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Old May 2nd, 2007, 08:18 AM   #1
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Marketing a video business with little/no budget

I've read several of the threads on this site and can't seem to find any advice on how to market a video business with little or no money. Any advice comes greatly appreciated.

First off let me briefly introduce myself and explain my situation. My name is Brandon, I'm 22, and I have a fair amount of experience for my age. I first started learning the ropes of DV about fives years ago in high school. I soon learned a had a knack for it and that I enjoyed it to boot. After h.s. I began college and have spent the last few years in and out of school. About a year a year ago during a time in which I was not in school, I convinced a family member to loan me 5k so I could start up a video business. (I've since learned 5k doesn't stretch very far when buying video equipment!) I ended up buying two Panasonic Ag-Dvc30's, two Davis and Sanford fluid head tripods, a rode videomic and a few other accessories. I stretched the 5k as far as I could and ended up spending another thousand. This all happened during a very confusing time in my life and the long and short of it is, I decided to go back to school and nothing ever happened with the video business.

Fast forward a year to the present... After spending this last year in school I'm left feeling burnt out and ready to move on with life. I'm ready to take on the challenge of getting my business off the ground. My goal is to start out as a small time videographer (doing weddings, corporate training videos, whatever) and down the road look into expanding into a production company. I'm really not sure how this all will come about, but I feel it can be done and I'll learn as I go. Which brings me back to the topic of this post.

How can I promote my services with basically no budget to do so? Here is the deal. The town I live in, Connersville, is nothing more than small town, Indiana. I know I won't be able to stay booked if I can't get connected with the surrounding cities. On the bright side, I am hearing that in the surrounding communities no one is available to do video work. There is a demand if I can just get my name out and get in touch. One other positive, I am about an hour away from three bigger cities; Indianapolis, IN, Dayton, OH and Cincinnati, Ohio. If I could break into the market in one of those cites I could potentially get where I need to be. At first glance I thought I was up against an impossible situation with my location. But now I am realizing that if I can find a way to market regionally there is a good chance I can stay busy with video work. I've heard through the grapevine that there are a couple people around that do this type of work, but they are unknown for the most part. Competition in this area isn't a big concern of mine. Lack of funding to market with is killing me though. Not to mention I need to get a website up and will most likely have to hire someone, I still need to get a wireless mic.-- the list goes on. Please help!!!
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 10:20 AM   #2
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Decide on your target markets and market to them separately. In other words don't market to each as a "do it all" business. Be a wedding videographer to that market. Be a corporate videographer to that market. Some corporate folks won't be impressed if they see you're also doing weddings.

Get a webpage up with separate sections for corporate and wedding work. Include relevant demos in the respective separate sections.

The webpage will give you the ability to quickly send links to demos as you find interested people.

Get business cards made and give them out to everyone you meet including friends and family. Nearly everybody works for some business. Everybody has family or friends who may be getting married.

If you have enough demo material to put together some "fake" 30 second spots you might consider approaching the local cable providers and show them a demo. They often lose money on spot production (because they make money selling the spot time) so they might be willing to farm out work to you. This of course means you're charging people money to produce spots whereas the cable company is doing it for nothing but on small ad time buys the cable company may not be willing to do the spot for nothing.

One form of guerilla marketing might be to go to the town's main business street and start shooting, making sure you look professional. You can certainly consider for shooting demo material so you have real purpose. People, especially those associated with businesses you're shooting. May stop you and start asking questions as to your purpose. You might p.o. some folks but others will be intrigued. Talk about how you're creating a demo because you'd like to help local businesses in their marketing efforts. They may ask to see the demo once completed . . . foot in the door!

Contact local hotels that may host business conventions and seminars. They may have AV teams but you might get some spillover work shooting seminars and have a great opportunity to network with those businesses too.

For weddings, go to local bridal shops (or wedding planers) and give them demo DVDs.

In marketing, you may have to counter your "youth" so emphasize that you are experienced as you've done here.

Set your rates high enough so you can pay all your bills, living expenses, equipment maintenance, computer and software upgrades, insurance. If you set rates too low you'll find it hard to increase them significantly.

All this implies a business plan. Granted that will change but you need to define your targets (weddings, small businesses) how you plan on making contact/marketing, what you need (gear etc.) to meet their needs.

Keep in mind there may be many niche markets you can target that you may not yet be thinking of.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 11:10 AM   #3
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Lots of good advice in Craig's post.

I suspect you'll get lots of varying advice. Also, that there are many in this forum who would disagree with my approach, or just not work for the low bucks I started at. I figure, we all have to start somewhere, and few people enter this business starting at the top.

For no-budget advertising, I got my first paying customer by listing my business name and phone number on a couple of those phone-book listing sites that allow you to list for free. They provide little more than your name and phone number, and they will certainly entice you to get more expensive (what they call "preferred") listings, but it got me my first paying customer. (Who, btw, was very happy with the final product). All this without a demo-reel of any kind, (and I still haven't created one).

If you can afford a separate business phone number, it should automatically be listed in your local yellow pages the next time they're printed and distributed; anything more than name, town, and phone number will cost extra. If you do that, be sure to inquire about the deadline. The timing involved when I got my business number prevented me from being listed. I just missed the deadline and had to wait an entire year before my phone number appeared in the yellow pages.

Other options include: printing or buying business cards, (I know that's not cost-free, but it's relatively low-cost), then leaving some at oft-visited locations, e.g. some of the local barber shops allow customers to pin their card on an in-house bulletin board; some supermarkets also have similar bulletin boards, though they are "cleaned out" pretty frequently, so they often require replenishment. (This is likely to get panned as the height of unprofessionalism. I agree it doesn't foster a professional image, but it's a place to start and maybe get some local business).

Also, visit and introduce yourself to businesses that might be able to refer customers to you. Examples: bridal shops, banguet halls, DJs, party and event planners, party supply shops. Have at least some business cards to leave behind and maybe a few "flyers" listing the services you offer. Ideally, you'd have a portable DVD player and a demo-reel to exhibit your talents to whoever you visit.

Be prepared to do a few jobs for free, or just for experience: taping a local sports event, even without a customer, could generate leads; offer to record and edit a local high-school event or play; offer to do a promo piece for a local charity. (Done well, that could end up on local TV if it serves as a PSA). This is similar to Cragi's rec about getting demo/stock footage).

Probably the biggest help overall for me has been a willingness to do a few jobs for free so people become acquainted with my name and work. (Word-of-mouth has been called the most effective marketing tool). I've done a couple of those, and am in the process of another, but the potential audience for each has grown with each project. On the first, I went all-out with editing. The audience included nearly 300 people, and since then that client has become a return customer, now willing to pay good bucks for my services. My current "freebie" is an entire documentary for a "Very competitive" private, Mid-Atlantic college. LOTS and LOTS of work, but the potential for broad exposure to numerous VERY big corporate clients and alumni is great. This has been billed as a "volunteer" effort on the school's web site, so it could endear corporate sponsors and/or alumni to me.

To get started, I called a local indie out-of-the-blue inquiring about the business, and that person offered to let me work with/for them at a minimum rate. I only averaged working with them about 2 days a month for the first year, and basically lugged equipment around, but I learned a bit about the business and about what equipment to buy. My strength is that I pay attention to details that escape them. Now, nearly 3 yrs later, I'm first on that person's list when help is needed, and they even call me to cover when overbooked or unavailable. It also allowed me to broaden my network of contacts in the business. (I now know 2 sound people, a makeup person, and a couple of other camera ops if I need them).

Keep in mind that we're at opposite ends of at least one spectrum: you're very young, and "just starting out" in this business. I'm middle aged and chose this as a "second career" after being downsized from my job of nearly 30 yrs. So, I wouldn't be surprised if we had different expectations. Despite expectations, time (and youth) are on your side, e.g. I think I'd have to convince myself that I'd be interested in doing a music video for a young band today; you might very well find that easier to accept. Tow "rules" I've made for myself: 1) I won't do porn of any kind, and 2) I try to avoid wedding receptions. (I've done them, but only for family/friends, and always free; that way, no one can complain that this or that shot or person is missing).

Don't promise anything unless you're dead-certain that you can deliver it. And, in-between customers and jobs, practice, practice, practice... with your NLE, with your camera, with all your equipment.

Best of luck, and keep us apprised of your progress from time to time.

PS: apologies for the length.

D
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 02:45 PM   #4
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If any of your local communities has a street fair or farmer's market, consider signing up. To look professional, you will want to make up a nice banner. Bring business cards and fliers. Create a description of what you do on a foam-core board. Talk to people.

But here's the real trick: bring your equipment and a green screen. Run some goofy backgrounds and let kids go "on stage". Show them in front of the pyramids or something. Then talk to the parents and hand out cards. Maybe you could even sell quick DVDs with basic titles, and the kids doing their thing for a few bucks.

When no kids are about, show whatever wedding/corporate demos you've got.

And if a reporter walks by, grab 'em!
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 04:57 PM   #5
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Thank you all for taking the time to respond. There are definitely a few things in the posts that I hadn't thought of. I'll add to this thread later tonight when I have time to think straight. More to come...thanks again.
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Old May 2nd, 2007, 05:16 PM   #6
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If you're smart, here's what you'll do and it won't cost you a penny.

First, sit down and WRITE up a simple, clear "pitch" on what you do and how that will benefit someone who pays you to do it.

It needs to be concise, as engaging and powerful as possible - and it must put all the focus on how you provide solutions for your customers needs.

Look back at it again. You'll discover it's too long and wordy. Cut it down some MORE, simplify it. Make EVERY SINGLE WORD COUNT.

When you finally believe you have the most powerful possible pitch for your services... READ IT OUT LOUD. And if it's like most stuff written for the eye rather than the ear - change it so that it SPEAKS beautifully.

That's your script. Now MEMORIZE it. Word for word. Line by line. Like you're learning Shakespere or a play.

You MUST be able to give EXACTLY this pitch at the drop of a hat. Without thinking. Like reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It's got to be AUTOMATIC.

Now go out and any time you meet anyone for the rest of your life, make your pitch. Do it with a smile. Do it politely. But make your pitch. Cocktail parties, little league games, raves, it doesn't matter where or when, if someone EVER says "what do you do" you instantly go on autopilot and recite your pitch.

All the memorization is about making it easy for you to ABSOLUTELY and CLEARLY DEFINE YOURSELF in the eyes of other people.

It must be consistent. It must be automatic.

What will amaze this is that if you can do this well, you'll instantly start to POWERFULLY DEFINE YOURSELF to everyone you meet.

Even if the person you're talking with today never hires you, if you define yourself WELL to that person, and someone asks them someday "Hey, do you know anyone who does video? They'll remember YOUR PITCH and quite possibly recommend you.

Self-promotion, marketing, advertising - no public business communicatons SHOULD START until you properly define what you want to do and ruthlessly and relentlessly practice communicatiing that definition to others.

My 2 cents anyway.

Good luck.
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 04:36 AM   #7
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Craig-
I will keep in mind your advice about marketing separately to each type of potential client. This does seem like it will be more of a challenge to do it this way though. You mentioned there may be niche markets to target I haven't yet thought of. I'd like to hear about the different possibilities. Please share.

I like the idea of doing what you called "guerrilla marketing." If I were to go downtown and break out the camera and tripod I'm sure I would attract much attention. Enough of this and I'm certain to cross paths with someone. This weekend our town is having the annual "Party on the Square." Vendors set up, musicians play, cheesy festival type thing- if I show up camera in-hand I'm sure to stick out like a sore thumb. I would surely meet people and have a chance to network. It would be a good excuse to try and get something on cable as well. If I put together a 4-5 minute video recap of the weekend set to a nice royalty free track, I'm sure the local city tv3 would be glad to air it. It wouldn't take long to throw together and would be a nice way to show that my footage doesn't look like the infamous "Uncle Charlie's," or whatever that guy's name is!

Denis-
Thank you for the advice. I like the idea of getting a portable dvd player, why hadn't I thought of that? You mentioned getting in touch with every business I could think of that may be able to refer business to me. The portable dvd player would come in very handy when doing that. I could also keep it in my vehicle and have the capability to show my work at any time. I'll be sure to keep you posted on here.

Jon-
I don't know if I'm running scared or what, but kids mixed with camera equipment sounds awful risky. It is a rather creative idea though. Have you done this yourself? If so, what was the response?

Bill-
It is funny, your post hits on something I was thinking of earlier today. That being, how to best describe the services I offer. I've gotten tongue tied before and I've found it isn't always easy for me to explain what it is I can do, especially to someone who isn't knowledgeable in video work. I assume this will be the case with most customers I'll run into. Do you have any advice on bridging any gaps there? My thoughts are that if John Doe opened up "John Doe productions," with a tripod missing a leg and vhs-c camcorder as his 'pro" equipment, his services would sound very similar when explained to a customer- "I'll come in, set up, film the event, edit the footage...yada, yada." In a pitch, how do I distinguish myself from that without losing the customer with video jargon?

I will definitely write things down and come up with something. Being young and all, I lack some of the poise others have developed for use in impromptu situations. I think getting prepared like this will help me stay calm and get the message across. Thanks for the idea, will do.


This is great! Keep the advice coming guys. Many thanks, Brandon
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 11:45 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brandon T Jackson View Post
I don't know if I'm running scared or what, but kids mixed with camera equipment sounds awful risky. It is a rather creative idea though. Have you done this yourself? If so, what was the response?
At Grass Valley Group we used to have an Open House each year, so we could show family and friends what we did. The chroma key demo was always the hit of the event - for kids and adults alike. Give 'em some blue cloth and they can be floating heads. Let 'em be weather-casters. There was usually a line. Years ago I set up a similar deal at my current employer. Same result.

The thing is that the kids don't touch the equipment at all. They just stand on the "X", dance around and look at the monitor.

Best of luck getting the word out!
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 03:26 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Brandon T Jackson View Post
In a pitch, how do I distinguish myself from that without losing the customer with video jargon?

by focusing on the benefit(s) you bring to the client. someone once said "It's not about you."
they don't care about lenses, cameras etc, they want what Al Franken wanted on the old SNL..."What does this mean to me, Al Franken?"

Answer that question.
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Old May 3rd, 2007, 03:30 PM   #10
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In a pitch, how do I distinguish myself from that without losing the customer with video jargon?

OK, here's a start for you...

(when asked "what do you do?"

"I make video. I do it because I'm passionate about helping people communicate better. And today, the most important communication in society is shifting to video. It's gone way beyond TV to places like YouTube and Cel Phones and the internet - it's everywhere and I want to help people use it wisely because...

This can be refined a lot further, but the idea is that I'm trying to engage the imagination of the person I'm talking to and define myself as someone who thinks beyond "I have camera X, and Edit with system Y and do mostly (wedding, corporate, whatever yadda, yadda, yadda.)

and "I make videos" is you EXTERNAL communications message.

Your INTERNAL one must be very different.

Don't make videos. Help people solve their problems by USING your video skills. That difference in thinking is HUGE.

From everything you're writing here, you're well on your way and doing fine.

Just keep going where you're going.
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Old May 8th, 2007, 01:05 PM   #11
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Hi all! Denis, where are the phone-book listing sites that allow you to list for free. Do you have any url's to share?
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Old May 8th, 2007, 06:30 PM   #12
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Enter this string in google:

or cut & paste the next line:

free business listing for your phone

You should get a few of them. If I recall correctly, I got my first customer from a whitepages listing, but I think (not sure) once you've been listed with one, the others include you as time passes, or through links. I suspect they all want as many listings as they can provide so folks will use their directory search service. (That could just be my cynicism showing through, though).

If you list, be prepared to deal with someone trying to sell you on "Preferred" or "Premier" listings in the near future.

Lastly, one reason I chose the business name I use is to get it near the beginning of the alphabet.

Best of luck.
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