How to commission good video: producing an effective case study

Case study films are an effective way to show potential customers the benefits of your products or services. They can play a vital role in the customer journey: providing the reassurance people need ahead of a purchase. They work particularly well for new products and services or ones involving substantial expenditure or that are perceived as risky. People trust people without a vested interest to recommend things, as the popularity of TripAdvisor and Trustpilot proves. So a video featuring one or more of your clients explaining how you have helped their business is very persuasive.

Happen has made case study films for a number of organisations, including Slack, the communications app company; so here is what you need to bear in mind if you are commissioning one.

Understand your customers, products and services

Before you start, be clear about who you are trying to reach and how your product or service would help them. You should have an audience in mind before commissioning any piece of content, but it is particularly important when commissioning a case study, as its purpose is to illustrate how you can solve some of their business’s problems. This of course requires you to understand how your products or services actually help your customers. That should be your focus. Don’t only think about the company, think roles too: if you’re targeting financial directors focus on cost efficiency and value. This sounds obvious but too much marketing concentrates on a product or service’s features rather than its benefits.

Find a good agency

A good agency should be curious about your product or services. It needs to understand how you help your customers, if it is going to capture that in video. It should therefore listen but also offer advice; don’t hire an agency that says yes to everything without questioning whether they are best for the film. Equally do not hire one that confuses things. You should expect to see examples of its work and a breakdown of its quoted costs.

With our background in journalism, Happen likes to spend time understanding a new client at the start of a project. We like to meet people across the organisation, either one-to-one or in a workshop, to get a clear picture of its culture and strategy and how its goods and services helps its customers.

Cast carefully

The effectiveness of your film will depend on how good the people are in it. If they are articulate, lively and passionate they will be persuasive. If they represent a company that your target audience admires, trusts and can relate to, their words will carry more weight. And if they work somewhere visually interesting, your film will be more watchable. It therefore pays to think carefully about who you cast in your case study. If people are proving reluctant to appear, explain that the film will promote their business as well as yours.

Consider casting more than one person from a company. A range of people will make your film more lively. It can also illustrate how your goods or services help people working across a business. Our case study about how Slack helped Ocado Technology (embedded above) was only 90 seconds long but it still featured three interviewees: its chief operating officer, a department head and a team leader. You also need to decide whether someone from your company should appear in the film. Obviously this makes more sense if you are providing a professional service rather than a product. If you are, it can work to have one of your team outlining how you approached your client’s needs alongside its team explaining how great that has been.

Be specific

Try to include specific examples of how your product or service has helped your customer in your film. Support assertions with examples. In a case study about M&S Digital we made for Slack, one of the interviewees describes how she used its app to sort out a software problem she saw when she was out of the office visiting a call centre. She was able to report it back to her team, take and send a photo, and get it fixed while she was there. Her anecdote showed exactly how Slack made M&S Digital more agile.

Your film can also rebut any concerns that your would-be customers may have. We also made a case study for Consultant Connect, which enables GPs to speak directly to hospital consultants during consultations, thereby reducing the number of referrals. One worry it encounters is a fear among consultants that they will end up spending too much time on the phone. The film therefore featured a consultant explaining how little time he spends on the phone talking to GPS, and how it in fact saves him time in the long-term.

Being specific will also help your film tell a story. Most people are much more receptive to information if it is conveyed via a story. Stories also communicate positive change, which is something most companies want to argue that their products and services bring about.

Think pictures

Good pictures will make your film watchable, so think about what you can film as well as who you can interview. Try to not just shoot inside offices. You can be imaginative if you have no choice, using movement and interesting angles, but it is better if you can also film elsewhere. And give yourself time to film things, do not spend all your time on interviews. We made a 90-second case study for the charity Teach First and it included footage from four different locations: the exterior of an Oxford college, its library and dining hall, and an inner London school classroom.

If your options are limited ask your client if they have any footage you can use. You’ll surprised how many companies do, and your film about an oil company’s data team will be a lot more interesting with footage of an oil rig. In our Slack case study about Ocado we used footage of its amazing automated warehouse. This allowed us to tell the story about how Slack helped connect the testing team in a new warehouse with the developers in the main office.

Ideally, your film should start with amazing, attention-grabbing footage and include sequences of shots illustrating a story. A good range of footage will also give you choices in the edit and the ability to cut up the interviews so they are as tight and to-the-point as possible.

Get the best out of your interviewees

Make your interviews as relaxed as possible. Put people at their ease by explaining what you are trying to achieve and that your aim is not to grill them like a politician. You should be persuading them to repeat the things they told you during preproduction, not trying to get them to say things you think. Ask open questions, nod and smile during their answers. And don’t be afraid about asking them how they feel. Emotion can make a film much more effective at getting
a message across.

Keep it short

People are busy. More of them will watch a short film than a long one. Aim for a length of 90 seconds to two-minutes.

Find out more

To find out more about content marketing download our practical guide. It is written for B2B technology companies but would be helpful for any marketer.

Download a practical guide to content marketing for b2b technology companies