You’ve decided to engage a video marketing agency instead of a video production company. Awesome! You’re making an excellent choice.

So how do you determine which video agency to go with?

Here are five things to look for when hiring a video marketing agency:

#1 – Great creative

There are a lot of agencies out there, so the first and most important thing to look for is great creative (ie. the idea behind the video). Why is the creative, the story, so important? Great stories appeal to the deepest part of our emotions. After all, customers buy based on emotion, not a list of features and benefits. In fact, 95% of purchasing decisions are subconscious.

A great way to figure out if the agency you’re considering has great creative is to compare their work to the other agencies’ work and ask yourself: “Do any of these other agencies have very similar work in their portfolio?” If the answer is yes, beware. That means that the agency you’re looking at is drawing from the well we call, “Default Creative.”

“Default Creative” is any idea that has been done so much, it’s almost in the public domain of video ideas. Think interviews with executives paired with stock footage of cities at night with traffic sped up, or close-up shots of a carpenter sanding something in slow motion. Or an animated video that starts with an announcer saying, “Meet Bob,” with an animation of a man waving at the camera.

What you want to see is work that is unique. Different. Work that takes risks and speaks to the client’s brand – not some arbitrary artistic urge the creative director had.

Finally, ask yourself, do you like the work? Don’t discount your personal tastes! Just because an agency won awards (most of them are paid for anyway) or is famous for a particular campaign, doesn’t mean they’re right for your brand. You should be a fan of the agency’s work going into the engagement.

#2 – Communication

We’ve all been there. You’re on a deadline to deliver a project and the agency you’re working with is nowhere to be found. Ugh. The thing is, it’s impossible to determine if an agency is going to be great at communication until you work with them, right?

Well, not really. The pre-sale communication with the prospective agency should tell you everything. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Do they follow up with you after a call with next steps?
  • Do they set vague ETAs like, “later this week,” or specific ones like, “tomorrow by noon?”
  • Do they make you lead conference calls/meetings or do they start by setting the table with introductions and a goal for the meeting?
  • How is their email etiquette? If it’s messy now, it’s going to be terrible once the project has started.

#3 – Results

You’re making a video to reach a goal, period. That could be increasing the number of qualified leads, lowering your total cost of sale, reducing price objections, and so on.

When looking at the agency’s portfolio, is it focused on the results the video helped achieve, or is just a bunch of videos laid out on a “portfolio” page?

It’s important that your agency presents their work based on effectiveness – not the kind of camera that was used or how many days it took to shoot. Case studies should be based around the client’s goal, the agency’s solution and the results that were gained out of the project. If any of these elements are missing it could mean that the video didn’t accomplish its goals or worse, there were no goals to begin with and the video was a shot in the dark.

One word of caution – not every video needs to be viral or have a high view count. So don’t judge a video’s effectiveness on that criteria alone. Look for what the video’s goals were and how close it came to meeting them.

#4 – Are the “thinkers” full-time?

The “thinkers” on your project should be full-timers because they’re going to be with you the entire project – through thick and thin. You want access to these folks because they’re the owners of all of your brand knowledge and have a vested interest in seeing the project succeed. If these folks are freelance, they may have divided attention and in the end, you’re not their client – the agency is their client. You want the “thinkers” to have skin in the game.

The “thinkers” on your project are usually the tandem team of the account lead and the creative director. The account person will be your brand steward inside of the agency. They will learn your brand and your preferences and hold the creative team accountable – so you don’t have to! The creative director will oversee the development of art & scripts, and maintain quality throughout the engagement. After all, there’s nothing worse than receiving creative work that’s off brand and unusable

In addition to the “thinkers,” make sure your agency has invested in full-time project management people too. This will signify that delivering great work is in the agency’s DNA. Without strong project management, you could be in an endless cycle of missed deadlines and/or timelines that are constantly changing on you.

#5 – Employee reviews

Go over to Glassdoor and read employee reviews. This will give you a real sense of the agency’s culture. You can discount overly positive (probably the agency’s family) and over negative (probably a fired employee) reviews. Focus on the reviews between 2-4 stars. These are probably based in reality. Watch out for any reviews that imply the agency is engaging in any untrustworthy behavior.

Besides that big red flag, look out for potential issues that could conflict with how you do business. If you expect your agency to dedicate lots of time to your account, be weary of employee reviews that talk about working on a ton of projects every month. The person leaving that review may have intended for it to be positive, but through your lens it’s a red flag.

That’s it! Keep these five things in mind when hiring a video marketing agency and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

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