I'm great with my camera, I suck at marketing
I have very decent equipment (such as a Sony HDR-AX2000 among others), a very powerful computer with Edius and a GrassValley HD Spark card to monitor the editing properly, and a lot more equipment that I spend all my savings in. And while I'm just getting started, I've been producing video in one way or another for the past ten years, including a few corporate events for the organization I used to work for (even though I did them as a volunteer). So I have the skills to produce a very high quality product, both in DVD and Blu-ray, and the few customers I had are very pleased with my work.
The problem is, when it comes to promoting my business, I have no talent for that. I read these videographer forums and I see there is a lot of work in this industry, whether it's weddings, or corporate events, documentaries, commercials and many other things. But I have little or no clue how to get even a few customers every month to at least get started.
I have started my own website, I publish often on Craigslist and I took up a paid ad on mywedding.com, but I'm getting nothing. The visits tracker I put on my website shows that visitors are farther in between, and I get no calls.
I don't want to do just weddings (which unlike many videographers I enjoy doing), but also all types of events, such as corporate seminars, training videos, and school plays among others. The last thing I did was a dance recital a month ago.
I'm getting very discouraged. I thought that after spending money and time starting my own website, publishing on Craigslist every week with a link to my website where there are samples of my wedding videos, and paying for an ad in one of the main wedding websites, I was going to get at least a couple of customers a month, and then gradually more and more as they recommended me to their friends, because everybody I work for tells me they are very pleased with the quality of my work. But nothing's happening.
So since I don't have money to hire a marketing firm, I would really appreciate some advice from the pros here. I bet someone will probably tell me that my website doesn't look like a wedding website, but that's because I want to offer video services for all kinds of people and companies. If I made a website that looks like the typical videographer wedding website, a big company probably would move on to another website.
I was given the advice to go to bridal shows and expos, but I think that's something for a year or two in the future when hopefully I have done more weddings and I have something more tangible to show, as well as the money to pay for a booth, because even the smallest booth are very expensive, and they don't allow you to just go there and start handing out business cards.
So please feel free to look at my website and give me ideas or criticism, and if you think my website looks horrible, tell me.
And also, I would like to have an idea of what to ask for in terms of money. Right now I'm charging $800 for a wedding, shot in HD with two professional cameras and delivered in a dual case in both Blu-ray and DVD. I do a very nice graphic design for both the cover and the disc. I had heard that a wedding is charged $1000, and that was in 2004, so I would assume that what I offer has to be at least worth $1500. But when I put up that price on Craigslist, nobody ever called. So how can I get an idea of what to charge, whether it's a wedding, a corporate event, or a series of training videos?
Thanks in advance for any replies.
Sebastian, a couple of things. I don't do weddings anymore, but when I did I partnered with a friend who was a DJ to split the cost of a booth at several wedding expos. There was a discount for booking multiple shows. We sold our own services but also offered a package deal for booking us as a team. If you know someone you can team up with give it a try. In addition to exposing your work to potentially hundreds of people, you have an opprotunity to network with allied professionals who might be additional sources of referrals.
As for pricing, I learned long ago that being the cheapest guy on the block wasn't necessarily a good thing. For what you're offering I have to say you're definitely under-valueing your work. I would suggest doing some local price research and position yourself somewhere in the middle, with packages and up-sell options so that you can offer good value without giving it away. I hope this was helpful. Good luck.
RGB Media Services, LLC
First bit of advice - don't post things like "I stink at XYZ" on a website that is instantly tracked by search engines.
But aside from that, posting on Craigslist is not marketing - it is really like posting a classified ad in the newspaper just between the obituaries and the free kittens. Good luck with that!
While results may vary:
Update your "about" page here on Creative COW - at the moment I see you are in Raleigh, NC but no other details besides your computer system. Clients don't really care about all the equipment you spent your camp counselor tips on - they want to know you can produce their video.
Where is your reel?
Do you have your business on google places? If I'm looking for a video guy in Raleigh Google Maps is the first place I go. You can have a link to your website right there.
Have a blog? Tweets? FB? Not big eye catchers but depends upon your content.
Certainly post in the various wedding services forums if that is your service. Very competitive market.
Better to have a niche. What do you specialize in?
Get the following books from the library:
Great Phrases for Lead Generation (and others in that series)
Can't afford a marketing form? Good. Be your own marketeer. Any time you leave the office you are selling. Not overtly, but you are always promoting yourself and your services.
Read the articles about business here on the COW:
You've got to sell yourself. Get out there - hit the pavement - setup sales calls. You'll get a lot of people saying "No" but I read somewhere it takes 100 no's to get 1 yes.
"If you build it, they will come" works for baseball fields and time-wasting first-person shooter phone apps, not for websites and classified ads - you need to drive traffic to you.
That should be enough to get you started.
Report back with your success.
You can do what is easy or you can do what is required - the choice is yours.
Thanks for your lengthy advice, it's really appreciated. Google Maps is not really an option because I work out of my home, so I don't put that in listings. I don't even plan on renting office space, it's too expensive and pointless for what I'm trying to accomplish. However, I do need to do search engine optimization, which I have no idea how to, but I'll try to learn.
When you say "You've got to sell yourself. Get out there - hit the pavement - setup sales calls. " what do you mean exactly? What places would I go to? And by sales calls, who would I call? I mean, it's not that I can call people randomly. Sorry if they are dumb questions, but like I said, when it comes to marketing, I'm lost.
Sebastian R. Alvarez
Sebastian, one tiny thing to add to what Mr. C has already given you. I suggest you have some nice silkscreen printed polo shirts made up with your company logo/name on them, and wear them around outside of the house on a regular basis. Wear it also to any on those wedding shows or similar gigs.
Seems crazy, well, maybe. However, the shirt becomes portable advertising in your local area wherever you go, and it becomes a conversation starter with people who ask you about the company and what you do. People may also see it and not ask you about it but it can stay in their mind as part of "brand awareness". When some time later they have a video project in mind, they may well look you up, only because they remember the name, and that you seemed like a together kind of guy.
You might extend this concept with a removable magnetic car door sign.
With wedding and event business it is mostly a referral business, happy customers and people who liked working with you once become your best salesmen. The other thing to do is to get some "mind share" in the local market, so people automatically think of you first when they need your kind of service. One of the tricks I have published here before is to get together with your local drive-time radio personalities, and pay to have an in-studio conversation with them during your customer's morning and/or afternoon drive time. That would be when moms (the ones that most often pay for this stuff) are driving the kids to school and picking up, as well as on the way to their own jobs.
Instead of advertising your business directly, which looks very transparent, what you want to do with the moring zoo crew or whatever they go by, is be part of a contest. The first idea is a call-in/text/fax/email contest where entrants tell their worst and funniest wedding disaster stories. The winner with the best story will win a video produced by you, maybe a montage of their own footage, or made from stills in their album, or a sit-down interview of the couple telling their story and you montage the heck out of it with whatever resources they have. The radio station and you both put this video or a short sample of it, up on their web site.
The attention and word of mouth discussion this brings you is going to generate leads, particulalrly if you couple the studio segment with a few spots salted thru the rest of that week.
Aside from the funny wedding disasters, another contest could be that you shoot a staged event like a wedding cake relay race between teams of bridesmaids. This could make for some very amusing video and again, post the finished edited piece on the web site of the radio station as well as sending a dub to local TV stations. teh winning team gets a free weddign video or something form you, make it a worthwhile prize of obvious value, particularly to someone in your market.
When not in the prime wedding season, try a similar thing for taping and finishing oral history recordings, particularly of veterans; the WW2 and Korea era guys are dying off fast now, and have finally decided they can share some of what they've kept quiet about all these years, to pass on their wisdom and insight to the next generations. You might center this effort around a local VFW or similar organization. Or you can do special birthday retrospectives for a retiree who's held a job a lot of years. The contest there would be one where office mates of the candidate submit testimonial letters to the station about why their co-worker is the best darn office person in (yourtown). The prize is you shoot and edit them a bon voyage retirement video montage.
Are you starting to get some ideas?
These are non-advertising adverting efforts, PR excercises that happen to also produce something either interesting, useful, or entertaining, along with building your brand as "the events guy".
I think a smart guy or gal can take these ideas and really create a local buzz in the papers, radio, and TV, with coverage of something that is visually interesting, even to people with no immediate need of your services.
The core concept is to use what is called "earned media", to tell your story, versus paying for ads like everyone else.
Just want to say thanks everybody for your very useful advice. For now I'm redesigning my website, which is frustrating enough because website design is terribly complicated, so I design in Photoshop, export in slices and then make some changes in Dreamweaver. But besides the technical part, unless you can afford two different websites and company names, it's really hard to design a website that will be attractive to both brides and corporations. I have looked at many videography websites and haven't found one that is good for both types. Problem is, I don't want to do just weddings. I'm capable of offering lots of different video services, if I cater only to brides and grooms I'd be missing on a lot of opportunities.
Sebastian R. Alvarez
Sebastian, I suggest your strategy be to create one conservative-looking master web site for the production company as a whole, with immediate links to separate "divisions". So if the main page is "Sebastian Productions", the main links on that page should be one for "Sebastian Events Productions" and another for "Sebastian Business communications". Maybe a third for "Sebastian Broadcast productions".
Each of those sub-sites can now be shaped exclusively for their target market. The email addresses and phone numbers and etc can be customized to reflect the identity. The portfolios of footage, testimonials, stills, and etc. will be only what the targeted customers are looking for, nothing extraneous. And you look like a bigger company.
While it is admirable that you're forging ahead making the site yourself, ask yourself why do that part of the work if it is not your core competency. Find a talented web designer and hand the job off to them, so you can concentrate on YOUR core competency, and your site will be a better reflection of your work, instead of looking amateurish and giving your work an amateur stigma. After all, companies are comng to you because making videos is not their expertise; it is yours. Apply the same thought to the quality of your web design. Keep learning more on how to DIY, but meanwhile, have a competent pro with good design chops handle it.
Thanks, Mark. Actually I would like to give the design to a pro, if I had the money to do that, but I don't. If business gets better and I do have the money for that I definitely will. For now I'm trying to do something in Photoshop that looks decent, even if not amazing, but at least the kind of design that will not make people run away from the site as soon as they land. I've been checking lots of videography websites for the past few days, and some and very nicely done, but some are hideous, and there's a note at the bottom with the name of the studio that designed it.
What I'm doing now is a top horizontal menu like most websites have these days, with a link to the video gallery and the three main types of services I want to offer, weddings, corporate events and school events, as well as a "other services" link for the rest. Then obviously each will link to a page that will have something specific about that.
Sebastian R. Alvarez
My ego is way too large to market. I'm an artist. By that, I enkoy putting my work out there and allowing folks to come to me. Cocky? Without question. More profitable than paying to chase folks down who don't yet want my work? Hell, I dunno. I'd just rather them chase me. It's how I got my wife.
Sebastian I am going to take a wild guess and say if we had to classify you as either a business guy or a creative guy, you are the latter, just like most of the other people on these boards. Coming here looking for a "tweak" for a promo idea, that's great to see if someone has a new wrinkle they tried in the old promotion game.
From what I read though, you have zero business experience, yet lots of creative and your problems are all on the business side of what you are doing. Sorry to say, but this is the wrong place to be looking for solid business planning and promotion education and advice.
So far you have taken the "pot shot" method to your marketing, wishing and hoping something hits with the public.
What you need to be doing is put together a cohesive marketing plan, if not entire business plan for your road map to how you are going to make your business a success. Doing that can be a painful experience and what you will swear is a waste of time, until it is finished and you see how to get from now....to where you want to be. But most of all, you need to understand WHY you are going to go through all the steps necessary to market your business successfully.
I hate to send people to an external site, but in this case its not a creative site, go to startupnation.com and start reading. The site was created to give novice solo business people a ton of free resources and network needed to get up and going with their ideas.
Once you have a good solid busienss understanding, coming back here and reading this thread, the psots already here will make far more sense to you. All the basics are here, pressing flesh, making calls, SEO, market comparisons, all things you need to be doing...you just need to know why and in which order.
Good luck...if you can work with brides and like it, you can do anything !!!