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

Tony Gnau - T60 ProductionsTony Gnau is a three-time Emmy-winning journalist. He is also the founder and chief storytelling officer at T60 Productions. T60 has won 17 Telly Awards for its work.

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