Working in creative requires thick skin. It’s the business of rejection. But the victorious sense of accomplishment at the end of a project tends to make you forget all that.
“Opinions are like assholes. Everybody’s got one and everyone thinks everyone else’s stinks.” ~ Home for the Holidays (1995)
Six Tips to Better Manage Client Expectations with Video
As Creative Director for Video Army – a digital agency focused on video – we are constantly serving our clients and incorporating feedback into video productions for marketing. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way that should help get to the “victorious” sensation sooner:
1) You’re only as good as your references
When pitching or presenting a video production, it’s best to provide a compelling case backed by data, trends, case studies, references and examples. Show the client a sample of a finished campaign with a similar style, strategy, music track, etc.
Show them why you’re taking a specific direction and help them sense what the final product feels like. This also helps manage expectations on quality levels, scope of visuals, duration, etc. Examples are better than lengthy description. Show, don’t tell.
2) Create a Revision Process
Create a revision system with your client about the definition of “approval” and the number of revisions for each step of production – before you begin production. You should be able to answer:
- How many script revisions do they get?
- How many editing reviews?
- Does an email confirmation work for approval or do you need a signed document?
This will help you stay on budget, create important milestone reviews (big picture) rather than micro-reviews (nit picking) and ensure your client is consciously approving material. The more upfront in the review process with the client, the less likely you’ll need to change direction and “start over” towards the end.
3) Review with the decision makers
Where does the buck stop? Who specifically has the authority to “approve”? Find out and review with them whenever possible – and their influencers. And know where the notes or opinions come from. It could be the CEO’s spouse or teenage son…
I encourage our clients to take 48 hours to review with all necessary department heads and collect feedback. This creates ‘one voice’ from the client to address notes and typically squashes any surprises in final feedback from a higher level decision maker.
4) It’s marketing, not a short-film festival
Some clients trust you, some don’t. Some know what they want, some don’t. Some understand production – you get the point. Every client is different but one thing is certain – at the end of the day you’re making a video for the client’s marketing, not your personal reel or awards.
“Creative without strategy is called ‘art.’ Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising.'” (Jeff I. Richards).
Let client’s feedback inspire you to create better advertising. And don’t worry, you always get your directors cut.
5) Be aware of focus groups – Beware of focus groups
“If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse'” – Henry Ford
Sometimes there are facts, and sometimes there is originality venturing to the unknown.
Sometimes your client may want to use a focus group to test your spot before risking a media spend on an unknown. Focus groups can yield amazing insights to create effect products, strategies and inspire creative executions. But it can also create lowest common denominator decision making. Always defer back to the target audience and marketing objective, you may find that they don’t need “a faster horse.”
6) Clients can only review what they can see.
Often you need to send rough cuts with temporary visuals to get client feedback before spending more budget. While placeholders or references will help your client understand your direction you should be a present guide and not let them wander their own imaginations. If you often find yourself with pages of confusing notes, consider reviewing with your client to ensure you’re seeing the same thing.
If you need to review remotely, which we often do, I find these two tricks helpful:
- Add a timecode burn in so exact frames can be referenced over the phone for example. Especially helpful with fast edits like music videos.
- My favorite review interface is Cinesync. This syncs Quicktime on either end (Mac and PC) to ensure you’re seeing the exact frame the client sees. We live by Cinesync and our clients actually find reviews fun because they get to doodle on the image in real-time with us rather than write copious notes. Also see Wistia (www.wistia.com) for a less interactive but cost-effective alternative.