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6 things you should do to set your video production project up for success

When you want to make a video for your business, it seems logical that the first step is to engage a video production company. But before you hop over to google “video production [insert city name here]”, there are several essential items you should have ready.

The 6 things you should do before hiring a video production company

  1. Identify your goals, objectives, and audience
  2. Know your budget
  3. Know your timeline or in-market timing
  4. Develop a distribution plan
  5. Have your script and storyboards ready
  6. Have your internal team lined up and ready for approval

Details from each of these items will give you confidence in the process and inform decisions that you and your video production company will make every step of the way. The distribution plan, for example, tells the video production company if they need to shoot with vertical Instagram Stories in mind, or whether space should be left for baked-in closed captions. Without a detailed plan, you may be in for expensive changes after production.

You might be with me on items 1-4 in our list, but I wager that you raised your eyebrows at number 5: Have your script and storyboards ready.

Doesn’t a video production company do that? Maybe, but they probably shouldn’t.  

For a full breakdown of each of our six items, listen to the podcast, watch the video, or read the transcript below. If you need help creating any of these things, consider engaging a creative agency. I know a good one that specializes in video.

Key quotes

"If you don't know what you're trying to accomplish, how do you make a plan to get there? And it's the same thing with making a video. A lot of people just want to jump in, produce a video, and call it a day. Problem is you hurry up, you make the video, and then afterwards you get the comments like, "Well, why wasn't this in there?" Or, "This approach is outdated," because you didn't set up a framework at the beginning." - Tory Merritt
"Don't do your distribution plan after the video is made. You're missing out on a lot of value that you can create, and a lot of stretching of that budget for sure." - Guy Bauer


For more on how to prepare to make a marketing video, visit our B2B video marketing guide.

If you're ready to make your video, check out our video production buyer's guide.

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode transcript

Hope Morley: All right, we're recording. And it's time to start our expert podcast.

Tory Merritt: Okay. It's time to be an expert.

Hope Morley: Hello and welcome to this episode of So You Need a Video, the podcast about how to boost your business with smart video marketing. I'm Hope Morley.

Tory Merritt: I'm Tory Merritt.

Guy Bauer: I'm Guy Bauer. Hi.

Tory Merritt: Hi.

Hope Morley: Yes, and we are recording coming to you, another episode recorded from home instead of in our studio. Tory now has a bookcase behind her so that you know that she is an expert.

Tory Merritt: Multiple. There's actually a full wall. You can't see it, but it's a full wall of bookcases. Bless my mother's soul for putting them all together one day. I don't know how she made it through that, but—

Guy Bauer: Where are you Tory, right now?

Tory Merritt: I'm in Michigan, in the basement. This is like everyone's dream. Actually, it's been nice, but yes, the basement of my parents' home in southeastern Michigan.

Guy Bauer: Great.

Tory Merritt: My dad's office. I kicked him out.

Guy Bauer: I love the steel file cabinet. That's how you know you're in a basement.

Tory Merritt: It has my dad's name on it too, from some office.

Hope Morley: In case he forgets who it belongs to in his own home.

Tory Merritt: It locks. So that's how you knew you must have been big ticket, if you had to lock.

Hope Morley: All right, let's get into today's episode. Today we're talking about the six things you have to do before you hire a video production company. So what we're talking about here is specifically not when you're working with an agency, but when you're ready to shoot, and you're going on your own to find a video production vendor, what are some things you should have ready to go before you make that decision.

Hope Morley: We find in our years of experience in video that a lot of people want to jump straight into that Google search term for “video production companies” before they've done all their homework. So we want to put some tips, six tips out there for things that you should have ready before you get into the Google and put in those search terms.

Guy Bauer: The Google.

Hope Morley: The Google. All right, the first thing that you need to have, step one, before you go to the Google, know your goals, objectives, and have your audience identified.

Tory Merritt: The old saying, I'm not sure, actually, my dad might have it down here, which is like, "If you ain't got a goal, you ain't never going to score." is the saying. Which essentially is, if you don't know what you're trying to accomplish, how do you make a plan to get there? And it's the same thing with making a video. Like Hope was saying, a lot of people just want to jump in, produce a video, and call it a day. Problem is you hurry up, you make the video, and then afterwards you get the comments like, "Well, why wasn't this in there?" Or like, "This approach is outdated or we've changed things," because you didn't set up a framework at the beginning. So step one, figure out what you need to accomplish with your video, figure out how it's going to fit in with everything else that you're doing, kind of the holes that that video can fill that you need filled, and then stakeholder alignment on all of that stuff is really important, like you said. If you don't have that at the beginning, you're going to get it one way or another. It just may be a lot messier when you get it later.

Hope Morley: Absolutely. All right. So the second thing that you need to have ready, once you have your goals, objectives, and audience identified and ready to go, all your stakeholders are on board, the second thing you need is you need to know your budget.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, well, we wrote in the buyer's guide, you know, like America's pastime is to withhold the budget. And I don't want to say that my budget is $30,000 because then all of the production companies will come back at $30,000.

Tory Merritt: Or more.

Guy Bauer: And what if I could've gotten it, or more. What if I could've gotten it for $20,000? So I don't want to say $30,000. The problem is you're really just going to waste a bunch of your time because eventually you will have to reveal what your budget is. So say you go to a video production company and withhold the budget. They're either going to do one of two things. They're either going to, because you haven't laid out a budget, they're going to go high. So they're going to go really high, knowing that they're going to flush your budget out. So you're just going to reveal your budget anyway, that way. The other way they'll go is undercut. And what they'll try to do is really go low, low, low, low, low, that it's like, "Well, we have more money."

Tory Merritt: And you don't know what you're missing out on too. You might think that going in with that lower budget. If it's lower than what you can actually spend, the difference between what you've said and what is real, could have actually been valuable things that you could have gotten for that money, that you'll never know because you went too low. And I got one more thing, and then I'll let you jump in. We just experienced this in the past couple of weeks. We ask as part of our initial conversation is what's your budget?

Tory Merritt: Like I said, we're not asking that so that we can exploit it. We're asking it so we can give you the most valuable things and include them. Maybe we would go cheaper on other things that you don't care about, but we don't even have the ability to do that if we don't know what you're working with. And I think it ended up being like, I would say an extra two to three phone calls because, great client, but they wouldn't tell us what their budget was. So we just kept going and going and going. And it added, I would say an extra week at least of time to get things kind of scoped, over if they had just told us what the amount was, and we could have designed an artful package that got them what they cared about and was able to cut down on things they didn't care so much about.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Yeah. A good agency wants to know the budget, not to exploit it like Tory said, but to like triage your cash. You know what I mean?

Tory Merritt: Right.

Guy Bauer: Almost like how Warren Buffett says his best trade is just cash allocation. So a pro company can figure out what to spend money on, what not to, but they need that macro view.

Hope Morley: They need that macro view, and you also need step one. You need to know those goals and audience and objectives, because then using that information and using the budget, they'll make you a custom package.

Tory Merritt: Exactly. Charging you a lot for things you don't care about is a great way for you to never come back to me. So I have no interest in doing that. I would rather give you the things you're looking for within your budget and then work together like Hope said to find the things that aren't as important and maybe come down on those items.

Hope Morley: All right. The third thing that you need before you hire a video production company is to know your timeline and your in market timing.

Tory Merritt: Yes, that's-

Guy Bauer: You guys hear that? That's my kids upstairs.

Tory Merritt: Yes.

Guy Bauer: My God. It literally feels like I'm-

Tory Merritt: I was nervous about the plumbers, but I think your children both weigh less than half of me together. May have more force than he does. Timing. So timing.

Hope Morley: Timing.

Tory Merritt: Yeah. For me timing is really important as an account person. Because again, it's the same thing with budget. If I know what you're working with, we can work as a team to find the best places to give more time, and then cut back where possible. We don't enjoy sending a timeline where a client gets one day turn arounds. That only happens if it has to happen. So when we get, I don't want to call them fake, but I've worked with clients who they've worked with agencies and partners who can't seem to hit timing no matter what timing they're given. So a client will just add a couple of weeks on their end, take a couple of weeks away from the vendor, the agency, and hope that it still gets done on time.

Tory Merritt: A good production company, or even an agency partner can work with your real timeline, and deliver for you, and find the places, yes, when we're developing for production or doing a director's treatment or pulling pre-pro and trying to get actors and locations, that stuff does take time. Rushing those things results in errors and issues with getting permits and all of that kind of stuff. Maybe there is room if you have a simple concept for post-production to be a little bit shorter, but if we don't know what to work with, you're just going to get the standard from that company. And it may or may not align with again what's important or what you need on your end.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. And as soon as possible is not timing, you know?

Hope Morley: Everybody wants it as soon as possible, but realistically, like what do you actually need?

Guy Bauer: Yeah. And the biggest thing— the older I get, I'm 38, and I feel like I have a ton of wisdom now— is the best, most valuable part of the creative process, even the production process, is the ability to sleep on stuff. I really think that, wholeheartedly, 100%, the best work we've ever done, both from a creative standpoint and a production standpoint, plenty of time to sleep on things, and kind of think, and not have the pressure of that rush timeline. Business moves a mile a minute. That's why it's really important to understand, well, what's the purpose of the video, what's its goals and all that stuff, because if the video doesn't need to be so fancy and stuff, maybe it can be a quick video. But if it's got to live on your website for three, four years, and you're using it as a major marketing piece, don't be penny wise, pound foolish, really give the production company as much time as you can possibly afford. It will come out better than if you didn't.

Hope Morley: Yeah. We've heard a lot of artificial rush timelines that people say things like, "Oh, we want it by the end of the quarter." And you're like, "Yes. Okay. We all want to be able to check off our goals at the end of the quarter, that we did our marketing objectives. Check, done." But if you're just rushing through the video and you end up with a subpar product, just so you can check off your little check box at the end of the quarter that you got a new video on your website, it's not worth it for that little check.

Tory Merritt: And even for just proofing things like having the time to like look at it, maybe twice on your end, makes a huge difference. When you have to like quickly do it and try to get everything down, the chances of you missing something are much higher than if you're looking at it the afternoon. And then you can look at it again, at least for me personally, when I can look at it again in the morning I do, I catch things that I wasn't catching at 4:00 PM the night before. So if you're able to give yourself that amount of time, to the company, that production company and to yourself, it's a lot better than coming back three months later, and someone caught that there was a footnote that should have been there that wasn't there, or a line was missed, or just something silly like that, that ends up being a big deal later, that probably would have been caught if people could have looked at it a time or two without having to rush it through.

Tory Merritt: Or often what we talk about is people just don't look at it really at all. Because again, they need this in the morning. I don't have time. They delegate it to someone who also then doesn't really look at it. And it just compounds that no one actually looked at it in detail in the end.

Hope Morley: Yes. So know your real timeline. All right. The fourth thing that you need, before you go to a video production company, is you need to have your distribution plan ready.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Just from personal experience, every time we've done something for our own agency without this in mind, I'm always kicking myself at the tail end, because when actually lay out all the channels you have and all the content that your audience is craving, it doesn't make sense to make a video that isn't able to be modified for each one of these channels or sliced and diced in different ways. And so a lot of times what clients will try to do because the distribution is an afterthought, then they'll come back and say, "Actually, can we get a ten second? Can we get a different crop? Here's a sheet of crops." It's way better to shoot the video knowing where the video's going to be going, knowing the different crops, the different time limits, 60 seconds on TikTok. I forget what Instagram is, I think 60 seconds on Instagram, or else it becomes an Instagram TV video. And Instagram TV has a different crop than LinkedIn.

Hope Morley: And a Story, suddenly we need to have the vertical.

Tory Merritt: Right.

Guy Bauer: Right, right. So know where it's going to go before you make it. This way you can tell the production company exactly what crops you need, how many alt versions you need, and you can also write the script with the distribution in mind. Don't do your distribution plan after the video is made. You're missing out on a lot of value that you can create, and a lot of stretching of that budget for sure.

Hope Morley: Yeah. I think one of the biggest mistakes that we've seen is that people take one video and they just throw it everywhere or they make their own crops of trying to put something on an Instagram Story, or just even on Instagram in general. Like it has to be that, ideally it's the square. And you're just not going to get your best ROI out of that video if you didn't plan for those different platforms.

Tory Merritt: Right. Like where it's going. Again, like digging more into my HubSpot but use on social versus use on like paid things, there's a difference in the way that you create things. Is it for intent or is it based on like what their interests are? And like what you're shooting should be educated by that. And going back to what Guy said about the crops, we can shoot it, sometimes we'll talk about “let's shoot it in 4K” or “let's shoot in 8K” in ways that you can kind of play with the cropping and the framing. I'm not an extra on this, but this is generally for client folks that haven't done this. So if you don't shoot that way to start, you can't fix that in post. There's a limit to what can be fixed in post. And I think sometimes we still talk about like, "Oh, we'll just change the cropping." Some things once you've shot, it can't be changed.

Guy Bauer: Yeah. And then one more thing to go onto the budget topic too, is when you produce something, production, the shoot days are always the most expensive. Editing though is comparatively cheaper. So you may be able to smartly use your shoot days so that in one shoot day, instead of you getting one video in that one shoot day, if you come out with a plan, that's a distribution plan, paid, earned, shared, owned that has like all these different versions. You may be able to out of one shoot day, instead of getting one video, one shoot day is 20 videos, across all these different channels, over many weeks. So yes, it's totally strategic to know where the videos are going before you make them.

Hope Morley: Yep. So once you have those four things ready, the fifth thing that you need to have ready before you hire a video production company is to have a script written and storyboards prepared.

Tory Merritt: Hand me the beautiful work.

Hope Morley: Guy, you want to explain why you need that before you go to the video production company?

Guy Bauer: Yeah. Video production companies, traditional video production companies are used to getting script and storyboards from an agency. The typical flow is that an agency sends script and storyboards to the production company, and the production company does a treatment on those script and boards, and maybe adds their 10% spin. So there's their unique point of view on the world for the reason why the agency is going to that production company, either they're dark and moody, or they're very friendly, or they're funny, whatever spin they have, they're going to add to an existing script.

Guy Bauer: Storyboarding and scripting is not technically in the core competency of video production companies. So when you don't go with a script and storyboard, you run the risk, you run the risk of the video production company saying to themselves, "This client has no idea what they're doing. I guess we'll just give them something." And then the entire time you're saying about them, "They don't know what they're doing. Why don't they have an idea?" It's that video production companies typically aren’t idea companies. You need an agency, a creative agency of some kind, before you go to a video production company.

Guy Bauer: Now, more and more this rule is kind of bending and changing. Traditional video production companies are now like morphing, because I think there's so many more companies making videos, and they can't all afford to go to a creative agency. They kind of have to bypass the creative step and go to a video production company. So if that's you, make sure you understand that that video production company can write scripts and do storyboards, and ask to see work that they've done where they did the creative themselves. Don't take it as an assumption that you're just going to go to this production company and they'll sort it all out for you.

Guy Bauer: You want to make sure that creative is actually in their core competency. Otherwise you run the risk of getting lackluster video content because the production company is really geared to just making a video. It's kind of like going direct to a carpenter when you want to build a custom house, instead of going to an architect. The architect is the creative agency. The carpenter is the video production company. You may find a carpenter that can also architect, but the chances of that are kind of low.

Hope Morley: All right. The last thing that you need before you hire a video production company is to have your internal team lined up, ready for approvals, and on board completely with this project.

Tory Merritt: So kind of like we talked about before. If you don't have them lined up at the beginning, it's going to happen at some point, it's just going to be messy at the end instead, or after it's done. And someone's upset because the video's not what that needs to be.

Guy Bauer: Yeah, eventually there will be the stakeholder, whoever it is, CMO, CEO, some C person, some director, some VP, somewhere, sometime, at some point, they're going to see it. It's just a law, right? And you don't want to surprise them. You want them to have bought in very early into the process. We recommend from the very first calls, even before script is even written, get them on board and bought in. Don't play the game of not wanting to bother them. There's a lot of clients, some clients we have that they don't want to bother the boss. So they wait until the video is totally done before they “bother” the boss. And the boss can, I would say, most of the time go, "This is completely wrong. I don't agree with anything you've done. This has to be redone." And that gets very expensive.

Guy Bauer: So don't surprise the boss, get them in early. And psychologically speaking is — they'll buy in! Give them ownership and then they will have less of a chance of blowing it up later on.

Hope Morley: Exactly. Because if you surprise someone, they have no ownership, they have no stake in what you've created. So they don't care if they want to blow it up. If they see something, they don't like they're just going to completely throw it away. But if people have been involved from the get go — we have a little cat visitor on Tory's. But once they're involved from the get go, then they understand what was going on, they understand the full plan that went in before video production even started. Hopefully you've gotten full sign off on, hey, back to step one, your goals, objectives, and your audience, so that they can come in knowing what they're looking for, knowing what we created, and knowing what the goals were and what they wanted to create.

Guy Bauer: Tory, you went on like a ten minute freeze.-

Tory Merritt: I heard most of that that and I wholeheartedly agree. It's probably good, because the cat was like crawling, and I'm trying to tell him, like, "Get down." And I'm like, "How do I do this without like reaching across the screen?" Anyway.

Guy Bauer: Oh, well. It's the end of the episode anyway.

Hope Morley: It's the end of the episode. So let's wrap up the six things that you need. So before you go to Google, before you type in “video production company and the name of your city,” the six things that you need to have ready are your goals, objectives, and audience ready and identified. You need to know your budget and you need to be willing to share it with the companies that you find. You need to know your timing and your timeline. You need to know your distribution plan, have it written out, and know all your platforms. You need to have your script and boards ready to go. And if you don't have them ready, consider talking to a creative agency to make them for you. And then have your internal team lined up, ready for approval and fully on board with the project.

Guy Bauer: Love it.

Hope Morley: So thank you all for listening to this episode of So You Need a Video. For more information, for links to some of the things we talked about, you can visit us on our website at umault.com. That's U-M-A-U-L-T.com. And you can subscribe to us on your favorite podcast app, and give us a like if you're watching on YouTube. Thanks everybody.

Guy Bauer: And hit the bell. Hit the bell.

Hope Morley: Hit the bell.

Tory Merritt: Ring ring.





Picture of Guy bauer, founder of umault

Guy has been making commercial videos for over 20 years and is the author of “Death to the Corporate Video: A Modern Approach that Works.” He started the agency in 2010 after a decade of working in TV, film and radio. He’s been losing hair and gaining weight ever since.

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