It is the business side of the business that most small-business owners struggle with. In this article, part of a series on mastering the stage event market, I will discuss marketing and sales techniques designed to increase your annual sales and repeat business. Before we get started, let’s develop a simple measurement rubric for growth. Business success as we just defined it refers to easily quantified numbers and results, a fact often overlooked when we emphasize the effort put in rather than the results achieved.
- Step 1 is to write down your total annual sales and break the sales into markets (I use dance recitals, sporting events, conferences, corporate, wedding, and other). This sets your reference level based on past performance.
- Step 2 is to set a sales goal for each of those markets. Every year I pick one or two markets that I want to grow, and I concentrate my marketing efforts on activities targeting these markets.
- Step 3 is to estimate the amount of work you would produce in each market if you didn’t do any new marketing. This measures your level of repeat business and marketing equity. The higher this number is as a percentage of your sales goal, the healthier your business.
- Step 4 is to determine your marketing gap—the difference between your sales goal and the repeat and new business you have already secured. At the end of the day it all comes down to Step 5, which is to compare your net profits year over year.
Bridging your marketing gap does not have to be complicated. For the stage event market, the process is much more direct than in the corporate market, where there can be several decision makers spread over multiple departments. Most stage event markets are line organizations, where the owner is the primary decision maker and sole point of contact. The purpose of your marketing efforts is to increase sales, and research shows that the more marketing impressions a decision maker receives, the more likely he or she is to make a decision to act.
In any market, print ads on their own are not likely to deliver cost-effective results. However, when incorporated into a comprehensive marketing strategy, they can be a great foundation around which to build your marketing efforts. I’ve found in the dance recital market that the best way to lay down this marketing foundation is to advertise in the dance competition programs. Dancers, their parents, coaches, and, most importantly, the studio owners spend entire weekends at competition locations with their every move dictated by their event programs. Placing a large ad in a small program or a series of smaller ads in a larger program is sure to get noticed when the decision makers (dance studio owners) and their influence groups (students, parents, and coaches) are all together and focused on dance and preparations for their year-end dance recitals. Costs can vary, but they are often only there to recover the printing costs at nonprofit competitions that are staffed by volunteers and paid for by the competitors. Pricing in my market for a full-page ad starts at only $35—just don’t tell my local competition.
The purpose of your print ads is not to get the decision makers to immediately hire you. Their purpose is to warm those decision makers to the idea of reviewing their current video providers and to position yourself as the solution to the needs you are about to uncover. After your print ad appears, get a list of the dance schools that participated in the competition (they often are listed in the program). Check out their websites, and, for each one, find out the studio owner’s name and email address and the date of the school’s recital. If you are available on that date, send them an email introducing yourself, remind them of your ad in the program, mention a few key features and benefits of your services, and tell them you are available on their recital date and are interested in being their dance recital video provider.
Follow up the email in 2 days with a phone call (afternoons/evenings are best with studio owners), making reference to your ad and email and asking them if you can do a review of their video services. I like to ask an open-ended question such as, "What was your videography experience like last year?" This establishes what is important for them in areas to continue and areas to improve. Probe further with, "What would you like to see improved for this year?" Then summarize your review with them, ask them if they agree with your summary, and then tell them how you plan to meet their needs, by continuing to do what they like and by making improvements to what they don’t. At this point you can move to the next step, which is to meet with them, show them your work, discuss pricing, and reach an agreement to become their video production company for the recital season ahead.
Shawn Lam, MPV (video at shawnlam.ca) runs Shawn Lam Video, a Vancouver video production studio. He specializes in stage event and corporate video production has presented seminars on stage event video and business at WEVA Expo 2005–2007 and the 4EVER Group’s Video 07. He received an Emerald Artistic Achievement Award in Stage Production at the 4EVER Group's Video 08.