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Lights, Camera . . .

Want to add video to your marketing arsenal? Don't shout 'Action' 'til you read this.

As technology advances, marketers are using video production for an increasing number of purposes. From budget-conscious TV commercials to live-action annual reports, the number of uses can be dizzying--as can the costs.

Studies from The Webb Foundation (formerly the International Television and Video Association Research and Education Foundation) indicate that video communicates complex messages up to 60 percent more effectively than print media. According to Gina DeSalvo Tilton, president of Tilton Productions Inc., a Shrewsbury, New Jersey, multimedia production company, that makes video a smart choice when you're trying to deliver complex messages or in situations where the subject might have a very high level of visual impact.

When determining whether video will work as a marketing tool for your company, Tilton says the answer begins with your budget. The cost of producing a video can range anywhere from $3,500 to $50,000 or more depending on length, logistics, format, talent and so on. If your video will have limited use and require a majority of your marketing budget, make your decision carefully. A demonstration of your product or service, especially complicated or big-ticket purchases, could make your sales efforts more effective. On the other hand, you want to be sure you're not sacrificing frequency and continuity in other areas of marketing your business.

And don't forget other considerations when deciding whether to go with video: What's your purpose for incorporating video? Who is the audience? According to Tilton, more mature consumers might react negatively to super-slick productions, while baby boomers and Gen Xers often like creative visuals with a touch of flash. Think about the length of the video, which will significantly affect the cost, as well as the means by which the video will be distributed.

If you decide video is a good choice for your company, it's time to find the right provider. Video production comes in a number of grades. From high-end, broadcast-quality Betacam productions to SVHS (more industrial quality but good for in-house use), deciding which format to use will affect the look and cost of the result. Interviewing several video production companies will give you a good overview of the different formats available as well as their price ranges. Whether you're interviewing a local cable company or hiring a multimedia firm to produce a video, however, it takes more than just a phone call to find the right company. Tilton offers the following tips to get the best results:

  • Ask for a current demo reel with cost information.
  • Check at least two references.
  • Ask about production experience and number of years in business.
  • Retain the rights to your footage. Some video companies maintain that they own the rights, and if you don't negotiate this point, you may end up paying usage fees if you wish to reuse the video for another project.
  • Set a deadline in the contract.
  • Be present at the final editing session to save costs on re-editing.

Most important, insist that your video production company outline all expenses for the video in a proposal and contract. To avoid unpleasant surprises, include a "not to exceed" clause that places a cap on the budget unless additions are expressly authorized by you in writing.

Once you've chosen a company and are comfortable with the cost, it's time to start the cameras rolling. So get ready for your close-up. . . .

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Gwen Moran is a freelance writer and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Lights, Camera . . ..

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