Getting Strategic with Video: 4 Questions to Ask First

As marketing and communications professionals, our work needs to satisfy the long term goals of our organizations. You would never spend money to produce a brochure or to run an online advertising campaign without having a clear business case to do so, yet this is something that we see happen all too frequently in video production.

Many businesses will produce videos simply because they think they need to “be on YouTube” or have video content on their website. While there may be some truth in those statements, having a lack of clarity around the objectives, audience, and messaging is a surefire way to fail in both the production and optimization of a video when it comes to determining things like video length, the creative approach, tone, call-to-action, thumbnail, and so on. As we’ve stated many times before, there’s no such thing as a silver bullet video, and a video in itself does not a campaign make.

According to Karen Lee, ABC, MC, who teaches and specializes in strategic communications planning, we should focus on the why and not just the how – strategy before tactics. She’ll often hear colleagues say, “our work can’t be measured”. This is something that we hear in our industry as well and which couldn’t be more untrue, given how advanced the analytics tools have become for online video, provided you focus on the video metrics that count and are producing videos which form part of a larger campaign or strategy.

It’s time we started getting more strategic with our video marketing and communications, by asking ourselves these 4 questions first.

1. What is the Problem or Opportunity?

Defining Your GoalsWe need to first define our communications objective, and it’s important that this in turn supports an overall organizational goal or objective – the business case for creating a video in the first place.

At an organizational level, we might be aiming to introduce a new product to market, to reduce customer service or on-boarding costs, or perhaps to recruit new talent. The terms goals and objectives are often used interchangeably, but you might consider your goals to be the overall changes we hope to cause, while objectives are shorter-term, measurable steps you could take to reach these goals.

Communications objectives should then drill even deeper. Karen Lee would caution us to avoid ‘fuzzy’ words here, like educate, inform, increase awareness, engage, etc. Instead, focus on changes in behaviour which can be measured. Are we calling on the audience to take some kind of specific action?

Avoid jumping ahead to tactics at this stage, like creating a YouTube channel or a landing page explainer video, as tempting as it may be – there will be plenty of time for that later.

2. What Does Success Look Like?

Picture a successful outcome for the project – perhaps you were in fact successful in increasing awareness. What behaviour has changed as a result which can be measured? Now try to attach a date and number, and to write this as a statement. Consider your baseline – if you’re not measuring this currently, then how will we know if we’re successful?

It might be useful to also imagine for a minute that you were not successful in achieving your objective. Ask yourself, “What went wrong?” and try to figure out how to mitigate those factors which might impact success.

This exercise can be extremely helpful in determining a budget for the project. If success could mean a 7-figure increase in revenue, then it might make sense to allocate a little more to the budget since this could ultimately limit the approach and production values during the execution of the project. Of course, if you’re having a hard time justifying the existing budget during this exercise as it is, you may want to rethink the project all altogether!

3. Who is our Primary Audience?

If everyone is our audience, then nobody is! It’s best to focus on one primary audience per video, segmented by demographic, vertical, or whatever makes the most sense for your industry.

Now try to find any existing research on this audience – you’d be surprised how much data might already exist within other departments of your organization. What does the audience already know about the organization, service, or product? Are there any particular challenges, such as cultural differences?

It’s important to segment your audience, not just based on demographics and vertical markets but also based on where a customer might be in the sales funnel in terms of their awareness of the solution you’re offering, in the case of marketing videos. For example, you might want to provide a brief overview explaining the benefits of a piece of software first, before going into a full length demonstration of all its features, or detailed case study. There’s no limit to how deep you can go in segmenting your audience at this stage, and they may be able to be grouped when it’s finally time to consider tactics and budget.

4. What is Our Key Message?

Your key message should be stated from the perspective of those we’re trying to influence. Answer the question “what’s in it for me?”. A clear description of these benefits will help your message not only be understood but acted upon.

The goal should be to define one key message per primary audience. If you’ve more than one key message, then ask yourself if this wouldn’t be better as a series of videos.

What’s Next?

Now we can finally dig deeper into tactics – this is where our expertise as video marketers really comes in!

Measuring ResultsTactics have their own tactical objectives, which in turn support your communications objectives. For example, you might create a video to be used in an email campaign to increase email open rates and click-throughs to a landing page, or perhaps a video which aims to increase conversions to a contact form to generate more leads or to encourage ebook downloads while capturing email addresses, or any other micro-conversion goals. It’s at this stage that your budget needs to be considered since that’s now going to be the primary limiting factor.

Once a video has been online for long enough to collect sufficient data, or the campaign has ended, it’s time to measure the results of each of our tactics. For on-going campaigns, there may be an opportunity to make incremental improvements to things like your call-to-action and thumbnail using split A/B testing to improve your video’s performance. Remember that video should be thought of as an iterative process, and it can take time for an organization to develop their voice and a unique style, much like blogging.

You can then compare any changes in behaviour against the baselines measurements we defined for our objectives in order to quantify any return on investment from our efforts. This should help you build a strong case for doing even more video in the future, which as a video marketing agency we of course see as a win-win.

Read more: Video Metrics That Count

We believe that videos should only be produced which are SMART and contextually appropriate. This means making your videos platform specific, while keeping in mind best practices for each. There’s a lot to consider but, don’t worry, we’ve got your back.

The purpose here is to stop making videos simply for the sake of having videos. If there’s no real problem or opportunity, and if the results can’t be measured, then you might be better off saving your budget for something more strategic.