Having a difficult time
I need some advise and encouragement. Business has been extremely slow. I've tried several different ideas but nothing has worked. One of my biggest challenges is that clients don't want to pay for good quality work. On top of that, the South Florida video production market is very crowded.
My business model is working. Basically here's what I do:
For all shoots I produce/direct and hire freelance crews. My crew costs are high. But my crew is very reliable.
I'm thinking about just becoming a one-man-band but I'm not the best shooter. But since I'm competing with so many other production companies, I feel like I need to lower my costs without lowering my profit margins. Should I offer a lower priced alternative as a one man band?
For example I've been working on a client who wants a Kickstarter video. We've been in touch for a few months as he develops his prototype product. He'll be ready next week. I gave him a low price, but yesterday he said he found someone to do it less expensive. It's so frustrating!!
I rely heavily on my website to get business. My target market is medium to large companies or medical companies. Several years ago my website (which was on the first page) was hacked. We ended up on the 14th page!
Now I pay a lot of money in Google ads. That makes my customer acquisition costs very high.
I'm wondering if you can look at my website and tell me what you think. I'm also wondering if you have any ideas on how to gain more business. Or different targets to go after. What works for you? I'm thinking about just driving around the different nearby cities and then cold calling companies.
At this point in my life, I should be winding down, not struggling to pay my bills.
Any suggestions would greatly appreciated. Any feedback on my website would also help. If you even want to offer bits of encouragement I'll take it.
Thanks so much.
Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.
Do you do much in the Hispanic markets? Seems like the demographics, particularly in Florida, point to that as a growth area.
Not really Mark. We do translate, dub, and subtitle videos into Spanish. But honestly for me to shoot and edit videos in Spanish means I need more crew and editors who speaks Spanish. At that point my profit margin would suffer even more.
Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.
I was thinking you could team up with someone in that community who is already doing things, or wants to...
It might be time to re-invent what you do and whom you do it for. There's no margin in competing with hobbyists and low-ballers. But you have expertise and craftspeople to contribute to something with a high quality level.
Medical stuff is a big enough market it should have room for everybody, at *some* level.
Sports media is always growing, not just at the national league levels. Huge opportunities at the college and even high school levels.
You could also consider doing political stuff, but not just campaign ads; real information campaigns about issues, aimed mostly at social media. These go on all the time, regardless of the election cycle. Steady work. If you can find a good ideological fit, it can become personally rewarding as well as paying some bills.
Building a chain of high end YouTube channels, you can streamline high end production looks on a fast-turnover basis with a small crew and small studio. You just need the right content and hosts. Less-experienced people than you are making good money at it, and there's plenty of room.
Forensic videos... you can read the earlier thread about my old adventures there. It can be lucrative as well as personally rewarding, and steady money too.
There was a time in the early days of the internet when I thought hard about creating a company to do virtual field trips for schools. The concept was: skip the hassle, time, and costs of the actual trips and use telepresence to connect classrooms to interesting speakers in the field, doing or showing and talking about interesting things... have the kids ask these experts questions and whatnot. There would be workbooks and teacher support materials to prep the teachers and students during the week leading up to the connection, so the kinds would already be briefed and primed and ready to interact in a meaningful way as soon as the connection got established. Why should news companies like CNN and MSNBC and FOX have all the fun doing satellite media tours? If you could make it cheap and easy to put the expert in the classroom... The expert at the other end could do the same presentations for kids all over, all, day, all week or month-long, a new live show every 60 or 90 minutes, so, steady work for them. The more I thought about it, the more the company seemed like it would mostly be a booking agency or speakers bureau for these content providers, as well as a provision-er of the connectivity. It would have worked at the school district level, partnering with local telecoms to provide the high-speed access and the local screens and cameras. I based it on an operation like that called TWICE, in, I forget, it was Michigan? ...or Wisconsin, one of those colder Northern states... and I imagined that the content providers could even be international, making the time zone differences a feature instead of a bug, the content providers could have a second job doing these webcasts at local night time... Some of my idea got eclipsed by the march of progress, and I never got the opportunity to pursue it anyway... but imagine if you could get a contract with one or more Florida school districts... or the community college system, for distance learning. Kahn Academy kind of stuff.
Another thing I'm getting to experience more of, as I deal with a senile family member, is the media services provided in senior living facilities. It's an under-served but growing market. Too often what I see on their screens is just some re-run TV channel, or a DVD of a musician covering old standards (and not that well). Those folks are hungry for better entertainment, customized to their needs. I think there could be a market for integrated media packages tailored to seniors in these care settings.. interactive live game shows... live music/ entertainment streams... active discussion shows, tapping a vast knowledge base of seasoned people... maybe there's something there...?
I guess after this rambling answer, it boils down to: everybody's doing what you're doing, and charging less, so find what *nobody* is doing enough of, and find a way to make money doing THAT.
I wish you continued success!
And let me know when you're hiring:-)
Thanks so much Mark. As always there are some golden nuggets in your comments!
Two other things I'm thinking about is revising my demo reel by adding additional clips and perhaps a voice narration.
Have you seen anyone else do this? Any ideas where I can find samples of what other production companies do? For the most part, everyone produces demos with random clips cut to a music track. My thought is to create a promo video about my company is the fashion of what I would create for clients. But I can't seem to find any samples that may inspire me.
Greg Ball, President
Ball Media Innovations, Inc.
If I think of any, I'll let you know.
For customers, I think "sizzle reels" have to be really hyper-specific to each potential customer or market. They want to see what they expect, and not things that might "throw" them, or make them disqualify you...
I don't think it's bad policy to make demos "on spec". You should probably be up-front about it, but as a showcase for what you can do, you can't beat yourself as the client, amirite?
An ongoing challenge all of us "seasoned" media folks.
Over our 24-years, we have segmented from a purely post-production house to include full production services, then added DVD authoring (now obsolete), website design and hosting, e-learning design and development, live streaming services, system engineering and consulting.
When one service is slow another service tends to pickup. The point is to be agile and respond to changing market needs.
Do you market to other departments in a corporation that you are already working with?
Give me a call if you want to chat.
I have nothing constructive to say -
I will just make my observations.
1) you are in south Florida. You don't speak fluent Spanish. Which means that you can only be "professional" and can't socialize and "kid around" and be your charming self with people of another culture. I am in Orlando, Florida. I get almost no work from Miami/Ft. Lauderdale. I am doing a job in Boca Raton on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that is a rarity for me. I know that if I spoke fluent Spanish, I would get a lot more work in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
I always say that my #1 mistake in High School was not paying attention in Spanish class.
2) the price of equipment has dropped dramatically. People on these forums always say its about "your creativity" but that's nonsense. When "anyone" can go out and buy this gear, that's exactly what happens. When a Sony Beta rig costs $60,000 - $80,000 there was very little competition (and there still was competition even then). But today, where people are shooting with Canon 5D's, cheap Blackmagic cameras, and even worse (like iPhones) - there are just too many people in the business doing this now. And while you have experience and creativity, the young masses who are competing against you have cheap gear, and are probably charging a fraction of what you charge. AND they probably speak Spanish.
3) TONS of companies have in house equipment. My job coming up in Boca is an in house department for a medical company. My other recent job in Boca was for an ocean environmental company. In the past, these types of companies would hire companies like yours, because they were not in the video business. Today, "everyone" is in the video business, and it's nothing for them to get a few Macs and a cheap shared storage system, (and most importantly some cheap kids out of school that know how to use Premier or FCP X or Resolve) and put something together. And MOST of the time, these are not "broadcast" spots - this is junk that winds up on the internet (or YouTube) and no one is saying "well, so and so it using a RED camera or an Arri Alexa". They don't care. They just want their little training video, or YouTube Video.
Just like the audio industry, which is virtually non existant now (except for Hollywood audio for post work), the video business HAS been dying and will continue on this path. "Everyone" has a camera. And Apple is working hard to make sure that "EVERYONE" knows how to edit. Just like they succeeded with word processing, and desktop publishing. We are the printing business (or the audio business) and the market is dying. This does not mean that there is not a demand for this type of work. But there are just SO MANY PEOPLE that can do it because of the low price of entry into this market. Combine that with all the schools that are teaching "communications" so that "everyone" can do it - and you have LOTS of people that can put together a sales or training video, that is "good enough" for YouTube or a company website. And those young people are charging very little money to do so.
And in YOUR neighborhood - I bet they speak Spanish.
For me, there are no more post production facilities (except the ones that I see in Hollywood - and I don't mean Florida).
If it were not for the internet, and all these forums, and my ability to "reach out to people" via the web, I would have almost no work.
OH - and another thing, which is a reality. I remember saying to myself when I was younger that "there are almost no old people in the video business". Well, that was true then, and it's still true today. I go into companies, and I am without question the oldest person in the entire company (except possibly for the owners of that company). Everyone is a kid, and I feel like "grandpa" showing up. Young producers feel more comfortable with working with other 30 years olds of their generation.
Just my 2 cents.
See - I told you I have nothing constructive to say. But someone else in these replies said "maybe you should partner up with someone". Yea - someone younger, that wants to be a producer, that speaks Spanish, and can relate to clients in your area better than you can. You have the equipment, and the know how to actually make a spot that he convinces someone to produce.
Rescue 1, Inc.
Greg - how much new business do you get from your website? It is great that you offer so many services but the website is very overwhelming with the amount of links, stock photos and text - it is almost too much to choose from.
Do you use Google Analytics to determine how people find your website? Organic search terms can have interesting results.
I have to agree with Mike...
I have to be one of those annoying glass-house-stone-throwers, because our own website is nothing to write home about.... but honestly for us it's just a vanity site and we really don't use it much to attract new business, so we haven't bothered improving it.
But if you do rely on your website... I have to agree it is waaaaay overwhelming, definitely mega-information-overload. I'd suggest a way pared-down site, or at the very minimum a much more minimalist home page.
I'm personally always a bit skeptical of a company whose site includes everything plus the kitchen sink. I mean, no one can be great at everything. Our own marketing really focuses on broadcast commercials and not much of anything else. Even though we do plenty of other kinds of work, we want to position ourselves as the commercial go-to guys. It's also probably about 90-95% of our business (and by far the most profitable of the kinds of work we do), so we concentrate any kind of marketing on that... but of course we get plenty of the "Oh, can you also do...." calls, which we happily entertain.
There was also the previous question about sizzle reels...
I personally hate reels that are just a mashup of five seconds of scads of different projects over a music bed. These tell me absolutely nothing about a company's ability or the quality of the productions they do. I'd much prefer to see longer chunks, with actual sound... or even complete projects. Our own reels only include complete projects, no edited chunks. Now admittedly that is easier for us since they are all TV commercials, so at least the reels are made of small 30-second segments. But we also have specialty reels for different genres of commercials... political, healthcare, legal, automotive, and so on. I know, you think, for example, a healthcare client could look at a well-done real estate reel and realize that good work could be done for them as well... but people get such tunnel vision that if an example is not really pretty much like what they already do, they just can't seem to see it... for some reason.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
It's more work, but making multiple, single-purpose web sites based around a particular use case may get more customers than the 'Chinese menu" buffet single web site. Though I like the current one ok, I can imagine making just a medical communications site, just a training film site, etc. They can share a visual identity as members of a larger overall group identity. And of course, the phones all connect to the same number. I'm picturing the receptionist saying: "XYZ Group, medical productions, I'll connect you now.. Xyz group, sports media production, please hold..."
But when someone's searching in a specific genre' they like to see genre'-specific sites and examples. "Off-brand" content suggests divided loyalties and interests for one thing. And clients can't always imagine that our skill sets are very transferable across many genre's. The example I told kids starting out was, if you advertise your wedding business and marketing communications business on the same web site, you scare off BOTH customer bases. The businessman will not respect a "wedding guy"' expertise, and the wedding client will look at the business-related pictures and links and decide this is not your main thing you do, they will go elsewhere seeking a more dedicated person.
But the one thing I'd advise most is to take on a partnership with someone that knows the Hispanic market and has roots and connections there. This is just the demographic facts of life and it's where the growth is. El cambio da miedo, pero es inevitable. Plants grow towards the light, after all.
I have had my production in Tampa 18 years. I really agree very much with Bob. The cheap digital age has really lowered the playing field and flooded our Tampa Bay market with tons of new production companies over the last 5 years. Also go on Indeed and type in video production for your city and you will see just how many companies are now wanting to do video production in house. They are looking for 2 years exp in video production as well as being good in social media all in one person. I was using Indeed for a while for leads...I pitched a bunch of companies, never got one. I am also struggling for business. My best efforts pay off when I am pitching a client one on one in person.
I tried to connect with another production company to team up here in Tampa. It was very......humbling and awkward while talking with the owner. I humbly/respecfully said I was open to how ever I could serve or help him. He was OK ...but I never heard from him. So....I'm not sure I want to try that again.
I know the industry is changing but I love this business and I’m not gonna give up. I’m old enough to remember jiffy pop popcorn. They didn’t think that microwave popcorn would ever go anywhere and so they didn’t want change with the times. I’m open, Eager, and willing to change or reinvent my company. So I’ve very much appreciate all of your input and expertise. Because on this form somethings were mentioned that I had done it before so, thank you very much!
I agree with Mike Cohen, the website, though very professional and complete, is overwhelming. In my experience, people just scroll through the video samples (maybe some testimonials) and move on on their search. Also the market is changing very very fast. Like Bob Zelin just said, there are a lot of young folks with cheaper equipment who can charge way less and offer great quality videos.
From my POV buisness is better than ever, companies don´t need to pay millions to air their ads on TV, they want them mostly for their social networks and they are very open to new ideas and concepts since there isn´t too much money at stake. I am usually a one man band but it is important to diversify your work (and your field). New ideas are sometimes more appreciated than a long experience. The name of the game is engage, and younger generation are not too tolerant with TV ads. At least not the kind of ads that follow the formula.
As for the spanish language, I am a native spanish post producer (video editing and animation) and my wife is a native spanish voice actor. I am sending both our demo reels your way through your company mail. I would love to be at some help as a freelance in case you need any. ☺
Freelance Motion Designer
Everything can become an animating tool
My two cents: above all, I am continually impressed with how supportive the Cow community is for each other. This is the kind of straight talk and honesty you don't get many places, certainly not in our industry.
FantasticPlastic Todd: you said "our own website is nothing to write home about.... but honestly for us it's just a vanity site and we really don't use it much to attract new business, so we haven't bothered improving it."
Soooo... how do you get new business? I know you're quite established so a component will be repeat and word-of-mouth.
Greg's website: Greg, I used to be a web designer/developer back in the day. Then that got boring, so I moved into this. My opinion is the same as the others here: it needs focus. I like the idea of multiple websites others suggest here, one per specialty. But the problem with that is maintaining a ton of websites. So, perhaps find a way to organize things and set up landing pages that are specific to each type of product you do.
This will also help you with AdWords. Because you'll be improving your pagerank by having things organized.
AdWords: I freaking hate AdWords. But I think, for what you're doing, they're a necessary thing. I use them, too. They are expensive for the kind of visibility that gets the phone to ring, even if you're just advertising locally. I work very hard on organic and good backlinks, too. But every year I get 1-4 high-profile very lucrative clients directly from AdWords. OK, GoogleAds now. Just enough to keep the AdWords junkie in me going. I think even if you have kickass organic results, people ARE lazy. They'll click on the first few links. Those are always ads.
Age: I say just be the best you. And if you have someone you can partner with, fantastic! I've noticed this pairing up thing is not just good for services companies. I see it in corporate America a lot now, too. It's very fashionable in NYC to pair an experienced 40 or 50-something exec with a much younger person. Together, they're unstoppable! The best of all worlds.
Overall, I hear you. This industry is changing and continually changing. I live in LA and NY, and I work on bigger projects sometimes and I see it, too. And Bob has sober words of advice. I think to survive and even hopefully thrive these days you need to be able to reinvent yourself every few years. That's tough. It's a ton of work, and it never stops.
Another thing I've learned: never, ever compete on cost. You can't win. I relearn that lesson sometimes, and it holds up over time.
Los Angeles and New York video production for businesses and brands:
Great post Patrick. I'm in a similar situation, .;'m 62. Most of my word of mouth clients have disappeared for various reasons, all that's left is Adwords. And thats fine, 10 years ago I scored $100k job, now more like $2 -10k.
Now I would suggest that you have a goof look at Patrick's website. Excellent, not too much text, lots of pics that really convey the style/quality of work. Most SEO people will insist on lots of text., rubbish. Think about it for a minute, its like the first 20 seconds of a video, you get the sense of style, content etc.
You will not get there with organic searches, I have to put up with job seekers clicking on $10 ad, but one decent job will pay for that. Too be honest, I don't like your website at all, I would suggest you talk to a designer, and funny enough don't sweat about a reel, In my esperiande a lot boy people done even watch a video, go figure!
Video Production - Videographer
Something you said really stuck with me: about how prospective clients often do not even watch one's reel. The artist in me wants to shout that down! But the facts? You're right. Often the first time a company finds us it's through a junior level person who has been told "find us a video production company!" and they often do not play the videos, but they do look at the website and read a bit of text perhaps. When the prospect gets serious, they tend to watch a few videos. My analytics support this view, at least. It's shocking, but there it is.
Los Angeles and New York video production for businesses and brands: