HOW TO GET THE BEST RETURN FROM YOUR VIDEO INVESTMENT
Being completely transparent here – if it isn’t obvious, filmmaking is expensive. It’s no secret that feature films on average cost over $5 mil and that’s on the low end. Commercials can go for $1 mil for 30 sec – 1 minute of screentime, and corporations invest hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on marketing videos and content creation. People know this, but still can sometimes be surprised when a small production company charges over $10K-$30K for a short video. It is definitely an investment, even for orgs with big budgets to spend. Quality video content that actually stands out is never going to be cheap, so we want to make sure you’re getting the most of your investment and not just creating something because it’s trendy, or to appease your boss, or because every marketer tells you to “create content”. We want it to actually highlight the things that make you unique, help others get to know who you are, get creative, create a connection, grow your org, and help solve problems you face on a daily or weekly basis.
Things have changed very fast the last few years at Votary. We used to only be hired to shoot and edit videos, and much of the process was asking potential clients questions about the type of video they wanted to produce. Much of the time we weren’t the ones leading the process, but being more reactive to what the client told us they want. It seems fairly obvious, but that presupposes that we’re on the same page about terminology like “brand story” or “explainer video” or “about us” or “commercial”, never-mind the fact that the type of video the client may want, may or may not be helping them reach the goals that they’ve set.
So we began focusing on the goals and results first, and building the video ideas around that.
What would the ideal result be after publishing this video? Are we creating a short film that will live on the homepage of your website that will be evergreen, or are we creating a targeted ad for you or social media video or event video? Is this for fundraising, or is it helping build better culture internally, or creating a connection with your “ audience “ or “ customers “? Do we truly have creative freedom?
Through experience we realized that these questions seem obvious but are very difficult to get specific answers on much of the time, and it affects the entire approach of filmmaking that we execute. But by getting clear on this early on, you get a better result because the films will be tailored to your needs and the whole style (documentary, scripted, mixed media, etc) is what we believe will help you hit the goals that you have set. Because of this, we’ve become story consultants in a way and spent much of our process in pre-production, and ultimately made better films that are customized to what makes you and your organization unique.
But all of this still leaves you ( the client ) to execute the actual posting / releasing / tracking / analyzing / etc. of the content we created. We are not going to become a data tracking company as well as a film production company overnight, but we have realized that there are ways we can help you maximize your investment by being intentional up front.
So how do you get the best return on your investment?
What needs to happen in order for you to have a return on your investment?
How many average sales do you need to make and how long based on past sales cycles should that take?
See the Essay Case study here for an example of a return that yielded sales very quickly. Not everyone has the following that Julian and Jordan Peterson have, so naturally, results vary.
Tell a story that matters to your network.
Sometimes the return is more based on a long term brand voice and reputation, not cash. Is the return on your investment a hard dollar figure, or based more on your long term relationships, culture building, and personal connection you want to make with your target market, your friends, and even your family members?
If this is the case, here are some ways we think you can make sure you’re prioritizing the right areas in the content you’re creating –
Are you looking at other companies who did something similar and trying to copycat them? Just because something had a big splash for a different company, does NOT mean you’ll experience the same results.
Are you highlighting what is different and specific about you and your organization in what you put out?
Are you being open, honest, and vulnerable about struggles, challenges, conflicts within your org or your journey? It’s not about just talking about problems, it’s about being open about struggles that have already been resolved in order to tell a story that matters to people. People don’t care about your video that’s just bragging about how great you are, they care about how you’ve had hardships that you’ve overcome. That’s what is relatable and draws a viewer in.
Imagine watching a movie where the main character just wins at everything every second of the movie and nothing bad or difficult ever happens to him/her. The movie ends and everything is just as amazing and perfect in the last 5 minutes as it was in the first 5 minutes. You’d be confused and bored and possibly angry that something like that was even created. Why should it be any different in the stories we tell about brands or marketing videos we make?
These are things that help make sure that your investment is at the very least helping you be seen for what makes your organization, your personality, and your stories real. If it’s honest, that’s a good start. Even if it gets no views in the first month, at least you put out something genuine, and who knows when your story will reach the right people.
What questions do you get asked constantly at your job? Are you answering some of these questions or concerns potential clients or current clients have in what you’re creating?
Do you have your audience in mind when creating videos? Why should this story or this video idea matter to them? Why are they tuning in and why should they keep watching?
A lot of the time, when asked about ROI, my answer is that it’s just a matter of “when”, and not “if.” If you’re telling a genuine story to your audience and you have any marketing efforts in place such as organic or paid campaigns, if you have a good reputation, a sizable customer base, or all of the above, then it’s just a matter of time that the videos you’re creating are connecting with people. This either speeds along the sales process, invites new prospects in, builds your internal team and culture, or sometimes all of the above. It’s obviously impossible for me to put a time frame out there to which you’ll get a return, but generally our partners see a 10x return within 1 – 2 years.
See the AFH + Reebok case study here for an example of a huge return within one event that their video played at.
Other questions to ask yourself in regards to ROI –
Where is the best place to release your videos? Is it on tiktok? Is it on your website? Do you have a huge instagram or Linkedin following? Should you slap it on YouTube and hope for the best, or are you creating a short film that you want to circulate in film festivals? Just because you may have a big following on a certain social media platform, doesn’t mean your ideal client is on that platform and wants to hear what you’re putting out.
It may seem counterintuitive to this post, but creating from a place of wanting a quick return on investment sometimes is the wrong approach. That’s why most of what I’m listing out here is not “top 5 ways to make your money back from your videos” because anyone putting that out there would be reaching in my estimation. The best course of action is to be very clear on your goals, your ideal result, and ask yourself if you’re telling the right story to the right people in order to get that result.
A good thing to highlight here is that people don’t automatically care about the content you create. Naturally that is the goal, but it just isn’t a guarantee. So what can you do? Well, telling a story that’s real, honest, vulnerable, and that is given the proper attention is your best bet. We understand that doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s ok. Not every project is a big emotional journey, but the more raw that it is, and the more creative you get, the better chance you have of creating a connection and people wanting to share it. That can feel scary or risky for a lot of orgs.
If you are wanting to stand out with the things that you create, but you don’t want to take risks, I think you’re kidding yourself. Why should you get to play it safe and then also have people care about your content and have your organization grow?
I can think of several times I’ve worked with CEOs of large orgs that struggle with this idea. It’s common for them to want this huge impact and reward in the videos we produce with no willingness to think outside of the box. They think they want something fresh and innovative, but over time it’s revealed that they just want plain vanilla ice cream with food coloring. Much of the time it ends up being disappointing for both parties.
Our goal is to make sure we’re crafting something that has a “long shelf life” for you and your organization.
If we don’t think the video you want to make is going to have the right results, we’ll say so. We don’t want to embrace a bunch of wacky editing transitions that end up looking really dated in the long run. We don’t want to be shortsighted in what films and videos we put together. We want to make sure that the video content you’re investing in will yield a return year after year and continually provide some value for as long as you’re in business. This is part of why we focus on your origin story, why you do what you do, the struggles you’ve overcome, getting creative and inspired through cinema, and focusing on where you want to go in the future. These things will not go out of style and shouldn’t really ever change as the years go by. These are the areas that are worth investing in.
So to sum it up
Getting a strong ROI on your videos depends on a multitude of factors like your goals, your audience, where you publish the videos, and your budget. The best question to ask is – are you telling an honest story that is going to matter to the right people? Hopefully the suggestions and questions I posed here are helpful, but it’s by no means a simple punch list. From what I’ve learned about marketing, it’s really about the consistency and pulling from what you already have that yields results in the long term, and it has to be invested in long term.
I’m no expert in any of this, but this is some of what I’ve learned after doing this for over a decade.
Ultimately, investing in video production does not guarantee a return right away. It will help you be known, be relevant, and grow, especially if done in a way that’s honest and high quality. It also helps if you already have compelling stories to tell, and if you have a mission that’s creating a positive ripple effect in the world, which are the organizations we want to partner with. If you value what we value, it’s going to be a smoother partnership and fulfilling work for both of us. With those partnerships, the return on the investment sometimes is simply getting a particular story out in the world. The value comes from knowing people need to hear it and see it. Much of the time, ironically, these are the projects that have the biggest impact, largest monetary gain, reaches the largest audience, and grows the business the fastest.
What story should you be investing in?
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Mike is a film director, producer and a musician. He’s been a part of Votary’s origin the longest besides our founder Jed. His mind is always running and creating and flowing with ideas. His strengths are finding the truth behind a message and a person’s story as a writer and director, understanding Votary’s market and voice, as well as envisioning finished edits in detail while in the brainstorm phase. Votary’s Development process has been informed by his interview style and drive to understand storytelling framework deeper while leaving room for genuine personality, especially in documentary filmmaking. His drive comes from wanting to know people’s truest self and being able to explore pure creative expression.