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Executive Decisions: Twenty Questions
Posted Feb 28, 2006 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Why stop at 20 questions? How about 56? Or maybe 33 will get the job done. The fact is, when researching a corporate video project, the quantity of questions you ask your clients is much less important than the quality of the questions. Over and over again, I have found that there is a direct relationship between the quality of the questions I ask during the discovery process and the ultimate success of the production.

The majority of the corporate projects I produce and direct are scripted marketing or training videos. From my first contact with a potential client throughout the pre-production process and even continuing on through post, I find myself digging, proactively, for any bit of information that will help me understand my clients' needs and help them attain their goals. I consider a project to be successful when it leads to results for the client, whether that means more sales from a marketing video or improved productivity from a training video. How do I identify the specific results my clients are seeking? I ask questions.

No two lines of questioning ever follow exactly the same course, but typically my first contact with a potential client will include an assortment of the following questions:
• What is the purpose/objective/goal of the video?
• Who is your target audience for this video?
• What is the desired response from your audience after they watch the video?
• When, where, and how will the video be shown?
• What length do you think the video needs to be to cover the subject matter?
• Where will we shoot the video? How many locations will we need to acquire all the necessary footage?
• Will you need professional on-camera or voice talent for this production?
• What is your deadline for completing the video? Is a specific event driving your deadline?
• Has your company used video in the past? Do you have examples of those videos?
• What is your budget for this project?
• Who will be approving the script and edit?

This is an essential set of questions; however, it is by no means a checklist to plow through mechanically in the same order every time. These questions serve as prompts that open the door to in-depth conversations with my clients. Eventually I'll get answers to all the questions on the list, but most importantly I'm focused on listening to their needs and asking quality follow-ups that elicit detailed responses.

For example, in a recent phone conversation with a prospect, I asked if the company had used video in the past. He replied that they currently had a business-to-business sales video but it needed to be updated. This presented me with the opportunity to ask one of my favorite questions: "Can we meet tomorrow at your office so that I can review the video with you?" I like to meet as soon as possible following a first contact. The opportunity to review an existing video with the prospect can be a gold mine.

After watching the video together with my prospect, I was able to ask a series of detailed questions that gave me more insight into the company's needs:
• What do you like about your current video?
• What do you dislike about this video?
• Does the professionalism of this video appropriately portray your company's image?
• In what setting do you present this sales video to your clients?
• How do you integrate this video into your overall sales presentation?
• How do your clients respond to this video?

Because I asked comprehensive questions, I walked away from the meeting with a solid vision of what the company wanted from their new video, and my proposal for the project was instantly accepted.

Another case involved a video for a major food manufacturer. Inquiring about the purpose and target audience for the video, I discovered that the company needed to train their maintenance workers on the proper method of repairing machinery on their assembly lines. Digging further, I learned that repairs were taking far too long, costing the company significant amounts of money while the machines were offline. This company needed an urgent solution to their problem, and I was happy to help. Two simple questions opened up a world of opportunity. Q: "What materials are you currently using to train your employees?" A: "A written manual with images." Q: "Could you send me a copy of the manual so I could see it?" A: "Yes."

Minutes later I received, via email, a document containing several pages of single spaced text accompanied by an occasional hand-scribbled drawing that resembled ancient hieroglyphics. This company desperately needed a video! I immediately made an appointment to meet with the client at their plant. Through focused questioning we determined that the best approach for getting repairs made quickly and keeping their machines in operation was to create a step-by-step, bi-lingual training video separated into DVD chapters corresponding to a detailed troubleshooting checklist. The approach worked wonders for the company and we have now completed three projects for them.

Practice asking detailed, quality questions. Become a good questioner and a good listener, and you'll see the success rate of your corporate video projects increase substantially.

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