Tiffany is often used as an example of a high-end company. Yes, Tiffany has a high-end image, but the company has been careful not to alienate the middle-class consumer. They have something for everyone. Leave the über-rich for Harry Winston. For everyone else who wants something beautiful, and of true quality, Tiffany offers an affordable range of products.
In event filmmaking, there is only room for a few Harry Winstons. That’s not to say it can’t be done. But there are only so many ultra-high-end brides to go around.
That said, there is a huge population of brides to be found and profit to be made in the mid-range market, and there’s no shame in it. The term high-end is thrown around nowadays like it’s the be-all and end-all to creating a successful business. Well, that is just not the case.
Let me share some personal information as an example of what I’m talking about. My husband Steve and I, with two small children, went full-time (that’s both of us with no additional income other than video) in 1988. Our target market: the middle-class bride.
That market put us where we are today: nice, paid-off house; retirement funds in the bank; and a daughter away at a university. We accomplished this despite annual medical expenses of $20,000, starting in 1992 when our sixyear- old son was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Fortunately the cancer was cured, but the expenses continued due to side effects of his treatment.
Our business flourished, even during the recession of the early ’90s, because we dealt in volume. And where did we find the largest pool of clients? You guessed it—the middle-class. And we were a profitable business because we provided a quality product relative to the price being paid.
With the advent of NLEs, our product took a quantum leap in artistry, which led to triple the editing hours for the same billing. A decision had to be made: charge more or provide less. We did both by creating exclusive packages for the higher-end bride and then limiting what we provide in our budget packages.
Our focus is now on the high-end bride; as a result we have lost some of our middle-class clientele. Booking with us now means they are getting our smallest package, which some brides don’t like. We’re in a position now where we don’t have to work every weekend, but we never would have made it to this point if we hadn’t started with the high-volume approach.
The first step in establishing a successful, volume-based business is to identify your target market and create a package for that client. This will be your primary package, the one you want to book most.
Offer at least three packages and place your primary package in the middle, with the most expensive package at the top. The average bride will not want the cheapest package but often can’t justify purchasing the most expensive. Also, it’s important to have a package that is more expensive than your primary package so as not to exclude clients who are looking for a more expansive product. When deciding on a price for your packages, remember, clients are not paying for your equipment and shooting time; they are paying for your ability, expertise, dependability, and the good name of your company.
Next, never shoot a wedding and reception with more than one camera. Okay, now I’ve got your attention!
There is only one exception to this rule and that’s if the customer is willing to pay for additional cameras. In other words, don’t give yourself away. Which leads us to the three biggest myths about wedding videography:
Myth #1: You can’t do a good job with one camera. Absolutely untrue. A talented camera operator and editor can create a beautiful wedding film with one camera. We have over 1,000 brides who will attest to this.
Myth #2: With one-camera coverage, something crucial could be missed. Well, this actually is true, but it’s not only true of single-camera productions. The same applies with four-camera coverage. There is always the risk that something may be missed, which is why it’s crucial to have a contract that takes this into account.
Myth #3: Wedding videos should look like a major motion picture. Wedding videos should only look like a big-budget movie when clients are willing to pay for one. The bottom line is that something’s gotta give if clients are not willing to pay top dollar. If you keep giving to your clients simply because you have those extra cameras and that powerful NLE, you will dig yourself an editing hole so deep you’ll never get out, and your hourly wage will serve to rival no one but the neighborhood babysitter.
I find it interesting that we talk to so many brides who say they just want basic documentary-type coverage. Truth be told, many middle-class brides truly can’t afford an elaborate production but would be thrilled to have a professional documentation of their day.
These brides are the multitude waiting to be served, and we need to serve them in a way that’s profitable for us. As a family heirloom, a no-frills, quality documentary wedding film will have as much value as the most elaborate cinematic wedding movie, because history is timeless and never goes out of style.
Laura Moses is half of Vantage Point Productions of San Dimas, California. She and her husband, Steve, are winners of multiple international awards and were selected to the 2006 EventDV 25.