Thursday, August 27, 2009

Marketing Video to Schools

September 2009 is upon us. Already students in many districts have returned to school - some love it, others hate it, but by next week all will be back in the groove. This includes administration, staff, students and parental support groups.

It also means that NOW is the time to promote your video production services to grade, middle and high schools. Google is a great place to begin your research, both for the schools located in your service area, and the names of those whom you need to reach regarding video production services that will do something for them, their special interests, or school programs.

And their students, their schools, the parents and various support groups involved. Think PTA and related associations, flag, football, band, choral, dance, drama, grad night, graduation and the many other fund-raising and organizing booster or student-body structures. These groups focus on fund-raising and other beneficial academic, sports, social and other extra-curricular activities INCLUDING VIDEO that contribute to their events, students and goals.

That being said, it is NOT too late to put together a one-page direct-mail letter, basic postcard and/or even a relative specific or general-purpose demo DVD and get these marketing tools into the hands of the people who matter at your area schools.

This is, of course, if you are interested in diversifying and/or expanding your focus beyond a singular video production interest - wedding video, for instance. Nothing wrong with, provided you are free to offer services beyond Saturdays and Sundays, or holidays, introducing your business to a highly lucrative second-tier profit structure.

• Start with a one-page letter addressed to a specific department and individual:
Patric Stwewart, activities director, Spamburger High School; Coach Ted Patterson, SHS Athletic Dept.; Ima Twitter, Drama & Dance Dept., SHS. And so forth.

• Be specific in your offer, not general: Dear Ima, My Video Company specializes in productions of high school drama, dance and choral performances of two hours or less, offering opportunities for the parent support group to raise funds, or utilizing direct sales to parents, resulting in no cost to you or the school for professional video production services.

Give them a price range, in one or two sentences outline your approach to "fund-raising" or "direct sales" opportunities. ALWAYS find a way to make it obvious what's in it for them, their benefits and opportunities.

Sure, it's all about wanting their business and making money for your production company, but find a way to make the benefits to THEM sparkle like a diamond.

• Follow up with a postcard, either one of your own creation and design using decent quality card stock and a decent quality color printer; or check out a professional service like America's Printer where you can get unbelievable service and product quality for great prices and fast turnarounds.

Tell America's Printer you got their name from this blog. It might count for nothing. They might slam the door in your face, just kidding. Or, who knows, maybe they'll toss in something extra. No guarantees, but it doesn't hurt to name drop.

There are many other professional print sources but I have had personal satisfied service and quality products from America's Printer. You can find a host of other on-line, or location print services offering competitive quality and professional product in the back of pretty much any computer, video, photography or writer's publication on the magazine racks. Or, do a Google search for postcard, brochure or promotional printing services.

Your direct-mail post card should be short and sweet. Don't cram a bunch of copy on that two-sided space with the thought you HAVE to say it all. Simple, straight and to the point. For example...

Provide your choral department, students, their friends and family with professional video production of your school year productions.

An introductory price of 20 orders @ $25 will get you professional video production and DVDs for performances of two hours or less at no further cost to you, the drama department, or your school.

Check us out as (not a real URL, to my knowledge) for more information, or call today (phone number here).

• Follow the one-page direct marketing letter, and the postcard with another short and sweet cover letter accompanied by your short specific, or general interest demo DVD.

If you do not yet have school event coverage you can use for this, then skip the demo DVD until you do, or until you identify resources that will allow you to provide representative examples of the coverage and production values you are capable of giving them. Always, however, be honest and up front regarding whether the samples provided are YOURS, or "representative" of what you are capable of delivering.

DO NOT offer up a wedding demo DVD or production sample in an effort to represent your production and editing capabilities, or product quality. If the market you are approaching is not a bride-to-be, or interested in wedding video production services, they WILL NOT make the link to production quality - only the huge gap between their potential video interest and your wedding sample will stand out.

Kiss THAT one bye-bye. Next!

It is important to go beyond a one-shot approach. Multiple direct-mail tools used over a six-week, or more, period of time are effective. A one-page letter, received but perhaps not even read or kept on file, will not make for success in acquiring money-making gigs.

Repetition, visibility and linkage, name recognition are important elements of a successful and effective marketing strategy. Only a consistent presentation of video ideas and services, combined with reasonable prices and an offer they cannot refuse (a get-acquainted special, for example) will get a foot in the door. Raise your target market's awareness level, and keep it high, by using a multiple-times campaign approach. You will eventually get their attention and gain valid name recognition.

Oh, and money-making gigs as well.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! ©2009 Earl Chessher

Friday, August 07, 2009

What’s in it for ME!

What’s in it for me? People in the wedding and event industry might not come right out and say it, but this is the thought running through their collective minds whenever some video producer or photographer whom they have never before met calls them up with an invitation to lunch.

Yeah, such an approach can work. I have heard numerous people in "the business" claim that THIS is the way to start relationships with other wedding and event vendors. "Buy them lunch." "Wine and dine them." "Offer them a piece of the action." Really preposterous when you consider how blatantly obvious that is. Might as well ask: "Can I get into your pants?"

All these people KNOW what YOU want from THEM. But have you ever given serious consideration to the question they WANT to ask, and sometimes do? "What's in it for me?" Certainly not a free lunch once a month, undying friendship, constant calls, e-mails, announced or unannounced visits. Fake handshakes, smiles and personalities that the video producer tries to make real.

Let me ask YOU a question, if you dine out frequently enough. Can you tell when your server, or the greeter is seriously glad to see, seat and serve you? Are you able to see through the ones who might really try, but still come off with fake smiles, lackluster enthusiasm, over-the-top fake friendliness? Sure you are...
...most of the time anyway.

Well vendors are no different. If any of them have been in the business for very long they've been hit and bit by virtually every approach, come on, gimmick and free lunch you can imagine. They can see you coming from a mile away, and know by how you're gearing up the body language: "Ah, no, they think, another offer for free lunch, conversation requiring time I do not have or want to spend, thinking I'll throw business their way for a $15 salad."

All but most hardened of them will be turned off by your blatant effort to "get into their pants." There are a select few who will take you for all the free lunches they can get, accept all the under- (or over-) the-table kickbacks or bribes they can get, and still string you along on a one-note dance while giving you nothing in return. Well, maybe the occasional carrot.

It is going to take you a lot longer and a lot more than the time and money to provide a couple of free lunches before you will convince these people of any level of sincerity, of any degree of experience or professionalism.

So, you might ask. What CAN I do, how CAN I establish solid, fruitful, productive, reciprocal professional relationships with people in the business? How, what can I do to earn their favor, their referrals, perhaps eventually even some level of trust and friendship?

The professionals will tell you to buy lunches, press the flesh, get a foot in the door, show high quality production work commiserate with the level of the industry service with whom you are attempting to establish a relationship. They argue that once these people "really" get to know you, see you you work, view the awe-inspiring quality of your wedding video production they will WANT, even beg you to work their venue, exchange referrals, etc. because you are so good you'll make THEM look good.

Dream on.

You establish GREAT wedding and event industry service provider relationships by immediately answering the question in their minds: "What's in it for me?" You do this by giving them something personally, professionally and career-enhancing worth their while! What might that be?

Let me start by pointing out that we're all human. We all want something for nothing, or for as little effort as possible. That is why the independent professional wedding and event video services providers in this business all fight over the 22% wedge of the bridal pie that contains people "friendly" to video, who WANT video provided they can afford it, or be overwhelmed by the quality of production of the person/company offering video. Video producers battle each other over clients who WANT video instead of figuring out how to win over some of the 80% of the bridal market that really doesn't think video is all that.

The same in our approach to establishing GREAT vendor relationships. We'd all like for this to be as easy as a couple of free lunches, and of course our charismatic and glowing personalities.

Dream on.

So, you give them something of value. You're a video producer. Find out what their video related needs might be. Do they have a professionally produced and recently updated demo video? Do they need professionally produced clips of their service, business or venue for their web site? Would they like to have a quality production that can be used for handouts at the bridal shows they frequent, or business card videos they can incorporate into their direct mail marketing strategies?

Yes, those needs exist! A LOT of people in this industry have the misconception of independent professional wedding and event video services providers; that we might be accomplished, even creative and with a bragging wall full of production awards, but that when it comes to advertising and marketing video production they need a "real" professional.

While there are venues in some areas that video producers would "die for" or spend a bunch of money to be on the list (one company in New York comes to mind, spending several thousand for a place of honor on the venue's referral list) there are thousands of others that might be a bit more humble, and receptive to your video production capabilities.

These venues, services, etc. would react positively to participating in a production that they can use to promote their wedding and event business. This helps you how?

All you ask is that they accept the production upon approval of its perceived value and quality, of course; accept your promotional poster, counter display and graphically interesting DVDs and willingly and freely distribute them to their potential clients; and that they accept your wedding and event demo DVD sampler that is included on the DVD video marketing tool you have provided them.

Update these demos when you need to, or when the vendor requests it. Visit them, e-mail or call to make sure they haven't run out of DVDs, or to address problems or issues that might have come up. Convince the people with whom you have established a solid and new relationship that you are as interested in providing them with a value and service in return for their cooperation, referrals and good will as you hope they are.

Service them, but do not pester them. Show them what a REAL professional can be. The cooperative arrangement you've made by showing what is in it for them will bear fruit.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009, Earl Chessher

Monday, August 03, 2009

More Than A Business Card!

Business cards are certainly effective, affordable and convenient. So are brochures and fliers and posting on Twitter and Facebook about your business, services, products and successes.

But sample and demo DVDs are even better, more effective and certainly worth the time, energy and money to put together, keeping a pile of them in clam shell cases so your quality graphics show through, and being prepared at all times to hand them out just as you now do with your business cards. YOU ARE doing this with your business cards, right?

Quality DVD samples have a sustained shelf life, are easily revised in a relatively short time, and the production costs can be kept down by printing and burning them as needed. Those of you who do not have the graphics skills or printing resources can always justify the value in having a company like DiscMakers do 3-color or full-color printing on blanks for a very reasonable rate. You can keep these in stock and burn what you need as you need, knowing the graphics quality will make your demo a standout marketing tool.

Demo dvds are not like business cards, where changes in address, e-mail, web site, location, partners, etc., or those godawful untimely changes in area codes, can cost you as you dump the thousand cards you JUST had printed last week because you HAVE to update information; same for brochures and fliers. The advantage is being able to generate what you need a few at a time as needed, without breaking the bank or trying to find a place to store a thousand or more commercially created disks. Also, you can control the information, the look, the revisions, the distribution and contents without having to worry about commercial production company turnaround times, rules and/or production restrictions, over- or under-run fees, etc.

The BEST thing you can do with your free time this month is to create a broad-range demo featuring any kind of productions you have done, from weddings to graduations and celebratory parties, to birthday, anniversary or retirement and more, burn it to DVD, make a few and keep them handy. Hand them out with the same abandon you distribute your business cards. Though more expensive per handout, chances are you will be in awe of the response levels and the extended shelf life as people receiving them realize and perceive your demo is worth hanging on to or sharing with others.

Plus, demo DVDs do not become wrinkled and crinkled, accidentally washed in the machine, or tossed into wastebaskets as readily.

Demo DVD business cards in clam shell cases with quality graphics and meaningful, chaptered, selective content. Effective! Go for it! Remember: If you market, you will make it! © 2009 Earl Chessher