How to Create High-Quality Video Content on a Budget
So, you wanna level up your content strategy using video.
There’s an abundance of approaches, strategies, ideas and suppliers to help you bring your vision to life. But video is a victim of the marketing axis of evil: it’s time-consuming, and it’s expensive.
At least that’s what we’ve been lead to believe. What if there was a production process that relied on a leaner, more streamlined methodology?
When you boil video production down to its most critical components, it becomes much easier. Simplify the process, and video production becomes fun to execute.
It starts by aligning video with marketing objectives
As a visual medium, the purpose of video is to support your content strategy and build an awesome customer journey. One that builds strong customer relationships while inspiring and persuading with awe-inspiring visual narratives.
In other words, instead of forcing video content to fit into your strategy, ask yourself: “how can video make a bigger impact?”
To demonstrate how video could fit into your customer journey, let’s apply examples to each step of the traditional marketing funnel:
- Awareness: Enhance your paid media creative to capture attention. Repurpose blog posts to capitalize on video SEO.
- Interest: Use explainer videos to demonstrate how your product solves specific problems. Create educational videos and webinars that educate your audience.
- Consideration: Interview customers and share their journey. Demonstrate that you help people just like them.
- Conversion: Create video for sales enablement. Collaborate with your sales team to deliver content that’s relevant to prospects.
- Retention: Make a strong first impression with new users by teaching them how to get the most out of your product. Create post-sales webinars to show how customers can bring your product’s features into their own workflows.
- Advocacy: Set a high-bar for quality, integrating video as part of your content library. This is how you make audiences fall in love with you.
Drift, for example, use a no-frills, direct-to-camera approach for many of their product-driven videos. Their team sits in front of the camera and present the benefits of various features (while using on-brand motion design to place emphasis on key pieces of information):
On top of that, they’ve gone all-in on webinars. Instead of one-off events that cover a single topic, they produce several sessions in order to get right into the weeds:
By inviting several guests to cover specific topics, they’ve positioned these webinars as an “educational suite.” This attracts an audience looking for solutions to those challenges, which happen to be the same as their existing customers.
Drift could have made this same impact with the written word – using blog posts to educate and conversion-driven copywriting to attract leads and sales.
Here’s the thing: they have a great blog, and utilize strong copywriting. But they’ve invested in video to provide new modes of value delivery, without wasting their audience’s time. This then builds a strong customer connection in the process.
- Collaboration: They partner with social media and other business experts to present and share their expertise. This adds more value while allowing them to tap into a wider audience.
- Positioning: You’re not watching a webinar. You’re signing up for an in-depth course that will help you achieve a specific result.
- Design: Landing pages not only communicate a huge amount of value, but they look damn sexy, too.
As a branding tool, it’s a great way to create a strong position in the market. Especially when you and your team steps in front of the camera.
Why? Because there’s only one you. Becoming the face and voice of your video content allows you to put your culture in the spotlight.
Take stock of the channels and marketing strategies you’re already investing in. Find ways to deliver more delightful experiences by adding video into the mix.
And if you’re already investing in video but struggling to increase production quality, the rest of this article is for you, too.
A video production workflow that scales
When marketers think of video, many assume it involves huge production teams and lengthy lead times.
This is mainly due to how many traditional production agencies still operate in this way – with dozens of middle-men having a stake in the creative process. Not only does this balloon the time it takes to complete video projects, it also makes it incredibly expensive.
By the time a creative brief has been handed to those with the actual talent to craft your content (such as videographers and animators), most of the budget has already been used up.
For us marketers, this amount of bloat is unacceptable. Simplifying the process is critical in order to scale efficiently and get it all done within budget.
Once we boil the video production process idown to its core 11 components, it starts to look far more manageable. These components are:
- Pre-Visualization: Marrying content strategy and research of visual styles, the “pre-vis” stage involves gathering reference materials from sources like YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram – as well as other films, animations and videos.
- The Script: An important step to streamline the rest of the process, your script communicates the content, flow of information, tone of voice and supporting visual cues (motion design, visual motifs etc.). In short, it defines the narrative of the video and what will be said.
- Storyboarding: Each “panel” of your storyboard communicates visual elements, content, imagery and the layout for your video content. Most importantly, it allows all stakeholders to agree on the video’s direction to reduce expensive and time-consuming revisions later on in the process.
- Music Production and Voiceover: Sourcing background tracks (known as the “music bed”) and voiceover talent early on will aid editors, animators and motion designers throughout the process. It informs the flow, pacing and overall “vibe” your video offers.
- Animatics and Skeleton Edits: This is where imagery, audio and stock footage are used as placeholders for the final edit. This allows editors to build pieces of the final product as new videography and animation assets are delivered.
- The Shoot: Coordinate videographers, locations, and any direct-to-camera talent (unless someone from your team will step in front of the lens).
- Editing: Footage, motion graphics and animation is gathered and crafted into a finished narrative. For some projects, this process will be ongoing from stage three onwards.
- Colour Grading: The process of balancing and altering colors to capture a specific look-and-feel. This includes raising lighting levels in darker scenes.
- Visual Effects (VFX): Can be simple environment alterations (replacing clouds shot on set with a bright, sunny sky), stylised sparkles from a magic wand, or complicated set replacements (actors shot on green and blue screens).
- Animation & Motion Graphics: These two are used interchangeably, and can be added to live video or used as a storytelling vehicle for the entire video.
- Rendering: It’s a wrap, and time to render and export the final product. Video must be rendered in the right format for the purpose and platform you intend to use it on.
The workflow outlined above used to be a massively bloated process, with dozens of directors, producers and creatives having a stake in the process (some agencies still operate this way).
A simplified workflow speeds up the process. It removes unnecessary expenses, all while ensuring the final product is – *kisses fingers* – perfect.
Another point of friction is the fear of stepping in front of the camera. As Vidyard say, it’s a lot less scary when you’re not making it up as you go along:
“If you’re planning to record yourself, set aside a little time to determine what your message is. Plan out your main talking points. Make some notes.
If you’re going to be in a scripted video production, ask to see the script in advance to review and get to know your lines.
Regardless of the situation, it’s always going to be easier when you know what you want to say.”
Preparing a script not only makes your message tighter, it can help you feel more confident when standing in front of the camera.
To make this process even smoother, get your company some detailed brand guidelines produced. For example, Shopify’s brand style guide includes several detailed breakdowns of visual elements:
Typography, color, iconography and even interaction states have been given careful thought. This allows creators to produce beautiful experiences without dozens of unnecessary and frustrating revisions.
When you think about it, this video production process looks an awful lot like a blog article workflow:
- Pre-visualization acts as content research – collecting third party articles, influencer quotes and conducting keyword research.
- The script and storyboard is as your outline, where sub-headings are substituted for frames and visual elements.
- Music, voiceover, shooting, animation and VFX is the first draft, opening up that new Google Doc and crafting words into a beautifully written blog post.
- The editing processes for articles and video look vastly different. But they have the same goal; to polish the final product to be the best it can be.
While it may seem like a daunting process, this workflow might only be time-consuming during the first project. Always start with a pilot project to get your production house in order. This allows you to document the process and standardize certain elements into a visual style, which can then be applied to your brand guidelines.
For example, when we begin working with a client video projects for the first time, we only commit to a single project in the first month. Once it’s completed, we standardize and build templates out of those assets. Now, this same process can scale between two to eight projects a month.
Imagine having a single video operation that serves all divisions of marketing and sales from one place. In time, it becomes far easier to test new ideas without needing a six-figure budget for a single campaign.
Bringing together the right talent
Finding the right people is critical to producing exceptional video content. The workflow above exists to make life as easy as possible for all parties, but you still need the right people with the right skills to execute on it.
If you’ve collected plenty of reference material, then a good videographer, motion designer or animator can remove the need for a creative director.
The same goes for production crews. By boiling the process down into its critical stages, you only need a single project manager (or producer) to bring your video content to life. If you’re a marketer with some extra hours on your hands, even better.
At a minimum, these are the people you need to bring your video to life:
- Videographer: Takes care of preparing the location, prepping your team or on-screen talent, and supplying filming and lighting equipment on site.
- Motion designer: Adds visual elements to your video content.
- Animator: Produces an animated video from start to finish.
- Editor: Brings your video and narrative to life.
- Producer or project manager: Sources and coordinates the right talent, locations and assets.
- Content strategist: An in-house marketer or agency to take ownership of the ideation and purpose of your video, as well as promotion strategy.
Try to batch certain stages of the process together. If you commit to a particular format or framework (and use a script and set processes), you can produce several video assets at once. This will reduce costs, while allowing you to scale for faster turnaround.
Finally, take a leaf out of Wistia’s book: attract a crew that believes in what you’re building:
“Ideally, you should aim to hire a director, director of photography, sound producer, and gaffer (i.e., lighting technician and head electrician) who are all aligned with your creative vision and direction; any arguing or push-back will be a big time-suck once you’re on set.”
Use video frameworks to streamline your processes
Like any content marketing effort, it’s best to start with a video framework that’s proven to perform well and then “break the mold” with your creativity as you grow.
These frameworks simply provide you with the building blocks needed to tell a narrative that keeps viewers engaged.
These days, it’s easy for your audience to click away on the next shiny thumbnail they see. Your job is to keep their attention while adding as much value as possible.
Sounds like an impossible task. Luckily, there are frameworks that work for every objective and video format.
Covering every framework is outside the scope of this article. However, I’ll share two popular formats used in the world of marketing:
1. The explainer video
Loved by product marketers everywhere, the explainer video is typically used to communicate the benefits, features and problems a product solves.
High-quality animation is key, as it allows for engaging and entertaining storytelling while keeping your customers hungry to learn more.
But there’s a trap many fall into when writing explainer video scripts: focusing too much on outlining broad problems your product solves.
As buyers, we’ve been conditioned to understand how to fill the gap created by problems by using a product. So, use no more than the first 10 seconds to “call out” your audience by their challenges. You can then use your solution to succinctly tie highly specific, relevant problems to the features that solves them.
For example, many SaaS explainer videos spend 30 seconds outlining pain-points that the viewer is already fully aware of:
With some careful scripting, these surface-level pain-points can be simplified into two sentences. And these two sentences won’t take up more than five to ten seconds of the introduction.
This demonstrates you “get” your audience, while quickly cutting to the chase.
Specific pain-points can be tied to features and benefits of the platform. For example, this line:
“Stand out from the crowd with stunning templates that go way beyond the standard PDF.”
Could be repositioned to something like:
“Make a great first impression with prospects and internal decision makers with stunning proposal templates.”
Not only does this framework get to the good stuff quickly, but specific solutions and outcomes are also associated with each feature set.
Companies are flogging a dead horse by reminding buyers of their surface-level problems. And we’re bored of it. Get to the point, and go deep in order to stand out:
- Introduction: Two or three sentences, no more than 10 to 15 seconds. Be succinct, and get specific with the problems that really inflict pain on your buyers.
- Core feature sets: Introduce your product and get right into it. Showcase three or four of your core feature sets, presenting the outcome they promise and what makes them different.
- Social proof: Feature customer reviews, G2/Capterra ratings and testimonials. Show your audience why they should trust you.
- Call-to-action: Ask the viewer to take the next step in the relationship.
2. The webinar
Webinars are a tried-and-tested format for lead generation. But they have a positioning problem.
Take a look at the majority of webinar landing pages, and you’ll notice a lack of compelling copy. Great webinar landing pages make people so eager to opt-in that they’ll actually make the time to watch it.
Content positioning is a principle we use on all our content at Grizzle. It’s a statement we include in all of our briefs. The sole job is to answer the question: “how will this content be compelling, different, and better?”
When someone sits down to watch a webinar, you’re in control of their time. If it’s a topic they care about, it’s hard to switch tabs and watch later without completely losing attention.
One of our favourite webinar formats is the case study. As TwentyThree put it, it’s a great way to build trust and move prospects along the sales funnel:
“The format is a great way to bring your case studies to life, either by repurposing your video or written case stories or creating an entirely new one.
You can either interview the client or let them talk about their experience. However, the best case studies all have one thing in common: great storytelling. You should ensure that your speakers have a proper narrative and storyline including the problem, the resolution, and the (happy) ending.”
To effectively position your webinars, you must do two things:
- Go deep on a topic, and overload with value
- Communicate every single thing a viewer will learn (and what they can achieve) in your landing page copy
Here’s a webinar framework you can use to structure your training:
- Topic Introduction: Open up with a story that connects with your audience (while remaining relevant to the topic). This keeps them hooked and reduces drop-offs. Avoid talking about your expertise and company at this stage.
- Expert Introduction: Once you have them hooked, now you can Introduce yourself (or any experts you’re collaborating with). Why are you qualified to be teaching this? Hook them in, then ease skeptical minds.
- Introduce what they’ll learn: Briefly provide a high-level overview of what you’ll cover, and why each area is important.
- Value, value, value: Treat the rest of your webinar like a how-to blog post. Provide actionable steps, strategic advice, data and third party examples to help visualize each principle in action.
- Conclusion: Wrap up overarching themes. Remind them why this topic is important, and what they can achieve by taking action.
- Relevant call-to-action: What’s the next step? Craft an offer that acts as a next-step for your audience.
Creating beautifully designed slides will help differentiate your webinar, keep your audience engaged and improve the overall experience. Go all-in with your slide designs. Make an impact.
For example, HubSpot’s Customer Code deck is a prime example of keeping things engaging and punchy:
- Illustrative assets are used as supporting pieces. This keeps viewers engaged and enhances the overall webinar experience.
- Slide layout is frequently changed throughout the presentation. This builds “pattern interrupt” before the viewer can become too bored.
- It’s narrative-driven. They talk about their mistakes, what they’ve learned, and provide lessons the viewer can apply themselves.
Finally, create landing page copy and supporting design that communicates the benefits of registering for your webinar.
For example, this ebook landing page from Tide does a great job of breaking up sections to present key information is different ways:
Don’t be afraid to place information below the fold. If it helps to build desire for your content, make your copy as detailed as you like.
Video marketing made simple
We created this process to cut out all the fat and waste from video marketing. I’m a huge fan of filmmakers like Matt D’Avella, Peter McKinnon and Kurzgesagt, and believe this bar for quality has a place in the marketing world.
Reducing bottlenecks from the process makes this level of quality not only realistic, but accessible to any marketing team. Simplify, and only execute (and hire) what is necessary.
Try it once. Put those systems into place. And you’ll be producing excellent video content in no time.