Is there a rise in potential clients not returning emails or phonecalls? You know, like when they tell you the contract's ready and your bid's approved, and then... they disappear? For weeks?
It takes more energy to avoid, because we do follow up. And I don't mind no's. No just means the project wasn't right for you, and sometimes you dodge quite a bullet by not getting a project. But total silence for weeks is just messed up.
I know it's close to Halloween. Maybe that's it, they got taken by zombies. But it's happened twice to us recently, and I wonder if it's just a blip or a shift in how people value their relationships or something.
Our LA studio's had the brunt of it, our other locations are percolating along as usual. And in both cases, the potential client did have some minor red flags, to be fair. I mean, LA attracts all kinds.
I think it may be due to the job market, to some degree. When a company can get a "Marketing Manager" fresh out of school, or their first job, for short money, they often do. Along with the green-ness comes a total lack of business acumen, including the awareness that you're never too busy to reply to a polite email from a vendor, even if it's just to say "I'm busy right now...". I'm going through that with a long-term client right now - it's very frustrating.
I guess I've just learned to live with the "hurry up and wait" way of operating.
Seems that when we are waiting on the clients, they take their own sweet time, and then some. But when they are waiting on us, it is invariably an emergency.
We pitched a concept for a television commercial, at their request, to a client last November, something they wanted to do "pretty soon." Then, not a peep... and we couldn't get an answer out of them.
This August, nine months later, they call on something like a Friday and want to know if we can pull trigger on the shoot early the following week. Never mind that this was a pretty complex production that would require tons of pre-prod, casting, and even special creature costumes that had to be built from scratch.
They got it... but not in the three days they were expecting after the phone call.
This is one example out of countless ones... and I really don't expect it to stop.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Woah, 9 months?!?!?!
I hear you on the crazy pull-the-trigger expectations, too. One of these clowns I mentioned contacted us last night (after hours), after months of nothing, and demanded a 3 city shoot with multiple cameras starting next week.
I told her we were booked solid until 2014. Which is true (yay! Good year of business!).
And when she got angry, I told her that not only did she not respond to our followups, but that I made it very clear to her that we do not hold production time or resources without deposits. We'd contacted her no less than 6 times, in writing and on voicemail, explaining those very things in the previous months.
She blamed me for her being "in trouble" now with her boss in the UK, since she promised her we'd be the prodco and that I'd be directing.
I'm not sad. Too many other fish in the sea, ones who actually communicate.
I shoot people.
Same thing here, they need you when they need you and can perceive multiple inquiries as "pestering" if they're not ready to pull the trigger, especially voicemails. I have land line and cell phone voicemail and I too am starting to feel this way:
I see it as busy clients are spinning plates, we as vendors are just another spinning plate. Or think of the project as on a stove top, their boss demands something else has a higher priority (or deadline) and we are then placed on the back burner on simmer. At least you have something in the pipeline and for that you can be grateful.
Some clients, mainly the younger ones, have a different sense of business etiquette and timing, they don't feel a response is an asap kind of thing. I see that in my late twenties kids' attitudes. Also, if they've never had their own self employed, project centric business they can't relate to how important it is to get a response quickly. They are living in a different world than us.
Lastly, I tend towards the paranoid and when this happens to me I assume they are delaying telling me some bad news, but that's just me. If I turn out to be wrong I am pleasantly surprised!
That's my two cents.
Put a "respond date" on your quotes, if they delay, the quote becomes void. Get a deposit, that usually separates the serious from the flakey.
If it's a case of "spinning plates", then this could be an opportunity to market yourself to them as someone that can take some of the load off... pushing yourself as full-on Producer, instead of just someone executing all the decisions.
I don't know about the idea that millennials are too casual about returning messages: if it's Twitter, they can't jiggle their thumbs fast enough, they are twitching tweets every five minutes, by my observation.
IMO the real sadness of all of this is that those older, bigger companies who are still being so conservative have no clue what they're going to run into if the economy ever actually fully thaws out.
With the new pace of business, they'll suddently start having lots of interest in companies wanting them to ramp up.
And here's what I suspect they'll hear from potential vendors...
"Wow, I thought (hidebound older firm) was the cream of the crop, but their website and their marketing materials and their whole public face just looks old, tired and stuffy.
Let's look for a company that looks like they've moved beyond the paleolithic era.
Sadly, they'll probably ending up with one of the flashy, but somehow smaller firms, who can do the new stuff, but are populated largely with folks who understand the new sizzle and less so, the valuable traditions of the past.
Lots of talk about how the "middle class" has been squeezed so hard over the past decade in personal terms - but I think it's just as true in the "business class" as well.
Creative polarization. You can go with old, stuffy, hidebound types. Or kids.
But when our industry jettisoned all the 30-50 year olds to save the most bucks back when the economy tanked, they killed off best and brightest in the middle. And it's going to take a LONG time to get that institutional expertise back.
The symptom is the last corporate meeting I had. The two sharp yuong ladies taking the meeting with our team were both under 30. Perfectly sharp and fundamentally capable. But they didn't even understand the language of traditional marketing - thinking ONLY in terms of YouTube and the web. Which only works if your target client base is ALSO in their mid 20s. If not, it risks failing spectacularly if you have a lot of potential clients who don't even know what a Pinterest account might be.
Just my 2 cents.
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