Wedding videography is a very lucrative marketplace for videographers. Many producers, big and small, have started their video production business by working the wedding scene.
There is a great deal of money that can be made producing wedding videos. The trick to breaking into this market is understanding the customer and separating your video production business from the rest of the pack.
Market Research: Who is the Customer?
Before you sign your first wedding video contract agreement, you should first consider whether or not you want to work for the typical wedding video customer. The customer is always the couple getting married, and it also can often include some common players, such as the mother of the bride, the person who will be writing your check, the uncle who’s a professional photographer and knows everything about your job, the maid of honor, etcetera, etcetera. Can you handle one customer, two customers, three or maybe more? Can you handle input from multiple sources?
To make matters more challenging, the customers are also your audience. They’re invested in your work, because they want to enjoy the video you’re producing for years to come. Shooting and editing video is one thing, working with a bride and her family who are coordinating the biggest day of the couple’s life will bring challenges that only the best producers can handle. Are you really up for this?
If you are good at working with people, build trust easily and know how to be aggressive and sensitive at the same time, you’ll do just fine. And you may actually enjoy the challenges that weddings bring to the workplace.
Market Research: What is Unique About Your Wedding Video Service?
Your wedding business is likely to fail or be short-lived if you don’t identify how you can provide a superior service to this marketplace. What do you have that other producers don’t? You need to identify something about your business that will allow you to stand out and that can’t be easily duplicated. In the business world, this is called your unique selling proposition. It’s the reason why you exist and thrive in the market.
You should spend some time researching what brides want in a wedding video and/or a producer. A good place to start is to look at the competition and see what they’re offering. Identify what unique services they provide. How are they separating themselves from the rest of the competition? Is there room for another vendor in this marketplace? Do some introspective thinking about your skills. What are your strengths? What area of the production process do you enjoy most? What inspires you as a storyteller and an artist? Do any of these qualities about you have a place in the market? Come up with a list of unique qualities/services that you think have a shot in the current wedding video market.
For example, if you are a talented travel video producer, you could use this to your advantage. A videographer with this type of experience might be able to capitalize on “destination weddings” by doing a great job of mixing location into the story of the wedding. Do you travel well? Can you make great-looking video with gear that is nimble and light? Can you edit on-the-go? Do you know how to capture a special moment in a unique space? What shots will you use to build a story like this? What kind of questions will you ask the couple?
A Beginner’s Mistake
When you think about your unique selling proposition, there are a few pitfalls to avoid. First, don’t try to serve the entire wedding video market. You can’t be the best solution for every bride. If you try to create a business like this, you’ll become an expert at mediocrity, and your competition will outdo you in every aspect of the trade.
You should also avoid the temptation of setting yourself apart from the competition by simply lowering your prices. Being a price leader is a sure way to quickly get a few clients, but it won’t keep you in the business very long. Usually, there’s always someone in this business who will find a way to do what you do for less. Being a price leader is very difficult and not very profitable, obviously. Remember, your customers are smart, and they know that they will get what they pay for. Wedding videos for $299 do not sound like such a great deal after more careful consideration.
Don’t rely on video gear to make your case. Having top-notch video gear is not a bad way to separate yourself from the pack; however, it’s usually a short time before the competition catches up or surpasses you in that category. The recent HD video trend is a great example of how video equipment won’t separate you from the pack. Some wedding videographers were ahead of the curve in adopting the HDV format. They were quick to use this to gain new customers, but it didn’t last long for these early adaptors. The rest of the world has caught up with them. So, don’t rely on video technologies to grow your business. Besides, most couples don’t really know the difference between XLRs, CCDs, codecs, 720p, fluid tripod heads, etc. They’re not paying you to inform them, either. Explaining these things to them will be a waste of everyone’s time. Still, technology should be a part of the equation. Just hide the boring specifications and stay focused on the benefits of the tools that you use.
Test the Market
With a few good ideas in place, you should create a focus group. Reach out to a handful of brides, and get them involved with your market-research study. This sounds complicated, but it is really simple.
Most anyone knows someone who is getting married, so ask around your circle of friends and family for newly-engaged couples. Get their contact information, and make a plan to introduce yourself to them. Tell them you’re thinking about starting a wedding video business and want to spend a few minutes trying to figure out what brides are looking for.
I highly recommend you get closely involved with the bride’s world by attending a wedding expo in your area. Bring a camera, a bag and a journal. Even better, bring some brides with you and agree to meet after the show to discuss what they liked. Take photos of the booths, not just the videographers’ booths, but any booth that seems to be making a splash on the showroom floor. Collect brochures from all the vendors. Make notes about booths that seem to be showing well and those that seem to be under-performing. After the show, meet with your group of brides to gather more insights. Using the brochures, ask them if there was anything they liked or seemed interested in. Ask them how they go about making their decisions on what vendors they will use. Do they use the phone book, the internet, wedding expos, suggestions from friends? Most likely, you’ll discover that word-of-mouth marketing goes a long way in this industry. This is a good time to float some of your ideas with the group and get some feedback. The insights you gather from them will be useful in helping you understand what influences their decisions.
A focus group is also a great way to build trust among a small group of potential customers. You might find your first customer will be a focus group member. Be prepared to follow up with these brides a few weeks later to pitch your new service to them. At the very least, you could get a few leads from this group.
More and more brides are doing most of their shopping and bookings online. Tips from choosing the best cake to dressing the best man can be found at one-stop wedding websites. Sites like these offer the nuptials insight into the many vendors and services offered locally. When you’re ready to move forward, getting your business featured on these sites can really give you a boost.
Another great resource is WEVA (Wedding and Event Videographers Association). This group focuses business issues, techniques and the latest trends with tips from how to best shoot multiple camera weddings to how to write solid contracts.Check them out at www.weva.com.
Full Steam Ahead
Launching a wedding video business will take some money. It’s time to start thinking about a business loan. All the market research you’ve done will be useful in this arena as well. Investors want to know that you understand the customer, the marketplace and how you fit into the scene. You’ll need a full-blown business proposal, with a budget for all aspects of your business. This includes money for new equipment, operating costs (e.g., rent, wages, etc.), advertising and marketing, and other expenses. There are many books and other professional resources that can help you develop a complete business plan, so we won’t go into much detail here. Be aware, it will to take a lot of work just to make your first dollar.
If you’re not sure that wedding video should be your full-time gig, test the water before diving in. Try shooting a friend’s or family member’s wedding. This is also a good way to start building your demo reel for future work. Attend wedding expos and hand out business cards to wedding video producers, introducing yourself as a second camera operator. Many local wedding video producers need a second shooter and pay decent money for weekend work. Wedding video doesn’t necessarily need to be a full-time job. Over time, these relationships can flourish after you build some trust with local videographers. In some cases, they might hand off an entire wedding to you if they’ve double-booked a wedding or have an emergency.
No matter what level of commitment you choose in the beginning, there are no shortcuts to building trust in the marketplace. It can take several wedding seasons before your business takes off. If you’re in it for the long haul, make sure you spend plenty of time researching the market, not only at the beginning of your business launch, but each year from that point. Be prepared to adapt to the market. The trends are constantly changing, and you will need to know how you fit into an ever-changing market to stay competitive and to keep finding new customers.
Contributing Editor Mark Montgomery is an independent video producer and editor.