and cut yourself some slack. Nobody should expect your video to be perfect. Heck, your organization should simply be happy you’re making the effort.

The next thing you need are some basic DIY skills. Again, we can help with that. We like helping. Check out our DIY video guide.

That’s a wrap

I hope this helped you on your journey to better HR videos. You can do it! Internal company videos don’t have to be lame. They don’t have to be boring.

If you think like a marketer and treat your audience with respect, you’re well on your way.

—Tony Gnau

Basketball Legend, Class Guy, T60 Customer

Well, like millions of other people I’m searching for a tissue after watching Budwesier’s tribute to retiring NBA All-Star Dwyane Wade. Awesome stuff… and while most everyone can admire his greatness from afar, I’m honored to say I got to see it up-close and personal for a day.

That’s because Dwyane has been a T60 customer.

Here’s the story. I knew someone who worked for his agent back in 2007, so when the subject of shooting video at his annual basketball camp came up… my friend threw T60 into the conversation.

We got the job in large part because he wasn’t the first NBA All-Star we worked for. We had already produced a couple of videos for Chris Bosh (another class-act), but this shoot was a little different.

I’ve been fortunate over the course of my life to meet and be around some gigantic sports legends.

Muhammad Ali once turned to me during a photo shoot and jokingly sparred with me.

Yeah… you don’t get any bigger than that.

So… I’m not easily star-struck by athletes, and that was true when it came to D-Wade as well. However, I was pretty psyched about producing the video, and I walked away in awe of how he handled himself and a fan for life.

I had been to many athletic camps like his over the years and here’s what typically happens. Tons of kids attend, the star athlete shows-up toward the end, gives a little speech and hits the road. Maybe he or she takes a few photos with the kids.

That’s it.

https://youtu.be/BQ96DonpDiY

Which is why you can imagine my surprise when I arrived before the event began, and Dwyane was already there. We chatted off-camera for a bit, and I put a wireless microphone on him. I told him, don’t worry about me, just do what you would normally do at the camp.

Remember, I was just expecting a little speech at the end.

I started shooting video of the kids going through drills… shooting, defense, you name it. All of a sudden, I hear Dwyane through my headphones because he had on the wireless mic, and it sounded like he was talking to some kids.

I start looking around the gym, and not only was he chatting with the kids… he was doing drills with them!

He was shooting, guarding them, hanging out with them, talking with them… he just looked like he was part of the group. The best part? It wasn’t an act for the camera. He was just having fun.

During a break, I told him he surprised me by jumping in with the kids. He kind of shrugged and said, “Just doing what I do, like you said.”

Awesome.

The rest of the day was more of the same. The kids LOVED him, and it was easy to see why. He was totally genuine and it showed.

I walked away from the shoot a huge fan.

After having seen the video we produced for him, I’ve had more than one person ask, “Is he really that good of a guy?”

If you’ve seen the new Budwesier video, you now know the answer to that one.

Yes, he is.

Dwyane Wade is special beyond the basketball court, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

–Tony Gnau

 

 

 

Practical Tips for DYI Corporate Videos

One of the great things about producing corporate video these days is you don’t need a pro to do it. Wait… did I really just write that? I am a video producer after all. Maybe I should re-think this.

No… it’s true. You do not need a video pro to produce your videos. In most cases, you should want a pro, but you technically do not need one.

If you’re interested in finding out when it’s okay to produce DIY corporate videos and when it’s not, your should check out our guide: How-to Produce Better DIY Videos

Now, should you choose to shoot your own videos, here are some tips for producing more professional-looking DIY corporate videos.

A side note, I first started outlining these thoughts for one of the PR industry’s best blogs, Spin Sucks.

Tip: camera position

When setting up to shoot an interview or yourself for a talk-to-camera video, make sure your camera lens isn’t too low. Many people who shoot video of themselves flip open their laptop, adjust the tilt to frame themselves, and then hit record.

The #1 thing you can do to improve the way you look in your videos is to stop doing this!

Shooting from a low angle tends to be very unflattering unless it’s a highly stylized perspective.

You want the camera lens to be even with your eyes or slightly higher. Think about how you take a selfie! Prop-up the laptop or camera on some books. Lower your chair a bit. You will look so much better.

Still not sure if you have the right angle? If you can see the crease where the wall meets the ceiling in your shot, your camera is too low!

Tip: lights, camera, action

Make sure you have good lighting. Most people just use the existing light in the room. They don’t think of the source location of the light in respect to their camera.

Position your light source to be right behind the camera lens and slightly above it. Think about all of those mobile news cameras you see on TV. Their lights are right on top of the camera pointing down at the people they’re recording.

If you can’t manage that, put the light just to the left or right of the camera… the closer to the lens the better.

Also, if your camera situation is mobile, set it up in front of a window. Natural light is AWESOME to light people on-camera.

A side note on lighting… maybe the worst scenario is when the room is fairly dark and the light from a computer screen is illuminating the person in front of the web camera. It will make you look… creepy. Avoid that at all costs.

Tip: perfect posture

Pick the right chair for interviews or talk-to-camera videos. Comfortable, fluffy chairs are no good. Chairs with high backs that can be seen in the shot are no good.

I tend to look for the most uncomfortable chair in the room (a metal folding chair is great!) and use that.

Why? It forces you to sit with good posture. Sit-up, smile, and be the star that you are!

Tip: don’t ignore audio

There are several ways to spot an amateur video, but for us pros… the easiest way to tell is by listening to it.

Amateurs get so wrapped-up in making sure their video looks good, they neglect audio and it’s a big mistake. Bad audio can take a perfectly good video and spoil the whole thing.

Buy a microphone. You don’t have to invest a ton of money here, but every dollar you spend on audio is an investment in your finished video seeming more professional.

I love clip-on lavalier microphones for interviews and someone talking to the camera, but even getting a mini shotgun mic to attach to your camera will go a long way to improving your audio.

Tip: how-to frame your shots

Framing every shot the same way is another rookie mistake.

Videography is an art form. It takes a keen eye and lots of practice to master it. However, there are certain things you can do as an amateur to shoot better video.

The easiest one is to simply think about how you’re framing your shots. If they’re all a medium shot with your subject in the middle of the frame… you’re doing it wrong.

Think wide, medium, tight.

Let’s say you’re shooting video of someone working on a computer. First, shoot a wide shot of them where you see them with the whole room around them.

Next, get a shot of them that only shows them and the desk.

Finally, get a couple of tight shots… like their hands typing on the keyboard and their face as they look at the monitor.

Getting this series of shots will help BIG TIME when you go to edit.

Also, don’t be afraid to arrange the subject on different sides of the screen.

Think of your viewfinder in terms of thirds… left, middle, right. Shooting your subject on either side, as opposed to the center, often creates more appealing shots.

This is an especially good tip for framing interviews, whether the subject is talking directly to the camera, or off-camera in more of an interview style.

Make sure they’re not right in the middle of the frame. Slightly off-set them from the center.

And one last thing… especially when it comes to interviews… are you leaving too much headroom?

Many amateurs leave way too much space between the top of the frame and the top of a person’s head. You want a little space there, but just a little.

Tip: keep your camera steady

I’ll put it this way… your tripod is your friend.

Pros who shoot a lot of handheld video (myself included), do so with purpose. It’s a stylized look that is the result of years of practice. It’s a far cry from the amateur who is trying to hold the camera steady and failing.

Don’t have a tripod? Get one. Same rule as buying the microphone I mentioned above. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just something that will keep your camera steady.

Master shooting off a tripod first, then you can learn to shoot handheld video.

BONUS TIP!

If you are shooting video using your mobile phone, turn the phone on its side so your aspect ratio is horizontal, not vertical. Do not contribute to vertical video syndrome!

2019 research shows using vertical video might be better for social media videos, but I would only do this if the video is solely intended for social. If you’re producing a video you would like to use on multiple platforms… on your website, social, email, at events, in a sales presentation… I would stick with horizontal video.

While vertical video looks fine to someone watching on a phone, on every other platform it looks totally out of place.

–Tony Gnau

How-To Get Clients To Do Testimonials

Want to set yourself apart from your competitors? Produce high-quality video testimonials. They’re effective and not many businesses create them.

Why not? What clients tell me is it’s awkward asking people to brag about them. Well, I think I can help make that conversation a little easier.

Ask the right people

It starts with who you ask. It should go without saying, but the only people you want to ask are people you have a great relationship with. The clients who love you and what you do.

It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a one-time client or someone you do ongoing business with. Every client is valued, but we all know who our special clients are.

The person you email or call about doing a video testimonial should be someone… well… someone who won’t hesitate at all to do it.

The reason you’re asking this specific person is because of the comfort level you share with them. They’ll be happy to do it because they like you.

That said, keep the relationship comfortable and respectful by offering them an out. Ask if they’d like to participate, but also let them know you’ll understand… and it won’t damage the relationship… if they can’t.

Chances are they’ll be flattered you trust them enough to include them in your marketing effort.

Why give them an out? There’s always a possibility they won’t do it because it’s their company’s policy not to endorse another business. If that’s the case, oh well. There’s nothing either of you can do about that.

There could be other reasons they don’t want to do it, but you might be able to head them off at the pass by minimizing their concerns during the initial ask.

Selling testimonials to the client

Make it clear their business will benefit from the testimonial. You can do this by centering the video around their business and not yours.

Explain it this way… you’ll produce a short video featuring their company, then about two-thirds of the way through you’ll have them highlight what it is exactly you do to help them. It’s two-thirds them… one-third you.

We’re big believers in this technique, and if you want more details please check out our post on how-to to produce better testimonial videos.

Next, make sure they understand who will be getting the video. How many people are being targeted and how you will share it.

Remind them while it’s an endorsement for you, it’s also a free commercial for their business. You’re putting their company in front of all of your prospects.

Make it convenient for them

One of the tough parts about producing a testimonial video is simply scheduling the shoot. It’s one thing setting time aside at your business to shoot something, it’s a little more complicated dealing with another company’s calendar.

The trick to this one is simply managing your own expectations. You might want to shoot it next week, your client might not have time until next month.

Remember, you’re on their schedule. They’re the ones doing you a favor, so take what you can get, be flexible, and be gracious about it.

It’s probably not a bad idea to make sure they know how flexible you are, and your willingness to make it work for their schedule. Remove all roadblocks.

Communication is key

The more your contact knows and understands about what’s going to happen, the more willing he or she is to participate. If you have an idea of what the basic story will sound like, share it with the person or people who are going to star in the testimonial.

I don’t recommend giving them the questions that will be asked, but instead give them a general idea of what they’ll be asked about. Here’s what it might sound like…

We’re going to have someone there to interview you.  They’ll ask you about your business… who you are… what you do… what sets you apart from the competition… stuff like that. They’ll also ask about our company… the product/service we provide to you… how it’s working for you. Nothing complicated.

If your client wants to know more, get your video producer involved in this discussion. Loop them in on a conference call, or simply have your producer reach out to that client. The idea is to make them comfortable with the process.

Script and final editing approval

You also have the option of giving your client script and final editing approval. This depends on how much control you’re willing to give up over your video.

I will say in most cases I’ve run across, granting that client some form of approval is a good idea and it has never turned out poorly. As long as the video is truthful and you honor their participation, they’ll most likely love the video.

That said, you can offer script and/or final editing approval from the start, hold on to it unless they ask for it, or maybe it’s a deal-breaker and you rather not give-up that control at all. It’s up to you.

What not to do

All of these suggestions are good ideas. You know what isn’t… buying your video testimonials. I don’t mean hiring a production company to create a professional video. That’s a GREAT idea. No, what I mean is don’t hire one of these companies out there offering testimonials for cash.

You pick one of their actors… provide a script… and presto!… they send you your video testimonial.

It’s a BAD idea. HELLO… don’t lie to people! I suppose you could compile some real quotes and have the actors perform them, but it’s still misleading at best.

Wrapping-up

Video testimonials are awesome. You can make them in a way that’s marketing without sounding like marketing. Clients who do a testimonial for you get added publicity for themselves. And last but not least, real people telling viewers that they like you is simply a powerful message.

Can it be awkward or difficult asking a client to take part? Sure. Is it worth it? You bet.

–Tony Gnau

How Small Businesses Can Make Low Cost Videos

Big businesses have it easy. They’re big companies with big marketing budgets. They can use that money for all sorts of things, including… marketing videos. Small businesses… not so lucky. Every dollar spent on marketing materials is closely considered.

Which is why small business owners and marketing pros need to be more savvy. They need to know how to maximize the money spent on their marketing tactics. Tough to do when it comes to video. Video can be expensive, but there are bargains to be had… if you know where to look.

Video Production Companies

Believe it or not, there are plenty of video production companies that will take on low-budget projects. You just need to ask them.

We have customers who were surprised to find out they can get a really good video for $1000. As a matter of fact, we designed a whole video production process (3-Step Storytelling) specifically to produce low cost videos.

3-step storytelling

There are other video production companies willing to take on small projects. Here’s the tough part though… you have to be honest about your budget and share it upfront.

I know… you don’t want to share your budget because maybe they’ll charge you less, and then you’ll miss out on a great deal.

Reality check… if you’re looking to get a marketing video for less than $2000, you’re already getting a deal. Sharing your budget in advance will save you and the production company a lot of time.

Some video crews won’t even pick-up their cameras for less than $10,000, so why waste all that time talking through your project with them only to find out something like that when you get a proposal from them.

On the other hand, if you tell someone upfront… I have $1000 budget… a $500 budget… you’ll weed through production companies much more quickly.

Independent Producers

If you’re striking out on production companies, finding an independent producer or videographer might be the way to go. There are websites out there devoted to finding these people, or you can always check/post on Craigslist.

This part is critical though, make sure you see some of their work in advance. Not only that, dig deeper to find out if it’s REALLY their work.

Did they shoot and edit it? If they answer yes, ask them what kind of camera they used. Ask them what kind of editing software they used.

The type of camera and editing software doesn’t really matter, but someone who didn’t really do the work will stumble over those questions.

If they give you a vague answer… I shot it on a Sony… insist on the actual model. Anybody worth their salt as a videographer is going to be able to tell you exactly what type of camera they used. We’re kind of obsessive about our gear.

Worst Case Scenario

Maybe you have no budget at all for marketing videos, but you’d still like some. You can always do it yourself.

Will wonders never cease!? A video pro advocating DIY video!?
Yup. If you are a small business with no marketing budget, I think it’s perfectly fine for you to DIY.

Get your friends and family involved. Have them help you. Just do it! Video is too good of a marketing tool for you to miss out on because you don’t have a budget for it.

If you run a medium-sized company or up, it’s a terrible idea for all sorts of reasons. The main one being you don’t want to ruin your reputation by producing a cheap looking video.

On the other hand, you small business owners and managers… I’m giving you a DIY video pass. If you’re known as a small business, your audience won’t hold a less than professional video against you.

Marketing videos are no longer a luxury… they’re a necessity. Video is the way companies now communicate with their customers. Don’t let a small budget keep you from using the same marketing tactic as big business.

–Tony Gnau

 

Top Tips For Marketing Video Newbies

Video is like a lot of things that might be unfamiliar to you. Taking the first step is always the hardest, so if you’re a marketing video newbie… don’t worry. I have some tips to get you started on your first project.

First Question To Answer

Will this be a do-it-yourself or professional project? I do have some basic guidelines for DIY vs. Pro video production. Basically, if you’re a new or micro business with zero marketing budget, feel free to DIY. If you are planning a video with the intent of it looking unprofessional or kitschy, feel free to DIY.

However, if you are producing a video for a respected company where reputation matters, you should definitely hire a professional video producer. Please consider the many benefits to hiring a pro.

New Project Preps

The next thing… you need a plan. Your video needs to be a part of a greater marketing strategy. Which is why you need to start asking some questions.

You might even want to write them down along with the answers. Here are the pre-project questions I ask when speaking with clients:

  • Who’s the audience?
  • Where will they see the video? Website? Social media? Email campaign? At a live event? Et cetera.
  • What’s your goal for the video? Education? Brand awareness? Enhance reputation? Help sales? Et cetera.
  • What’s the story you’d like to tell?
  • How are you planning to promote the video?

Let’s expand a bit on each of those things.

Audience

This is the most critical question you’re going to ask. It influences everything that goes into the video because this is who you are making the video for. You have to put the audience first. Make sure the story and information are focused on what’s important to them.

Venue

This will help you with timing… think push versus pull. If the video is bound for a social media email campaign, you’re pushing it at your audience so keep it short. I typically recommend 1-minute or less.

On the other hand, if the video is mainly for a company’s website, your audience has sought you out so you can let it run a bit longer. Pull them in with a 2-3 minute video.

Showing the video at a live event? That’s a captive audience, so you have some more leeway. Just make sure it’s good, don’t put your viewers to sleep.

Goals

Video is a terrific marketing tactic, but don’t just produce a video because it’s cool or fun. Think seriously about the reason behind creating your videos. What is it you hope they’ll help you achieve?

Keep in mind the immortal words of Zig Ziglar“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”

What’s your story?

Okay… now on to the fun part! Decide on a story that’s going to take into account the answers to all of those questions. Remember, video isn’t about facts and figures. Video is all about emotion. Pick a story that’s going to connect with viewers.

Promotion

You might have produced the best video ever, but if you don’t have a plan to get it in front of viewers… what’s the point? Video should just be a tactic in a greater digital marketing strategy. Looking for ideas? Check out our 7 Ways To Promote A New Video.

Feeling a little better now? Start each video project with that Q & A and you’ll be on your way to a successful campaign.

–Tony Gnau

Content Jam: life, marketing, and zombie TV

Another Content Jam has come and gone, and again I’m left with so many great insights. I was really impressed with the diversity of the speakers this year.

The morning and afternoon keynotes spoke to some big picture issues we should all consider, and the other sessions were filled with action items we can get started on right away.

Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from this year’s event.

Gini Dietrich | How To Shape Shift Into Your Ideal Self

I have seen Gini Dietrich speak on a number of occasions. Both her PR firm (Arment Dietrich) and blog (Spin Sucks) are T60 customers, and more importantly, she’s become a good friend.

Which is why I was so excited to see her and hear this presentation. She’s always good with the x’s and o’s when it comes to communication strategies, but this presentation was totally different and in many ways very personal.

She talked a lot about solution-based routines versus option-based routines. My take… when many of us face tough decisions we tend to use the most immediate solution. Gini argues we need to take some time to examine our options before making a decision on a solution.

Instead of jumping to a quick solution, she challenged everyone to:

  • Imagine your future
  • Create a routine to realize that future
  • Do something small every single day
  • Be agile

It makes total sense. Set a goal, make a plan, do the work, be willing to change… this is stuff we should all be doing.

I especially like the idea behind looking at options first. It’s so easy to jump to the quick solution and clear the issue off your plate. We shouldn’t do that. We really should think about our best options before making a decision.

I try to do this when producing videos. When some sort of issue arises, my first reaction is to solve it as quickly as possible. However, this can lead to other complications down the road if it doesn’t end up being the right course of action.

What I do is take a deep breathe and doing my best to think things though. I’ve even had customers ask me on occasion what I’m doing as I simply stand there considering my options.

“I’m just thinking things through,” I tell them. While it can seem painful to give-up time to wait for a solution, I have found taking five minutes to think things through can often save you time in the long run.

Gini totally nailed it!

Roberto Blake | YouTube Marketing for Businesses and Brands

I met Roberto Blake at this year’s Content Jam and walked away super-impressed. He’s a fellow video guy, so considering I run a Milwaukee video production company, no surprise the two of us were speaking the same language.

His presentation focused on using YouTube as a marketing channel, and even though I’m pretty well-versed in this area, Roberto provided some stuff I’d like to work on.

Specifically, I liked a lot of what he talked about regarding call-to-actions and how to position them in and around your videos.

CTAs can be…

  • Spoken in the video itself
  • Included as a visual component in the video itself
  • Posted as a YouTube Card
  • Added to the YouTube description
  • Written in the comments, then pinned to the top

Roberto also suggested uploading the video as “Unlisted” and doing all of your optimization before making it public.

This is really smart. YouTube bases which videos it promotes based on things like number of views in the initial hours the video is public, so it makes sense to have all of your optimization done before it is sent to the masses.

Joanna Wiebe | Creating Content That Converts

Joanna Wiebe made a really big impression on me. The message I received? I’m doing it wrong.

Okay, maybe I’m not getting content marketing entirely wrong, but I definitely need to broaden my perspective.

I think my personal experience probably mirrors that of many content marketers. When I produce a piece of content, I want it to be the best content I can produce. I want it to be super helpful to the person looking at it. And I want the readers/viewers to walk away feeling good about T60 Productions.

Now? Well, now I kind of hear Joanna in my head saying, “Don’t forget, content needs to sell.”

She’s absolutely right. It’s great to educate people, but we still need to make money.

The whole reason we’re engaging in content marketing is to help us make sales, and yet many of us are afraid to ask for the sale… no matter how that might look.

Whether you’re pushing a product/service, or simply trying to build an email list. There needs to be some sort of a call-to-action.

Which means our content objectives need to be:

  1. Drive sales and leads
  2. Educate
  3. Brand building

Joanna is a copy writer at heart, and she says there’s a difference between the way many people write for content versus copy. A lot of, if not most, content is written to educate people, while copy is what gets people to say, “yes.”

She says we’re trying to be so elegant with our content that we forget to ask for the sale.

I know I’m guilty of that. How about you?

I’ve often lived by the belief that if you want something in life, you have to ask for it. Why haven’t I been applying that to my content marketing?

Well, I’m going to change that.

Andy Crestodina | Super Advanced Content Marketing and SEO

Last but not least, Andy Crestodina. Like Gini Dietrich, Andy has become a good friend over the years. When Orbit Media Studios revamped its website, Andy asked T60 to produce a series of videos for the site and I was so proud he chose us.

I’ve seen Andy speak a bunch of times… a bunch!… but I always manage to walk away with great stuff to try.

This time it’s centered on refreshing old blog posts and doing a better job of optimizing them. Focusing specifically on posts that might be on page two of Google, but are in good position for a move to page one.

I’ve been working really hard on our content over the past few years. Thanks in large part to guidance from both Gini and Andy, we have two posts ranking number one for key phrases. Not just on page one, we have the number one post.

I’m not going to lie, I love getting my Moz report every week showing those number one rankings, but over the last few months I’ve grown increasingly unsatisfied… because I want more! More posts ranking!

While I’m all for producing more content and will continue to do so, I know Andy is right. One look at our analytics and I can see several posts begging for a little love to get from page two to page one.

I’m definitely going to get on that ASAP.

Content Jam Wrap-Up

Finally, something else I’ll takeaway from Content Jam 2017 is another point Andy talked about. There’s no substitute for hard work.

This was possibly my favorite part of this year’s event. It was vintage Andy. His enthusiasm for content marketing is one of his biggest assets as a speaker, and I loved his message about getting to bed early so we can wake-up early to produce better content.

“Stop watching zombie TV shows at night. Go to bed!” he told me later.

He said we need a crossfit mentality about producing content. We need the voice of a sports coach in our heads urging us to push ourselves more.

For the record Andy, I’m writing this at 6:15 a.m., I’m over 1000 words at this point, and I don’t even like zombie TV shows. 

Anyway, it was a fun reminder that while we’re all about working smarter these days, working harder can and should still be part of the equation to success.

Video Strategy: planning for next year’s budget

video strategyYou know you want a new marketing video. Heck, you know you NEED a new marketing video… and next year is the year you’re going to make it happen! But knowing you need a video and creating a video strategy are two different things, and trust me, planning ahead will make things much easier on you.

Who’s Your Audience

The first step seems like an easy one, but in my opinion a lot of people tend to get off on the wrong foot.

It seems logical to decide on the type of video you want to produce (About Us, testimonial, product video, et cetera). Now, there’s nothing wrong with starting this way, but I look at the process differently.

Your first step should be identifying your audience.

Is it customers? Prospects? Your employees? Who are the people who will ultimately be watching and benefitting from your video.

Here’s why I like to start here. It’s the most important factor in putting together the video, and I want it to be front of mind from the get go.

Anytime you’re faced with a tough decision to make regarding the project, your first consideration should be how it impacts your viewers. You should base your actions on what’s going to appeal to them most.

That’s one of the reasons I think it’s important to make audience identification the top priority when you start a project. Let me give you an example.

Your first instinct might be… we need an explainer video for a product. However, maybe the audience you want to reach is first-time buyers as opposed to existing customers. Instead of an explainer video, a testimonial might be more effective since you’ll need to build trust.

Identifying your audience will guide you in making a more informed decision.

Have a Goal

A big failure for many video projects is that people don’t establish a goal. This is a huge mistake since there is so much data we can now collect.

Think about it ahead of time… what do you ultimately want this video to accomplish for you?

  • Brand awareness?
  • Push people through the sales funnel?
  • Drive traffic?

There are all sorts of goals you can establish for video, so make sure to pick something and then decide on how you’re going to measure success.

You can use the video analytics provided through YouTube, Facebook, and Google… or whatever video platform you might be using.

Those numbers can tell you who’s watching, how long they’re watching, what they clicked on next… all sorts of stats to help show you how effective your video is and guide decisions you make on future video projects.

Selecting the Type of Video

Now that you know who your viewers are, you can pick the type of video you need. Here’s a basic list to get you started:

  • About Us video
  • Testimonial
  • Marketing campaign video
  • Event video
  • Product or service video
  • Recruiting video
  • Mission or corporate culture video
  • HR video

Now, this is just a starter list. The possibilities are endless. I encourage you to consider video any time you need to communicate with a large audience.

Delivery

Next up, how are you going to deliver your video? Will it live on your website? Pumped out through social media? Used in an email campaign? Displayed on monitors in your lobby? Shown at a live event?

You might be thinking… well, we’ll definitely post the video on our website, but we also might want it for social, and maybe we can use it in sales presentations.

That’s totally fine. I love it when companies find multiple delivery methods! We want as many eyeballs on your video as possible. The key thing is to simply figure out which is the most important delivery method.

For example, maybe you’ve decided you need a new About Us video to go along with a website redesign. Sure… that video has the potential to be shown across many platforms, but the main reason for it is to create a good first-impression on people who visit your website.

Knowing this impacts how long the video should be. Websites are a pull, not push delivery method. Since people have come to your site to learn more about the company, you can get away with a little longer video (2-3 minutes).

Had you decided your primary use for the video was social media, you’d want it to be far shorter, like a minute or less.

Video Budget

Budget is always an important consideration and video projects are no different. Do you need to produce low cost videos, or will you have a decent amount of money to work with? Deciding how much you want to spend will greatly impact the scope of what you produce.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • DIY or professional production?
  • Do you want a big production team or something less obtrusive?
  • Do you just need someone to execute your plan or do you need someone to help with the storytelling?
  • How many days will it take to shoot?
  • Are any special permissions needed for production venues?
  • Will consent forms for participants be necessary?
  • Who will “star” in the video?
  • What’s the deadline like? Quick turnarounds tend to cost more.

These are good things to keep in mind as you plan your budget, but if you want some really helpful information start contacting video production companies now. Production houses like ours are usually more than happy to help you plan how much money you’ll need for your project.

How do pick a video company? Check out our video production buyers guide.

Promotion

This falls under the category of… last, but not least. How are you planning to promote your video?

I can’t tell you how many companies mess this up. They produce an awesome video, post it on their website, upload to YouTube and Facebook that first week… and that’s it. Then, they wonder why nobody is watching.

Have a plan in place regarding promotion. It’s not good enough to just share it once. You have to make it a part of your regular content marketing calendar. Not just for that first week… for the entire year!

Now, maybe you plan to show it several times during that first week, and then you scale it back over the course of the coming months. That’s fine. Just don’t forget about it.

Promote! Promote! Promote!

Wrapping-up Your Video Strategy

Video is a great tool for your communications toolbelt, but remember… you need a plan.

It’s not good enough to simply produce a good video. You need a plan in place before production starts to maximize your video’s potential.

And there’s no time like the present! Start working on your video strategy now, so that you have a good foundation to work from next year.