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Diversification STILL Critical to Video Business Survival

EarlC's picture
Last seen: 3 months 5 days ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am
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"Diversification STill Critical to Video Business Survival" at the video production and marketing blog, "E.C. Come, E.C. Go"

How do you who are active part- or full-time independent professional video services providers survive? Do you offer, market, advertise and promote MANY services and products or do you mostly push weddings and take whatever else may come your way?

I realize there are many, many video enthusiasts who are not necessarily involved in video with the idea, intent or desire to be a business. But there are a good bunch of us trying to carve a living out of something we enjoy doing, or paying for equipment we want for our favorite past time, or seeking funds to support our favorite hobby. So, for all those to whom money helps, diversification seems to be a valid solution.


Jack Wolcott's picture
Last seen: 6 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 01/02/2008 - 11:51pm
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Earl, I think diversification has ALWAYS been critical to video business survival. Most clients come to you with a need; you satisfy that need and they go away, often never to been seen again. This isn't because the videographer is a poor businessman, or does poor or shoddy work. Rather it's because Mrs. Smith found some old film in her attic when she moved from her home and decided to have it put onto DVD. Once on DVD, the job's done. She closes up the house, moves into a retirement home in another town and is never in need our your services again. Ours is often a one client=one shot profession. The repeat client is great when you can find one, but the can be all too few and far between.

When we started our business 14 years ago, we made a list of everything connected with video that people might need for and shaped the business accordingly. Here it is (from memory, so perhaps not totally inclusive.)

Shoot stuff: engagement parties, rehearsal dinners, weddings and receptions; bar and bat mitzvahs, parties of all kinds; corporate promotional materials; pre-construction documentation, construction as-builts; training videos; plays, dance, musical recitals. Shoot funerals and memorial services. In other words, be a shooter for whatever needs shooting.

Convert stuff: from PAL to NTSC and vice verse; from one video format -- e.g., VHS -- to another -- Hi8, SVHS, and digital; from DVD to easily editable formats -- e.g., to .avi, .mov, etc.; from clients analogue or digital camera to Flash drive or hard drive. From 8mm, Super 8mm and 16mm film to analogue, and later to digital formats. From Beta Max to digital and from .sfw (a proprietary still image format) to .gif, .jpg or .png files. I'm probably leaving stuff out of this list but you get the idea.
A considerable part of our business today is still working with VHS, S-VHS and Hi8 tapes, converting them to DVD and other digital formats.

Edit stuff: Be willing to edit anything (legal) that comes your way. Edit client's home tapes, tapes business clients bring you; photo montages, etc. Editing is an art that most people with consumer cameras shooting holiday footage haven't mastered. You may not be able to make a silk purse out of a pig's ear but you can approximate one. Uncle Charlie's vacation video taken of the family at Niagara Falls won't win any prizes, but it will look a great deal better after you've worked on it than before. I'd estimate that 30-40% of our business involves editing other people's work, almost all of it amateur.

Take on Pro Bono: Tackle the highest profile pro bono ("for free") job or two you can find each year. A car rally for a charitable organization put our cameras and company name in front of nearly 2,000 people. For 12 years we shot national and foreign performers at an arts festival for children. It put our cameras in front of countless thousands of people in addition to garnering public national and local recognition for our contributions to the community.

Pro bono serves two purposes: it gives you excellent visibility in your community and is a very strong talking point when approaching potential corporate clients. More importantly however, at least from our perspective, it provides a way to give back to the community, to say "thanks" for being our clients over the years and to bring some joy into the lives of others.

Distribute stuff: Finally, recognize that amateurs, as well as some professionals, have difficulty in producing work in quantity. Give them a break when you can. We discount 15% for DVDs duplicated in quantity for fellow videographers, and will often give a price break to clients who are already paying a great deal for other services. We outsource DVD orders over 100 copies which, in addition to bringing business to a local duplication facility, gives us the opportunity to give clients an excellent price break.

Our company motto, at the head of our web site home page is "Shoot, Edit, Share." I's both an admonition to our clients and the business philosophy we've lived by for nearly a decade and a half. I'm sure others on this forum will have additional ideas for diversification and I'll be interested in learning from them. We're always looking for new ways to make money.

Jack

http://www.videoccasions-nw.com


EarlC's picture
Last seen: 3 months 5 days ago
Joined: 10/15/2008 - 1:15am
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Solid, as always, Jack. The point I probably should have made or stressed louder ;-) is that many video producers are or do consider themselves "diversified" in that they'll accept business other than their primary focus (often weddings) but don't really do much to promote that other than a random page or pages on their websites.

By far, their "preferred services" (again, usually weddings) are plastered all over the website, while giving the impression there are "other things we'll do if we HAVE to, or you ask" giving it a stepchild sense that many consumers will feed off of.

More often than not I've had clients who find me on the web remark that the FACT I didn't treat any specific service as a priority, giving each some decent play AND have representation of all areas of video production on my sample clips page is what drove them to me and clinched the deal for them.

Yes, I do have a wedding specific website, a montage specific, performances specific, funeral specific and other specific websites that focus ONLY on one area of service. That also has helped me overall as most, if not all (and those that are not soon will be) are interlinked. The draw for a person specifically looking for BIRTHDAY VIDEOS, RETIREMENT VIDEOS, GRADUATION VIDEOS, WEBSITE VIDEOS, etc. is strong and they'll use more specific key words and search terms when looking. Those who focus their SEO (search engine optimization) efforts extensively on wedding video to the near exclusion of everything else aren't really, actually, effectively diversifying, though they WILL ACCEPT other work if/when it comes up.

The areas and ways of video production diversification are no secret, as you've pointed out. What changes the game is when folks like us who truly diversify also actively market our various services as MORE than an afterthought on our websites, then we realize the potential for offering something more specific to the possible needs of more potential clients.

Our marketing slogan, in focusing on celebrations of life is: "Somebody somewhere celebrates something ... EVERY DAY!" But if we didn't SHOW them more than a wedding clip and a website covered with smiling brides in love we wouldn't be getting much diverse business. Right?


Jack Wolcott's picture
Last seen: 6 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 01/02/2008 - 11:51pm
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Good points, Earl. I've been working with hypertext and web design since the the late 1980's and have picked up lots of ideas from successful web marketers along the way. I'm quite frankly amazed at how poorly designed many web sites are.

In web design I think you've got to start with a fundamental premise, that people who find your web site are looking for some kind of video service. So it's imperative that you list all the video services you provide. Give the potential customer an opportunity to look over all your services to determine that you offer what they're looking for.

The place to start this is with the file name for each web page, followed by clear and accurate meta tags. These are pieces of information that Google and other search engines look at. Consider carefully the first few lines of text on your home page, too, since some search engines look at that in deciding where you fit into a search. This is all behind-the-scenes stuff, of course, but very important and you'd be surprised how many folks with web pages have paid this no attention.

Now here's a question: your web site is your store front, so why don't you have your picture right up front? If I walked into your store you would be the first thing I saw; why not on your web site, too? I have no idea who you are, by the way. There's no address on the web site; and I don't see a phone number, either. And how about an email link, right on the first page. It's all about communication; if we were in your studio together we could talk. But we're not, so give me the next best thing.

You may want to protect your privacy to the extent of not posting your street address on-line. I understand that; we don't post our street address. But I believe you should at the very least indicate what city and state you're in. I hear videographers who say "I'll travel anywhere. My clients are global." I can only say "Good for them; they're to be envied." But for the majority, their business comes from local customers, people who drive over to drop off a VHS tape for conversion, or who want to chat with you about shooting a web video for their store. So let people know you live right next to them.

We almost always ask customers "How did you find us." "Well," they'll say, "I went on line and looked for 'video' or 'videographers' here in Spider's Breath" (substitute your home town.) Maybe they'll be specific enough to say "wedding videgorapher" or "video editing," but often they don't know to look for "digital format conversion" or "photo montage." So once they've found you on-line, give them a list, right on the front page, of what they might be looking for.

For example: "Business Services" is great, but if contractors and construction companies are important to you I'd also have a "Construction Services" listing as well. And I'd be sure to have a link to Construction Services on my Business Services page, too. Make navigation on the site easy, and drive people from one part of the site to another using internal links.

Keeping links current, by the way, is extremely important. We have a total of 1300 internal and external links on our site; there's no way I could determine in a timely manner whether all these links work. So I have a link checking company do it for me. I receive a weekly report of broken links and I correct these rigorously. Broken links can damage your placement on search engines so check them regularly.

I recommend a table of contents that reflects every single service you offer, first thing, right at the top of the home page. And in simple terminology, too. Don't call it a "photo montage, for example;" call it "Still pictures to DVD" or "Film transferred to DVD," etc.

In designing your web page, try to think like the guy who bought a $350 camera to take on the family vacation, threw away the documentation, and lost the CD. What subject heading is this guy going to look for when he discovers he doesn't know how to get his video out of his camera? Will he come to your web site and find "Help with your digital camera" as a choice? I hope so!

Marketing diversification, especially on-line, requires creative thinking, trying to second guess how a potential client will come looking for your services. Hang it all out where they can see it.

Jack

http://www.videoccasions-nw.com


Michael Daly's picture
Last seen: 4 months 6 hours ago
Joined: 07/31/2011 - 10:06pm
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Do you have any thoughts on Facebook and Twitter etc., as marketing tools? I'm thinking they're pretty time consuming and maybe not all that productive if you're working in a fifty mile zone but I'd be open to persuasion to the contrary.


Jack Wolcott's picture
Last seen: 6 months 2 weeks ago
Joined: 01/02/2008 - 11:51pm
Plus Member

Michael, I'll be interested to hear the thoughts of others on this subject. I'm with you: I scarcely have time to keep our web site up to date. The thought of finding time to Facebook, Twitter and a blog strikes terror. I know I can't do it well so have avoided this arena so far.

Jack

http://www.videoccasions-nw.com


Ed Rogers's picture
Last seen: 12 hours 40 min ago
Joined: 02/02/2008 - 2:35am
Plus Member

The only thing I try to keep updated is my YouTube channel. It serves as a portfolio. I've noticed that others (Luke Heights comes to mind) do the same. It's relatively easy and can provide an opportunity for revenue sharing as well...


ikswotug's picture
Last seen: 1 year 7 months ago
Joined: 06/20/2012 - 10:51am

well, i think twitter and facebook are great way to drive people to youtube...i personally dont like twitter but will start to use my account once i get the time to get serious with my video production...as far as the time they take up im already on facebook all the time to talk to people anyway, might as well use it as a tool to build viewership...i will note that starting out it is rough and confusing(i.e. google+). if you already have a your personal account, then start one for your business you stand to have a better chance of reaching more people, since you can share your business page with your friends etc. ...one of my friends actually got out of working in television and she started a business that will market your business on social networking sites like facebook, if you can find/afford a service like that it may be worth the convenience to reach all the potential clients you are missing by plain avoiding social networks all together...i know i have "liked" business pages that i know for a fact i will never use(she lives in new orleans now, i am never close to there) with more likes means more people tend to look at what you have to offer...