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Old July 7th, 2011, 01:42 PM   #1
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Marketing advice

I have very decent equipment (such as a Sony HDR-AX2000 among others), a very powerful computer with Edius and a GrassValley HD Spark card to monitor the editing properly, and a lot more equipment that I spend all my savings in. And while I'm just getting started, I've been producing video in one way or another for the past ten years, including a few corporate events for the organization I used to work for (even though I did them as a volunteer). So I have the skills to produce a very high quality product, both in DVD and Blu-ray, and the few customers I had are very pleased with my work.

I read these videographer forums and I see there is a lot of work in this industry, whether it's weddings, or corporate events, documentaries, commercials and many other things. I have started my own website, I publish often on Craigslist and I took up a paid ad on mywedding.com, but I'm getting nothing. The visits tracker I put on my website shows that visitors are farther in between, and I get no calls.

I don't want to do just weddings (which unlike many videographers I enjoy doing), but also all types of events, such as corporate seminars, training videos, and school plays among others. The last thing I did was a dance recital a month ago.

I'm getting very discouraged. I thought that after spending money and time starting my own website, publishing on Craigslist every week with a link to my website where there are samples of my wedding videos, and paying for an ad in one of the main wedding websites, I was going to get at least a couple of customers a month, and then gradually more and more as they recommended me to their friends, because everybody I work for tells me they are very pleased with the quality of my work. But nothing's happening.

So since I don't have money to hire a marketing firm, I would really appreciate some advice from the pros here. I bet someone will probably tell me that my website doesn't look like a wedding website, but that's because I want to offer video services for all kinds of people and companies. If I made a website that looks like the typical videographer wedding website, a big company probably would move on to another website.

I was given the advice to go to bridal shows and expos, but I think that's something for a year or two in the future when hopefully I have done more weddings and I have something more tangible to show, as well as the money to pay for a booth, because even the smallest booth are very expensive, and they don't allow you to just go there and start handing out business cards.

So please feel free to look at my website and give me ideas or criticism, and if you think my website looks horrible, tell me.

And also, I would like to have an idea of what to ask for in terms of money. Right now I'm charging $800 for a wedding, shot in HD with two professional cameras and delivered in a dual case in both Blu-ray and DVD. I do a very nice graphic design for both the cover and the disc. I had heard that a wedding is charged $1000, and that was in 2004, so I would assume that what I offer has to be at least worth $1500. But when I put up that price on Craigslist, nobody ever called. So how can I get an idea of what to charge, whether it's a wedding, a corporate event, or a series of training videos?

Thanks in advance for any replies.

Sebastian
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Old July 7th, 2011, 02:05 PM   #2
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re: Marketing advice

Sebastian,

You would do well to look around and see what the going rate is for the same services you are offering. I'm also in the Raleigh area and can tell you that the normal price for a wedding is much higher than your charge. The rental on my gear for a 2 camera shoot for an afternoon is more than you charge for the finished product. I don't produce weddings anymore but if I shoot for a producer it is $600 for a half day for my time and one camera and tripod. You need to be closer to $2k to be taken seriously as a pro and have a reel to back it up.

On the corporate side it is a pretty tight click around Raleigh. There is a lot of serious talent in freelancers and if you aren't networking in the group then its going to be hard to get jobs. If you CAN get in it will be worth your time. The best thing to do is call some of the local production companies in the area and offer to work for them. It may be just as a gofer or whatever. Don't offer your gear. The AX2000 isn't considered a true professional camera in those circles. As a minimum you need a 1/2" chip camera such as the EX1 or PDW-F350 to be considered a pro. If you have a 2/3" camera such as the PMW-350 you will have no problem getting attention.

Last week we did a one day shoot for the State Park system downtown Raleigh and it was $2k for gear and labor. That was shooting only. No editing. We shot everything on the Sony PMW-F3.

It is going to require you to do a lot of marketing. You need to make sure you have a top notch reel to show potential employers. Don't give up. It can be done.
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Last edited by Chris Medico; July 7th, 2011 at 02:40 PM.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 02:55 PM   #3
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re: Marketing advice

Sebastian -

As I noted in the other thread, business happens when it happens... and it isn't always because you spent a lot of $$$$ EXPECTING it to happen, sometimes it just happens, and others it just doesn't "click".

Marketing is about "sizzle", your site is all about describing the STEAK, in morbid excruciating detail... sorry to be so blunt, but it was all about YOU and your equipment, not the customer, and while you mentioned all the techie stuff that arguably benefits the clients... they dont' give a rats patootie about the tech stuff - sell the "emotional benefits" (the sizzle!), you'll find more response. Brides want gorgeous, emotionally stirring video, not tech details...

Video wise, there were things that stood out in the wedding clips - again, "workmanlike", but what I looked at, admittedly briefly, didn't "move" me, and a few things about framing just didn't look quite right... Again, the "descriptions" didn't help.

As far as whatever marketing you've done, SEO and advertising are both "dark arts" of which there is much information AND MIS-information out there... again it's not a simple nut to crack, and even if or when you do, you may not know exactly WHAT provided the "magic" turning "on" of the tap...

I didn't take the time to see what search optimization you've done (If I Googled "video services" in your area, would you show up?), I don't know how much if any local networking/contacting/advertising you've done, and THOSE are things that might help. Word of mouth SHOULD be helping you, but apparently isn't - are you providing things like business cards, links for clients to use on Facebook, TouTube, and so on? Generating "buzz" is another "dark art", but referrals are one of the fastest ways to get things rolling.


Not to be discouraging, but most sucessful businesses "start themselves", and statistically the vast majority of businesses "end" when the realization arrives that being in a business is not nearly as simple as it looked. That doesn't mean that a good amount of effort properly focused and applied won't make for success, just that usually the money runs out before the "sucess" for MANY businesses. Having been "round the block a few times", I sense a certain tone in your posts that strongly indicates you may be in that "phase" - put together and institute a "plan B" to take the pressure off, as well as re-focusing your "plan A"...

Hope that wasn't TOO blunt, and will be helpful...
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Old July 7th, 2011, 03:05 PM   #4
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re: Marketing advice

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Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
Marketing is about "sizzle", your site is all about describing the STEAK, in morbid excruciating detail... sorry to be so blunt, but it was all about YOU and your equipment, not the customer, and while you mentioned all the techie stuff that arguably benefits the clients... they dont' give a rats patootie about the tech stuff - sell the "emotional benefits" (the sizzle!), you'll find more response. Brides want gorgeous, emotionally stirring video, not tech details...
That's an interesting point, I actually thought about it myself, but it's hard for me to come up with some kind of speech there that wouldn't sound too cheesy. Actually I tried that on Craigslist for a while, I completely changed my typical add for one that even had a nice wedding style background with a letter that didn't have the technical stuff and was more what you would call sizzle, but that didn't get me any customers either. I might try it on the website, at least on the wedding area, see if it gives me any luck.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 03:25 PM   #5
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re: Marketing advice

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Originally Posted by Chris Medico View Post
You need to be closer to $2k to be taken seriously as a pro and have a reel to back it up.

The AX2000 isn't considered a true professional camera in those circles. As a minimum you need a 1/2" chip camera such as the EX1 or PDW-F350 to be considered a pro. If you have a 2/3" camera such as the PMW-350 you will have no problem getting attention.
Thanks Chris. $2k sounds great, but for that you need a pretty nice reel, right? I mean, with just three weddings on my website, nobody would pay me that much.

I know the HX2000 is not top of the line, but it's still a great camera and capable of professional quality video. I don't intend to jump of the super professional $20000 camera videographer circle right away, my intention is to start with my equipment, build a nice reel and then upgrade to something better. Renting cameras is not something I would like to do because I want to become familiar with the equipment I use, which is why many days I go out with my camera and practice with it. If I sold that camera and the other one I have (Panasonic HMC40, inferior to the Sony) and rent far more professional cameras, they would cost me so much I'm not sure how much would I make, and I wouldn't have them long enough before the event for me to become familiar with all the features. Even if you know the theory of these things, each camera is its own world. It's like being a good driver, but you won't get the best of a new car until you've been driving it for a while.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 03:32 PM   #6
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re: Marketing advice

You must "think like the bride", or whatever customer you want to appeal to... where are those customers "shopping", what do they "expect"... I don't think it's a "neon" video camera..., or likely anything else "neon" - most wedding video sites are pastels... and light airy colors, though I personally like the black backgrounds for dramatic effect... but I'm not a bride... You may need to create a generic landing page with little on it, then have links for different "customers" (wedding/event/corporate/??). I think generally creating distinct sites is preferred, but means more time/cost/marketing.

Ask yourself "why do I... (insert customer here) HAVE to have this service/product?" What makes it unique and something of such value that I will spend money for it? Remember as a male of the species, you bought say your camera because of the specs, but what made you purchase a shirt, or cologne?? Keep in mind it's a small subset of consumers that are motivated by technical specifications... most sales are ultimately emotionally based, even those justified by "specs"!

Watch TV and look at the commercials that "work" - food commercials broadcast late at night are especially helpful... what "moves" you...


First you have to GET the potential customer to your site - SEO (search engine optimization, or whatever advertising), then your site needs to pull them in (typically you have 3-5 SECONDS to capture their eyeballs, this is "short attention span theater"), and keep them there.

Presuming you capture and hold their attention, your overall site needs to "wow" them, as quickly as possible, and "sell the sizzle", as well as encourage them to contact you and have a realistic price - low price, site that doesn't grab you, they are already out the door to the NEXT site, OR worse yet you get bottom fishers for the "low price/discount" customer we all know and love...
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Old July 7th, 2011, 03:53 PM   #7
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re: Marketing advice

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Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
You must "think like the bride", or whatever customer you want to appeal to... where are those customers "shopping", what do they "expect"... I don't think it's a "neon" video camera..., or likely anything else "neon" - most wedding video sites are pastels... and light airy colors, though I personally like the black backgrounds for dramatic effect... but I'm not a bride... You may need to create a generic landing page with little on it, then have links for different "customers" (wedding/event/corporate/??). I think generally creating distinct sites is preferred, but means more time/cost/marketing.
I see your point, and actually I thought about when trying to come up with a design for the website. Granted, web design is not my thing, video is, unfortunately the nice website design is also needed to sell the video part. Like you said, most wedding websites are pastels, and I thought about making it that way, but then I thought, if a guy from a corporation that is tasked with hiring a video production company to record a seminar sees a typical pastel wedding website, he's not going to care much about that design, he's just going to think, this is a wedding videographer and I need a corporate events videographer. See my point? If your goal is to attract customers in many areas, what kind of design do you use to make all of them hooked up?

One idea was to have a simple three button selection, such as Weddings, Corporate and Schools, with each area having a different design, but I don't know if that would work. In the end, I decided to have a more coherent design for the whole website. Maybe I still should, but I could redesign it to make it more attractive. I just don't know how, plus website design is awfully complicated these days. I know the basics, and I would like to learn more, but for that I need lots of time, and that's time I need to use in promoting the business.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 03:56 PM   #8
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re: Marketing advice

I don't recommend going out and buying a $$$ camera. That is why I am recommending looking into getting some work from producers in the area to get into the click so to speak. If you do you'll gain some good experience being exposed to that level of gear. It won't hurt you for sure.

Look at your skills and see what you have to offer a production company. Get out there and show what you can do and make some contacts. Networking is sooo valuable in getting jobs in the area. People call who they know. They aren't looking for you, you have to make yourself known. You won't pick up pro work from craigslist or your website. Some wedding stuff maybe but not the other stuff.

That is how I started out and after networking a bit I get calls from the guys when they have work because they know I do a good job. I've ended up working on shoots for national TV shows like 60 Minutes because of it. I'm not always the guy behind the lens but it all pays and I'm not too proud to do it.

This isn't the only way to succeed for sure. Its only one that I've personally shown that works or at least worked for me.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 04:45 PM   #9
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Get out there and show what you can do and make some contacts. Networking is sooo valuable in getting jobs in the area. People call who they know. They aren't looking for you, you have to make yourself known.
That's mostly the problem. I have no idea how to do that. I can send a letter introducing myself to production companies, but I don't have a good reel to show them, so how do I get any of those production companies to hire me? And as far as networking, sure, that works when you already have a bunch of acquaintances in the same field, but I have none. What I'm trying to say is, I don't really know where to start to do what you say: "Get out there and show what you can do and make some contacts." That's what I meant when I said I don't have talent for marketing. I know it may sound negative, but it's the truth.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 05:07 PM   #10
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re: Marketing advice

I know you are getting a lot today Sebastian, but today is your day! Marketing and networking are at the core of a small media business. If you really feel out of place or discouraged then I would seriously think about if this is the right move for your future.

I have been a freelancer my whole life. It is the only way I can breathe. But you might have a different comfort zone or skillset etc... Working for yourself is way different than working for someone else. When you work for yourself you really need to show people what you can offer them...and have something to offer them. Each new client is like a job interview to some extent. This is tough but a reality. Especially in this economic environment. I always tell people to find a niche and make it your own in your area. The first instinct is to offer all things but you can not compete against all things.

If you like live shows start there. Make a DVD, get a portable TV or laptop and go bang on some doors. Do not fall into the internet trap of "build it and they will come". People might find your website but don't count on folks to just stroll by like a corner bakery and buy stuff.

Study, search, learn and practice. These are all free. When you are confident you will go find more work.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 05:15 PM   #11
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I know you are getting a lot today Sebastian, but today is your day! Marketing and networking are at the core of a small media business. If you really feel out of place or discouraged then I would seriously think about if this is the right move for your future.
I know this is what I want to do. I'm confident in my skills as a videographer. My problem is that I need to learn how to market that. That's what I really need help with, but very specific help, like teaching a kid how to read.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 06:35 PM   #12
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re: Marketing advice

Here's my bit:

Welcome to my world--I'm not going to say I'm "great" at anything, but I know if I didn't suck as much at marketing I'd be getting more work.

The answer is: there is no simple answer.

There is nothing wrong with advertising on craigslist, but if you're going to go this route, you should put yourself on as many sites as possible. Just for weddings there are a whole bunch of places where you can put up an ad/profile for FREE. . wedj.com, , etc.

For more general listings
-mandy
-oodle
-production hub
-thumbtack

there are many others. Trying googling "freelance videographer," "freelance DP," etc.. . .you will find quite a few sites to list yourself.

Also try your city's film commission website/production directory, if something exists, as well as the site/directory for your state.

You might also consider SEPARATE SITES for your different business ventures. . .some corporate folks might be turned off by seeing that you do weddings. No offense to anyone on here, but it's a possibility.

Another thing is that instead of trying to get clients to FIND YOU, you may have better luck going to them. It's often advised to attend chamber of commerce meetings and become a member and solicit work there, as well as doing freebies for charity organizations in the hopes that this will net you a buttload of contacts who will want to hire you after they see the work you did for the charity. Whoever your target market is, find out where those people congregate (energy industry trade show, for instance if you were targeting oil/gas folks), and get yourself in there and hand out cards, etc.

Also, wait for it. . .try doing some stuff for free to build up a reel. If you don't have a killer demo to show someone, make one from one or several free gigs. Only do the gig on the firm condition that you can use the work to promote yourself. This means don't do the freebies for some corporate gig where whatever you shoot is some top secret classified video only meant for people inside that company to view.

Lastly, regarding ownership of gear. . .I wouldn't say, based on experiences around Houston, you need a camera quite as fancy as some of the ones I've seen suggested in this thread. Around $3000 seems to be the lowest price point for cameras considered TRULY professional, right now. This means, codec, features, etc. I'm talking about cams like the HMC150, XF100, HPX170. This is all highly subjective, however, and all that matters is what you can get people to pay you to use, which varies. I'd say rent if you have to rent. . .build the cost into your fees. NOthing wrong with it, camera guys do it all the time; this client wants all their footage shot with this camera, while this guy wants all his footage shot with this other camera.

This has been my opinion. BASS OUT.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 07:01 PM   #13
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There is nothing wrong with advertising on craigslist, but if you're going to go this route, you should put yourself on as many sites as possible. Just for weddings there are a whole bunch of places where you can put up an ad/profile for FREE. . wedj.com, , etc.

Lastly, regarding ownership of gear. . .I wouldn't say, based on experiences around Houston, you need a camera quite as fancy as some of the ones I've seen suggested in this thread. Around $3000 seems to be the lowest price point for cameras considered TRULY professional, right now. This means, codec, features, etc. I'm talking about cams like the HMC150, XF100, HPX170. This is all highly subjective, however, and all that matters is what you can get people to pay you to use, which varies. I'd say rent if you have to rent. . .build the cost into your fees. NOthing wrong with it, camera guys do it all the time; this client wants all their footage shot with this camera, while this guy wants all his footage shot with this other camera.
Thanks for the advice. I am listed on wedj.com and I think a couple of other places, but I still have gotten no customers from those places. I'll look for more anyway. My goal would be to advertise on theknot.com, but their prices are prohibitive for me at this point.

As far as the camera, the Sony HDR-AX2000 I have is a $3500 camera, and far better than the Panasonic HMC150. Not only it looks better, it has an auto-iris and auto-gain that can be used in the case it becomes necessary because of a very dynamic situation where it would look bad to keep adjusting the iris manually over and over. Ideally manual adjustments are the best, but sometimes you need to rely on a good auto iris, and the Sony is great at that. Panasonics have this horrible auto iris that jumps up and down constantly to compensate within a quarter of a second for any changes. If suddenly something very bright appears in front of the camera, it closes the iris drastically and everything around it looks way darker. Bright thing disappears, iris opens up several stops. And it keeps doing that for every minimal change in the frame. I know this because of my other camera, the HMC40, and I had an HMC80 and returned it because of the same reason. Actually I'm trying to get rid of the HMC40 because of the same reason, but not before I can put the difference to buy another AX2000.
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Old July 7th, 2011, 09:53 PM   #14
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re: Marketing advice

Does anybody here know a website that offers website templates for free or a very low price? If I have to make my website more attractive I'd rather choose from something more professional than what I can do in that area. I'm looking up these websites but none seem to have a template for a videography website.
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Old July 8th, 2011, 06:39 AM   #15
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WordPress has a ton of templates. If you are making your own website, it's one of the easier alternatives. Even I figured it out.

And just to echo what everyone else said about networking, it's really the only thing that has worked for me marketing wise. Plus doing a few charity events. The charity events put you in contact with some of the decision makers in the community. You'd be surprised at the all the potential customers on the boards of local charities.

And don't waste your money trying FaceBook marketing etc. It's actual face time that will get you business. Most of my work is corporate, and more than half of it now is repeat business from previous clients. Plus happy clients generate referrals. All my web site is for is to make it easy for potential clients to do an initial job of "checking me out" in the privacy and comfort of their own home/cubicle.

Making customers is kind of similar to making friends. Be friendly and helpful. Think about what their needs might be. Ask questions, but not too many. Listen more and talk less.

One more thing, for me, advertising on Craigs List was a complete waste of time. However, I have gotten several good clients from answering posts looking for videographers on CraigsList. Most ads aren't worth your time, but the few that are worth your time, can be REALLY worth your time. What is the value of a single enthusiastic customer? When you are just starting out, that first really good client has the potential of generating the momentum that finally lifts your business off the ground. Nothing is more encouraging when you are first starting out than to have your customer tell you how pleased they are with the work you did for them. Especially when the compliment is accompanied by a check!
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Last edited by Roger Van Duyn; July 8th, 2011 at 06:54 AM. Reason: typo
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