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Making Commercials: Meeting the Client

Creating a commercial for a business is a series of steps that, if well planned and executed, create an effective selling tool for your client. The client is the person who has the final say and writes the checks, so the first meeting is crucial.  Using these methods can give you a head start on the pathway to making a great commercial for your client.

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Video Transcript

Creating a commercial for a business is a series of steps that, if well planned and executed, create an effective selling tool for your client. The client is the person who has the final say and writes the checks, so the first meeting is crucial. In this segment we talk about making an impression, questions to ask, and how to use the information they give you. Using these methods can give you a head start on the pathway to making a great commercial for your client.

Whether you think of yourself primarily as a shooter, director or editor, when meeting with a client, you need to be in "producer" mode. Now you might be asking yourself, "What is producer mode?"

The producer is the logistic "point man" on any production. He (or she) is the one who initially meets with the client, collects information about the business, hires the crew, supervises the creative process, schedules the shoot, and more. But for our purposes, we'll focus on meeting with the client and collecting information. Initially, a Client Meeting is a way to determine the best course of action for a commercial, but remember, it's also an opportunity to create a long term business relationship that yields word-of-mouth referrals and, ultimately, gets you more production work. An efficient way to create these opportunities is to show the client that you understand their needs and to instill confidence that you're the right producer to create their commercial. The client and their business will have particular needs for the commercial. Some of these needs, such as, "more business", may seem obvious. But different clients will have different personalities and ideas about how to effectively advertise their business. So you'll need to dig a little deeper. This is extremely important because you want to avoid confusion later and determine as much about the client's expectations for the commercial as possible. The easiest way to go about this is to ask questions... a lot of questions. Every business owner is different and while some questions you need to ask will vary, here are a few questions that apply to most businesses. You can start off with "Who are your current primary customers?".

This gives you a great a point to begin thinking about the tone and style of the commercial. Every business owner will want to hear from their regular customers, "I saw your new commercial". Follow up that question with "Who are the new customers you're trying to attract?"

If the business is seeking to bring in a younger crowd, then a commercial that is more pop-culture centered might be your best choice. Conversely, if they're seeking an older crowd, you may need to keep the tone a bit more conservative. Businesses always have to think about the long term, as well as the short term, so ask What are the immediate needs versus long term goals?

A sale this month may be the new business strategy for next quarter or next year. It's a great idea to have a commercial for the sale, but maybe with a few small edits, you can give them an evergreen commercial at a great savings. Your client will love you, and it's a great way for you to get repeat business. Finally, be sure to ask Do you have a particular product or service that needs to be in the commercial?

Many business' have a marquee service or product. Think about huge companies. Like the Big Mac from McDonald's or the Geek Squad from Best Buy.

As you ask the questions, you'll find many of the answers will be related and this is a good thing. It means you're narrowing down the message that will ultimately "be the commercial". Also, these questions are important because in any form of advertising, demographic information about the target customer such as age, gender, race, or social status, is an invaluable resource and can help shape the overall commercial campaign. Knowing who you're advertising to, can help you understand how to approach the viewer. Some other questions you'll want to ask include: What is the budget for the commercial?

This can't be overstated. One key aspect to any video production is creating the message within the constraints of the budget and you never want to have to go back and ask for more money after the work has begun. You'll also want to determine if

Shooting footage at the business will be the most effective method of advertising.

Many businesses, especially those that are service based, don't have a storefront or their store front may not be aesthetically pleasing for a commercial. Are there any other interested parties that will take part in the approval process?

Before a client will write a final check, they'll want to see the final product. If they need the approval of other people, it is imperative to know who will take part in the approval process, prior to beginning. This will avoid unpleasant back and forth later in the production.

While asking questions will be a great help, the meeting is also a good time to have the client show you around the business, and explain what separates them from any similar competing businesses.

The more you understand about the business, the more your commercial message will give the client's business an edge over their competition. When you've gathered all the facts from the client, you'll have a lot of information that will need to be distilled down into a few main points.

In general, you'll want to limit the commercial to no more than 6 main points for a thirty second commercial. Much more and the commercial will be too busy for the viewer to be able to absorb any of it.

Now, this is a rule of thumb and will often change depending on the commercial, but start with six subtract some if the message becomes diluted. One final note, although you are making the effort to learn more about the business that you're advertising, remember that the client may be new to the process of having a commercial produced.

Inform the client about the steps that will follow the meeting. Be sure to include the writing, shooting, editing, and approval process. Give them an estimate of the timeline and stick to it.

Be sure, to explain that two way communication throughout production is be beneficial to the end result. Using these steps will give you a head-start in having a successful meeting with a client that will be the foundation for a great commercial.In our next segment, we talk about Taking all the information from the client meeting and converting it into 30 seconds of quality advertising.