Thursday, February 27, 2020

How to Make Engaging Visual Content With a Small Team

You may have noticed an uptick in high-quality and actually enjoyable video content across your social media feed, for everything from essential oils to artisan goat milk soap. This increase, while probably time consuming for scrollers, is expected. Marketing experts have been saying for years that the way to Google’s heart is through sexy video content. No, not that type of video content—PG, family friendly, engaging, emotion-evoking content that keeps viewers on the page the entire time. 

Surely, though, all of these companies don’t have a Hollywood-size budget to blow on a cinematic production team. Like me, you may be a bit baffled by exactly how your local smoothie shop keeps affording to consistently put out Oscar-worthy video content with epic drone footage and enchanting dialogue. You might be wondering, “Can I make videos that are amazing too?” As far as ClickBank’s two-man video team is concerned, you totally can–if you know how to collaborate and prioritize.

I recently had the chance to sit down with Jed Davis, Senior Content Marketing Manager, and Taylor Utt, a Digital Creative Producer—the dudes that make up that duo—to figure out how it’s done. Between the two of them, they have over fifteen years of graphic design, photography, video production, digital ad, funnel building and marketing experience. Considering how much they accomplish, with so little manpower, some might call them a digital marketing dream team. Here’s what they have to say about how they make it happen. Like most great work, it starts with a spark, some humility, some trust, a dash of passion, a few clichés, and liking your coworkers.

Funny and Business

Sarah: Tell me about your creative process.

Taylor: I would say, you know, we usually will sit in a room and toss out a bunch of ideas. Usually we like to start with humor. That’s a good jumping off point for our skill sets. We’ll try to make something funny, or we’ll try another route to get to something more serious, then we’ll take five to seven different ideas, put ‘em on the board, and then start going down the rabbit hole with each to once to see which one makes the most sense.

Jed: I think one of the biggest challenges that people face that they don’t realize is that the ideas that come to their head, even though they might be funny or good, are not necessarily strategic for their businesses. I think that’s one of our biggest strengths—we can come up with the five to seven and find the one to three that makes business sense as well. Most people see these things like Super Bowl commercials or a really funny ad—like viral type stuff—and they can almost go recreate the humor part easily, but it doesn’t actually connect back to their business.

Taylor: Great point.

Sarah: Mhm.

Taylor: Yah, it’s almost like people get lost in the clouds of having the luxury of a brand like Nike or Budweiser or something like that where you don’t have to talk about your business at all. It’s more you just have a presence, whereas—especially with online marketing or digital marketing—you don’t have that luxury. You have to get across your message quick, simple, and fast because everyone’s attention spans are shrinking.

Jed: There’s always things we find generally funny, generally interesting, generally visually appealing … like we’re not creating things for ClickBank that we wouldn’t enjoy ourselves. That’s the other thing—going back to skills and experience—is we have the luxury of being able to do that. I think a lot of people put themselves in a corner because their skills set doesn’t allow them to actually do stuff like that. That’s the cool thing — any idea we can come up with, we can create. 

Taylor: I would say too, for people who don’t consider themselves creatives, while you’re scrolling social media, save those ads that really come across and strike you. Like when you’re scrolling late at night on Instagram and something reaches you, click that little save button and put it in an ads bucket. I have my own that I put all these things that I said, “Wow that’s really cool.” It’s a good bank for creativity to tap into.

Find Your Puzzle Piece

Sarah: How do you keep your content high quality with such a small team?

Taylor: I think trying to learn every aspect of content production is huge—so being able to shoot and edit and produce. You know, learning all of the skills all the way through can really help take your production really far with a small team. You look at Hollywood, it’s thirty, forty, fifty person teams working on things like that. Where you can be highly specialized in one thing, I would say it’s good in this industry to be a jack of all trades. You don’t have to be really good at everything, just even knowing the basics of a wide breadth of creative suites really helps.

Jed: I would think too, when we’re specifically talking about a two-man team like this, is the fact that we can both do everything, but at the same time, we both know during the creative process when one of us will take the lead. Like, it’s not always the case, but brainstorming wise—I’ll usually come up with more ideas than Taylor, but we know as soon as we know we’re talking about planning or script writing or the actual set, that’s definitely Taylor. It helps to be really efficient. You can both do things, but you also are in sync with each other. 

Taylor: It’s like finding a puzzle piece of the other person that you fit together with.

Jed: I think one of the biggest things to is we’ve also learned through years of experience and trial and error is what’s actually important and what’s not. Most things, most content and production, are overstaffed and overproduced. We can produce more with less equipment, less people, less budget because of that. We actually know what matters. Like… cool, you have a $20,000 red camera, but for $2,000 you can actually, for that particular video you’re creating, you can create it just as well and no one will ever know the difference.

Most people make a lot of mistakes. They think… 

Taylor: Money equals high production.

Jed: Or that size of production equals better production. But it’s actually better production results by having the least amount of those things possible to create the same product or better product. 

The Corporate Trust Fall

Sarah: Are there any projects that you’re looking forward to?

Taylor: We have a weekly series in the works.. We can’t really talk about the details yet. We’re actually designing a set in our new studio specifically for it. It’s been really fun getting to be a part of the set design and construction from the very start. It is literally “idea from scratch” as much as you can possibly get. It’s gonna be great. As soon as the studio is built out, we can start filming and we can start planning. Once the tires hit the pavement, we’re off to the races. That’s going to be a fun, high-octane project that we’re constantly working on.

Jed: We don’t have like eight projects we’re getting ready to get started which is nice. In the past we’ve tried to split us up a lot because they didn’t think it was efficient. But it is actually efficient because the projects that come out are better when we work together. ClickBank has a culture too, where we have management that understands and appreciates creativity but also understands that they are not creative.

Sarah: That’s really great.

Jed: So they trust us. If we say we both need to go film this, they don’t say, “Why do we have two people running a camera?” They go: “Cool. Go do it.” So we have support to hire talented people, creative people, and give them a chance to do it their way. I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes—you get management involved and they don’t understand. 

Taylor: They’re trying to keep a timesheet on how long someone spends on a creative project. Granted, there’s boundaries—sure, but you can’t quantify creativity. 

Jed: We’ll have a meeting and sit there for the first fifty-five minutes trying to brainstorm and we have nothing good, and then in the last instance Taylor goes, “What if we did this?” And we’re on the ground running. Other times, we come out the gate, and in the first five minutes we have twenty ideas.

Jed: It’s trust in the unknown part of the creative process. It’s really hard for people who aren’t used to that.

Taylor: It’s like a corporate trust fall.

The Part with the Meaningful Cliches 

Sarah: What do you think the most important element is for a small team?

Jed: It sounds cliché but creating what you’re passionate about–creating what you enjoy and is also strategic.

Taylor: Don’t try to be something that you’re not. If you’re a small team, it’s okay to be a small team. If all you can pump out is, you know, a couple Facebook ads a month, be really good at those three ads that you do a month instead of trying to hire a production crew. I think the second part to that is to be cohesive with your team. I think—it’s going to sound really fundamental—but getting along with the people you work with and trusting the people you work with. Saying, “You’re the expert in that. Go do that. I’m the expert in this. You let me do this.” I think that’s huge.

Jed: Another good tip… don’t be afraid to network and reach out. Someone I don’t know could send me an email right now and say, “I’ve got this video idea, can I just bounce it off of you and see if it’s it’s good or not?” I would respond to them. So many people have people that they’re fans of and they love their work and they’re just afraid to even talk to them. But most of the time, they take it as a compliment. 

If you’re in that position—whether it’s us, or another team that you see is doing good stuff, don’t be afraid to ask how you can do that for your business.

I feel like sometimes people will over google stuff in the creative world instead of reaching out. Like yah, if you need to set up your camera settings, Google’s a great place, but if you’re trying to come up with an idea for a video, it’s usually just better to talk to somebody.

Taylor: I think, to Jed’s point, the absolute worst thing that you can have, being in a creative position, is an ego. The second you can drop your ego and realize that other people out there have really good ideas and you can collaborate with them, everything opens up. Even if you should know how to do something, and you have to admit, “Oh I don’t actually know how to do that,” then being able to reach out to someone who does… It’ll take your productions or your campaigns to the next level.

“Oh we’ve got a video guy now!”

Sarah: What are some of the pitfalls or challenges when it comes to having a small team?

Jed: We do wear more hats than just video production at ClickBank. Taylor, you know, he’s doing graphic design and doing this and that. So you’ll get pulled in a bunch of different directions if you have a small team. Going back to Taylor’s point, being a jack of all trades is a good thing.

It’s crazy in the world we live in now, with the accessibility to get equipment, and how social media works, the platforms… there aren’t that many disadvantages anymore. We literally look at teams of ten plus and we laugh because like, we can out produce them. We know we can.

Taylor: I think the biggest challenge honestly is scaling content up. So, let’s say you have a bunch of content that’s doing really well online, there’s a huge demand. They want more of it, and more of it, and more of it. With one or two of you, it’s hard to match that. If you’re producing good stuff, you’re going to have more demand.

Jed: We saw that here. We did a few good videos right off the bat, and all of a sudden, everyone wanted a video for everything–so you have to find a good balance.

Taylor: I’d also say another good tip would be, it’s tough to manage expectations of other people in the company regarding what you can do and what’s possible in terms of timelines. A lot of people don’t understand video, they just think, “Oh we’ve got a video guy now!” So they’ll say, “Well, hey… why don’t we produce a documentary on so and so?” Or, “Hey! Let’s go do all these things.” And with the challenge of being small… I think people are used to thinking of a video team just making a video. Nobody knows the inner workings. Managing expectations, especially when you’re new or you’re working with a client who doesn’t know you well, that can be a challenge sometimes.

A Warm Baby in a Sunset

Sarah: Do you feel like video is the place culture starts as far as a company’s content?

Jed: I think it can unify and bring together your culture when you put out good video content for your company. People get excited.

Taylor: For sure. Video’s such a lean-in experience. It’s the most stripped-down version you can have of someone viewing content. I think it’s the most engaging. It evokes an emotion. It’s the things we as humans connect with the most. A piece of text doesn’t always do it, but you see someone holding a warm baby in a sunset… it’s emotion evoking.

The Takeaway

So, if you’re holding out on adding video to your repertoire of marketing content because you don’t feel like you have the staff to do it, keep these tips in mind:

Don’t be afraid to reach out to your role models. The worst they can say is no.
Don’t blow your budget on expensive equipment. 
Have realistic timeframe and commitment expectations for what you can get done.
Drop your ego and make room for collaboration.
And, last but not least, find that person you can work with over and over again. You’ll be surprised at how much you help each other grow, improve, and create.


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