The "no talent" competition
We've run into a situation recently where a client heard at a Jeffrey Gitomer speech (well known business speaker / sales consultant / author) that the most effective way to go after new customers is with video testimonials from past and existing customers. Gitomer recommended that all sales people have a Flip video camera and go around to their customers getting these testimonials which they then edit on iMovie, MovieMaker or such like.
This seemed harmless until a potential project was put on hold because, "We're not really sure we want to go the professional route, based on what Gitomer was talking about." Now other sales gurus besides Gitomer are advocating the do it yourself approach to videos and I'm seeing the potential to lose a few well paying talking head jobs because of this nonsense. Mind you Gitomer's own customer testimonials shown in his speech we're shot by a camera on a tripod and the audio was either boomed or from lav mics. Wouldn't be surprised if a reflector had been used to fill in a few of the shadows.
In a previous post Terence Curren wrote: "If you can't get down in cost to the level of the low talent guys, then you need to educate your customer base to appreciate the value of your quality added to the product." Well now we're seeing competition from the "no talent guys."
Based on this my partner and I have come up with the idea of creating an actual comparison. The idea is to use a Flip camera just the way an amateur would. With the Flip we want to:
-Shoot somewhere with a really busy background.
-Be about six feet away so the audio will sound like it's mic'd from six feet.
-Have direct sunlight on the subject.
Then with our gear we shoot the exact same person properly -- shallow DOF, scrim, reflectors, hairlight, good audio, etc.
Of course this little demo doesn't even bring into account the importance of having interview experience or any concept of any editing.
So, does going this idea make any sense? Will being able to actually SHOW the differences mean anything to our delaying prospect? I have my doubts, but figured I'd throw it out to the group for consideration. And should be go through with this any other ideas on "helping" the Flip version to be representative?
That sounds like a great idea. It will demonstrate to your customer exactly what they are paying for. If they prefer a more "realistic" style then perhaps you could demonstrate a professionally shot handheld testimonial as well. You could also offer the client a package that includes a lower price for these amateur videos. If they prefer that to the professional videos then find a way to charge them for it in a way that doesn't lower the overall value of your product.
A professional solution should mean more options for your client flip and iphone (with fancy zacuda rig) should be among them.
Make sure you let a non-professional friend shoot with the flip. Or at least train yourself to throw your instincts out the window:
eyes in the middle of the screen with 2 feet of headroom
10 feet away zoomed all the way in, preferably digital zoom
bad white balance
silhouetted from a window
interviewer stepping over the answers
have lots of cell phones ringing
direct overhead lites for raccoon eyes
outside with lots of wind noise
cafeterias with lots of hard surfaces
If they were considering this, tell them about their credibility being marred. Or have them do it as an initial step in gathering material to generate questions for 'real' interviews.
The other thing I would say to these clients is, I'd ask them;
"So, do you buy each of your salesmen a Cessna and send them to pilot training school..... or do you book them commercial airliner flights to their sales calls? Are you in the widget business, or the video business? What business are you in, and if it's not your core competency, why are you committing resources to doing something "half-fast"?
Also...edit the FLIP with iMovie and use what titles they have...opposed to what you do with FCP.
But I agree...get an inexperienced person to handle the flip. But MAN, it would be good to have someone with NO interview skills ask questions. I bet these companies that use sales people to do this will find out pretty quick that interviewing is a skill in itself.
I have seen some pretty bad customer testimonials appear on TV though. And they looked like they were shot on Hi8.
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I like your idea, but I'd suggest that you make something really funny like the B-Roll video that Mr. Suszko posted last week. Did you see that one? It would make a great icebreaker for your clientele, and a great YouTube video too.
David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
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I do see this as being a great strategy for RX companies in the headache / dizziness meds business. Heck even make a TV commercial out of them.
San Francisco - Bay Area
I will have to disagree with everybody else that's posted here - I think creating a "crappy video" comparison test runs the risk of making you look silly and unnecessarily negative.
I think the best thing you can do is nothing at all; just wait till your clients try doing this themselves. After they crash and burn they will come back to you with a greater appreciation of your skills.
I have to agree with Herb. I can't tell you how many times we've had clients stop using us in an effort to save a buck. We don't get mad and we don't cut rates, but we offer to help them in their "transition" any way we can.
Virtually every one of them has eventually came back to us to either "fix" something a much cheaper production company or internal employee has done, or they've gotten so many negative comments about the horrible quality, they realize what they were getting from us was a pretty decent value proposition.
Granted, there are a couple of agencies that have strayed and never come back. But they were the ones that still told clients that video production cost $1000 a finished minute...a rate that was used when I first started in production in 1983! They're also the ones that don't notice the difference between a $100,000 Nike spot and a $500 car commercial shot on a 15 year old DV camera.
It's scary to see the trends taking place in our industry with flip cameras, iPhones with video etc. But we still preach that clients are hiring us for our knowledge, our expertise, our efficiency on planning an executing shoots, and our abilities to tell stories and communicate. So if they want us to use an iPhone to shoot a video, well, we'll try to talk them out of it, but if that's what they want...heck...in the words of Carl Spackler from Caddyshack:
"We can do that...we don't even need a reason!"
Magnetic Image, Inc.
As I stated at the outset:
[Nick Griffin] "Will being able to actually SHOW the differences mean anything to our delaying prospect? I have my doubts, but figured I'd throw it out to the group for consideration."
I'm heavily leaning toward Herb and Chris's direction. So to offer up advice to myself: Don't bother with the "How NOT To" and find better ways to get the point across. Sure it would feel good (for a few minutes) to show just how bad amateur video can look, but not likely to win in the end. It's more confrontational in a sales environment where being supportive and nurturing almost always works better. Additionally I have had situations in the past where clients attempted to do stuff on the cheap and then crashed and burned. They come back when they know you're there to help and go elsewhere if they feel that they've lost an argument.
Personally, I am a bit more testosterone-fueled and think that an article that addressed the guy's advice to his listeners, as compared to his own use of scripted, well-lit and edited videos to promote himself, would be well served.
Creativity is a type of learning process where the teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
- Antoine de Saint Exupéry
First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.
It's important not to look at this reality/first-person fad as crappy quality or no talent, but as as style. Styles come and go and tis fad as well. Right now, however, I can tell you fist hand that it was my saving grace this year. My shows became in demand not because of the low flat budget I could quote up front as a one man band, but because of the personal flavor they offer in the end.
I have no doubt that I'll add more production value to my content as this fad evolves. That's my job... evolve with it (or better yet, evolve before it and let it follow me).
Today, most client assume a vidiot can light something, lock a camera down and shoot flat video from the 90s. What they wanna know today is can this person (not crew) engage with talent and people who are not use to being on camera... from behind the camera while shooting. Laugh if you will but in these viral times, I've been asked if I can do "that youtube look". lol
why, yes, yes I can. It's as easy as walking with a camcorder and saying dude.
I always like sending clients the following:
A new hair salon opened up for business right across the street from the old established hair cutter's place.
They put up a big bold sign which read:
"WE GIVE SEVEN DOLLAR HAIRCUTS!"
Not to be outdone, the old Master Barber put up his own sign:
"WE FIX SEVEN DOLLAR HAIRCUTS"
Greg, you're in violation of my prior art on that "seven-dollar haircuts" anecdote; you can forward your fine to me via paypal.
Put in on my tab ... LOL. Since I just received a speeding ticket within the last hour, I've paid enough fines for the time being. Happy Holidays.
I think this further highlights the discussion downstream about the impact low-cost providers will have on our industry. As I mentioned in that thread, the "quality" debate appears to be a losing battle, long term, because it will only get harder and harder to make a firm case that quality has impact where it counts - our client's ROI.
I was particularly struck by the line "you need to educate your customer base to appreciate the value of your quality added to the product." This implies that the problem is merely lack of customer education, but what argument could one use to make this case, especially if the benefit is so non-obvious to them that it requires explanation? What, specifically DOES quality add to the equation? Can any of us put a dollar value, in terms of ROI, on quality level? In your specific situation (customer testimonials), does quality of production have any impact on the message being delivered, or the audience's reception of that message? One could quite convincingly argue that a homebrew presentation has much more authenticity than a professional production, and therefore might carry MORE weight with customers in this application. While it hurts to accept because our financial well being is in the crosshairs, Gitomer and others are probably right, and this particular application of video production is only the tip of the iceberg.
For the record, I am NOT saying that quality doesn't matter. My position is that it no longer seems to be an obvious and quantifiable benefit of higher-cost production (YouTube etc. has changed all of that) in and of itself. Unless you want to have to constantly "educate" each and every customer as to why they should pay you more, using increasingly thin reasoning to support that argument, another path is required.
The only way to avoid being forced to compete with low-cost providers is to offer services who's value is obvious, compelling and out of reach of the lower-tier production houses. If you offer a quality product, it needs to be aimed specifically at industries, companies, audiences and applications where your quality truly does make a difference. Corporate/industrials/testimonials are all very likely to be the first to go in my opinion.
[Chris Blair] "But we still preach that clients are hiring us for our knowledge, our expertise, our efficiency on planning an executing shoots, and our abilities to tell stories and communicate."
My biz partner (who is our GM) makes this analogy to our clients and potential ones, and I think it's a good one in this day of throwaway cameras and cheap editing software....
Go around to people's houses... friends, family, whomever... and you'll notice that a lot of people have pianos in the living room. A lot of them.
But there are very few concert pianists.
My personal variation to that is that anyone can buy the piano wrench, but not many people can tune one.
Here we just strive to play the piano as best we can. If a client is happy with hearing a first-year student bang out four bars of "Frère Jacques" on the keyboard over and over... there's not much changing his mind.
We try to stick with clients whom appreciate the concert.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
...and putting a scalpel in your hand doesn't make you a surgeon.
It's nice to know that even the guys I depend on for advice struggle with this stuff sometimes :).
We have always taken the approach that "the quality of your video is an indication of the quality of your product". The perfect example of that is the national car spot for the auto companies vs. the local spots for the used car lots. I'm sure you can come up with dozens more as ammunition.
I'm not up on what sales experts are preaching these days, but I'm pretty sure they're not telling salespeople to wear ripped jeans, drive crappy, dirty cars full of fast-food wrappers, or forget to shave for several days. (Proving that I am not fit for sales).
But the point is that ALL of this stuff, video included, make up the image that's created by the sales person. The way a potential customer experiences that image - what it feels like, looks like, smells like - is how he sees the product that's being sold.
Think about how many situations you've been in where one little negative thing, even in the midst of strong positives, swayed your opinion. If you can get your client thinking that way, he might see that it's unlikely that a crappy video will convince anyone to buy, but it could convince someone not to.
Happy Holidays Nick!
Triangle Productions Inc
Thanks, Larry. Always good to hear from you.
The "struggle" is an emotional one of being ticked off that someone would think that homemade accomplishes the same objective as professional, but the conflicting thoughts is why I posted this in the first place. And I think I've realized all along that showing the differences between the two videos is likely to just alienate the prospect or, equally worse, teach them ways to improve their home brew.
Brendan has it right, though. The whole thing has to come from the perspective of what do THEY value -- what's their ROI. If they can be convinced that a professional image and sound has a positive impact on their business then they buy. If not, they don't.
All in all, good thread guys. Thanx!
[Nick Griffin] "If they can be convinced that a professional image and sound has a positive impact on their business then they buy. If not, they don't."
I think that summarizes many of the recent threads Nick.
There is a market for all levels of production quality. A local car dealer ad shot on a Red Camera will still be a $200 local car dealer ad, it will just look really really bad, instead of just simply bad. In other words, someone accustomed to the $200 local ad is never going to be the customer for higher-end productions.
This is why we all need to be salespeople - to find the prospects and convince them [Nick Griffin] "that a professional image and sound has a positive impact on their business then they buy. If not, they don't."
"In other words, someone accustomed to the $200 local ad is never going to be the customer for higher-end productions."
While I definitely agree with you, I don't think the big-picture problem is that simple - it's not purely about finding customers who are used to paying more for production services, because we're looking at a paradigm shift that's happening at all levels. Notice how many Fortune 50 company adverts (web or otherwise) were purposely shot like crud to capitalize on the whole YouTube, user-generated "authentic" revolution? Giants like Burger King etc. all do it, but you WON'T see them using that look for shots of their actual product. For that, they cut to the same masterfully shot film we would expect. They know better than to harm the brand, but they are absolutely on the lookout for ways to cut costs AND dial in to the Facebook/Twitter/YouTube paradigm, which dictates that authenticity and making gut-level connections with the audience is far more important than other factors, quality included. They are shifting toward building communities around their brands, rather than focusing on expensive wow-factor.
The point is that there are some things that can be shot cheaply without reflecting directly on the product or company image. In the quest for cost savings, every company on earth is reviewing their budget and they WILL go the cheap route for anything that doesn't harm the brand. This is why I said corporate video, especially the talking head variety, is a dead man walking - there's no need to shoot 90% of that in high-quality video/film with weeks of post, especially when viewed from the client's ROI-driven perspective.
[Brendan Coots] "This is why I said corporate video, especially the talking head variety, is a dead man walking - there's no need to shoot 90% of that in high-quality video/film with weeks of post, especially when viewed from the client's ROI-driven perspective."
Brendan, man, you're scaring me. You too Nick. But only a little, and only temporarily. Because "high-quality" isn't just the "look" -- it's the experience and creativity of the interviewer and crew, too.
First, to add another data point to your evidence: I recently took in a dozen interviews shot by a corporate client on a Flip. If anything, the production value was worse than Nick described, because the client had attempted to edit them, losing a couple of generations in the process (with recompression artifacts galore). I cropped, color-corrected, reduced the noise, and the client is very happy. The interviews certainly looked authentic!
For the time being, I believe this is a very real phenomenon -- even in our own industry. Check out the websites of several of the big vendors (some of them COW sponsors). Whatever light is in the room is the key. The camera doesn't move. The audio is full of ambience. The talent is staff. And nobody cares. Content is King.
But I believe that eventually viewers will get sick of crappy-looking video in much the same way they turned against amateurish desktop publishing.
When the corporate video business comes back, and I believe it will, things will be a little different. There is already a reaction at the higher end against the beautifully-lit and tastefully-framed corporate interview. With some of the national cable docu shows I've worked on, the word from on high is that they don't want the traditional interview anymore. Either go way over the top with your lighting/set design, or make it look like you just ran into the expert on your way down the hallway to get some coffee. Personally, I enjoy these shoots. They're challenging, you never know what you're going to be facing, and the results do seem ... zingier?
Created this video a while ago and when a client sees the side-by-side comparison, it makes a difference. Some still shoot crap, but it helps them make a more informed decision and can really help when they need to convince a higher-up to get some budget. Many times it's letting them figure out what they don't want as opposed to what they think they want or can accept.
Nice work, Steve. I'm curious as to just when and how you decide to show this to a prospective client, and how effective it has been.
As the technicians/newbies need to figure out (a la E-Myth) doing the work is the easy part, getting the work is the challenge.
Up until yesterday, I've distributed that piece as a chapter on the custom DVDs I give to prospects - Yes, every new prospect gets a custom DVD with their name on it & samples specific to what they are looking for. Even if they're not looking for seminar recording I'm priming the pump for a cross-sell to other departments. By showing them good/bad examples, you can immediately bring up identity/quality issues in kind of a subliminal way and now they are the ones with a bit of doubt.
This is not to say we don't "polish a lot of turds" by editing their footage like you mentioned, but they know not to jump to a competitor because "we didn't realize you did that (better quality work)". The key here is to reduce services and not the price. Full blown shoot or a few hours of editing, my margins remain the same.
The gap between the haves and have nots is getting wider - junk video for a few hundred bucks or budgets in tens of thousands. Gone are the days of corp world calling and tossing in $10K without much thought. So the best deal now is to embrace what they want, get that relationship built, and cross-sell what you really want to provide.
Bob, and to the many others that are getting worried about this "good enough" technology and quality. You should all watch/re-watch Mike Judge's Idiocracy. I'm afraid this low-quality, cheaper form of everything will eventually win out. Video production and post-production included.
...where one little negative thing, even in the midst of strong positives, swayed your opinion.
Something I've seen in many instances, and it always makes people look bad: Typos. If you're writing something, and it's a business communication, take the time to check and correct spelling. Especially people's names. Almost nothing else will make someone look quite as bad.
You're shooting on spec. Just sayin' :_)