Thinking About the Cost and Value of Producing Promotional Videos
No video is worth the cost if it does not help you reach your business or advocacy objectives. Knowing what you want to accomplish with video and being frank about what you have to spend will not only help you get the best deal on production services, it will help you get the best return on your video production investment.
Arbour Media often gets calls from potential clients who want to know “about how much it will cost” to produce a video.
Our response to such inquires is is almost always “well, what are your business objectives for the project and what’s your budget?”
Not infrequently there’s a pause in the conversation long enough to suggest that when we’ve uttered the b-words—budget and business objectives—we’ve broached an awkward topic along the lines of politics or religion.
That pause is the result of a common misconception.
There are those who feel that if they share a specific budget figure they are going to get a bad deal. “If I tell them how much I have to spend,” the thinking goes, “they’ll find a way to spend it all. If I don’t tell them how much I have to spend, maybe I can save some money.”
The fact is that we can’t give clients a good deal unless we know what their budget is because the budget is the main factor in determining creative choices that can be made. From our point of view, a good deal for a client is producing the most effective video we can with the resources available.
What’s an effective video? It’s a film that meets a client’s business objectives. Not infrequently, a potential client will ask us how much much a video will cost without a clear idea about what they want someone to do or think after they have seen it. A promotional video is not an end in itself, it’s a tool to accomplish a marketing or advertising goal.
If we don’t know how much a client has to spend or what they want to accomplish any quote we provide is bound to be wrong.
If we could give our clients advice before they call to talk about a project, at the top of the list would be: have clear ideas about what the video is to accomplish and be ready to communicate those ideas, and have a firm idea about what you want to spend. That’s information that will help any video producer produce the best video possible.
In many respects, commissioning a video is like contracting to build a new home. It’s possible to get a lovely, livable home built for good price provided a plan is in place to make the most of available resources by guiding certain choices. Four baths or two? Wood paneling or drywall? Marble counter tops or laminate? Copper pipes or Pex? Architects help their clients develop a plan for the best house possible on budget by providing information to help answer such questions. Video producers help clients produce the best video possible in much the same way.
It’s very helpful when clients can provide us examples of videos like the one they’d like to produce — something that’s easy to do today by linking to examples on YouTube or elsewhere on the Web. Review of such reference videos provides us with the opportunity to explain the kinds of choices that might be made about production values and to explain their associated costs.
Price vs. Value
We ask clients to consider that the best way to evaluate the cost of video production is by considering the potential value of the piece to their business. Which is the better deal in the long run: a $750 video that brings in $10,000 of business, or a $2,500 video that brings in $250,000? In terms of return on investment, the comparison is a no-brainier. Shopping on price alone may lead to missing the $250,000 opportunity.
When we ask clients to consider potential value of a video opposed to cost of production they often reply "that's a good way to think about it, if we could be sure that a more expensive video would bring in more business, and besides, the $750 video might do the trick."
We have to admit it, there is no way to be sure. There's an unavoidable element of uncertainly and risk in every business decision. Every client has to make a decision based on the information they have at hand about their marketplace and their estimate of the impact a proposed film might have on the consumer behavior in that marketplace.
In the best of all possible worlds, promotional video production decisions will be based on a marketing data accumulated by a client's marketing team over time. While they can't completely eliminate the risk in marketing and advertising choice, data-driven decisions can reduce it significantly.
We are often approached by small businesses or organizations that are in the very early stages of growth. They often don't have a formal marketing team, and they may even not have a marketing plan or sales goals or targets. Our advice to such potential clients is always the same: if you don't have a marketing plan you are probably not ready to produce a video. We advise that getting one's marketing plan in order is the best way to reduce the risk of investment in video production and understand the value that a film or films may have to your business.
The Value a Producer Adds
Motion picture producers are experienced experts in how to organize and create visual stories. If brought in to consult as concept is being developed or a script is being drafted, they can help save time and money in all phases of the production process by advising what is practical and what is not, how best to implement ideas and concepts, and the costs associated with them. Because producers are familiar with what is in and out of fashion in the broader world of video marketing and advertising, they can help clients avoid trite, outdated, or ineffective approaches that can reduce ROI for a project.
Presented with a script, a good producer will be willing to help create a production budget and project specification that provides clear cost estimates for every production activity and phase of the production process. Such careful preproduction saves money in the long run by ensuring the efficient use of production resources.
What can be said with some confidence is that, in most circumstances, higher production values are associated with more effective videos. Audiences, on balance, associate quality of a film with the quality of the goods and services on offer.