You know customers and prospects expect to see video when they evaluate new products, learn about services, and work through support issues. But first, you’ve got to create something that will engage these audiences. And that takes planning.

As you pull together your plan, answering a few key questions will help you and your video production team streamline the project and optimize results.

  • What business goals do you hope to achieve?

Define your business goals first. This will tell you who you’re trying to motivate and what you want them to do. Is your primary objective to attract new potential customers—or help close opportunities with prospects who are already familiar with what you offer? Are you trying to raise product awareness? Demonstrate thought leadership? Or are you hoping to cut support costs with how-to instructions for existing customers? Think it through, write it down, and be ready to explain how you’ll measure success. And by all means, let your production team know about your business goals.

  • Who is your audience?

Articulating your goal is key to identifying your target audience. Are you trying to reach a CEO in Detroit, a software developer in Bangalore, or a fur trapper in northern Saskatchewan? Each potential audience has very different informational needs, tastes, and preferences. Knowing the audience is crucial for planning the video’s content and addressing practical considerations, such as whether you’ll need to produce multiple language versions.

In addition, consider how a video can reinforce other kinds of outreach directed at this audience. For example, will the video draw potential customers to your website and motivate them to learn more about your products? Will other content be more effective if the video can help prospects better visualize differentiating features in action? Plan to have the video support and enhance the rest of your communications well in advance of starting the project.

  • How would you describe the video you want to create?

Do you want to produce a customer testimonial video in which your customers sing your praises? Are you looking to demonstrate how a product works using animated graphics? Do you envision a series of videos with actors using your products to solve challenges in a variety of scenarios?

Your vision and choices will determine an array of additional decisions that will need to be made. For instance, if you plan to include a voice-over (which involves an off-camera narrator), you must determine what the voice of your company should sound like. Is your business best represented by a deep, authoritative male voice that sounds strikingly similar to Darth Vader? An excited, slightly over-the-top male voice with an Australian accent? Or perhaps a female voice that is best described as “quirky?”

The type of video you choose will be the primary factor in determining costs. For example, producing a “man-on-the-street” video in which a reporter interviews customers or business partners at an industry conference requires a much smaller budget than creating a multipart series with professionals acting out scripted scenes in numerous locations.

  • How long should it be?

Remember that you are most often trying to get and keep the attention of busy people who are used to consuming short bits of content; after all, you’re not making another Lord of the Rings (and if so, you’re reading the wrong article). In most cases, my firm advises clients to keep videos under three minutes. Even shorter is usually better. Got more to say? We advise splitting content into multiple short videos. Videos of 30 or even 15 seconds can quickly raise product awareness, promote your brand, explain a feature, or achieve other goals.

Think about how you watch videos on your phone, tablet, or computer. Chances are you watch more short videos than long ones. And it’s not just about attention spans. If you design these shorts the right way, you can reassemble them like Tinkertoys for specific audiences and events.

  • How will the video be distributed?

Usually, you want the largest-possible audience for your video. So why would you want the video to live exclusively on your corporate website? Or even a corporate-run community site? If you’re looking for big audiences, upload the video to YouTube. Be careful to title and tag your video so your potential audience can find it.

In some cases, however, you might need to control access, such as when you need to ask customers or prospects to register before seeing a video. Hosting the video on your site lets you gather confidential comments or feedback. Don’t be surprised if your audience uploads your video to YouTube to make it easier to share with their friends and colleagues. If you go with YouTube and have more than one video, create a channel for your brand where you can enable subscriptions and present a collection of content. But be sure to think about distribution early in the game.

  • What’s your deadline?

Be realistic about your deadline. Unless you’re truly gifted or lucky, you’re not going to produce something good in under a week. Video projects typically require a variety of preproduction tasks (from writing scripts to scouting locations), production work (such as taping interviews and capturing additional location footage), and post-production work (including editing footage, incorporating graphics, creating voice-overs, and more). In most cases, your colleagues will want to provide input at multiple points during the project, and you’ll need to allot time for legal reviews. An experienced video team can guide you through these processes and help you set an appropriate schedule.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of preparatory questions, but your video team should be asking you these questions—and you should ask them when some executive suddenly insists upon creating a broadcast-quality video by early next week.

Ready to get your next video going? Let’s talk.