HOW ARE YOUR PRODUCTION ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT SKILLS?
VIDEO PRODUCTION IS A VERY COMPETITIVE INDUSTRY.
By Doug Morris
“Great videos don’t just happen —
They’re the product of serious planning and budgeting.“
Given the growing number of broadcast, cable, satellite and social media outlets demanding so much high quality video, there should be plenty of money to be made for the Account Manager of most any video production company willing to invest their time planning, marketing, and executing quality video productions.
But for a production company — one that you may one day represent, and one that has recently struggled through a stagnant economy, COVID-19 and social distancing — the time may be right for a talented and motivated Account Manager to help put them back on track and start making some money for them.
WHAT ABOUT GETTING MY BEAK WET?
That individual would, of course, be entitled to their fair share of compensation for whatever amount of revenue he or she could generate for the production company. Fees vary but most Account Managers work on a commission rate between 15-25%. That may mean you’ll earn very little for a low budget local production but earn a great deal for a larger campaign with a national reach.
But let’s be honest, it all depends on the kinds of clients you target and how effective you are in convincing them that your organization has the chops to make their production the best it can be for their budget. Just make sure each and every client feels they are getting your best efforts regardless of their budget. Their word of mouth recommendations could make, or break, your career.
COMMIT TO A LIFE IN SERVICE
So when you’re at the point that you are able to nail one presentation after another, and can bring in an increasing number of ad agency and in-house clients, you’ll be well on your way to making a good living.
But not so fast, you cannot hope to serve your production company or yourself for very long until you are able to stay on top of your growing roster of clients with the same velvet glove service you applied when you landed their accounts in the first place. By consistently taking care of your clients’ business, and making them look good to their corporate masters, they’ll likely develop a loyalty to you with the hope that you and your production company will succeed. Like that retro Vidal Sassoon commercial once so proudly stated:
“If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.”
Not only will you be encouraging your clients to bring you even more projects, they could also recommend you to other potential clients as well, helping grow your business even further.
WE ARE NOT ALONE
As long as there is demand for video there will always be production jobs. A word of warning however, wherever there is money, there will also be competitors, like fast swimming sharks wanting your piece of the action. Your job will be to keep them from getting it.
Yes, it’s now time to start thinking competitively: Like the Colbert Report’s Formidable Opponent — you need to be ready, willing and able to take on your competition head to head. It’s achievable — achievable that is, if you can provide a higher level of service and quality production than your competitors. But always remember to under promise and over deliver. That’s a cardinal rule, never to be broken if you ever want to see them again.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT TITLE
The title of Account Executive sounds glamorous and important and might even look good on a business card or your LinkedIn profile but serving clients in the video production industry is not the life of ease some might imagine.
To many, the term Account Executive connotes an ivory tower mentality with exclusive washrooms and big city views, not the “roll up your sleeves to get the job done” type of attitude you’re likely to find working as Video Producer, a title that seems more and more appropriate for the position.
THE MULTI-FACETED ROLE OF THE ACCOUNT MANAGER
Real Account Managers are resourceful: Capable of routinely securing lucrative production contracts, scheduling and managing talented production crews, and producing quality video content for the clients you collectively serve.
A more accurate description of the position might be an amalgam of Account Executive, Sales Manager and Video Producer — in different proportions depending on the production company you represent.
For our purposes here however, we’ll call everyone who serves a client on behalf of a production company an Account Manager.
THE BEST THING YOU CAN BE IS USEFUL
“Try not to become a man of success,
but rather try to become a man of value.”
— Albert Einstein
Today Einstein could just as easily have made his advice gender neutral since the current video production environment increasingly favors female Account Managers.
For the past 20 years, The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film has found that women now comprise 40% of those working in key behind-the-scenes roles on documentaries.
In 2016, nearly 40% of all managers were women. Yet in the advertising and promotions industry, women fill a hefty 56.5% of those roles, at least according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
YOU’LL BECOME A GREAT ACCOUNT MANAGER
As noted earlier, a video production company Account Manager must be useful. You will be the single go-to person who has all of the answers and if you don’t, you should be able to know how and where to find them. The Account Manager is also the one who must earn both the trust of your clients and the trust of your production crews. “You are,” as Harry Truman so famously said, “Where the buck stops” — At least as far as your production is concerned.
If you’re willing to accept such an awesome responsibility, have excellent interpersonal skills, don’t mind engaging with strangers, and possess a head for the business of video production, you might just be the right candidate for this job.
It also helps to be a self-starter who doesn’t wait to be told what to do. You’ll need to be willing to take the initiative at all times.
AND HOW DO I KNOW THIS?
For over three decades I worked in-house for three different advertising agencies serving as Art & Creative Director, generating video content for clients large and small in every category of industry: From Food to Fashion to Retail to Education: An experienced TV Art Director working for a full-service ad agency must be capable of developing ideas working in any genre.
Then about 10 years ago I transitioned to the production side of the industry and began to apply my agency skills in service of a California-based video production company by writing, storyboarding and directing commercials and videos for BLARE Media.
By serving clients for both an ad agency and a production company, I gained a more complete picture of the role of the Account Manager, which I gladly share here.
THE TIP OF THE SPEAR
Fortunately, by working for such a wide range of agency clients over a number of years, I became acquainted with scores of Account Managers who served the agency’s production needs and soon came to see them as the tip of the production company spear.
It’s become clear to me that the successful Account Manager will provide his or her clients with excellent service while simultaneously keeping their production crews busy and informed. For an Account Manager in the video industry, being a juggler is the name of the game — as well as being the key to everyone’s success and sense of wellbeing.
In summary, the best Account Managers are individuals skilled in diplomacy, who offer up good ideas and show a genuine willingness to help. The best of the best are those individuals who readily accept full responsibility when things go south. Pointing fingers at your production crews and editors shows bad form and a lack of character. Don’t be that guy or gal: Show respect to everyone and it will pay off in the long run — that’ll become critical the next time you need a crew to work with you on another project.
NETWORKING & OUTREACH
LET’S BEGIN WITH YOUR LINKEDIN PAGE
Embracing Social Media is a proven method for putting you and your production company out there in front of potential clients. According to the platform’s website:
“LinkedIn performs nearly three times better than Facebook or Twitter
for generating visitor-to-lead conversions.”
And whether you market through your own personal LinkedIn account or create a page just for your production company, it’s important that you —
“Make certain profile improvements to increase your chances of getting noticed.”
OPTIMIZE YOUR PROFILE
Did you know that a photo on your LinkedIn profile gives you 21 times more views? And did you also know that a high-rez professional headshot works best for your personal profile while a company logo works best for a production company’s profile? That makes sense, right?
As an Account Manager representing a video production company, you’ll be measured by your production and business savvy but you’ll also be judged on your image-making abilities: So if you want your profile to be noticed and taken seriously, you need to stop and consider how the world, especially the B2B world, will see you.
A good place to begin is by losing that silly cartoon or your candid, out-of-focus profile pic. And never use the “generic” profile image provided by LinkedIn or any platform for that matter. It says you’re way too busy and/or lazy to be bothered to take a headshot and, by extension, that being taken seriously is not that important to you. If you want to be perceived as a professional Account Manager who is capable of accepting responsibility for your clients’ money, you’ll need to step up your game.
THAT’S RIGHT, IT IS A RESPONSIBILITY
No client worth his or her salt would be willing to trust their corporation’s branded image, their production budget, or their own career to an Account Manager who promotes Bart Simpson or Felix the Cat as their LinkedIn profile pic?
That’s because when you stop to consider that video production can be quite expensive, and that people in business mean business and may not find such silliness as charming as you and your friends might. Given these factors, there’s a real need for you to start seeing yourself through a potential clients’ eyes.
Everything image-wise that you put out into the world from this point on has to reflect the highest standards of the industry and the organization you’ve chosen to represent. If you disagree, this might be a good time for you to move on and find another career path. This one’s probably closed to you.
TAKING ADVANTAGE OF LINKEDIN
“Use LinkedIn to create, share and publish content that serves some purpose–
whether it’s to educate, inform, guide, inspire or entertain your audience.
This improves the chances of getting your audience to engage with your content and building a connection with you or your company.”
— Jacqueline Zote, Writer & Editor.
Forget Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, LinkedIn is the best social media platform to market to potential clients. With over 660 million registered professionals, LinkedIn is the largest resource for B2B marketers to tap into.
Creating and maintaining an up-to-date LinkedIn Page is crucial for any marketing strategy. Here are a few interesting factoids from Sprout Social on use of the LinkedIn platform.
- LinkedIn has helped 45% of marketers with customer acquisition.
- Compared to Facebook, it generates leads 277% more effectively.
- LinkedIn accounts for 80% of B2B leads.
- LinkedIn accounts for over half of the total social traffic coming to B2B sites.
- LinkedIn is the top choice for professionally relevant content.
- 91% of executives choose LinkedIn.
PUBLISH CONTENT THAT ADDS VALUE
LinkedIn offers the enterprising Account Manager the opportunity to speak to potential clients by posting relevant content on its platform. However, you should avoid salesy promotional messages and opt instead for creating content that is useful and serves some purpose to your B2B audience — many of whom may be in need of video production services at some point in the future.
USE LINKEDIN TO INFORM AND INSPIRE
And always try to engage your audience with an eye toward SEO and proper use of keywords so your posts can easily be found in searches. That said, here’s a breakdown of some of the content categories found on successful LinkedIn pages:
- Question-based content
- Picking your followers’ brains is a smart move to encourage likes and comments on LinkedIn.
- Text-based posts can actually stand out on LinkedIn in a sea of articles and external links.
- Articles and industry-specific posts
- There’s no better place to drop your latest link, granted you couple it with a meaningful caption.
- Resources and case studies
- Considering that 80% of B2B leads come from LinkedIn, publishing your organization’s resources, freebies and lead magnets is a no brainer.
- This does double-duty of signaling your influence within your industry while also serving as a helping hand to your followers.
- Event coverage
- Attending an event or conference? Take your LinkedIn followers along for the ride.
- This sort of behind-the-scenes content is authentic, easy to create and is a welcome change from solely promotional posts.
- Employee showcases
- Recognizing your employees on LinkedIn allows you to show off the human side of your business.
- Culture-centric content
- Again, not everything on your LinkedIn Page needs to be promotional.
- Whether it’s off-the-cuff office content or examples of your organization giving back, anything that shows off your organization’s culture is a big plus.
- Doing so is powerful for positioning and making an emotional impact on your followers
As a bonus, if a potential client engages your post, there’s a good chance it will show up in the feeds of his or her connections, further extending your reach.
You can even share content that you didn’t create just as long as it’s credible information that’s relevant to your target audience’s needs and expectations. Just be mindful of your use of keywords to provide the highest level of SEO possible.
BUILD YOUR EMAIL LIST VIA MANUAL PROSPECTING
In order to manually prospect for the most qualified prospects you’ll need to invest some time searching Google, LinkedIn and Twitter for qualified leads. Nothing can replace human intuition to determine who may or may not be a likely prospect for your production company. By manually prospecting and writing personalized emails to your recipients, you stand a better than average chance of increasing your open rates. But you’ll need to craft an arresting and/or provocative subject line first.
COLD CALLING VS COLD EMAIL
You’ve heard of the dreaded cold call where you pick up the phone and call a prospect to introduce yourself in an effort to make a sale, haven’t you? A cold email is almost the same thing except that it is much less intrusive, making it preferable to both senders and recipients.
Note that cold emails are not the same as spam emails. Spam emails are sent to any number of addresses simultaneously regardless of whether the recipient is relevant or even if the email addresses actually exist. Cold emails are different in that they target prospects who have been vetted and whose email addresses have been confirmed, making them far more effective than simply casting a wider but far less efficient spam net.
For any small business looking to generate leads, cold emails makes perfect sense since they are both affordable and effective. In fact, 89% of marketers believe that email is the best channel for successful lead generation.
VIDEO NETWORKING EVENTS
AS AN ATTENDEE
In normal times, networking events and mixers have been handy ways for attendees to find new opportunities, make sales, or even just hook up with friends and colleagues. As you know however, these are not normal times and since in-person events are now impossible, as a fallback, online networking may be the only realistic way for any of us to establish and maintain connections with one another.
AVOIDING VIDEOCONFERENCE FAUX PAS
Oftentimes people attending a Video Conference for the first time don’t know what to wear, where to look, or what kind of lighting, background, camera or microphone they’ll need to appear as old hands at videoconferencing. Don’t destroy your credibility before you even open your mouth — Take a lesson on what you should consider before your next video conference call.
HOSTING YOUR OWN CONFERENCE
If you’re the one hosting the event, the first thing you need to do is to define its purpose. What are you hoping to achieve? Are you looking to prospect for clients or simply connect with colleagues in your industry? We’ll discuss this more a bit later.
WHY ARE WE MEETING?
By deciding early and communicating the rationale for the event clearly, you’ll begin to establish a degree of order. This is your first step to avoid one of those virtual meetings where people talk over each other causing the whole thing to descend into bedlam. Understand what you want to get out of the meeting and be realistic in your expectations of what it can achieve.
WHAT’S THE MEETING FORMAT?
There are different ways to create a framework for a virtual meeting: From Q&A with Experts addressing a given subject to a Training Webinar to an Open Forum type of format: Choose whatever format makes the most sense to you and to those you will be inviting to the event that best relates to the material that will be discussed.
SPEAKING OF INVITATIONS
Who will you invite to your meeting? It’s probably best to limit your list to about 10 attendees or less so everyone has a chance to participate. Also consider not just how many but whom to invite. If your focus is going to be on securing new business it might be helpful to invite your prospects along with some current clients who’ve worked with you in the past. But only if you’re certain they’ll only have good things to say about the work you and your crews have done for them. Otherwise, don’t include them on your invitation list.
Videoconferencing platforms aren’t all created equal. Some charge a fee while others are free to use. Some platforms have a support line to call if you run into technical problems while others may not. And some platforms have tighter security and access limits while others run a looser ship.
Another question worth asking is how much control you will have as the moderator over the meeting? Are you able to mute everyone’s audio and select who speaks? Can attendees raise their hands or do they need to ask their questions or make their comments in a chat box? It’ll behoove you to do your research on these and other subjects you’ll find at this link: Choose wisely, the outcome may make all the difference in the success or failure of your meeting.
In order to understand the differences between Zoom, Skype, Cisco Webex, Google Meet and Google Duo, check out this helpful link to learn more about some of the best free apps available for video conferencing.
Since Zoom is the most common app for videoconferencing here’s a link to a roster of tutorials of how best to use the platform. It’ll be worth you time to watch them.
THE BEST LAID PLANS
What value do you expect an individual who attends your event to gain from it? What are the key takeaways? Make sure you let your attendees know what’s in it for them in all your marketing messages you plan to send out to secure their attendance.
HOSTING AN EVENT
Set expectations at the beginning of the meeting by establishing a level of professionalism. You’ll appear more organized if you come to the meeting with a list of questions prepared and some idea who you may want to have answer them. That will help avoid those awkward lulls in the conversation.
Unless all attendees already know one another, allow some time at the start for introductions. Making introductions is a good way to break the ice at the launch of the meeting and get everyone talking. Make an effort to control who gets to speak and when but try to make sure everyone has a chance to have his or her say.
CALL-TO-ACTION & FOLLOW UP
Following the virtual meeting come up with a plan to move forward with any initiatives or action items in which there was agreement. And don’t forget to follow up with an email for those who attended. Who knows, one of your attendees could end up being your next client. Here’s a website that offers information for creating successful online networking sessions:
WORKING WITH GOOGLE DRIVE
Google is a powerful search engine that comes embedded within Drive to provide unmatched speed, performance, and reliability. Drive allows teams to store, share and collaborate on files and folders from any mobile device, tablet or computer. Drive integrates seamlessly with Docs, Sheets, and Slides, cloud-native apps that enable your team to collaborate effectively in real time.
If you’re not familiar with working with Google Drive you should be, so check out the following link to learn more about this organizational resource:
Thousands Of Teams Are Already Using Drive
To Revolutionize The Way They Work
MAKING A PROPOSAL
So far our discussion has been centered around your professionalism and developing the skills necessary to function as an Account Manager. Those are all very important components to your career but where the rubber meets the road is when you’re actually given an opportunity to make a proposal to a potential client.
Because you may be in competition with other production services, your proposal will be the final step that will determine whether you land the project or not. Make no mistake; your proposal is the last chance you’ll have to convince the prospect that your production company would be the most qualified to produce their video, so make sure it sells from the start to the finish.
WHAT PROBLEM ARE WE REALLY TRYING TO SOLVE?
“We care more about your business than your own people do.”
-Robert Giaimo, Ad Agency Creative Director
Let’s start with your Problem Statement — It can be helpful to begin with a paragraph reiterating the basic objective of the project. But rather than regurgitating the information verbatim from the client’s RFP (Request for Proposal) or Creative Brief, consider digging a bit deeper and offer some insights into the project that may not be so obvious to everyone. Again, what problem is the client really trying to solve? By showing you’ve done your due diligence you’re telling the prospect that you’re a cut above your competition and offer solutions to problems, not simply a crew and gear.
WHY ARE WE UNIQUE?
This is where you can address your organization: List your client roster and some of your successes with them, along with some unique methods of working you may have developed. Do all you can to let your prospects know how proud you are of your production company and how successful you’ve been in satisfying your clients.
It can also be helpful to provide a few pull-quotes from client testimonials that support whatever it is you’re trying to say about your company. Choose past clients who may be closer to your prospect in terms of budget and production style and make comparisons when appropriate. Just remember to keep your language simple so your client doesn’t get lost in production jargon. Most clients live in the business world: They won’t understand the world of recording and post-production technology so terms like 4KUHD or HDR will be lost on them. Use terms they would use themselves such as High Resolution cameras instead.
OUTLINE THE SCOPE OF THE PROJECT
Many clients will ask but in case they don’t, be willing to offer a simple breakdown of their project using bullet points, starting with pre-production. This is where you’ll list scripts, storyboards, casting, locations, etc. in a concise and clear way. If the expectation is the client will supply personnel or locations, this is where you should be letting everyone know.
For your next bullet point, let your client know something about your general approach to production. Here you can identify your crew and how they will handle the shooting of their specific video and of the timing and personnel required.
Without going into great detail, a brief outline of the post-production process should be your third bullet point. They don’t need to know everything, just the number of days of editing necessary and what will be required of them in terms of supplying any on-screen graphics and logos the editor may need to access.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Many prospective clients will turn to the last page first so make sure this page continues to sell. Keep your pricing clear and easy to understand. Are you charging a fixed rate or an hourly rate? You should probably outline your fees at a higher level and avoid breaking it down into too much detail. Most clients don’t want to know the cost of expendables.
Make sure when you list your fees that they dovetail with the other sections of your proposal. The last thing you want is your prospect catching discrepancies between your offerings and your fees. Proofread, proofread, proofread, mistakes at this point can kill the project for good.
At the bottom of this page it would be useful to offer something about terms, method of payment and deposits required: Anything that can clarify your processes and make the prospect’s decision easier.
One final thing you might want to include is how you archive your projects and what that might cost the client over time. You could also specify whether you expect to be able to license the footage and make it available through a stock agency. That will add to your bottom line over time but you need this to be called out in your proposal.
WHERE TO TURN IF YOU NEED HELP
As noted earlier, great videos don’t just happen — they’re the product of serious planning and budgeting. Check out the link below on video production management to learn more about how to negotiate for higher fees and manage your organization’s workflow, strategy and scalability to build a skilled and talented workforce using freelancers.
Another key element of selling to clients is to know when to bring in your teammates to assist you in landing a project, especially for a larger project, which may involve the entire client management hierarchy. Bringing in added firepower to help make the sale is just common sense.
PRODUCING YOUR FIRST VIDEO PROJECT
COMMUNICATE WITH STAKEHOLDERS
Once your client has accepted and signed your proposal it becomes a contract. But until a deposit of 50% is received, it’s still just a proposal. Getting the deposit check or money transfer will officially turn your proposal into a real-live video production.
The most important part now is making a schedule. Many production companies produce a production booklet containing all the vital production information but anything you can devise to keep your project on track and communicate with all of your stakeholders will be helpful. You can figure this out.
BUDGET YOUR PRODUCTION
When you wrote your proposal you probably either backed into a number based on your prospect’s budget or created a summary of fees based on your estimated costs. Now is when you allocate your resources to make the magic happen.
Naturally, what you spend on production cannot exceed what you will be receiving from the client but when it comes to fees you need to consider net versus gross.
WHAT’S A MARK-UP?
If the client has agreed to pay you a gross fee of $3,000 for a script and storyboard, you can’t pay your content creators $3,000. The production company and the Account Manager would end up working for free. It’s better that you “mark-up’ your content creator’s fees to arrive at $3,000.
Different production companies have different methods of determining mark-up but as a rule of thumb, you would need to pay your content creator a net fee of $2,000, which you will then mark-up by one-half to arrive at the $3,000 gross fee. That way, your production company and you will have the $1,000 mark-up to split between you. Your requirements may vary depending on many factors.
Apply that approach to all of the different expenses involved in the production and it’s simply a matter of using your calculator to determine what you actually have to spend to produce the video. It’s important to remember, never exceed your budget without a change order from the client.
SCHEDULE YOUR PRODUCTION
This next step requires the use of a calendar program to outline the different phases of the project and keep the production on schedule. You’ll need to share this calendar with everyone who needs to be in the loop. Always allow enough time to realistically execute each task.
You’ll want to keep your client in the pre-production loop especially since they’ll need to approve the script, storyboard, casting, and other important pre-pro elements.
Many clients need time to get approval from their corporate masters on such matters so allow time for them to get back to you with their approvals.
If changes or revisions are necessary, you’ll need to allow even more time in your schedule. You should now begin to see a pattern: A rushed production means mistakes and misunderstandings so make sure you’re thorough and patient in your planning.
You will also need to create call sheets for the shoot days. Everyone who will be needed to work on the production should be listed with their call times, contact info and exact locations where they’ll be needed.
A great resource to be able to make your own call sheet for free
Make sure they’re ALL included in your distribution. Leaving somebody critical such as the DP off the call sheet will spell disaster for the production and alienate you from your crew for a very long time. Again, don’t be that guy or gal.
CLIENT FOLLOW UP
We’re referring to following up with clients after a project is completed. As the Account Manager, you should be trying to stay in touch with your clients by doing a few simple and thoughtful things.
- Send them a thank you card: Let them know you appreciate the work.
- Connect with them on LinkedIn and other social media platforms. By liking and perhaps sharing their posts you may form a social bond.
- Find out when their birthday is and send them a note on their big day.
- Schedule reminders on your calendar to check-in with them in a few weeks or months to see what they’ve been up to. You might consider sending them a link to work your production company has recently completed for other clients.
- Write the client positive reviews on Google, Yelp, LinkedIn, etc.
- Genuinely seek out ways to help your clients out…regardless if it leads to future work or not.
While we all get busy and this sort of stuff falls off our radar, oftentimes it’s a fear of becoming a nuisance that blocks us from action. Below is a link from a Bonafide blog with some good advice for following up, especially if you need a little boost in your confidence to do so.
“Many of us are hesitant about making a follow up call or sending your client an email, either from fear of being rejected or fear of being annoying. Follow-up doesn’t have to be awkward, and it certainly doesn’t have to be annoying. To help you close more customers and increase the lifetime valueof your clients, here are 10 tips for following up with people without being annoying.”
– Beto Molinari
THE FINISHING TOUCHES
This site provides insights into setting our production rates, making offers and counter offers and perhaps most importantly, when and how to say no to a client.
Yes, that’s right. Saying no to a client when a client makes an obviously low-ball offer is fair game. They are making it impossible for you and your crews to make a living wage so there’s no room in the video production industry for clients who don’t value the work we provide. And even in some cases though they have a reasonable budget, you’ll be able to see the writing on the wall that the project won’t ever work out in a way that will make them happy. It can be a very wise idea to not accept a project even if the money is there. Furthermore, working for a client on spec is a definite no-no!
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Do your due diligence and research to unearth your prospects, learn all you can about the video production company you will be representing and the industry you’ll be serving but the most important thing to keep in mind is to always stay positive, even in adversity.
Remember — as an Account Manager for a video production company you are the tip of the spear and everyone will be looking to you for inspiration.