There are some extraordinarily talented Videographers who can do it all and there are also video production companies of all shapes, sizes, and services. This post is to help you determine when to explore one or the other.
Let's say your company decides to start getting into video marketing and maybe wants to begin with something that doesn’t sound too grand in scale but also not super easy. Maybe it’s a testimonial or explainer video.
Not too much commitment up front. You’re trying to decide if I call Susan’s friend who’s a videographer OR hire a video production agency. You’ve heard production can be expensive and that might feel like a big commitment.
As every doctor typically answers "it depends." There is a place for both when it comes to producing marketing video content. But how do you know when to hire one over the other? It’s possible that what might seem like a bigger investment, is actually far more valuable than you think.
Here are 7 questions to help you determine if you need a videographer or a team of experts.
- What stage is your company in?
- Is this a core strategic video?
- What is the complexity of the project?
- How valuable is your time?
- What is your final delivery date?
- Do you or your building require general liability insurance?
- Do you value thought leadership and deep expertise?
1. What stage is your company in?
Are you a bootstrap startup? Is your business established? Are you mid-sized company or a fortune 500?
You may not have a choice but to find the cheapest option available if you’re boot strapping it. At that point, you should follow our blog for video marketing tips and guidance to get the most bang for your buck with the videos you’re able to produce so you can grow to the next stage. There are a ton of resources for how to pull together videos that can help while trying to do it all yourself.
If you’re established and mid-level, you really should be consulting with a production company to get an idea of all your options. We’d be happy to provide a free strategy session to work through all that you can be doing to dominate the video marketing game (see below).
If you’re a large company, you should have some level of in-house team to handle the spontaneous, small-footprint content but bring in specialists for larger awareness campaigns, complex productions and/or for storytelling expertise.
2. Is this a core strategic video?
Does this video directly impact your bottom line? Awareness campaigns, testimonials, explainer videos, and sales funnel support videos impact your bottom line for the next 3-5 years.
We recently worked with a client who needed an explainer video. Through the discovery process we learned that if his explainer video increased enrollment by just 1% more than his previous explainer video, it could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased profit over the next 18 months.
. . . if his explainer video increased enrollment by just 1% more than his previous explainer video, it could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in increased profit.
Just as the homepage of your website directly impacts your bottom line but a blog post is more indirect, so too are there videos that are pillars to your video program and videos that are more supplemental by nature.
After gaining the awareness that a video could affect your chance at hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit, does it make sense to go cheap?
A video agency is going to give you guidance about the latest research in video marketing to make the most informed and valuable decisions.
We assume that you’re probably a very busy marketing and/or communications director or agency creative who wears a lot of hats.
We wear one hat: Video.
How to make it and what can be done with it.
In fact, that latter part is the most important to get right. “What can be done with it?” That should be informing everything else. It’s our business, it’s what we attend conferences for, it’s what we read books about, and it’s what we geek out over.
Generally a videographer is solely focused on shooting and editing.
3. What is the complexity of the project?
How many people are required to make this project a reality? Is there travel involved? Are there multiple deliverables?
Let’s say you need to film a 2-minute video of the CEO of a company sitting at her desk and speaking directly to the camera. That video is then exported and with little editing necessary is uploaded to YouTube. Let's say it's a PR video with the goal of quickly announcing something.
This is quite obvious. You have one camera operator, one person on camera, little storytelling expertise and perhaps one marketing director involved.
You need a videographer.
Let’s bump up the project in complexity.
The CEO is just filming her part of a larger video that includes another employee to be interviewed on camera at another location plus an interview at a client’s location. Then that video needs to be edited into a 2 minute testimonial that needs to be engaging and edited in a narrative format. There’s some light graphics work with speaker identifiers, interstitials, and a call to action and the music needs to really nail the tone.
Now you’re looking at managing multiple schedules, locations, potentially an extra crew member or two, and potentially an extra helper or two in the post production process. Even though this is a fairly straightforward production, a videographer (assuming they are in-demand) will be hiring some extra hands to scale up and tacking on a markup, so you’re probably not saving money anyhow.
The earlier example of the CEO talking straight to camera and the video going right to Youtube is one deliverable. That’s easy.
But what if you want the maximum value possible for all that investment in production?
Rarely do we advise doing one-off shoots without offering multiple ways to repurpose the footage. One soundbite can be a 10 second instagram ad. With some clever use of copy, you can use the same b-roll for a handful of ongoing ads. A video agency generally has the resources to get creative and make your dollar last.
Travel is always a multiplier of complexity and stress. A large reducer in that complexity and stress for a production company is having the ground support that is needed to smooth out any friction in the process. We travel all over the world but we have our team members in our home office in Baltimore ensure that our insurance is covered, that building permits (in big union states like Chicago and NY) are handled, and that travel, rentals, and accommodations, for our team and the clients if desired are all square so that we can focus 100% on the best possible video.
Our in-house team will do whatever makes the most sense to achieve your goals. If it saves money to rent at the location rather than fly with many cases of gear, then we’ll do that. If it makes sense to hire a director of photographer locally rather than pay travel for a large team, we’ll do that.
4. How valuable is your time?
Would you rather be overseeing large initiatives for your marketing department and focusing on more valuable tasks or would you like to be doing a large amount of the producing yourself?
With videographers, most of this will be on your shoulders.
With production companies, it’s handled for you.
Sometimes clients want to handle as much of the producing as possible to save time and money which means they ask to handle scheduling, coordinating, casting, locations, scripting, research, pre-interviewing, interviewing, etc. . .
It’s kind of like going to Jiffy Lube and saying, “can you just put some air in the tires. I’ll take care of the oil change myself."
It’s kind of like going to Jiffy Lube and saying, “can you just put some air in the tires. I’ll take care of the oil change myself.” The job will get done faster, better, and with fewer mistakes than if you disrupted their flow. So is it really saving time and money? Especially when you get that grease smudge on your favorite dress shirt?
Unless you have video production experience (which you may have), you may find that the video agency offers more value.
There is of course still work to be done on the client’s end in terms of producing. For instance with coordinating internal assets or with the CEO's schedule. But a video company has dedicated people to make your life easier, less stressful, and can view producing and logistics from the lens of years of production experience and a tested process.
Here’s a great article on the beauty of delegation.
5. What is your final delivery date?
Consider this. One 2-3 minute testimonial video from conception to completion on average requires about 2 full weeks of labor if not more (that’s cumulatively, but might be spread out over time).
It requires a full day or two of pre-production planning, client meetings, discovery & logistics, pre-interviewing, a full day or two of filming, and then about 40 hours of post-production.
40 hours? Yes. Scripting, A-rolling, B-rolling, picking music, revisions, building a basic graphics package etc…
A video agency is built for scale. Whereas one person may be overwhelmed if multiple projects happen simultaneously. What about a sick day? A production company is going to have multiple points of contact throughout the process and has plan B & C for the unexpected influenza infection.
6. Does your company or your building require insurance for general liability?
This is a very practical and wise question to ask but few people ask.
With the democratization of video tools, there’s a number of people who own a camera and can do the work but aren’t aware of the inherent risks - both legal and physical - involved.
Lights are generally heavy, cameras are expensive, clients need to be physically safe.
What if when moving equipment an invaluable vase is knocked over? Or someone is hurt on the job?
Any reputable contractor is going to have workers comp and general liability insurance.
There have been two cases when on last-minute shoots we needed to actually raise our coverage from $1 million to $2 million just so the manager of the building (not even the people hiring us) would give us permission to enter with our gear.
Luckily our in-house project manager (see Niki) took care of it within a couple hours and the day went along as scheduled.
7. Do you value thought leadership and deep expertise?
Most of our clients are companies and people that we have worked with for years.
We take the time to understand their needs, their industry, and their business and make an effort to provide as much value as we can with every engagement.
The longer we work with people the more institutional knowledge we develop so that working with us is like walking down the hall to your co-worker versus an independent firm.
This is less time that you have to explain to every newcomer what it is you do and what’s important to you.
For instance, we can provide videographers at very reasonable rates if all that is needed is to document an event or record a one-off task. We’ll handle it for you and keep it easy.
But when it comes to knocking the bigger project out of the park, the pillar videos that are core to who you are and your bottom line, we have the resources and institutional knowledge to create something special that has the impact you’re after.
In summary . . .
Video agencies are better for your core strategy videos, storytelling expertise, complexity, specialty, overall ease of the process, collective IQs (more institutional knowledge), coverage for plan B and C, and improved deadline meeting capacities that improve your bottom line.
Freelance videographers tend to be lower upfront cost, better for recording events and can handle lower complexity, one-off project needs with relative ease. They generally work alone on projects and have limited resources.
We can help you with both.
For agencies, we can have the ability to “plug-in” and provide ongoing content as needed. Or we can send one of our rock-star videographers to capture something that you need. Or we can set you up with resources to hire and find your own.
We can also provide the full-service video production required for literally every type of project imaginable, locally or in the farthest reaches of planet earth. And we’ll give you guidance along the way on the best way to do it and where the videos should live.
Speak with a video strategist today.