Simple, but important.

Every conversation I have with someone about a new video project includes asking three simple, but critically important questions:

  1. Who is the audience?
  2. When and where are they going to watch the video?
  3. What should they think, feel, or do after they watch the video?

The answers to these three questions give much needed focus and clarity to the voice, tone, and style of the video, and directly (or indirectly) guide decisions throughout every phase of the project.

Let’s take a quick look at how each of these questions help shape a video.

For our purposes, we’ll pretend we’re making a product marketing video for an early-stage startup.

1. Who is the audience?

Is the video intended for investors, potential customers, or journalists?  If the primary audience is investors, what type of investors – VCs, angel, crowd funding?  Perhaps the audience is customers. Then ask yourself if they are consumers spending their own money or business users buying the product for their company – spending company money? If they are the latter, are they C-suite executives or daily users and practitioners?  Or, perhaps the video is intended to excite journalists and media and give them the information they need to cover your product and bring you publicity.

As a specific example – we recently finished a video for a client that makes cloud-based business planning software and during the discovery and development phase of the project, we uncovered that the audience was primarily C-suite executives and not the daily users of the software. This changed the messaging in the script to be more focused on demonstrating company-wide impact and big picture value and less about the benefit that specific features have for the daily users. Identifying the audience also impacted casting decisions, knowing that we wanted our talent to be most relatable to executives and less for early career individual contributors.

2. When and where are they going to watch the video?

When and where someone watches a video impacts several factors: how long the video will be, how much effort is spent on purely retaining the viewer’s attention versus providing information, and how much time is spent validating the need versus diving deeper into nuanced specs and features. A video for an Instagram or Facebook ad is going to be very different than a video going above the fold on a landing page, which is going to be very different than a video deeper in the funnel after someone has already invested time to research the product.

As an example – videos for social media often have a square or vertical aspect ratio. On the opposite spectrum, videos being played on ultra-wide LED walls at live events often have a very wide aspect ratio. These not only have different resolutions and aspect ratios, but the audience attention span is very different for both scenarios. And think about the role that sound plays in a video. More often that not, videos being consumed in social media need to stand alone without the need for sound, but in a live event, the sound is a highly controlled experience and can play a more leading role in the video.

3. What should they think, feel, or do after they watch the video?

And lastly, this question is all about take away. What’s the point? The answer to this question is going to be very different depending on the answers to questions one and two AND the type of product or service the video is about.

If your product is a lower-priced product with a short sales cycle and your audience is a customer watching a product video above the fold on a landing page, the goal of the video is probably to drive a purchase decision right then and there.

If your product is an enterprise IT product with wide organization impact and a longer sales cycle, the intended outcome may be to sign up for a webinar or demo to learn more.

If the video is being played back at a live event to a captive audience, the intended outcome may be to energize and excite them and establish a baseline of knowledge before a keynote speaker takes the stage.

The Reality

In most cases, the reality is that the answers to each of these questions will likely be a combination of multiple choices. That’s OK, but the more clearly defined and focused a video is, the more successful it will be. If your budget and timeline can accommodate it, it’s always better to make multiple videos (or even variations of a single “base” video) to serve specific purposes rather than asking one video to serve many needs.

Matt Townley
Matt Townley
Matt has more than fifteen years of experience in the media and production industry. Having worked his way through a wide range of roles, he has a unique ability to bridge the gap between the highly technical and creative aspects of production. Matt holds a B.S. in Information Technology and Multimedia Visual Communication.

Outside of work, he loves spending time with his wife (Melissa), two sons (Denver & Wade), and two dogs (Lola and Zoe). He enjoys tackling do-it-yourself projects and dabbles in woodworking, loves hiking and exploring new places in search of delicious food, locally made beer and wine, and great beaches.
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