What IS working for various production companies today?
Hello everyone. I'm Steve Myers, Steve Myers Productions in Dallas Forth Worth. I've changed ISP and part of the update is a new e-mail address.
As a reminder to some or introduction to others --- I'm 48, a veteran of Broadcast Radio and TV since my entry in my teens in 1975. Wow--has it ever changed over 32 years.
My career has experienced several highlights with radio in the early to mid 80s, local affiliate television in the late 80s, Corporate Communications in the mid 1990s and as a one-man production studio owner since 1999. Top resume credits include two PBS documentaries, one regional documenatry, behind-the scenes press video for a 2001 feature film in addition to over 25,000 career commercials/promos/public service annoucements. Nearly 300 short to long form features for industry, business, medical, legal, community service, and Christian ministry groups, churches and even global networks.
As for the challenges - they seem to increase or diversify with age and time.
The times we are living in (and producing in) today are the most absurd, confusing, frustating and dumbfounding of my lifetime. Its not technology? Couldn't be better. Its great. But marketng to clients, reaching them, advertising one's business, and being awarded contracts -- let alone payment when its all said and done is (like others here) getting harder and harder. I used to think it was just 'me' until I had soem honest dialogue with colleagues who echo similar or harsher stories.
I appreciate all that's been posted in the threads from you all --- and I've read many of them. I've done the Chambers of Commerce, the networkiing groups, one-on- one contacts...some with local politicians and/or back door through employees into businesses. I've advertised in Newspapers, News letters, and even offered pro bono services to community service organizations, civic groups and nonprofit ogranizatons both as a way to give back to a community and gain access (awareness) and name recognition. Other than serve worthy organizations and causes its produced little in new business.
What I don't have are CLIENTS. Paying ones, at least. Everyone and their dog who wants something for nothing come out of the woodwork. Few, however who want bids and fewer still who actually produce and pay their bills.
Now I'm not in a minority -- so I've learned from other producers and professioanls with other businesses or specializations. Electrical Contractors have the same 'rush to get a bid in for a project' and then wait weeks for a returned call, e-mail or snail mail from companies who can't wait for a bid but take forever to award the contract. At worst its not knowing either way if the contract was awarded to anyone or if the process (and project) is over. Amazing how we can reach clients by phone when they want us and how fast we go to voice mail after the bid is in. Or led on a chain that is rattled from time to time in the quest to lower our rates.
So many producers have closed up shop or gone into other lines of work or producing full-time for one specific client. I've been tempted to all of the above this yaer alone.
Those who are large enough to hire sales persons or teams seem to have constant turnover as the grass is always greener for sales people. We (the creative) then flip hats and have to sales person, marketing director, PR, and then Producer (Shooter/Editor) and/or also involving scripting or related service (audio, graphics, anmation, DVD authoring) to delivery and payment. I've stopped offering net 30 because it tends to be a license to steal - and I'm not made for collections. Moose and Rocko love the work (Rodney Dangerfield line). I don't. That's the worst bar none.
What I'd like to learn is: WHAT IS WORKING FOR VARIOUS PRODUCTION COMPANIES OR PRODUCERS?
In a small community I can see where spot cable insertion might be a good way to market themselves and develop businss. Not practical in a large market (like DFW) and TV (in general) is out of the question. So is Radio here.
Does anyone use Constant Contact or something like it to market via e-mail? How effective is it (targeted to known names/firms - not spamed to thousands)?
Another talked about sending Demos. I wonder what's more effective, send the demo with the introductory letter or send an intro letter (brief) and follow up with the DVD?
What I've learned about Chambers and Civic groups is to ALWAYS be either a GUEST or a GUEST Speaker (presenter). Resist joining (as once that happens your time is compromised from marketng and work). Chambers tend to be cash cows and one's memberhip is further poked to pay for monthly luncheons, business after hours, or events. And doing business with Chambers is even more political.
Being Production Professionals we should produce and demo speaking engagments (DVD/light speech) with DVDs to hand out in follow up one-on-one Q&A seems like a better move than a mass mailing. We might get more invitations to speak to other groups. I've thought about giving speeches/presentations on MEDIA 101 FOR BUSINESS. Just an overview of Television and Radio Commercials, sample rates on Cable, Indy and Network TV stations. Talk about :30s for Web pages and direct marketing (mail) DVDs. Throw in work by our company and samples talking about package rates. Let the DVD sell it and speak little other than Q&A.
I'm following another successful producer who used to put all his information on a business card (I'm guilty of that). Today, instead he has his name, sub heading of what he does, his web address, and phone number. That's it. The Web site becomes the sales department with links to whatever the potential customer wishes to pursue.
I'm just now getting my web site beyond "basic" to "expanded" to do this work for me. Complete with e-mail button in each window (top) for Q&A, Meetings, Quotes, or bids. Has anyone else started using your web site this way? What's working on your web sites and what isn't?
What IS working for your production company today?
I'll keep posted on mine with the modificatons.
And will check back here often.
Best Wishes to all in securing clients and producing!!!
Steve Myers Productions
I can identify with your frustration as it has taken about 7 years to finally figure out what actually works for us.
It sounds like you have tried all that works for me. But, I wonder if you have tried them long enough to see if they will work. I have found that you need to have a marketing strategy in place for at least a year before you will start to achieve real results. It's a tough year but if you hang in there, it will yield fruit.
I'm sure you are familiar with the sales pipeline. Marketing is what helps you fill the pipeline with leads. Once the pipeline is overflowing with leads, it will bust resulting in you getting a steady stream of business. However, once it busts and you get loaded down with projects, you MUST keep marketing so you can continue to cram more leads into the pipeline.
Another analogy is to think about putting an empty bucket under a slow dripping leak. It will take a long time for the bucket to fill up, but when it does, it will slowly start to overflow. If the leak stops, the bucket will stop overflowing. More drips (leads) equals more overflow (sales).
So, in all the tactics you mentioned trying in your post, how many of them were 100% focused on putting more leads in the pipeline? Here's what works for us: (There are 4 full-time staffers in my studio)
1. Attend chamber meetings with the sole purpose of meeting new contacts and adding prospects to our pipeline. All new contacts and prospects are added to our newsletter that goes out once per month. Warm and/or hot prospects are followed up with soon after an event with the purpose of setting up a personal meeting. After the meeting, if they want a proposal for a project, we write it. If they don't have an exact need at this time, they'll get our newsletter every month so when they do decide to do the project, they will ask us to submit a bid.
2. I am a member of the Chamber Board of Directors and the Chattanooga Downtown Rotary Club. I request/attend meetings with members of both organizations every week so I can get to know them better as well as help them get to know me and my business better. When a video project needs pops up in any of these member companies, I usually get a call to submit a proposal.
3. I created a webcast network (http://www.localwebcastnetwork.com) with the purpose of videotaping, editing and posting video coverage of important local community and business events. We cover grand openings, open houses, important announcements, non-profit fundraisers, you name it. Doing this puts us in front of decision makers at every event and positions us as the only video production company in my area that is totally involved in supporting our community. Chattanooga, TN is home to hundreds of non-profit organizations so we are a very philanthropic town. The movers and shakers like to support vendors that also believe in supporting the community. We sign several contracts every month as a direct result of what we do with this network on a daily/weekly basis.
4. We "sponsor" huge events in our area. We don't write any checks for the sponsorships. We simply offer to videotape/edit a short video of the event that will go on our webcast network. They can also use our video on their websites if they want. It's a great service for the non-profits and we get top level sponsorship exposure. We've sponsored about 7 events so far this year and have closed several deals with contacts made at these events.
That's it! This marketing mix puts multiple leads in the pipeline each week and I have more project opportunities than I have time to write proposals for. But, to continue on this path, I have to keep putting leads into the pipeline....which means that marketing can never take a back seat to anything. I HAVE to do it in order to remain successful in this business.
Hope that offers a little about how I am doing it. Let me know if you have any questions.
Kristopher G. Simmons
Video Business Coach
Well...after 20 years in the field and 17 on my own, I'll say my results varied from Kris's.
We were movers and shakers with the chamber and the biggest provider of discounted and pro bono non-profit work in our region. Pro-bono work seems like it should get you corporate work as these non-profit agencies are steered by corporate movers and shakers...in our experience all that pro bono work begot more non-profit pro-bono work. Warm fuzzies all around, but not much for bank deposits.
As far as chamber contacts go...we had similar results. We got lots of chamber work (which they requested a deep discount as part of our "service" to the chamber), but our associations really didn't trigger much work overall. With a small to medium size market, these sorts of services are sought out from larger markets when the stakes get high quite often.
After a run through the 90s with a staff which peaked at 11 bodies, and lots of awards, I'm now on my own for a couple of years and I don't even maintain a local land line phone number and I'm not in the phone book...
This marketing thing takes different shapes depending on what your intended customer base is... Corporate customers are different from television commercial clients, and network long form is a different planet altogether.
Defining what sort of customer you want to focus on will have a tremendous amount of weight in deciding what your marketing efforts will ultimately look like...
Creative Cow Host,
[Tim Kolb] "Pro-bono work seems like it should get you corporate work as these non-profit agencies are steered by corporate movers and shakers...in our experience all that pro bono work begot more non-profit pro-bono work. Warm fuzzies all around, but not much for bank deposits."
I also found that non-profit work never really paid off quite as promised or expected. I became the go to guy for other people's causes, often breaking my back to promote things with which I couldn't really identify.
However, while those gigs never paid off directly, they did give me complete creative control over relatively big projects for very the first time in my career, and, I was also given the freedom to experiment without fear. Ultimately, those experiences became very valuable to me as they enabled a certain fearlessness in all of my subsequent work that even today gives me the ability to make creative decisions without doubting myself. Plus, I got to date all the cute volunteers...
So, they may not pay the bills, but those pro-bono jobs do pay off in many ways.
David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY
[David Roth Weiss] "So, they may not pay the bills, but those pro-bono jobs do pay off in many ways."
Just so I'm clear, I agree to this to a point. (other than dating the volunteers...my wife of 20 years would have probably had a point of view on that...).
As a personal proving ground, sure it's a great way to go, and I think all of us no matter what our personal spin is on kharma, have an obligation to help where we can.
I just think that as a "marketing" strategy...doing pro-bono non-profit work ultimately under-performs when compared to most other options of any equal expense whether it be time or treasure or both...
I just bought two extra bags of groceries this afternoon while I was shopping and the grocer passes them on to the food pantry. It's the right thing to do, but it's ultimately not a way for me to forward any other agenda than somebody who is hungry but can't afford food needs to be helped by someone who can buy more food than they can eat.
Whether you judge any effort a success in life has a lot to do with scoring it in the correct column.
Creative Cow Host,
So, David.... money ain't for nuthin' but the chicks are free.
[Tim Kolb] "We were movers and shakers with the chamber and the biggest provider of discounted and pro bono non-profit work in our region. Pro-bono work seems like it should get you corporate work as these non-profit agencies are steered by corporate movers and shakers...in our experience all that pro bono work begot more non-profit pro-bono work. Warm fuzzies all around, but not much for bank deposits."
Amen, Tim. That was what Kathlyn and I found when we were quite active in our area Chamber, Rotary, etc. The pro bono work opened the door for more of the same but nothing else.
When we finally began to make headway, it was because we came up with projects that were our idea and which we produced and sold. One of them was for the local zoo who wanted it to be a pro bono project. We said no that it would be a project under our direction, and that once they approved the spec proposal in writing, it was a green light and we would sell all the advertising in the project and we would keep whatever profits accrued from the project. They wanted them and we said no way. We got the project and did it and kept the money. The zoo and the county got an educational project that could be used in the schools, in civic groups, clubs, etc., to help promote the zoo.
We never went back to pro bono work and instead made our pro bono efforts to help some of our friends and leaders here when they get in trouble. Much more direct and a hell of a lot more rewarding. ;o)
Have fun, Tim.
[Ron Lindeboom] "Amen, Tim. That was what Kathlyn and I found when we were quite active in our area Chamber, Rotary, etc. The pro bono work opened the door for more of the same but nothing else."
We experienced the opposite. Of course we did it the opposite way, too. We used the CoC and Rotary solely to form relationships in the business community, and to support non-profits we believed in. We never once asked for a job from any of business crowd.
Instead, we went directly to the non-profits, whose business we really wanted. Some of it was ecosystem-related -- we courted video business that others were turning away -- and some was out of the same impulse that leads everyone to do a job for free. You see someone you want to help, and you help 'em.
More than that, we wanted to build a business on helping people. So from the beginning, every request for free video work was simply turned away. We told them, we don't give away our core services any more than the phone company does. If you want what they got, you'll pay the same rate everyone else does. Same here
So we'll buy a raffle ticket or bake a pie. We'll even join some groups as volunteers. But if you're serious about funding your efforts, you'll make a video with us, and spend more time helping the (whatever).
Pretty soon, we had the non-profit BUSINESS in our area locked down.
Among the only services we offered for free was helping them figure out how to earn back a lot more than what they spent with us. Part of that included putting them in front of live audiences where they could show their videos and ask for money.
Where did we point them? The Chamber and the Rotary of course, who already knew us as supporters of non-profits.... and who were always looking for high-quality presentations. They trusted us to deliver the goods. It got to where they ASKED to see our fundraising videos at their meetings. "Got any new projects we can show?"
Another thing we gave away was helping the non-profits figure out how to spend the money they raised with us for maximum effect.
100% of our commercial work came from big-boned cats who saw the impact of our PAID work for their favorite charities. When they wanted us to do the same for their business, they already knew it was gonna cost 'em. That's when they found out that our commercial rates were a little different than our non-profit rates after all. :-)
We got some really big commercial gigs over the years, including a couple of TV shows. But over the life of our business, NOTHING like our money from non-profits.
BTW, if you need to do a free job or two to start out, do your OWN free jobs. We got not one, but TWO separate real estate shows with a two-part pitch video: a spec opening animation (with the client's name and logo, natch), and a video we made of our own house.
We made all our biggest mistakes on our own time, and learned a lot of good things we could use even if we never got these jobs. Having targets is better than just "trying to learn" software, and, apart from the pitch-ees, nobody knows that you did any work for free. And THEY knew we were in it for the money.
And we wound up working shoulder to shoulder on non-profit ventures we cared about, and they never asked us for free video work.
[Ron Lindeboom] "We...made our pro bono efforts...help some of our friends and leaders here when they get in trouble. Much more direct and a hell of a lot more rewarding. ;o)"
As one of the beneficiaries of that pro bono work over the years, I'm a firm believer in The Golden COW Rule: give unto The COW as you would have them give unto you. :-)
[Tim Wilson] "[Ron Lindeboom] "We...made our pro bono efforts...help some of our friends and leaders here when they get in trouble. Much more direct and a hell of a lot more rewarding. ;o)"
As one of the beneficiaries of that pro bono work over the years, I'm a firm believer in The Golden COW Rule: give unto The COW as you would have them give unto you. :-)"
Yes, as a member of that club, I agree.
Creative Cow Host,
I found this thread really interesting, until it turned into the "pro's and con's of pro-bono work" thread. So I'm gonna do Steve Myers a favour and ask his initial question again...
What IS working for various production companies today?
Does anyone have any thoughts on what IS working? Maybe other than doing or not doing pro bono work. As well as Steve, I would be interested in your responses.