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Old August 9th, 2010, 04:24 PM   #1
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Piggy Backing "Is it a losing battle?" Or, How can we thrive ?

As some of you may know, I am coming to wedding video from doing band promo/online stuff. It's all been a learning experience, as shooting in rock stars in smokey bars is a whole different scenario.... accept the ego of the focus of what you are shooting, that is.

As Chris Harding has told me more times than I can count, it's all about the bride and how beautiful she is. From his experiences and what others have told me, it does sound like she is the decision maker, more often than not.

In "Is it a losing battle?" I lamented on only knowing of 1 out of 13 recent weddings that had video done for them. Another poster used a rate of 1 in 20 in their market. From my experiences in business, and looking at how long having a video of your wedding has been available to everyone, I am going to say those are the probable numbers of likely customers/clients we have available to us. I am now assuming I have the "magic number" of how large my market is, which until "Is it a losing battle?" and the posts there, had completely alluded me.

Marriage licenses that were issued in my county last year numbered around 1900 for 250K population. If I am close on my ratio of 1 out of 13, that gives me a potential market of 146 brides/buyers in my immediate area to sell to. My research showed me there already are 17 shops doing wedding video for this market. If everyone gets an even slice, that's 8 brides/buyers per shop per year. The unknown for me yet, is average sales price paid. My research showed me a price range of $500-$4000+, with only one, maybe two, getting into the highest end of the market. The median price point the competition in my area offers for the "full meal deal beginning to end documentary" appears to be somewhere between $1000 and $1600. Most of the players are in that range. A cinematic style from the competitors runs in the $2000-$2500 range.

By my guesstimates, the local budget here for the majority of the weddings held, falls under a $15K ceiling for any with more than 50 guests. The average number of guests is probably in the 150-200 range for that sub $15K ceiling.

Breaking into this market, I am going to be stealing away from the current 17 I know about and those I don't, if I am going to sell anyone. To steal their potential customers away, I have to either "build a better mousetrap" or a "cheaper one" to give the customer the incentive to go with me over a proven track record in wedding video.

OR.... I have to create market that currently doesn't exist by expanding that 1 in 13 or 1 in 20 ratio of weddings to probable buyers by offering "something enticing" to both the probable buyer as well as the "potential" buyers who currently are sitting it out.

Right now my thinking on what "something enticing" is, is offering a "different mousetrap" from what is being offered here altogether.

Here's my concerns. The price point of $500-$4000+ of conventional wedding videos has a proven probable market of 7.6% by my estimates. At the $15K ceiling I mention, those videos also represent between 3% and 26% of the entire existing $15K wedding budgets. If the median price is say $1200, that represents about 8% of the total existing $15K budget. The lower the budget, the higher the percentage.

My experiences have shown me the desire to have video of her wedding is there. The reality of the budget seems to be the killer, as video seems to be kicked to the curb pretty early on.

I also think video is perceived as a "duplication" because in most people's minds "well we already have the photographer".

IMO, for me, I think to grab some of my existing market and also turn potential market into new existing market, I have to focus on price, and a "different mousetrap" chained together. In my market, I am not seeing what some have referred to as "short form" being offered. Also, I have not seen much written around, about "short form" but saw one clip of one and am thinking that might be my answer and "my foot in the door". Another idea I have kicked around, offering only segments done in video, as the ceremony is currently offered by many. Take the "video booth" concept and expand on it, doing it "right" instead of leaving it as a free for all, maybe. Maybe it's just the special dances, done multi cam and multi operators that might have a market here that the "full meal deal" doesn't ???

My questions and where I am going with this:

Other than doing what we are or want to be doing, are we "leaving money on the table" that we could be picking up, to help grow our businesses ???

If so, how can we "pick it up off that table" for our pockets ???

Are you stealing market share from your competitors or are you growing your potential existing markets for your expansion ???

Whatever your method of growing your business is, stealing or expanding, how are you accomplishing it ???
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Old August 9th, 2010, 07:17 PM   #2
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Chip, I don't want to pre-empt a forthcoming announcement about our business direction but I will say this in answer to your post.

The time is fast approaching when stills and movies will be recorded on the same cameras - Canon and Nikon might work out their crappy sound but my bet is that Sony will introduce a pro version of their VG10.

Far too many photographers already clack-clack away so offering the client 25/30 15megapixel images a second isn't a huge step.

Most photographers offer reportage which is another way of saying discreet movies without the sound or movement.

Most reportage photographers don't know how to do formals and when the clients (or more often the clients' parents) demand some formals they take ages to do them and aren't very good. Group Portrait Photography is an art and most photographers never learned it.

Stills have largely ignored the challenge of change. For example, how many still photographers recognise that the trend towards placing throwaway cameras on each table for the guests to use is actually a criticism of their service - it shows there's a client demand they're not fulfilling. In contrast, how many clients ask their guests to make movies? Those who think video booths are the way to make wedding videos don't buy our service.

In short I think both sides of the imaging service will come together and in so doing both will move into the 21st Century - and at the same time there will be an increased opportunity for people with vision, with the eye to see beyond the mundane.

Just my 2c.
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Old August 9th, 2010, 08:53 PM   #3
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Hi Chip

You do need to realise that most of your stats are pure theory!! The only solid based fact is that last year 1900 licenses were issues. Sure, there are 17 "shops" that offer wedding videographer BUT you don't know which or how many are active do you ??? Out of the 1900 weddings a year you are actually speculating that only 1 in 13 brides will be interested in video. That could be 1 in 50??? BUT it could also be 1 in 5 couldn't it????

I would work on the assumption that you have a market of 1900 weddings a year (which you ain't gonna handle!!!) Ok, give the competition 1870 of those and you still have 30 for yourself!!

You honestly cannot say for a fact that only 1 in 13 brides will want video can you??? It's a total unknown unless you physically go and interview each and every bride from 2009 and find out for sure. The fact that you have 17 "competitors" and if one assumes that at least 20% are active then brides MUST want wedding videos in your area!! If your budget figure of 15K weddings is accurate then it's pretty obvious that the average bride will not be looking for a $5K+++ wedding film so you will definately need to be able to supply a package in their price range.

Purely the fact that there are 17 other people (whether active or not) running wedding videography services means that at least brides MUST be asking for wedding videos.

It's not a losing battle at all!! If you can supply the market with a product that suits their budget then you should be getting part of it. You just need to adjust the marketing and services to suit local demand which would probably mean doing sub $1500 weddings or shorter coverage.

The market is there (your 17 competitors seem to think so) so as long as you target the right market you will get business.

Chris
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Old August 9th, 2010, 08:53 PM   #4
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Philip I was on your site last night and saw some of the innovative things you are doing and including for your customers. It was that kind of innovation, but broke out of the entire package, that I am considering, or wondering about. I see your business model is to be one stop and your innovations are setting you apart form your competition most likely.

If what you describe here and what I saw on your site, and I connected all the dots correctly, that complete innovation I would expect to be mainstream here in backwoods/backwards Wisconsin by 2025 for sure.

But, if I am assuming correctly, that really is nothing more than stealing existing market, even if it is from another segment, it's not growing the entire market at all.

Your video invitations, now that's growing market IMO, or could be if offered as a stand alone product.

When I used the term "video booth" I may have used something incorrect, as can't say I have ever seen one, but assume it is where people come to leave greetings and well wishes for the couple, in theory. From one thread here it sounded as though it was functionally unmanned, as well.

Most everyone does inclusion of greetings and toasts by guests, of those they can catch etc from what I have seen. I have also read where what most couples wish to see as they grow older together is more of those in attendance, and less about themselves. Just trying to brainstorm now, but what about offering a stand alone service to set up a structured area manned by one person, lit well and comfortable, for this to happen ? Then before the wedding have part of the service to be contact the guests via mail, or maybe just the closest friends and relatives the B&G select, and let them know their greetings and wishes for the couple are not only well received by have been requested ? Put some structure into it, be running for a couple hours or so and done. Editing should be a snap, just whacking it together, leveling audio and burn a DVD. In my area those lower end documentary videos have to be paying the shop about $50ish an hour to produce. Being a set area, set audio, set lighting, it wouldn't need to be a first line shooter to man it, just someone smart enough to be taught, and personable enough to work with people. Could I convert some of that non buying market for a full meal deal, into a buyer for this and get that same $50ish or even more per hour, and get it sold ???

When I did my research I saw pretty much the same thing. Different levels and different options offered as add ons to the full meal deal. I am really starting to think maybe my "different mousetrap" might be to offer a menu of varying services, and oh yes, we do the full meal deal too.
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Old August 9th, 2010, 09:43 PM   #5
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Hi Chris,

You are right the only hard and cold fact is that 1900 licenses last year. Everything else is just that, theory.

As I said, interest from brides has been there by many. Actual video buying brides, not so much from what I have seen.

If my theory is correct and it is 1 in 13 that are actual buyers, and all I get is one even slice of that, 8 for the year, I'd be happy with that.

I probably didn't give enough time to this part though. If all I can realistically expect is 8 a year, that leaves a lot of time we aren't generating revenue. Also, if the 1 in 13 is even somewhat close, that means there are 12 out of 13 POTENTIAL buyers for SOMETHIING, that aren't being sold now.

That's what I am thinking about here, how can we covert some of those 12 out of 13 non current wedding video buyers into customers of at least some service we can offer them ???

Am I making sense now ???
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Old August 9th, 2010, 10:33 PM   #6
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Hi Chip

I'm afraid not!! You are ASSUMING that your 17 competitors will be taking all but 100 or so of the 1900 propects ... I'll bet that 50% are not even actively looking for weddings, out of budget, or their work doesn't suit the bride!!!

Besides, from your 1900 brides 1:13 (you say) will be looking for video which means that at least 146 brides who have decided already (based on your 13 :1 ratio) will look to see who is available in their local area. If your stats are indeed sorta correct, then you will have 146 brides looking at your website (of course only some will contact you and some will move on) BUT you still have a market potential of 146 clients which you couldn't possibily handle on your own in one season.

Then of course there will be the ones that find your website and hadn't considered video but might think about it after looking. (I have a page dedicated to why you should consider a wedding video) You, of course will get those who go direct to your competitor because he did her sister's wedding!! Direct referrals will come later but they do happen.

I think you might be surprised at how many brides will actually look at your site !!!

Chris
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Old August 10th, 2010, 12:01 AM   #7
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Chip, I think I'd recommend you ignore the Business College approach - I can't speak for Wisconsin (though I loved spending weekends in and around Madison when I lived in Chicago) but here, fewer and fewer couples are getting married each year. Some couples who've lived together for some time feel they want to be married when they start their family but that's not usually the time they want to spend big money on their wedding let alone their video.

On that basis the Business College would argue why you're going into the market at all. So why do we?

My guess is that in general terms we all come into this business because we think we can tell stories more compellingly than the average guy.

If that's correct, then your next step seems to be "why should I bother when there are xx (choose a number) of others already doing it?"

We might think arrogantly or with complete justification that we can do it better than most of those xx - and why not. Better is subjective; some Hollywood directors are considered great because they produce great art, others because they consistently came in below budget; neither is wrong. If your market will support 10 wedding video producers and your entry will make the total 11, that should not deter you. In a free market system, the least able will find another way to earn his pay and you'll be one of the 10. (I ignore the effect on costs, competition etc for simplicity).

When I needed gainful employment later than I'd expected I looked at the standard Wedding Video business model here and decided that since the public generally has relatively low critical capabilities - anything that appears on a television screen, especially if it's themselves, is television - I needed to present them with some other reason to buy me. (After 25 years in knew I could make good programmes but that is only the start.)

The important factor is that it isn't just a list of ways to increase my costs. Each of those "extra value" items has been costed into the price when it was added - and not just the dollars and cents (or LSD as it used to be called here) but the time it takes especially on the shoot day.

For example, the video invitations involved modification of an existing autocue rig to replace the tube monitor with an old LCD monitor, a couple of hours recording months before the wedding, a simple face design and 30 minutes duplication on our 7-disk DVD duplication station.

Equally, the 100+ stills on CD take 20 minutes or so to grab, a short time in Photoshop batch stretching them to the correct shape and a single validated burn. The disk face is generic and preprinted.

So, I think you're spot on looking critically at your part in the business, but not to be overawed by competition. We'd all be standing on the roadside watching the nobs drive past in their hand-built de Dion Boultons if Henry Ford hadn't decided there was another way; a better way to make money, a different way to build cars.
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Old August 10th, 2010, 12:09 AM   #8
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Very true Chris, everything you say I can't argue with.

But we are focusing on the probable video buyers, which we know aren't that many in comparison to the non buyers, the vast majority. What we are doing then is walking away from offering anything to the others that they might buy, because all we have is wedding videos. If my 1 in 13 is correct, that means we are concentrating on selling wedding videos to 146 and forgetting about selling anything the other 1754. If it is 1 in 5 are wedding video buyers, we are concentrating on 380 and leaving 1620 to spend their budgets on anything else.

Just about everyone offers different levels of packages. The Ceremony, the Ceremony plus through the Grand March, as well as everything from dawn till the last dog is hung. What I am saying is how can we, or maybe just I, expand that menu of salable options to possibly serve and sell a greater number than 146 or 380 ???

As a well established one man show, I see where you Chris have to concentrate on your proven business model of wedding videos. For you to take available dates away from that to do less, that's stupid. Reality is, I am not going to book 30 wedding videos in the next year. So, I am not against selling a non wedding video buying bride my, or a hired shooter's, services with the quality I wish to produce, for other than just wedding videos in order to generate the income from 30 or even more wedding video gigs a year.
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Old August 10th, 2010, 12:19 AM   #9
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Chip, I think I'd recommend you ignore the Business College approach - I can't speak for Wisconsin (though I loved spending weekends in and around Madison when I lived in Chicago) but here, fewer and fewer couples are getting married each year. Some couples who've lived together for some time feel they want to be married when they start their family but that's not usually the time they want to spend big money on their wedding let alone their video.

On that basis the Business College would argue why you're going into the market at all. So why do we?

My guess is that in general terms we all come into this business because we think we can tell stories more compellingly than the average guy.

If that's correct, then your next step seems to be "why should I bother when there are xx (choose a number) of others already doing it?"

We might think arrogantly or with complete justification that we can do it better than most of those xx - and why not. Better is subjective; some Hollywood directors are considered great because they produce great art, others because they consistently came in below budget; neither is wrong. If your market will support 10 wedding video producers and your entry will make the total 11, that should not deter you. In a free market system, the least able will find another way to earn his pay and you'll be one of the 10. (I ignore the effect on costs, competition etc for simplicity).

When I needed gainful employment later than I'd expected I looked at the standard Wedding Video business model here and decided that since the public generally has relatively low critical capabilities - anything that appears on a television screen, especially if it's themselves, is television - I needed to present them with some other reason to buy me. (After 25 years in knew I could make good programmes but that is only the start.)

The important factor is that it isn't just a list of ways to increase my costs. Each of those "extra value" items has been costed into the price when it was added - and not just the dollars and cents (or LSD as it used to be called here) but the time it takes especially on the shoot day.

For example, the video invitations involved modification of an existing autocue rig to replace the tube monitor with an old LCD monitor, a couple of hours recording months before the wedding, a simple face design and 30 minutes duplication on our 7-disk DVD duplication station.

Equally, the 100+ stills on CD take 20 minutes or so to grab, a short time in Photoshop batch stretching them to the correct shape and a single validated burn. The disk face is generic and preprinted.

So, I think you're spot on looking critically at your part in the business, but not to be overawed by competition. We'd all be standing on the roadside watching the nobs drive past in their hand-built de Dion Boultons if Henry Ford hadn't decided there was another way; a better way to make money, a different way to build cars.

Finally re video booths. One of the most important parts of our story is capturing the people who will be important to the couple in 20 years time. There are different ways of doing that. To my mind video booths usually result in ill-considered comments - often idiocy fuelled by alcohol, by people whose names the couple will have forgotten by then.

Because we know how to interview that's what we do. I ask a series of questions in a way that lead the respondent to convey an understanding of the question so my voice isn't heard, on topics that will be poignant, emotional and relevant in 20 years time.

The result is crucial elements of the programme which raise it from a mere documentary of the day to a programme which I honestly (and immodestly) believe will be of greater value in 20 years time than it is today.

Let me give you an illustration away from weddings. Footage of my grandchildren lying inert when a few months old are precious; footage of them crawling or walking evokes wonderful emotions; recordings of them explaining to me about their new home or their pets or their recent train ride and asking about my childhood memories of similar experiences are social family documents. When I left my first career I spent 100 UK pounds of the redundancy money on a Fuji single-8 camera which recorded sound on pre-striped film - this was the last throw of the home film business just before home videos became available. She remarked that it was typically spendthrift of me to indulge my hobby with "business" money. I explained that I wanted to be able to film and hear my children as youngsters. "Waste of money" she maintained. I replied that actually I would be prepared to pay 100UKL putting the sound on one of the few rolls of silent film I had of my father who'd died 20 years earlier. She had no reply.
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Old August 10th, 2010, 03:45 AM   #10
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Greetings again Philip,

I can't forget the business school approach, that's who I am.

Now as far as this making any sound business sense at all, you are right, forget it. There isn't a banker on my section of earth who would loan start up money on the business plan of purely wedding videos that I would have to write and present to him with the stats I have stated. Bankers don't care what you are legally doing that makes money, they just want to be proven to, that you are going to make money.

So, the obvious question to me would be "why?". I like video. I enjoy shooting it, I enjoy enhancing the image quality in editing, I enjoy working with the audio. Basically, I enjoy primarily the tech aspects that may feed any creative side I may have. The next reason, I think there is some potential of financial gain available here. As it stands now with the stats for wedding videos I have used, that potential for net financial gain doing just that, I honestly don't see exceeding reimbursing me for the gear I already have and upgrades that will become necessary.

Seeing how you are aware of Chicago, the numbers I used for total dollars spent here, to duplicate that at nice 3 star hotel venues way out in the burbs, you can double it. To duplicate the nicer ones I am referring to from here, on Michigan Ave, triple it. So to run the numbers, the nicer ones, say those that are around $18-ishK here, figure $35K-$60K in Chicago depending in location. Where things get out of whack, the costs to equip and produce video here are not half of what they are in Chicago, leaving our pricing disproportionate to that market, percentagewise. Taking the rate you post on your site, here your rate would be about 16% of the total cost of those average $15K weddings I was talking about.

You also state your skills in interviewing and how those interviews are incorporated into your finished product. Let me ask you this. Could you send out one person to a wedding for a charge to the customer of 25% of your full wedding rate to do just interviews for a couple of hours, bring that footage home and build it into a presentable product and keep the same profit ratio as your full wedding ??? In my mind, labor should be far less than 25%, gear requirements have to be way under 25% of that of a full wedding, and editing has to be a snap in comparison too.

Here's where the business school comes into play. You have capacity to produce your product. That capacity is each of your people and the time they have available on days of weddings. Your gear has capacity to be used for filming and audio capture on the days of weddings. Your editor has capacity pretty much limited to hours able to work. Your editing gear's capacity is limited to only number of hours in a day to be running to produce the final product. As an example, if you have people not busy working every day there are weddings, you have excess capacity waiting to be utilized. If you have gear sitting not being utilized on every day there are weddings, you have excess capacity. If your editor is not busy editing every working hour of every workday, you have excess capacity. Business School would teach you, equal all those out to eliminate expenses, or pick up the sales to fill up your capacity which will then increase the profits to pay for the capacity you already do have.

As always Chris is probably right, some of those competitors I found a web presence for, probably are no longer in business. They sure didn't quit though because they were over capacity and just couldn't catch a breath so they could spend all the money they made. Those type businesses you sell, because they have a value for their income potential. Those that are gone, probably are because the numbers I am working with in my theory, are probably a whole lot closer than maybe even I realize.

Because my investment has gone way past hobby level, I need to either "go for it" and make it profitable, or pare back and go back to shooting my friends band for free when I need to have some video fun and a creative release. Anything in between those two, I am going backwards.
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Old August 11th, 2010, 08:00 AM   #11
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It's not the number of marriage licenses that count, but the number of actual ceremonies. On the Clerk of the Court's site for the county I live, both numbers are given. Each of the past two years, the number of actual ceremonies vs. number of licenses issued is only about 1:3, so in Polk County Florida, roughly two thirds of the couples back out. Of course, maybe there is an expiration date for the license and some of the ceremonies are just postponed.

Plus in this economy, some couples who would normally spend more for their weddings are just "going to the courthouse" instead.

Diversification might be a necessity for a lot of videography businesses to survive.
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Last edited by Roger Van Duyn; August 11th, 2010 at 08:03 AM. Reason: left out a word
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Old August 11th, 2010, 08:49 AM   #12
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Hi Roger

Very valid point!! In Australia you don't go and get a marriage license!! You either book a priest for a Church wedding or a Civil Celebrant for a Casual wedding. Either of them are authorised to issue a marriage certificate but you WILL pay something...our Celebrants charge around $400 on average to "officiate" at a wedding whether it's at a top venue or in your back yard. Therefore those who start paying here are usually having a wedding..however big or small ...the next option down is to just live together..no marriage, no wedding ceremony and as a "de-facto" couple you almost have the same rights after 12 months as a married couple!!

Yes, I agree about diversification too. I do Property Reports for a Realtor during the week and also delve into other income producing efforts so when the wedding business is quiet, the other incomes assist!! We are usually quiet between May and September (our Fall/Winter season) so our income often drops a bit then so having a couple of extra outlets is a good idea!! I admittedly don't push wedding business too hard and it accounts for around half my annual income which is the way I want it!! That way IF weddings fell away totally I only lose 50% of my income making survival a lot easier.

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Old August 11th, 2010, 12:41 PM   #13
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Chip, I didn't have the time to read through this whole thread, but I read your first post and it sounds like you are really interested in the business side of weddings... we were in this very zone you are in about a year ago and we ended up attending the IN[FOCUS] conference in January and it changed everything. Our business model, branding, marketing, sales approach, etc... everything has changed. I recommend investing a little money toward this educational conference when it comes to New Orleans in January. It will change your business for the better (personal business growth and industry growth). It costs less than tuition for a college class and it can be written off as an educational business expense at the end of the year (food, plane tickets, lodging, registration fees, etc...).

To scoop up all those extra dollars on the table, one element is "what am I doing that is different and unique". Unfortunately, running any business is similar to making a cake... if you leave one ingredient out, it just doesn't taste right (if your business plan/model isn't awesome, your branding, marketing, etc... will all be for nothing).

I think public registration opens up on Monday August 16th and all the people who went last year have first dibs... so I would sign up as soon as possible. We signed up very last minute last year and it was well worth every penny. Unlike WEVA and other events, you actually get to see ALL the presentations over a 3 day event.

IN[FOCUS]

I'm sorry if this doesn't give you the answer... there are far to many answers (theories) to be given on this topic.
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Old August 11th, 2010, 09:46 PM   #14
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This thread has been great for me, and hope I haven't angered anyone. It is helping me work through the last of my business model/plan and now am on to working on a pricing structure for my market.

Cody, will check it out and see if there is enough offered that is geared to where I am heading. So much of what I have seen of these seminars has been toward product improvement, sales improvement and increasing total sales price. I am taking Philip's analogy and going more toward a Henry Ford and his Model A business model.

Chris, you and I both know that during season, you have no excess capacity on wedding days. Your RE work, you call diversification which it is, but it also is using what I am calling excess capacity as well. You have the time during the week and the gear, which are both under utilized capacity, that you are then taking advantage of. For me, I see that excess capacity being there for wedding days, at least for some time to come.

Roger, I wish you woulda said that for you it was 3 to 1 the other way..... I always like to hear about people who are knockin' 'em dead. :-) You bring up diversification, which for me, weddings are going to be just that. The band promo video market here is pretty dead, which is where I started doing anything video. The initial problem with diversifying, you have to start at square one and learn an entirely new market (clients, competition etc) and possibly a new shooting and editing style too. What I believe I am seeing in my area, is an under utilization of the potential of the existing market (brides) we are already working, to be sold "at least something" video related.
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