A video to promote

Ten tips for producing a video about your firm.

Marketing Clinic

By  Lyne P. Manescalchi

A ccounting firms across the nation are developing new marketing strategies to differentiate their firms from the rest. For example, most CPA firms are racing to set up their own Web sites to market their services online. However, one marketing tool that has been around for a long time is just starting to get the attention it deserves from CPA firms—video.

Besides being a lively and exciting way to communicate, a video depicting what makes your firm special is a valuable option whether you are a sole practitioner or an accounting Goliath. In fact, video has proven to be an excellent vehicle for showcasing our 13-partner firms personnel, services, expertise and culture. We believe it has given us a critical competitive advantage because it helps us convey something that is very difficult to communicate in a brochure or a print ad: our style of carrying out accounting and consulting services.

We play our video for virtually all serious prospective clients and include a copy in most of our proposals. Weve found a number of uses for it we had not counted on when we first thought of producing a video about our firm. Weve used it

  • As a recruiting tool.
  • At all our trade shows.
  • At all new-employee orientations.
  • When we sponsor meetings with outside groups, such as high school and college students and professors.

The secret of success for producing the right video for your firm? Organization. Here are 10 tips on developing a comprehensive strategy that you should consider as you plan to produce your first firm video:

  1. Define your objectives. Before you start production, you should clearly define your audience and the primary purpose of your video. Know whom youre trying to reach, how you could help your target audience, who in the firm will do what and how youre going to get your message across.

    After your objectives are clear, you must develop a strong outline that includes an engaging opening, middle and conclusion. From this outline, you can develop your script. Schedule the shoot only after every detail of the script has been worked out—mistakes can be disruptive and costly.

  2. Know your firms purpose. You may find that members of your firm have never before defined the firms direction, value and distinguishing services. Those factors should be the basis of your message as you tell your audience why your firm is special. Have participants from your firm discuss what makes their services unique and valuable, using examples and anecdotes with which your viewers can identify. Use testimonials from your clients to show, firsthand, the value and satisfaction your firm can provide.

  3. Choose a project manager. The best videos evolve from the focus provided by a single creative leader. Because of the collaborative nature of video, one person must act as the project manager, pulling together all the strategic, creative, technical and managerial aspects of the production. When selecting your leader, look for a creative individual with excellent communication skills—the leader for your video must be acceptable to your partners. Potential candidates include a marketing director or partner, the videos producer or director and your advertising or public relations agency executive.

  4. Invest in production value. Cost savings should not be the only factor you weigh when interviewing potential producers. Hire the finest talent you can afford. Ask them to provide you with examples of their work to ensure they are capable of producing the type of program you want. Its much easier to explain your thoughts to someone who has experience producing the kind of video you envision for your firm.

    Remember, you get what you pay for. If your partners want to show the video to current and prospective clients, you have justified the costs of production. Whats unacceptably costly is a substandard, underfinanced video that is never used.

  5. Grab attention from the start. The first few minutes are the most critical. If your video is dull or takes too long to develop, viewers will turn it off. In fact, you may discover that viewers expect a video produced by an accounting firm to be dull. Surprise them with fresh, entertaining material. For example, our firm video examines our partners personal goals and includes a movie star dog. Engage the viewer in as many ways as possible—you want the video to be entertaining as well as informative.

  6. Remember your audience. Most prospective clients arent qualified to judge your firms technical accounting expertise, so they shop for a firm that understands their needs. The more you customize your message for your target groups, the more you will pique their interests. That does not mean you have to produce a different video for every niche. Simply create an ideal-client profile and fashion your video to cater to his or her needs and culture. The best marketing programs are ones that define problems and provide clear, accessible solutions.

  7. Keep production deadlines. A video develops a rhythm of its own, based on the collaboration of the production team. Insist on high standards from all involved with the production—accept only top-quality scripts, acting, videography, editing and sets. A video production can be a rather large and unwieldy project, so trust your creative leader to move the process along without a cumbersome approval process. Nonetheless, dont be afraid to make changes during the editing process when you are unhappy with the product.

  8. Integrate your firms identity. Your video should mirror your firms culture and marketing campaign. For example, the style and graphics of your video should reinforce your firms logo, colors and slogans. This will ensure a focused and consistent message for your current and prospective clients. Building on existing programs increases the value of your entire marketing program.

  9. Stress communication. Your success in this collaborative venture hinges on your ability to communicate effectively with all involved. Producing a video can be emotional and nerve-wracking for those who are unaccustomed to creative projects and sizable budgets. Keep your partners, staff, video production house, clients and anyone tied to the video constantly updated to reduce the possibility of costly mistakes and misunderstandings.

  10. Be yourself. Theres no other accounting firm with a culture like yours. Be proud of it and make the most of it. If youre not sure how to position your firm in the marketplace, ask a marketing and PR expert to help identify your firms personality and strengths. That expert can then work with your creative team to showcase your culture in the video. In a profession such as ours, where multiple firms offer the same types of services, the ability to stand out from the crowd gives you a competitive advantage.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Once youve selected the production company, its time to concentrate on budgets, contracts and rights. Just because you are seeking top-quality production specialists doesnt mean you shouldnt shop around. Get at least three bids and you immediately will have a better understanding of your budget. The cost of a short video can range from a few thousand to several million dollars if you use a high-priced ad agency. The overall cost of producing our video was $8,619, while 500 duplications of the master cost $3.71 per copy, bringing the total cost of the initial order to $10,474. Our costs included scripting, production, direction, acting, videography, sound production, music and editing. Remember, such costs vary by region, degree of expertise and individual situations.

Before the cameras roll, youll also have to tackle contracts and rights. Your production agreement or contract with the production company should establish who will retain the copyright and how the videotape can be used. In our case, we contracted for both the copyright and unlimited use. Also, you must acknowledge the rights of those who appear in your video and those whose facilities you use for your shoot. Its generally understood that a company cannot use a persons name, likeness, voice or photograph in ads or promotions without the written consent of that individual. Therefore, we asked everyone who appeared on camera, even our own partners and employees, to sign releases. Because we shot our video on location, we also asked the managers and owners of golf clubs, private homes and business sites to sign location releases. If you plan to use music in your video, be aware that rights may have to be secured for existing recordings or paid to composers and musicians. To be sure you have covered all the bases, consult a local attorney who specializes in contracts and intellectual property.


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