Elevating Your Production Values

When you create information products, there is a balancing act that you go through with every new thing that you create – how much time/money/effort do you spend on polishing the product versus just getting the information into a “good enough” state where you can be satisfied to put it into the market.

This is something that I never really struggled with in the past.  My production values were always in the top 20% of people I was competing with in my markets, so I was more than satisfied with that.

Many of my information products are screencasts with voiceover, so my focus has been on producing high-quality video using 1080p resolution and then making sure my audio was always at a singular sound level and cleaned up before releasing the product.

I’ve been using Auphonic for setting audio levels and cleaning up the sound since the product first came out a few years back.  It does a great job of allowing you to upload your files and it gets rid of some transient background sounds while normalizing the volume levels.  Pretty much everything I produce goes through Auphonic before it goes out the door.

For “direct to camera” style or what some people refer to as “talking head” videos, I’ve been using a Canon 60D DSLR with a couple of different lenses for varying effects going back at least 7 years now.  When people were shooting their videos on crappy handycams, I was producing DSLR quality video with great depth of field effects.

With respect to post-production, I’ve always tried to keep it pretty simple to be able to turn content around pretty quickly.  You can really overdo post-production and it detracts from the actual content, so I’ve tried hard to avoid that over the years.

Then when it comes to written stuff, I’ve admittedly focused less on visual flair and more on better quality content.  The Casual Marketer site could probably undergo a pretty serious visual upgrade, but I’m not overly convinced of the benefit to anyone – it does what it’s meant to do.

When I produced the physical newsletter, that was printed professionally and on high-quality paper, so that was always pretty good.  I never wanted to go down the road of glossy and lots of visuals because again, I just didn’t see the value in it for the reader.

But lately, particularly with my video-based information products, I’ve noticed that the market has lifted its game and it has left me thinking – I have to figure out how to do a better job with my stuff.

I got a perfect example today when I saw a promotional video done by a Udemy instructor named Chris Haroun for an upcoming course.  This video was about two minutes in length and had outstanding, commercial television quality production values.

Seriously, I reckon that two-minute video would cost about $10k-$20k to have shot here in Australia with the crew and editing involved.

Another example recently was from Tim Soulo from Ahrefs who has been creating some outstanding screen capture style videos.  Tim has a “video guy” who does his post-production work and the presentation quality is so good that it makes the content more engaging, which is the real benefit.

As a result of all of this, I’ve found myself questioning the quality of my products and thinking about what I need to do.

I shot a 15-minute test screen capture video last weekend and tried to create something similar in quality to what Tim produces.  In about 45-60 minutes of post-production, I was able to achieve an output that wasn’t too far off aside from maybe some audio and video timing tricks.

In the end, I came away thinking, I need to lift my game.

Am I still producing content in the top 20% of my market from a production perspective, arguably yes, but it’s probably more “average” now than I want it to be.  It qualifies as passable because so there’s so much crap out there.

I think the goal is now not to be just “good enough” but that I should be going for “noticeably better” than average.  I want people to say, “The production quality of your product is really good.”

I want quality to be a differentiator.

You need to think about your production values more regularly.  There used to be this school of thought that people didn’t care about it, but I think that’s not really relevant anymore.

A few years back when there wasn’t as much information freely available, you could get away with lower production values, but now, with the abundance of information available to people, you need to raise the bar.

The other thing that I have started to realize more now, in the tsunami of available content, the stuff that I gravitate towards as more credible is the stuff with slightly higher production values.

I don’t think it’s practical for everyone to do a Chris Haroun style promotional video and frankly, I am not convinced about the ROI on something to that level of production cost (both from a time/effort and financial perspective) but we should be aiming for Tim Soulo quality videos which are like top 5%.

Think about what you’re producing.  Could you spend an extra couple hours on it and lift the presentation and production values 10% – 20%?  If so, is it worth it to you?

I reckon if you spend the time increasing the production values of your outputs just a bit, you’ll reap huge rewards.  I know that’s something that I’m planning to do over the next few months.

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