You’ve got cable channels seeking content – travel, food, investing, shopping. The list is infinite. There’s indie productions at Blockbusters, Netflix and other video outlets. Don’t forget Blip.tv, CreateSpace, even Vimeo.
Independent producers are setting up websites and marketing their own videos using direct sales, even eBay. Enterprising producers seek sponsors and gain counter space at garden supply centers, hobby stores and do-it-yourself shops. If your production focuses on something of interest to their customer base you might have a niche market video sales opportunity on your hands. Unfortunately the competition is also huge. How can you get the word out, gain eyeballs and attract the consumer, agent or distributor how to get somebody to pay for your video or concept? Can you market your video, not only sell but make money from it? Absolutely!
Sales, success and profits only come if you’re willing to work diligently and have patience. There’s no guaranteed success method, however enough options and opportunities exist that if you actually try you’ll get somewhere. It takes more than believing though, you’ll have to dedicate yourself to making it happen. Producing and marketing video isn’t a one-time effort. You learn as you go. Success will come to those who are in it for the long haul. Be confident but not foolish with your investment of time, money and effort. Know when to cut your losses or when to persevere and develop marketing strategies
The Easiest Quick Way?
Do it yourself is the easiest way to quickly start selling your video products. It has the potential for being the simplest solution with highest returns. You cut out the middleman, aiming straight for the consumer. You control the bottom line because you control the process. There’s time enough to consider a distributor, mass production or expanded market when you’ve sold or produced a few. Your video could get “picked up” by one of the big operations. Simple, right? It can be but you’re going to have to maintain confidence and determination in order to make it happen. You have to be more than a video producer. You have to develop some marketing savvy as well. That might not be so simple.
Your success is measured by your expectations. Are you seeking a million-seller or a hundred-seller; a consistent seller or a pinch-hitter; selective theatrical release or major distribution? You might not hit your first one out of the park but there’s a good chance of making it to first base. Having a product to offer is first. Production first isn’t for everybody but I suspect that most independent producers rarely test for marketability first, instead they want to cut to the chase, put a production together then worry about selling it to somebody later. That’s the approach producer Bill Mecca, www.meccavideopro.com, takes.
“I produce these (videos) because the topics interest me and I’m a video guy.”
Producer J. Michael Long, www.jmlmultimedia.com, takes a similar approach. Grinner Hester, www.grinnerhester.com, produces video he likes but knows his market and promotes his videos where he wants them to show, sell or share.
Be prepared to deliver on demand, burning, printing, packaging and mailing your video as orders come in. Establish a website dedicated to video sales. Utilize social sites – Facebook and Twitter, along with LinkedIn and a host of others. Make people aware of your video, where and how to find it.
Post a teaser on YouTube, write that blog, comment on other blogs, submit articles to on-line news feeds, start a podcast, participate on forums and e-mail your friends, ask them to share with others. Ask them to view your video, snippet or teaser and post or write a review. Over time your video will gain visibility and linkage. You will get some sales.
Who’s the Client?
Pick your preference. Weddings? Events? How-to or special interest? Web video for small businesses? Marketing, sales and distribution of special interest videos, either doing it all for yourself or doing it for the other person?
How do you get work? How do you find the clients? Easy answer is you go where the people you want to reach go. A bit of research will disclose where hobbyists, brides-to-be, sports enthusiasts or others go to find out information about what interests them. You need a presence there. Visit the local handicrafts, hobby or bridal shops they visit. This might seem obvious and there’s more, but this is where to start.
- Website and e-mail address
- Business address and phone number
- Business cards and demo reels
- Sample clips on your website
Participation in and on social networks, interaction with interest-specific forums and even postings on The Knot, Craigslist, etc. will get the word out, as do blogs and word-of-mouth referrals. A direct-mail campaign that identifies your video products or services, who you are, where you operate and your availability is good. Use testimonials from satisfied clients, ask for and seek referrals and recommendations.
Independent video services providers often must wear multiple hats in addition to being a shooter or editor. You have a virtual hat tree where you hang your graphics artist, marketing specialist, researcher, CPA, boss and administrator hats. Wear them all as well as you can but know when you need to outsource elements.
The single most important thing you can do to take your video products and services business to the top is to use every possible means for getting the word out. While advertising can be an important and expensive contributor to your business success, it’s marketing that makes things happen.
Agents and Distributors
Major competition lives here. With all those productions to pick from, agents, creative property buyers and distributors are quite selective in what and whom they decide to promote or invest in. You’ll need to research and identify these companies and resources, determine their subjects of interest, restrictions and methods for submission, then submit a promo for your video. If they check it out, judge it worthy and if your production is really good with broad consumer appeal and production value, you could hear from them. It happens.
Mostly these distributors discover or pick up documentary and entertainment productions from the many film/video festivals held each year. Perhaps you’ve heard of Sundance but have you ever heard of The Dove Foundation, a Michigan-based film festival that claims 96,000 in attendance? Research will show a bounty of video and film festivals where your video might attract the attention of a major distributor as well as writers, reviewers and indie video enthusiasts.
Premiere Showings, Festivals and Reviews
This route is similar to the do-it-yourself but kicks things up a notch. You have to do more because there’s more to do to make it happen. You can’t simply show up at a film festival and expect your production to be accepted. There’s a process.
Length, content and production style matter. Documentary and entertainment content have the highest interest quotient at festivals or independent premiere showings at venues ranging from individually-owned movie houses, large meeting rooms or even the local pub.
Showing your special interest, how-to or instructional videos at a special interest group meeting or commercial location might also work with a premiere showing. If you produced a how-to video featuring goods from a local hardware store, the business might sponsor you to show your video.
A broad range of video forums exist where you can share your production and get input. In addition to Videomaker forums there’s Video University, WedVidPro, and DVProfessionals all with video galleries where you can show your work and get the word out. Keep in mind that critiques from your peers often require thick skin and an open mind. The same with other social forums that offer opportunity to garner comments, even recommendations from internet friends and viewers. The purpose is to expose your video to as many people in as many ways as possible. Get recognition. But be careful how much of your production you give away.
“I tried to post articles and videos on related topics,” says Mecca. “But then realized I was violating the old adage about giving away the cow, so no one would buy the milk.”
Make it and Market it but Outsource Order Fulfillment
Mecca and Long keep their video production plates full, spreading their time thin between video production and a host of other activities intended to keep their name recognition, visibility and linkage active. Having a full video production lifestyle, maintaining a personal life and more than one area of interest can kick you in the head if you add order fulfillment to the equation – mega sales or not. Mecca and Long have used Kunaki.com for print on demand.
“It’s worked out really well. I have links on my sales page to the Kunaki sales page for my video and they handle it all and take a very small cut.”
CreateSpace, an Amazon Group, offers similar solutions for video entrepreneurs who want to self-publish and sell CDs and DVDs. Mecca says he’s tried eBay but instead of sales there, he notes an uptick of sales from his website the next day or two.
Marketing an Idea or Concept
This article assumes you have a video or plan to produce one independently. If you have an idea or concept and want to “pitch” it somewhere many of the same principles apply. Your options are also the same for marketing your video production services.
To sell an idea or concept you need to further identify your market and product focus, pin down specifics of interest to the group you want to approach – market saturation from similar productions, commercial viability, cost of production, level of production quality, budget requirements and time required to deliver. Much more planning and support materials, information and resources are needed up front making it obvious why so many independent producers take the “make it and see if I can sell any” approach instead.
Sidebar: Making the Product
If you’re not well established and don’t have highly skilled professionals or resources to develop them, save the complex productions for somebody else or for down the road. Avoid the downer of a self-inflicted sense of failure or the disappointment of a mid-production derailment by pursuing and taking on projects you cannot objectively have a reasonable expectation of completing.
There are things you need to deal with that are complex enough without stacking the deck against your success. Things like getting a diversity of shots, point-of-views (POV) are often important when doing product demonstrations and how to videos. Decide on the blend you or your client want between necessary talking head and preferable narrative with cutaways, B-roll and graphic elements to mitigate the “boring” factor that a droning, lethargic talking head can induce.
Push yourself a bit but know your strengths, skills, abilities and your limitations. Keeping that in mind, development of simple, well-produced, affordable video product is the secret to immediate success or at least a sense of positive accomplishment. One-to-two year production commitments can grind you down.
As long as you use your tools well, just about any camera capable of recording good quality visuals, with mic inputs and microphones that can capture clean and clear audio, backed by a sturdy support system and enhanced with an adequate set of lights, using a decent pair of headphones to monitor, will deliver what you need and get you ready to do business. There’s more but that’s the short answer. Pay attention to blocking, framing and other basic essential elements for development of pleasing video. Shoot more than you think you need and plan for the production beforehand, not on the fly. Work toward an accurate estimate of the time you need to do the job.
Set your rates so that you’re within the range of your market, video production type and in line with the competition that falls just above your perceived level of ability. Work by the hour, starting at $50 an hour and always deliver when you say you will. Don’t cave in when the client wants it yesterday and you know that can’t happen – not if you want to deliver the quality product the client is expecting. Be up-front, honest and confident. That will often win the day.
Shorter is better. Half-hour productions often work when you’re telling somebody how to do something rather than teaching them a skill – no more than an hour. Teasers should be under five minutes, one-to-three minutes actually. Product demos should be long enough to provide the important information, say just enough and end with a call to action. The same for promotional videos about services. Less in video is usually always more, so deviate toward brevity with a tight, informative production. Final word to length: if you cannot compel yourself to view, review, tighten and hone your production until it “feels right” and if you fight to keep from nodding off while doing this, your video is either not interesting or entertaining enough, too long and too slow or both. Like a comma, when in doubt, take it out.
Contributing Editor Earl Chessher is a veteran career journalist and professional video producer, marketing video and services worldwide.