So you want to create a promotional video for you small business, now what? 

Chances are that if you work at a large company, there is a marketing department that handles promotional productions, this article is not for you. 

But what if you're a small business owner? you have a web site, you have some still photos on it and other promotional material and you recently decided that you need a promotional video too? Where do you start?
    Step one is to try and define for yourself the purpose of the video. Is it for potential or existing clients? Is it for a presentation at a conference? Is it to be played on your web site? Social media? Event? 
    The answers to those questions will help you determine the type and amount of information you want to deliver. If your business has a unique concept and the video is geared toward potential clients, chances are you want to relay a relatively large amount of information. If your business has a relatively common purpose and structure (a gym, a bakery) and your main purpose is to show how fancy/ cozy/ friendly/ versatile it is, you probably don't need to communicate a lot of information but concentrate of the overall feel. 
Step two is to look at videos on similar businesses's web sites, on YouTube or social media, to further define to yourself what you like. Does a video seem too long or not long enough? This will give you an idea of the length of video you want. Is the narration annoying or informative? Do you prefer to convey information by titles? Do you like a more artistic feel to your video or does a formal structure a better fit for your type of business?  Save those links. These will help you communicate your likes and dislikes to the production company. You don't need to look for a perfect example of what you want. You probably will not find it. Instead save videos that appeal to you on certain level, then try to better define for yourself what is it that you like about them and what you don't. 
    Now that you have a basic idea of what you need, is the time to contact a production company. As a small business owner, you probably don't have a huge budget for that project and there are some ways to save without compromising results: 
Avoid big city companies- Big city companies need to pay for their prime location rent and tend to have higher overhead expenses that translate to higher rates. Instead Go local. When hiring a local production company you also save on travel expenses. If you're business is in the suburbs, look for a production team in your county. 
    Ask around, or look further down the google search page. Like you, small production companies don't have a huge advertising budget. That does not mean that they are not as capable of producing a quality product and their rates are usually lower. You are also more likely to get better service, with your limited budget, from a small company with fewer clients.  
    Your first meeting with the production professional can be over the phone or in person. Allow enough time to go over your needs and preferences in detail. The producers may ask you to send them some material about your business and your needs ahead of time so they can prepare. If the meeting is done remotely, you both should have access to a screen other than your phone so you can watch the videos you collected and discuss them. At the end of this meeting or shortly after, the producer should be able to give you a rough estimate of the cost of the project. Make sure you understand all the expenses. If the estimate is more than you can budget for, don't give up on the whole idea. Talk to the producer about ways to make it more affordable. For example, some types of original footage can be easily replaced with stock material without compromising the quality of the product and for a fraction of the cost.  
    The materials that will comprise your video will vary based on the type of business, the message you are going for and your budget. Here are some of the options:

  •     Original footage: This refers to filming done specifically for this project by the production company. This will include visuals of your facilities, activities done at the facility (a yoga class, a baker decorating a cake), interviews with employees, testimonials of clients, etc. 
  •      Stock footage: This refers to generic footage available to download and use for a fee from various web sites. Often it's a much cheaper option than original footage and can be combined with it. Do you want to talk about your consulting services to pharmaceutical companies? Getting permission and paying for the time to film actual client production line is complicated and expensive. A 10 second clip of a random pharmaceutical packaging system will cost between 50-100$ and can be as effective. 
  •    Previously shot footage: Footage of past company events can be incorporated as long as it's in good quality and you have the rights to use it.
  •    Voice over: A very effective way to relay information while the audience is watching matching visuals. It can be done with the voice of the business representative (in which case they will be shown briefly to be introduced) or by an anonymous narrator. 
  •    Graphics: Such as titles, charts, animation, illustrations and more can deliver further information. 
  •    Music: Frequently overlooked, is extremely important to setting the mood for your video.  The use of popular music without obtaining rights for it is illegal and an infringement of the artist's copy rights, but there are numerous web sites where you can buy "rights free" music for about 20-50$. 

Once a general concept for the video is agreed on as well as a budget, material collection can start, followed by editing. Make sure you are allowed to see and comment on rough cuts during the editing process and do not commit to accept a final product without a say. At the same time, you have to understand that being very picky on every little detail will prolong editing time and increase cost. Be clear with the production team that they should notify you if they expect at any point to go over budget. 
Some editors may choose to have you at the editing room at some point to give direct feedback. 

    Your final project will be delivered as a digital file. A full resolution video file may be too heavy for some applications such as emailing. Request a lower resolution file for that purpose. 
Even though the production company has the rights to the original shot footage, some producers may allow you to keep the material for other uses. This is something that should be agreed on and signed as part of the job contract. 
     Promotional videos are becoming more and more common as a business tool. If in the past production costs were too high for small business owners,  Prices today are more affordable as long as you keep reasonable expectations. Producing a video for your small business will require you to define your message, choose a style, arrange for original footage to be obtained, and communicate with an editor until the final product is to your liking. 
Other than money, you will need to invest time. Only you (or someone on your team) can define the message you want to get across, and that takes time to research, communicate and refine,  but the effort is well worth it. Clients today are much more likely to watch a 2 minute video about your business than read a long brochure or web page, and combining the information with visuals and music can have a very strong impact. 

So what are you waiting for?