In 2002, at our first wedding show, my business partner and I put all our marketing eggs, and budget, into this one 3-day effort. By the end of the weekend more than 2,000 brides had come to our booth, watched our demo, asked questions, and taken our pricing brochure. We figured our total cost—including a free wedding video prize, the cost of the booth, marketing materials, and decorations—at more than $10,000. After all that effort we booked only 10 jobs directly from the show.
Our initial goal in attending the show was to target brides with higher budgets so we could charge more than the $2,500 we were already averaging. We did raise our average to $3,500 per wedding video after that event, but when you factored in the $1,000 cost of acquisition per customer and the fact that we were selling bigger packages, it meant that were making less money than the previous year and working harder, too.
I realized that I was spending too much time and money marketing to wedding clients with disappointing results when the other areas of my video business were generating more and more income, with less effort and expense, and often resulted in repeat business and more referrals. At that point I vowed to leave the wedding video market and grow my business through referrals, website leads, and repeat business. These three business-generating systems now account for over 90% of my sales, and my entire annual marketing budget is under $1,000. I like to call this my V-Myth System, with due credit to Michael Gerber, whose E-Myth taught me to spend more time working on my business and less time working in it.
Initially I thought I would get most of my referrals from photographers and catering managers, but they actually come more often from fellow videographers. Most come from BCPVA members when they get requests for video work that they do not perform, like corporate or dance recitals. The best way I have found for getting referrals is to be visible with my work and the markets I service.
Getting leads from your website does not have to be complicated, and can be a great source of new work. The first step in developing a lead-generating website is to understand how Google Page Rank (PR) works. There are entire articles online that you can Google (and you should), but what it comes down to is that Google is currently the king of the search engines and it assigns a numerical rank to every page it indexes on a scale of 0–10. The higher your number, the higher up on the search engine rankings you will be for the keywords that are found in your webpages. In order to see a webpage’s PR you need to download Google Toolbar (a free download). Then increase this ranking by performing search engine optimization (SEO). This involves increasing your popularity (traffic), number of links in (from relevant high-PR sites), and writing your content so it includes your search terms as often as reasonable (including your webpage titles and image file names).
Managing your relationships with your prospects and clients is critically important. Customer Relations Management (CRM) is often overlooked by most small businesses, videographers included. One of the biggest challenges is that CRM software can be complicated and expensive and there traditionally have not been many options for out-of-the-box solutions for small businesses that integrate with both your email and accounting programs. I used to use a paper filing system but recently shifted to a software solution called Prophet 4.0 that integrates with Outlook. Having a CRM solution allows me to track all my leads through the sales pipeline by creating new opportunities. I then link all my emails, appointments, notes from phone calls, and proposals with that opportunity. At any point in the sales process I can review my communication and set reminders for following up with the client. I have a more complete picture of my contacts with my clients and I don’t allow leads to become stale from lack of follow-up. At any time I can generate reports to see all my active prospects, track what stage in the process they are at, and track their lead source. Knowing where your business is coming from is critical; it tells you which marketing vehicles are working and which aren’t.
The last part of the V-Myth system is to retain your clients, which is much easier than getting new clients. Delivering great work on budget is key with any business, but businesses fail because they don’t follow up and ask for repeat work. Just because a project is complete doesn’t mean that client is out of the market for video—they always have a next project, and the better of a job you do at your last video, the more important video will become in their business. Regular contact with your clients doesn’t necessarily mean you need to call them every other day, but checking in with them once every three months will do wonders to keeping you top of mind.
Shawn Lam is an MPV-accredited videographer and business owner based in Vancouver, BC. He specializes in stage event and corporate video production, and has presented seminars on stage event video and business at WEVA Expo 2005-7 and the 4EVER Group's Video 07.