Interviewer: What we’re talking about today is the pros and cons of outsourcing video for your marketing agency. Let’s start with pros, what would be the biggest pro to outsourcing?
Chad Vossen: In the context of building an in-house video department themselves or outsourcing, one of the biggest pros is flexibility. A lot of issues with marketing teams or agencies is they have a variety of different clients who may have a variety of different needs which means they might have a need for a variety of different types of videos. One of their clients might need animated video, one of their clients might need a recruitment video and one of their clients might need a voiceover with stock footage, or whatever.
So the biggest piece of building and scaling a team when there’s a variety of different needs is that you need to understand your clients’ needs. The ability to outsource to a video production company, allows you to maintain that flexibility. You can go to an animated video production company or you can go to a company like ours where we do both, live action and animated.
Outsourcing video as an agency gives you a tremendous amount of flexibility and ability to best tailor a video for your client’s specific need. I think that’s the biggest pro. When it comes to cost, there’s a pro and a con because you’re going to pay a premium for that since you’re hiring specific talent to execute a specific need, but when you build an in-house team, you have to pay for them whether or not you’re working on a video project. In that case, you just have to hope that all of your clients need video and you have to hope that they all need the same type of video.
That’s something we found in talking with a variety of digital marketing companies, that they’ll hire somebody or they’ll try to build an in-house team then that person either gets swamped or is bored. They hear from their clients, “Oh, I need video”, but then it doesn’t go anywhere in the long run. They don’t really stop and think about what it is that they actually need in their strategy. They’re just looking at the short term. I have these six projects, but once those projects are done, what’s happening in the future?
Interviewer: Would you say that a pro to outsourcing would also be that it allows you, as an agency, to have more consistent delivery of content because of all the constant needs and changes? It seems like if you have an in-house team or person they get pulled in a thousand different directions all the time.
Chad Vossen: Yup, if you have the right relationships I think that’s an interesting point. If you can build a couple of relationships, you go with a video production company and then an animator or with a freelancer when you need to. So it does give you flexibility if you get inundated with work. You’re not piling it all on this one independent person.
When companies or larger marketing departments start building their in-house team, everybody goes to this person and a lot of times they just feel like a whirling dervish because they’re getting directions from a marketing person, the recruitment person, this person, that person, and they’re trying to feel everything and they don’t have the proper structure in place to be able to manage all these things and everybody’s a priority and it gets really complicated to field all of those requests.
I think with internal marketing departments trying to build out their own video production team, they really need to think that through. What is the hierarchy? How are they being utilized? Who is assigning the tasks and who’s ultimately responsible for saying “No recruitment team, you’re not getting a recruitment video.”? We have these ten requests over here that are due for this conference or whatever the case is.
Interviewer: So, would you also build a case for outsourcing even if you do have an in-house team in your agency?
CV: Yes. And that’s a good question because we’ve often gotten pulled into those exact situations where internal marketing or production teams are overworked or they don’t have the skill set that we do to be able to tell a cinematic documentary or create an animated video. Some of their in-house people might not understand animation. Being able to outsource gives you that flexibility. You may already have an internal team, but you may still need to outsource.
IN: Can you think of any other major pros to doing that? We’ve covered flexibility, cost, consistency of content creation, production support in general. Anything else?
CV: It enables you to deliver across a broad range of requirements. And I don’t know how to best boil that together, but somebody could come to you for a high-end, 30-second television commercial or event coverage and if you’re outsourcing, it gives you the capability to manage all of those types of requests. Where if you have an internal team, a 30-second national television commercial might be totally out of the wheelhouse. Or, if you have somebody that strongly prefers executing high-level concepts, they’re not going to want to go do event coverage. It goes both ways. It gives you flexibility in terms of the deliverables.
IN: How about some cons. What would some of the challenges of outsourcing video be?
CV: You don’t have a direct connection. You don’t have all the trust. Trust is the most important thing. You’ve got to take time and take your bumps and take your bruises. You have to find the right partner and experiment on certain things because it doesn’t take much for a video to go wrong. It’s one of those situations where it’s a well-oiled machine and if one of those cogs comes out, say, if you hire bad talent the video could fall apart. If somebody is late to a shoot, the video could fall apart. If there’s dirt on the lens… the video could fall apart.
So there are so many different intricate details in video production that you need to make sure that you trust and have faith in whoever you’re outsourcing with that they’re going to deliver on time, on budget, and that they understand what it is that you’re trying to achieve. A lot of video production companies just show up and shoot. They’re ‘Executioners’. They might make it look nice, but at the end of the day, they don’t really care. They’re not the ones with the relationship with the client. They’re just there to execute a task. So you want to make sure that whoever it is vested and has an interest in this video performing the way that your client wants them to perform.
IN: We talked about the flexibility as a pro, are there any cons related to the flexibility that comes with outsourcing?
CV: Yes, let’s say you do find that partner, and they’re awesome. If they’re awesome… they can also get busy, they can get booked. You may have an in-house or you may have your go-to animator, but maybe he goes on vacation for two weeks and you’re like, “Damn, I really need that video for the conference.” For example, we’re talking with a marketing agency who has a large Fortune-100 client. They were working with an independent freelancer who got too busy and swamped and couldn’t handle the workloads. That provided us an opportunity because we have a more robust team. We’re 14 people, so we’re not just one person.
There’s a con to that if you go on a smaller scale, you don’t have that sort of scalability.
I think it also goes to the fact that most of our successful videos can take a while to understand. We had one government relations consultant-client who we had gotten to know and took the time to get to understand who they are and what their culture is and all those types of things. It takes a while to develop that rapport and be able to create a video that captures their personality. When we went back and did a second video, that video was that much more smooth because we understand who they are and we have that intimate relationship.
If you put a marketing company in-between us, the marketing company, rightfully so, typically gets protective about their relationship with their clients. They don’t want us necessarily going first and talking with their clients directly because they want to they want to manage that relationship. So, when we don’t get that intimacy with the end-client, it’s harder for us to wrap our heads around who they are, what they’re like, sometimes we don’t even meet some of the end clients until the day to shoot. So, we don’t have that relationship, we don’t have that rapport and it just makes it that much more challenging to have that come across in the video.
IN: Do you have any tips on overcoming some of those cons? Are there any communication tips that you could recommend or anything like that?
CV: Yes, with the marketing company and the video production company developing a relationship of trust, it all comes down to the importance of trust between the marketing company and the video production company. The more the marketing company is able to develop that relationship and trust with the video production company, that they can trust them talking with their clients. That’s fine if they always want to be there and be involved, from our perspective, we would certainly encourage that because they’re the ones who have the relationship with their client.
But it’s really sort of developing that relationship of trust and being able to provide and being open and transparent about the information about the clients themselves and the nuances of relationships, what the company is like and what the goals and objectives of the project are. And really just working together in a team to be able to execute the video that they need.
IN: You mentioned earlier that cost can be a pro and a con. Is there anything you want to say about that as a con?
CV: I think, when you’re outsourcing, the pro obviously gives you that flexibility. It’s sort of on-demand, you’re not paying for it unless you need it. But then the con to that is you’re paying the premium for it. You’re already paying premium rates for that outsourced resource because they’re not salary on your team. It’s going to take them a little longer to understand who the client is and understand things of that nature.
You’re going to have to rent equipment. You’re paying for the luxury, if you will, of not having a full-time staff at your department and you’re paying for that premium of the ad hoc performance.
IN: That’s a good point there. Would you say that overall with the cost still works out in your favor? The costs by not staffing a full in-house team and owning equipment and all of those things?
CV: That’s a great question and honestly one of the more difficult one for a marketing company to understand because if they have a lot of consistent work and not just a couple projects upfront, but, “Hey we have clients that need to do a series.” Or clients that really want to develop video plans rather than, “Hey, I just need this one off project.” Then yes, it makes sense to potentially build an internal team.
But if you’re building an internal team to execute a couple of short-term projects, then it doesn’t really make sense. From our perspective, our clients are unpredictable, we’re very project-driven and that makes it hard for us to foresee things in the future. In a way, we’re an outsource marketing video production department for a variety of marketing companies. From that perspective, we’re waiting for the phone to ring, which is no different than a marketing company would be unless they’re sitting there and promoting their strategic video plan with their direct clients.
IN: Yes. That makes a lot of sense. So doing something in-house, the benefit there would only be if you have a specific situation? Maybe you decide that with all of your clients, part of your contract is that you do a 30-second trailer or two social videos a month for example. Then you have a minimal setup and one person who is in charge of that. But that doesn’t get you anywhere near what you really need for true video production. So there’s a little bit of a compromise there. So then maybe you don’t have to outsource all those little things and you can have both ways?
CV: And then I think another thing that a marketing company should consider, is the temperament and the type of person and the type of role that you’re going to add to your video department. An issue that a lot of the marketing companies would have is they’re going to hire this guy and he’s just going to want to go out and take pretty pictures and make whatever. That person… he’s a creative or she’s a creative. They’re not necessarily thinking about the end product the same way the rest of the more… shall we say, practically-minded right brainers. Creative need wrangling. It’s a left brain, right brain thing.
So when hiring someone to start an internal video department, their temperament has to be considered. If you’re going to put them in a monotonous, repetitive herky-jerk situation or fast turnarounds or things like that, you really need to consider the temperament of the person that you’re hiring for this position. You also need to think about how they interact with folks. Is this somebody that can talk effectively with clients and deliver on what they’re going to say? Yes, they take a lot of pretty pictures, yes, their reel looks great, but there’s more to it than just that. While there are certainly a lot of outgoing Creatives… there are probably more introverted ones who prefer working in isolation.
Think about their response times. Their ability to manage multiple projects. Their ability to effectively communicate with clients. Their ability to convey the project’s vision to the clients so they understand what’s happening throughout the entire process. That’s all those nuances why project managers or producers are so important. You need somebody who can have all of those skill sets that project managers do and still execute and deliver a creative and compelling video.