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Taking Care of Business
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Old February 15th, 2012, 10:45 PM   #1
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First Client

Hey guys,

Formed a small production company in order to do some work for local small businesses to put video on their website or in their businesses just letting their customer get to know them a little bit more intimately.

I'm spending a lot of my time still just getting everything in order like purchasing phone numbers, forming the LLC and all that paperwork and tax code stuff but it will all be pointless with out getting some clients.

I have written a letter and I'm going to send it to a few local businesses in the area letting them know about my new services and offering them a discount to be one of my first customers...

Would you do anything else to reach businesses to alert them to my new company?

Louis
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Old February 16th, 2012, 01:14 AM   #2
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Re: First Client

Start walking the neighborhood and looking for people who need video who don't have anything right now. Websites, Point-of-Purchase displays. Join local businessman associations and go to mixers. Find a local charity you have some heart for and volunteer to do a video, start-to-finish, for them.

I have never heard of anyone winning video business from a form letter. If you think video is a viable marketing tool (which is the position you are going to be selling on the street), why not... make a video?

Personally, I would do all of this long before I had an LLC and a phone number.

You seem to have some background in shooting weddings, and shooting corporate is very similar. The first gig is hard to get, it's a gig no one else wants, and it doesn't pay very well. The 2nd gig is only slightly better. Two years from now you will look back and laugh, assuming you survive two years.

Start trolling the forums here and clicking on links guys post in their signatures. If they have a reel, watch it. If it's the kind of video you want to make, take note of who their clients are. Find clients like that who are local to you, and show up on their doorstep.

Best of luck.
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Old February 16th, 2012, 06:47 AM   #3
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Re: First Client

Ditto to what Mike says about the local charities. Volunteer to cover some big fundraisers. Keep being seen in the community. The people on the boards of the charities and the sponsors for the event are the future prospects for your business. Develop the reputation of the being the can do guy.

What Mike says about two years is close to the mark. It's two and a half years since starting my business and I'm having to push to keep up with the workload. Corporate is the way to go. You get repeat business, provided you please the clients. Not so with weddings. Weddings you get referrals, but not repeat business. Corporate you get repeat business and referrals. Plus, from time to time, corporate clients ask if you can do weddings too. I was just asked about doing one in July. If they like working with you for corporate, you've already established a working relationship. People tend to stick with someone they are comfortable with.
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Old February 16th, 2012, 02:32 PM   #4
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Re: First Client

For $.45 the investment is low risk, only it's also likely low reward. You're shots of a lead are slim to none, and slim just walked out the door. As Mike pointed out, pound the pavement & go door to door. At least once just targeting a company you think it will mutually benefit (They'd get a good video & you'd charge a low rate in exchange for a good sample for a demo & name drop). Chances are you'll get shot down, but your odds are exponentially better than mailing a letter. Chances are a receptionist/secretary of some sort opens it, and tosses it in the garbage.

Sales & Marketing go hand in hand at times. It's painful as I'm very shy & can't sell or upsell to people at all. I've gone in to places for various video work, some went well, some I knew they threw my stuff away once I exited. It's a bit rewarding after doing it, and very much a learning experience. Give it a try. Without that, you'll need some other sort of marketing angle (word of mouth, friends & family, , LinkedIn etc). Mailing letters alone probably won't do it, even though in your mind you get that one bite & it will grow from there.
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Old February 16th, 2012, 03:57 PM   #5
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Re: First Client

When I started my business six years ago, the best source of clients was through previous relationships I had built at others jobs. That worked great for me because I left a completely different line of work. If you're leaving another production company, that might not work so well for you. Anyway, the best business relationships to develop are the ones that already exist. Start talking to people you already know and have them introduce you to their clients and business associated.

BTW, I know this is not part of what you asked, but why are you forming an LLC? Because that's what "real businesses" do? Operating as a sole proprietor is much easier and cheaper. If you are a lone gun, an LLC will do virtually nothing for you. Save the expense of an LLC for later when you start hiring employees. Insurance should come long before an LLC.
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Old February 16th, 2012, 04:25 PM   #6
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Re: First Client

A great script is the basis of all corporate jobs, if you're deficient in that area get some rates from corp. script writers. Maybe strike up a relationship
with a couple, also collect some corp. vids to study the current state of the art.

I used to watch each though once then listen to the soundtrack only, then the video without sound. You'll be surprised at what you learn. A few years ago, 20 minutes was the average corp. audience attention span, after that forget it. These days I suspect it's 15mins and it better be good.
You'll need a contract with all the clauses covered, surf the web.

Do research on your competition, grade them all on their websites, response to your 'fake' new business enquiry, rates etc. Do any specialise in certain areas, eg: realty markets? Make up a list of questions about everything related to all that and keep a file on every business. Keep it updated so you can refer back every few months. Nothing like the competition to propel you along :)

You could produce some video/business cards on those mini DVDs. Do a run of say 50 but carefully select who you present them to.

To keep costs in check, do this as the second selling stage, for the people who respond to your first call or mailout. Always put the production date
on the labels for reference in case you do a second one later. Build each stage up, dress well for your client meetings, never ever be late ...
use mouthwash and charm the ladies :)

You may find the NYC area is already well catered for, for good corporates, and you have to move out of town a bit. If anyone's serious, I'd do it.
Best of luck.

Cheers.
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Last edited by Allan Black; February 16th, 2012 at 10:43 PM. Reason: Itypethisstufftofast.
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Old February 17th, 2012, 01:22 PM   #7
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Re: First Client

For what it's worth Allen, I think he's looking to start off making a little bit smaller productions. Not necesarily your standard corporate videos, more like youtube videos for small car dealerships or resturants onto their website. (I'm guessing). Anyway, to the OP just consider that these owners are suffering from a sluggish economy as well, and even though you feel a $500 video on their website can help promote it or whatever, that owner sees it as $500 out of his pocket. It's a tougher sell than you think.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Davis View Post

BTW, I know this is not part of what you asked, but why are you forming an LLC? Because that's what "real businesses" do?
That's not entirely fair. Being an LLC can be considered a marketing expense. I think it cost me little over a hundred bucks if I'm not mistaken. If the OP walked in and said "Hi, I'm Louis. I want to make a video for you for you for your website." Someone might tell him to take a hike. If he says "Hi, I'm Louis from Creative Digital Media, and I want to make a video for you for your website", it could slightly peak the listeners interest. Also, the website name CreativeDigitalMedia.com could appear better but also better remembered, and help in Google searches. I think purchasing a phone # isn't needed though. He could easily just change his cell vm to "Hi you've reached Louis, but I can't get to my phone right now. Please leave you name, # etc etc & I'll call you back.". You don't need to state your company name on your voicemail message. It'd be a wasted $50/mo or whatever.

(Totally making up the Crreative Digital Media business name btw).


Going back to the letter mailing, a good test might be to sign up your site for Google Analytics. Then mail out 20 or 50 mailings. And monitor your site for a week or so to see how many hits it gets.
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Old February 17th, 2012, 10:18 PM   #8
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Re: First Client

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Barnett View Post
Being an LLC can be considered a marketing expense.
You do not need to create a formal legal entity (corporation, partnership, LLC, etc.) to use a fictitious business name. You can do that under a sole proprietorship.
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Old February 18th, 2012, 09:22 AM   #9
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Re: First Client

I wouldn't even call the name fictitious.
You can be a sole proprietor and file a DBA (Doing Business As) and legitimately use the name for bank accounts and business transactions.

As to form letter. Don't ever allow it to look like a form letter. Make it appear personally directed and friendly. This only works with very small businesses and only if you do live follow up. If, in your live meeting you mention, "have you had a chance to look at our proposal" they may dig it up after the fact or, if already tossed, they may respond, "I may have missed it, can you give me a copy?" Avoid referring to it as a "letter" or "services" as that doesn't sound targeted. A "proposal" sounds like you were making a offer specific to their business. It's always an uphill battle but if you think of these as psychological tools to create connections rather than "informational" they work better.

As to mini DVDs, I think they're "dangerous." They can be fussy and actually get stuck in a player. Use full size if anything. I have mixed feelings about DVDs as marketing tools these days. Granted handing hard copy can be good but in most of my initial client contact I've been finding links to demo video better since communication often goes to email quickly. Of course mailing a DVD as part of the letter can't hurt because people are more inclined to open packages than letters. That drives up your costs though. Also the DVC content may be too restrictive. I've landed corporate clients because they saw narrative and comedic clips on my site. This wouldn't have been stuff I included for them. They were looking to do a more entertaining piece and saw that I had done that kind of work, something they hadn't seen in any other "corporate" demo. I've become more conscious of that when I present in person demos of my work. I want them to know I can entertain.
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Old February 18th, 2012, 09:44 AM   #10
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Re: First Client

Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig Seeman View Post
I wouldn't even call the name fictitious.
You can be a sole proprietor and file a DBA (Doing Business As) and legitimately use the name for bank accounts and business transactions.
"Fictitious business name" is a legal term, the same as DBA, "trading as", "trade name", "assumed business name", etc. The exact phrasing of the descriptor differs based on the jurisdiction. Most jurisdictions require the business owner to file a statement of fictitious name and some require a notice published in the newspaper.

Regardless, my point was that an LLC is not needed to use a fictitious business name.
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Old February 20th, 2012, 11:50 AM   #11
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Re: First Client

Thanks guys, lots of great information!

There are a few companies that I know of where I am close with the owners and I'm going to approach them about my idea and make 2-3 samples and then go to business that I don't know with some samples of what I have done and hopefully good statistics about what has happened with the previous companies.

I'll see what happens, I'll post back after I get on my feet, even if I'm still wobbling.
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