Weddings and other personal events tend to happen on weekends, which hardly sounds like a formula for business success. Any CPA would strongly discourage you from entering this industry because your extreme investment in talent and equipment is saleable only two out of every seven days of the week. This is really the root of the problem and beyond our power to change. But how we deal with this challenge is something we can change.
As individual videographers, we typically can do only one wedding per day. If we book a $2,000 wedding for a Saturday, then that is it. The secret is to maximize each job and to turn that $2,000 booking into $4,000, and then a $6,000 wedding video. In order to do this, you must offer and sell more products. This will fill up the wedding day and have you earning that additional $4,000 on the weekdays before and after the wedding.
Too few of us know how to do this. Our industry's mortal enemy is ignorance. There's ignorance reflected in the type of products we can offer and ignorance in the quality of those products. Three groups of people suffer from this ignorance: our potential clients, other wedding professionals, and our fellow videographers.
As videographers, we must address this ignorance by becoming professors who teach "How to Preserve your Wedding 101." Our students (the brides) have never planned a wedding before, and in many cases they're relying on their mothers, who planned one wedding 25+ years ago without video. Their knowledge of what we can do for them is extremely limited.
When the average bride contacts you for the first time, she is aware of only a handful of products: the photo montage, wedding, dinner, reception, and maybe one more. She has placed a preconceived value on these products as well. In one sitting, it is difficult to get her to double or triple this. Just like a professor breaks a course down into multiple classes, we must commit to multiple educational sessions as well.
The average American must have three contacts with a company or a product before choosing to purchase. Don't be discouraged if the first time you bring up a premium product, the client does not buy it or even show interest. If you handle the sale properly, you'll have chances to sell this product down the road.
In your initial meeting with your client, show everything you offer that relates to the wedding day. This way you'll begin combining her preconceived ideas with the new products you have offered her. Get as many people as possible who are involved in the buying decision to be at this initial meeting. Otherwise, you are much more likely to lose the sale or additional sales of other products. When the bride goes home and tries to explain to her father what a bridal elegance video is and why she wants one, her father will probably say no because of his ignorance to the product and her limited explanation. I will send a copy of this detailed demo home with the bride if I suspect that there are others who should see it. However, this method is not nearly as effective as an online demo, because when they watch it at home their questions go unanswered.
In the initial meeting, I play shortened versions of all 35 wedding products that I offer. I give the bride a clipboard with a blank sheet of paper and ask her to write down each product and mark it as a "must-have," a "would-like," or a "no." I then leave the clients alone to watch and return at the end to check their notes. At one time I had a preprinted sheet with a beautiful video print of each product, along with its name and description. I also had a box for yes, maybe, and no. But I found this approach nowhere near as successful as a blank sheet of paper. By forcing the bride to write it down, I helped her to commit it to memory and challenged her to pay more attention. The preprinted sheet was beautiful, but too simple. It failed as educational material, because the bride did not retain the information.
I so often hear at trade seminars "If you want to make more money, just raise your prices!" I find it's not that simple. In smaller markets especially, this can result in fewer sales and less revenue. Instead, increase your average sale by offering more. You also can compete against the guy down the road by having similar prices on the expected products and charging a premium price for your other unique offerings.
In order to become a full-time business, move your business out of your home and into a professional storefront location, and grow enough to have employees. You must use your talents and assets more effectively and maximize the total sale for every weekend wedding by selling additional products that will keep you busy—and profitable—during the week. If you don't offer it, you can't sell it.
In future columns we will go over the other, more advanced classes which you must teach—"How to Preserve your Wedding 201, 301, 401, and 501." In the meantime, good luck new professors!
Mike Nelson, owner of Salt Lake City-based Remember When Videos, is a WEVA MPV-certified videographer, author of multiple training DVDs including Bridal Elegance and 40 Creative Wedding Ideas, a two-time EventDV 25 honoree, and founder and past president of the Utah Professional Videographers Association.<.i>