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Updated Mar 2020

Company video producers will want you to think their company is the finest in the land, and many will have a well-practised spiel for creating this impression

- whether it's during a telephone chat, a webcam meeting, an email response to your brief, or even a face to face dialogue.

To get round this you have to ask a few unexpected questions, and observe their reactions.

It’s not so much right or wrong answers you’re looking for

- as the reactions, and the degree of knowledge & experience shown.

You not trying to embarrass a video producer or make anyone feel angry

- but there’s nothing wrong with testing the limits of their comfort zone.

After all, you’re going to be married to them for the next month or two, and possibly more if you involve them in your overall long term, multichannel video strategy.

No single question in isolation will unearth the world beating producer you might be looking for, but the following 11 questions will help open things up.

And they work regardless of whether you need a filmed or animated video.

The take-home is to watch them closely and decide who’s the genuine article, capable of producing an effective video for your organisation - and who is not.

As always: Ask your question, then stay silent, watching & listening attentively to their reply.

Often it’s not just what they say, but the way that they say it!

If you’re using webcam, then you should request a meeting with face-to-face video visibility switched on. It’s helpful for both sides to see each other’s faces.

A mere photo of you both won’t do. It needs to be personal for it to work.

1 – The Pandering Response

The video company that gives you lots of pandering attention in the buying stages might be desperate for the work, and so have all the time in the world to give you in order to win. But they give that precious attention that some clients love! Either way, you need to know.

> Ask them how busy they are, then watch closely


2 – The Standard Response

On the other hand, the company that only gives you a “standard amount of attention” aren’t necessarily disinterested. They’re just busy. And they’re busy because they have lots of customers who like what they do. Which is a good sign.

> Ask them how many quotes a month they do


3 – The Boilerplate Response

Some video companies send you a 40 page pdf for a tender document or proposal (I’ve even seen 80 pages!).

But often it’s template, the same one they use for every client, where you get battered with superlatives and posturing, and much dubious or irrelevant information.

> Ask how long their tender docs or proposals are


4 – The Templated Response

To evaluate their video tender doc or proposal for individuality, ie, no boilerplating, check how many times your company name is individually used, in an individual contextual way. That’ll give you an idea if how much specific thought has gone into your company video project, and how much is simply boilerplate to be hashed up for every video client.

> Ask how much of the tender is generic and how much is specific to you


5 – The Recent Work Response

While it’s obviously good sense to ask to see samples of video work similar to your business or from your business sector, it’s good idea to ask to see very recent video work from the last month or two. Then you’ll know what’s bubbling in their pot – or not!

> Ask to see recent video work, any work, from the last month or two


6 – The 3 Referees Response

A tough series of questions to ask are “show me your last three company videos” followed by “can you give me references for these last three videos?” followed by “did you go over budget or time on any of the last three videos - and why?”. Watch reactions closely. It’ll sort out the bluffers from the genuine article.

> Will your last three clients provide a reference?


7 – The Pricey Treatment Response

Do you get an expensive treatment (like ad agencies do) or is it basically a video quote, proposal and a few samples?

If it’s an expensive treatment, maybe with artwork, you can be sure you’ll be paying for it. Which may be okay, if you have a sizeable video budget and are looking for something particularly special.

> Ask how long it took to prepare your presentation or proposal


8 – The Added-Value Response

Check if your initial meetings or conversations with potential video producers came up with ideas that added value to your explainer or safety video production? Or was the meeting simply someone showing you how much it costs to meet your spec? Always look for added value, identified quickly early on. It’s a good indicator that you’ll also get added-value later on in the production, when it’s needed.

> Ask how your ideas could be improved on

9 – The Script Check Response

Watch out for the “you tell us what to say” syndrome.

Video production companies, especially freelancers, that are weak on developing your business message, will always imply the onus of script development lies with you. Or they’ll brush over this area, and talk about animation, cameras, other client work, or technical stuff they're familiar with and hope to impress you with.

You do not want this. You want a professional scriptwriting service by a person experienced in your industry or your topic, so make sure they offer this, unless you’re super confident you can write a professional video script yourself.

> Ask about script development meetings, and research

10 – The Company Video Response

Ask each potential video producer “how long since they produced a company video, a marketing video, a business video?” (not any other kind of video, such as a wedding or social event, or an animation for Tik-Tok). It’s a simple question, but surprisingly many will respond with a video production they made a while ago, and not something they did last month.

> Ask how long since you last made a company video like yours


11 – The Problem Hider Response

Does the video producer look resourceful? Sometimes things can go wrong in the course of a video production (believe it), but a resourceful video producer will solve these issues fairly painlessly.

By contrast, a nervy person, a creative effete, or a tense image-obsessed individual will get everyone else worked up the same as they are, if there are unforeseen problems later down the line. The right person will openly admit to problems, while the secret hysteric will feel uncomfortable discussing the subject and want to move on quickly.

“We don’t get problems” is not an acceptable answer. “Problems happen and we like solving them” is a much better answer.

> Ask what sort of problems they get on company video productions like yours


Some of the above questions are obviously tongue in cheek, or even playful.

But mostly they’ll help you sort out the genuinely suitable video producer who can help you, and not leave you reduced to simply buying on price.




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