Growing Your Business
I've been in my own one-man video business for 6 years. The problem is that when I'm on a job, I'm not marketing my business. I produced, direct and edit corporate videos, business videos, marketing and PR videos, etc. I hire freelance crews to shoot, but I basically do all of the directing and editing. How can I grow my business so It all doesn't rely on me being everywhere? I have a website which accounts for most of my new business. Word of mouth woks too. I've never had any luck at the chamber of commerce. I only seem to find real estate folks, lawyers, and mom & pop businesses.
Besides word of mouth, how do you folks get your business?
Where do you advertise? What types of places do you advertise in? Any suggestions on how to start attracting more corporate clients? I spent over 25 years in corporate video, and I really can't think of anywhere else to advertise my business besides the web. Any suggestions?
We're also starting to aim at producing medical videos. I have two producers that I know who specialize in that field, so they would do the work, and I'd make my share. It's a tough market to crack. Any thoughts there? Thanks so much. This is by far one of the best forums on the cow, and you guys have saved me or consoled me several times.
A community service I provide and what is proving to be a brilliant marketing strategy includes videotaping, editing and streaming highlight videos of important local events for non-profit organizations and membership associations.
Ordinarily, these organizations couldn't afford or simply do not want to afford the luxury of having their events professionally videotaped and edited by a video production company. Understanding this delimna, we step in to fill the void by offering to videotape these events in exchange for sponsorship recognition. So, the win/win is that we provide a service that benefits the non-profit and our company is exposed to their particular target audience. When the video is complete, the non-profit can link to our website (LocalWebcastNetwork.com) directly from their website, emails or e-newsletters and can distribute a DVD version of the video to VIPs, donors and sponsors. (Our short commercial is at the beginning of every video we donate so every time the videos are watched, we get incredible exposure!) Finally, the organization is free to use the raw footage to produce PSAs, event promo spots, fundraising videos, etc.
The Win/Win/Win comes from the fact that we include other sponsors involved with the event in the finished video presentation. This showcases their involvement in local community activities and gives them the ability to share these videos with their customers and prospects. Giving the sponsors extra exposure also helps the non-profit secure their support for the following year. Plus, it opens more doors for us because these sponsors really appreciate the service we provide.
The overall impact of this civic marketing strategy works extremely well in helping us to generate new business leads, in strengthening our relationships with current customers and in converting several of our existing leads into customers.
How can you use this strategy to your advantage?
Think about the organizations that need support in your area. Could they benefit if you videotaped, edited and streamed their events? Would you benefit by having your commercial or logo animation put on the front of these videos for all to see? Are there other sponsors that support these events that would appreciate the added exposure you would provide for them? Would it benefit your business to build solid relationships with these other sponsors? Would sharing these videos with your customers and prospects help to strengthen these relationships?
If the answer to these questions is a resounding "Yes! Yes! Yes!," you need to get on the bandwagon. Regardless of whether you do this a few times a year or a few times a month, if you do it properly, you'll experience the Win/Win/Win results I described above.
This is definitely not your traditional marketing program but it has worked for us in a big way. Good luck!
Kristopher G. Simmons
Video Business Coach
About 12 years ago, a "friend", who was also in video production, called me one day to inquire about my rates. He visited a short while later and spent the day hanging around my office. A month or so later, I noticed a dip in business.
After a short investigation, I found that he was working for a number of my clients.
It seems as though he saw that I kept my masters in my office with client names on the labels. He simply called my clients and told them that he could do the same work for less.
So, if you have any friends in the business who keep their masters in plain view, it might be a start.
By the way, the "friend" is no longer in the business. Makes ya kinda wonder.
It's a dry heat!
Sony HDCAM F-900 & HDW-2000/1 deck
5 Final Cut (not quite PRO) systems
Sony HVR-M25 HDV deck
Sony EX-1 on the way.
How deep did you bury the body???
David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY™
A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing, and Indie Film & Documentary forums.
Doing that kind of "community service" work might work well as a promotional tool for some people (and I'm glad to hear that it has in some cases)...
It has been said here on the COW before (probably in this forum) that "The only kind of additional work that pro bono work generates is additional pro bono work"... and I think there is some truth to that, as least we have found that to be true through the years.
That being said, we've really come to try to limit that stuff through the years. NOT to say that we are not "community minded," we do occassionally work for non-profits or "community causes"... but when we do so it is because we really want to help a particular group or cause that we believe in, not to use it as a promotional tool. It is tough turning down the numerous requests from non-profits and community groups, but with full production schedules we simply can't handle them.
With one exception...
Sometimes (about every other year) we produce the big-screen presentation for the local advertising federation's ADDY awards show. It's completely a pro bono job... but it gets about an hour's worth of our work shown to a captive audience of a few hundred people... the EXACT audience of people that hire us. It is a tremendous amount of work and the AdFed gets about a $15-20,000 job for free... but in this case it's worth every dime (especially because we have total creative control and can just go crazy and do fun stuff).
So, if you want to do pro bono as a promotional tool, just be judicious and pick the right jobs.
Nextly... I would say do whatever you can to ingratiate yourself to advertising agencies and public relations firms. Larger corporate companies (the ones that have more money, pay better, and will need bigger film/video jobs) will often already employ an ad agency or PR firm that they expect to take care of things like corporate videos, marketing videos, training tapes, television commercials, etc., so working first for them is a way to get in with the big companies. We have several that we have worked that way for for years, and several that started that way and then the company eventually started calling us directly themselves (and unless the ad agency or PR firm is marking up your work a great deal they usually don't care about being bypassed... it's less work for them).
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Pro bono work only begets more pro bono work if you let it. All you have to do is say "no" to the events that don't make sense for your marketing strategy and "yes" to the ones that do. I also try to stay focused on the events that are attended by my target market. Events that target the general public are a crap shoot. My most recent success includes covering an annual meeting for the Chattanooga Manufacturing Association which resulted in a $34,000 contract to produce a marketing video for a multi-national company. Another success includes a $28,000 video for a retirement community that came from a fundraising event we covered for them a few months prior to that.
To each is own....but this strategy has resulted in great success for my video business.
Kristopher G. Simmons
Video Business Coach
We set aside a certain number of hours each year that we will work on production for non-profits.
Each request is considered and then chosen based upon the type of services that the non-profit provides to the community.
After those hours are used up, any request for "donated" services is quoted at regular rates or asked to submit a proposal for the next calendar year.
Seems to work well . . . but we have never seen it as a way to market the business . . . more of a way for us to give back as well. It does get your name out there . . . you never know who will see your work or what influence they have.
The one form of pro-bono work that we have found works pretty good is volunteering to build the show reels and graphics for the local chapter of our Advertising Federation or MCAI awards shows. It is a ton of work, really, but we get our stuff right in front of the entire community.
If word of mouth is an effective form of advertising, then designing, directing and building the show for the local awards night is a great audience to have talking about you!
We also enter the competition so there is a chance our name comes up during the presentations as well. We get an "inside line" on who is winning and who isn't and get a better sense of the community at large.
Last year I got a general email from AdFed asking for anyone to step up to do the show that year. I volunteered to prepare all the clips for the show reel, but it turned into building the entire thing. These organizations rely on this kind of volunteerism, and for us it has given us the largest return on investment.
Madison AdFed is even entering some of the work done for last year's show as an entry for this year's show!
And I also agree, that pro-bono work is going to lead to more of the same....depending on your strategy.
Just my 2 cents on the pro bono thing because I strongly believe in it myself. There is definitely an art to converting pro bono to billable hours. You are teasing them, giving away enough to make them want more, then asking they pay for the extra mile.
When you do the free work, keep good records as if you were going to bill for real. Because you will give them a statement when you're done. When the job is done, you present a standard bill, showing hours and rate and expendables but with the total marked as comped for pro bono purposes. You say something along the lines of "this is for your tax records" when you hand it over, "To show what we would have billed on this if it was for anybody but you".
I call this a "virtual bill". I can't swear that everyone can write off the costs in this way, ask an accountant, but the real point of the exercise is not financial monkeyshines but to impress upon the client that you did x thousand dollars worth of work for nothing. Every time that program is shown to someone, the person from the client agency showing it is going to brag what a great deal that job was, what value they got from (your name mentioned here). And if you give them a product without a price tag on it, it is never going to seem as valuable or reputable as something they paid for. This is the equivalent of how the simple blue box from Tiffany's transforms a 10-dollar piece of ordinary junk jewelry into a night of passion with your lady love. It's all in the packaging:-)
Secondly, and perhaps more important, if you get into a situation where a client is always coming around rattling the tin cup for another freebie, you can explain that you have only a certain number of hours budgeted each month and per client for pro bono, (which has to be true, you are not a charity operation and must bill a certain amount monthly to survive).
So you say every client gets budgeted a certain amount of pro bono and unfortunately you're over the limit this month, and have to concentrate on billable jobs to make monthly targets... so if they can wait a few weeks, you certainly can revisit doing the job for free, or (close the deal here) they can jump to the front of the line right away if they want to put cash on the table for a billable job.
They came back for the freebie because they sensed it was a great value they were getting, that your work was good, and the price made them put you top of the list. Chances are good the client is on a tight deadline and didn't forsee being faced with a 3-4 week delay when they decided to hit you up again, so they'll have to look elsewhere, starting from scratch, or pull the trigger on a for-pay deal, or risk telling their boss (who they may already have promised a "great deal") they didn't plan ahead well enough.
Once they take the bait, immediately offer them some kind of discount or added-value component to the work that's comped because of your "well-established working relationship". This will give them confidence and help reduce buyer's remorse and the tendency to back out of the deal right away. Maybe it's a break on the replication costs, a comp on the voiceover work you do, or some payment plan... anything that they can sell as a bargain they obtained that will lessen the sting when they take it to their boss. Something you can afford to give away once in a while for goodwill.
In the car business, it may be the "free" undercoating, an upgrade to better tires, floor mats, that sort of thing. You are bartering perceived value.
Back to the original question about how to be in two places at once if you're not anywhere at all. You can't clone yourself. You could decide to give up one of the things you do to free up the time and resources. or you can increase your rates and make more from fewer but better-paying clients. You could delegate more to hired help. I know back in the 80's a lot of directors but also some good editors used a rep to drum up biz for them while they worked. It's a little like getting a talent agent. Frankly, I don't know how well this idea would work in the internet age where people use Mandy and Craigs and everything in between.
I do get the sense you're going to have to make a choice. In a management seminar I once took, the guy told this long story about working in a company that made meters. Like VU meters, little coiled wire assemblies designed to indicate, well, whatever needed indicating via a fluctuation of voltage. Medical ger. Broadcast and industrial process meters. Military meters. This guy in the company was one of the best wire-winders there, the fastest, the neatest, with the best QC scores. But eventually he was promoted up the chain, in charge of all the other people that used to do what he'd done so well.
When he moved up, he had to train himself to resist going back down to his previous area of mastery all the time to keep showing the rest of the team how to do it to his award-winning standards. You have to understand the other people's coil assemblies were already just fine, passing all the QC tests, they were just not at the Olympian standard of perfection thig guy had obtained. And it bugged him.
It also bugged the hell out of the staff, having a manager coming down to mess with them all the time, it was bad for morale and made it hard for the manager to be a manager, he was losing efficiency as well as respect. The hrder he tried to hold on to his old area of competency, the worse he was making everything. he had to choose going back to working the line like the others or moving up and taking the new resonisibilites and trusting his people under him to do their best so he could do something else that was also important.
I guess when you're a broadcast renaissance man or auteur type, used to wearing ALL the hats and keeping a hand in all the aspect of production, it is hard to relinquish any of that to others, to trust in them to get their part done so the entire team gets the work done. But to manage a larger project or organization, that's exactly what you have to do. You step out of your comfy area of mastery into a bigger job. You train your replacement as well as you can, and when they pass the test you just have to trust that they have your back. Just as they trust you are keeping the rest of the enterprise organized and heading in the right direction, so everybody can make more money.
So if your really want to grow the business, either give up some creative/field work to others you hire or or partner with and manage those people, "flying a desk" the pilot types call it....... or hire a business and marketing/ management team and stick to what makes you happy, the production side. Or keep the business small but more profitable by raising the rates to increase profit while cutting down the client list. You will love and miss many of the clients that can't make the jump with you. That was your comfort zone. At some point you have to make a choice and not every aspect of that choice will be pleasurable. As long as the general direction of the choice is to the good, that's the course to set.
Some of the wisest business advice I have heard is "Learn to work ON your business, not IN your business." When you spend every minute doing creative, you are setting up a feast and famine situation. When there is no work, you are out there drumming up business and struggling to pay the bills. When your efforts land a new job, you are suddenly very busy in production. As soon as the job is done, however, there are no new jobs in the pipeline because you were too busy working on the last one, and now you are back to square one - wondering how to pay the bills and struggling to survive. Given that this industry can have a very LONG sales cycle, this is a quick route to nowhereland.
Your best approach might be to either hire contractors to do ALL of your work while you land the jobs, or hire a producer who focuses on landing work while you do the creative. This second approach is not a good idea, however, because what happens should the producer move on? Not only are you back at square one all over again, but you will have to pour through his records and contacts etc. just to figure out where he left things off.
You own the company, you need to run it. Let others do the work while you man the wheel and guide your ship where YOU want it to go. Right now, your ship is headed into antarctica because the captain is too busy swabbing the deck to steer!
Thanks Beeny...I resemble some of your remarks! I'm going to consider your sage advice and see if I can't get a firmer grip on the wheel around here!
Great advice! I sing the same tune in my latest column in EventDV
The Video Business Advisor
Nice to see you again Steve! We miss you 'round the old place.
I'd like to add to BeenyWeenies' comment: