By 2019, content marketing budgets will have doubled what they currently are. And in a growing ocean of content, marketers are looking for ways to stand out. According to Hubspot, the top two channels that marketers are looking to add content to in the coming year are YouTube (48%) and Facebook Video (39%). However, video is still consistently seen as challenging to execute and expensive to scale. What should marketers do?
I’ve seen 4 responses to this challenge. 1. Wait 2. Look for cheap resources 3. Invest in a couple of videos 4. Invest for the long term
Which approach you decide to take is often a function of your risk tolerance. Yet, if you’re serious about content marketing, then the following steps will set you up for success, regardless of which path you decide to take. Even if you decide to wait, keeping these steps in mind will ensure that you are successful once you take the plunge.
1. Pick a Single Format and Stick To It
When you start exploring video, the creative juices begin flowing and it seems like everyone has a great idea about what to make. “We should do some interviews!” “Oh, what about animation?” “What if we did a sort of reality series?” The ideas all come from a good place. Colleagues are excited about something new and they want to contribute. At the same time, every idea requires time and resources to execute. And if you pick more than one format, you’ll be spreading yourself thin.
Consider that picking a single format allows you to get really good at it. Whether you are producing the video internally or working with outside partners, that narrow focus lets you hone the storytelling, the budget, the internal resource allocation, and more. As you create more, your content will actually get better.
In working with PK4 Media to develop more than 80 episodes of their series “Foodie Next Door”, we constantly learned and evolved the made-for-web show. That evolution was only possible because we had an agreed to format from Day 1. From there, we were able to make constant adjustments to improve the show. Here are a few (of the many) things that improved as we went along. 1. We went from filming in our talent’s kitchen to filming in a studio; with a limited impact to the budget. 2. We were able to lower our equipment rental cost (and even improve the quality of the equipment we were renting) by developing a predictable list of necessary items. 3. We reduced our time to edit each episode, which in turn allowed us to allocated the remaining resources to further improve the quality of the show through means like additional color correction, motion graphics and more.
2. Determine an Optimal Runtime For Each Video
If you are able to identify a format for your video, then it should be easier to figure out how much time it will take to tell you each story. However, don’t be tempted to haphazardly throw out a number that sounds nice.
Start by understanding how much content you can comfortably cover in a given amount of time. Marching Penguin typically uses word count as a key benchmark in creating content for clients. Generally speaking, you can consider 75 words for 30 seconds of content, 150 words for 60 seconds of content, and so on. Of course, the format and the pacing will have some impact on your ultimate runtime. Yet don’t get tempted into thinking that you can hack these numbers. Unless you are willing to speed up someone’s audio to the extent that they sound like a chipmunk, it’s going to be very challenging to put more than 150 words into a 60 second video.
Now word count only tells you how much can go into the “container”. You still need to determine the size of your “container”. So once you have a reference point based on word count, you can start to think about runtime based on the actual needs of your audience. Factor in who you are talking to, the complexity of the topics you’ll be addressing, and the depth to which you will go to address them.
Also, bear in mind that if you are truly making content, and not promotional material, the nature of your copywriting is going to be different. Content is expository. It is meant to educate, provoke thought, and get into the details. As a result, it takes time to get into a topic when you’re creating content.
Here’s an example I use to illustrate the point with my clients. If you are a company that sells a kitchen appliance, making a 30 second video about that appliance’s features is straightforward. You can quickly list the features in a promotional fashion, without a lot of detail. Now, imagine that you are making a recipe video (where your appliance is featured at some point). Well, 30 seconds is barely going to get you past the first step of the recipe. In fact, if you consider BuzzFeed’s popular Tasty videos (which most of us find in our Facebook feeds), the average runtime is about 2 minutes. And if you’ve seen those videos, you know they actually speed up a lot of parts just to get to 2 minutes.
3. Batch Produce Your Videos
Budgeting in production is far from straightforward. Many costs are based on day rates (e.g. studio rental or crew). Other costs can be based on hourly rates (e.g. editor, though often can be compensated on a day or week rate). And in the case of equipment, you can even consider purchasing outright.
As a result, I always try to structure budgets and project plans to maximize the output for my clients. In other words, if I’m renting a studio for a day, I’m going to try and film for the entire day. I know that sounds straightforward, but there’s often a misconception that there is a sliding scale for many of these costs. There can be, to a degree, but it’s highly unlikely that a studio will rent to you for a couple hours and that the crew will agree to partial day rates.
So instead, given your format and runtime (if you’ve done your homework above), work out how many episodes or videos you can realistically capture in one day. The answer may come by way of part art and part science. Plus, you should leave some room for margin of error the first time around. Yet ultimately, by having a mindset of batch production, you’ll truly get the most out of your budget.
Bring It Home
I say it consistently. Video is hard, but it doesn’t always have to be. By taking the time to plan upfront, you can start to build a scalable strategy for incorporating video into your content marketing. And as you start to build your audience and obtain success from your efforts, adding to your video library will create a flywheel effect.
And if you are still skeptical, know that I’ve seen companies with fewer than 20 employees master this approach, while some Fortune 500 companies have failed. In the end, it’s not about scarcity of resources. That is always an issue, no matter how big you get. It’s about finding a consistent method of collecting value from the resources you do have. Good luck!