Saturday, November 22, 2008

Be True to Your Schools

There is money to be made, and business galore in school band, and other events, production services. I know a lot of video producers are going after this market, and aggressively, but that doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a piece for yourself.
Before I get to the elements of what has worked for me in this market, I want to say a few things about what you will be facing - primarily “The Competition.” Believe me, it’s out there, and if you don’t have enough gumption to take on your competition toe-to-toe, you will be wishing you could get into school band and event business for the rest of your independent business career.
Get a jump on the competition and have activity directors, event sponsors, coaches and band directors swinging the doors open wide for your unique, affordable and quality video production services. Every day creates a new opportunity for squeezing through doors that once appeared closed to your knocks. Be persistent. If you simply give up and go away, they will forget you - just at the moment when a reminder might have come at the right time.
I have to go again with my way of doing this, using simplicity, economy of effort and affordability. There are certainly more complex and profit generating ways to approach school event, band and sports productions, but you can earn appreciation, loyalty and money by making things easy for your clients, and for yourself.
Later in this article I will give you a link to reasonably priced materials, resources and information from one of the most successful event production professionals I know. But first I will share my way, using simplicity, economy of effort and affordability.
I have had the pleasure of producing flag drill competitions, cheer leading competitions, football games, homecoming week events, marching band, school orchestra and swing band events, choral presentations and more just by simplifying the production, sales and delivery process.
There are many in our services community who ask for, and receive top dollar for high perceived quality of service and productions. They may, or not, have little competition, great client loyalty and enjoy an ongoing seasonal connection with their area schools. This has a lot to do not only with loyalty from the band director, coach or activities director, even leaders of the various support groups behind funding and activities for all these school events, but with the persistence of quality, or not, by their video services provider.
I have to tell you that loyalty does not count in the reality of this business. You might even thing that is BS, and have apparent client loyalty in some respect, but do not trip, or become overconfident because there’s always someone waiting and watching.
It is my experience that all but the most firmly entrenched area school events video service providers can be dislodged from their comfort zones. How is that? Because after a couple of years working for a group, independent professional video service providers tend to become complacent, or downright lazy, even too greedy, reducing the initial personal service, fast turnarounds and bumping up prices year after year. These people, I am sorry to say, are ripe for knocking out of the equation.
A bad attitude to have about your fellow video producer, right? Well, not really. I mean this is a competitive, aggressive (if you want to survive) and dynamic business environment. All business is this way. The strong survive by being aggressive: there are ethical and non-ethical ways of doing this.
Some focus on cutting the competition off at the knees by any hook or crook. Others actually do the same thing, but maybe sleep a bit better at night, because they perform cutthroat operations via pricing, quality service and products, strong marketing skills and developing inside connections.
It is one thing to say negative things about your competition in an effort to denigrate them, tell stories that may, or not, be absolutely true, or even do work for another production company as its representative, then operating from your new “prospective” client list, go behind your former resource’s back in an attempt to “steal” from their client list.
Whatever it takes, is not always a valid response. But, if you do have a quality product, if you do have the tools and experience for creating these videos, if you can provide reasonably fast turnaround (even instant gratification, using the Bob Anderson approach - link coming up soon), if you are attentive to your current, and new, or prospective clients, listen to their needs, their complaints, often put up with a bit of their BS, then you have the right to do “whatever it takes” to gain that business.
I have won, and lost, serious band production business simply because of massive equipment failure. Although I managed to generate an “acceptable” product, delivered the number of ordered copies at “no charge” wrote apology letters to each and every parent/student, and let the band department keep the proceeds, they went with someone else the next season.
Another producer was on the spot, making promises and guarantees based on what I failed to deliver, based on my bad luck, and talked my clients away. It happens. More power to him.
Two years later I asked the same band director for another shot, saying I was willing to shoot the event for free, if he was not obligated by contract to restrict access, and provide him with a fully produced copy. I told him I was willing to put my production up against the competitions, and if the director thought mine was better quality, I’d provide copies for all customers purchasing the other guy’s video, at no charge. His people were going to get “twofers!”
I got the go, took second choice positions (only fair to the other guy) and we stopped paying attention to them and started doing our own thing. Maybe I shook up the competition. Sorry, I was willing to commit in order to make a comeback, and if he couldn’t stand the heat. The band director made his choice, subjective I am sure, but it was for me. Two years after catching me in a bad set of circumstances, I returned the favor and got my client back.

Ok, how do you get in those doors in the first place. If you have read any of my other articles you know how strongly I believe in direct mail marketing, aggressive followup strategies, and maintaining connections.
Getting area school band business is no different. I do my research and get current names, correct addresses and phone numbers. In Southern California it is as simple as doing a Google search - most schools and districts in my service area now have web sites, and if not, there are a number of general listings compiled by others who make this information available on the web.
You should be able to do the same thing no matter where you live and operate your video business.
After I do my research, make calls to the school office to verify the name, and spelling, of the people I want to contact - the band director, activities director and booster club president, if possible. I prepare my letter - one page, to the point. I also have, or can develop, any number of sample DVDs representing some or all of the school events my company has produced over the years. I am in the process of creating a fresh, new sample now, portions soon to be posted on my web sites. All that is currently a work in progress, targeting completion during January 2009.

Dear (name goes here)

Have your next (name of school band performance) professionally videotaped, edited and produced with current digital technology, delivered in less than four weeks, at NO CHARGE to your school or booster club.
My company has more than 15 year’s experience in producing high school events. See the enclosed sample DVD, and go the chapter on (marching, orchestra, ensemble band, drum corp) productions. I am willing to give you a get acquainted opportunity that will create a win-win situation. You, your school, your band students and their parents and friends will receive a professionally packaged and produced performance production and pay not one dime for its production.
Our regular production agreement for a band performance or event of up to two hours is that presales are held, offering copies of this professionally produced keepsake at $25. The regular production agreement only requires a minimum of 20 sales to guarantee production and delivery of the product. We can certainly deliver more, but they only have to presale 20 to get the production.
As a “Get Acquainted” special, my company will provide the same services and no minimum. Yes, invite us to attend and we will videotape, edit and produce your band performance of up to two hours, resulting in a DVD of two hours or less. We will do this if we sell one, none or a hundred. There will be no further obligation.
Give me a call, or e-mail today to arrange for this special get acquainted offer. Even if you currently have a qualified video services provider, you deserve an affordable opportunity to discover the alternatives.
Call today!
We would LOVE to work with you!

You might want to make a different approach, but I have to tell you that in my service area this letter has generated virtually 99 percent response. We win a few, lose a few, and nearly always hear from them all sooner or later.
Because I follow up with another letter(s), email(s) and phone calls a few times each school year. I research and keep my contact list of names current and accurate. I remain aggressive, and whenever I create a new DVD, I start the process all over again for new school bands, and those who have not taken advantage of the offer. YET!

Always two cameras and two operators, be it marching band, or other orchestra or band event. Always. We arrange to shoot live performances of dress rehearsals when held, giving us an opportunity to freely move about the various routines, getting close up shots, and unique perspectives not always possible during competition or half-time performances.
We set up two cameras on tripod, sometimes with the closer unit hand-held for other unique POVs. The other camera is usually always either on the director’s platform, or a good placement in the bleachers. We alternate angles and shots with the closer camera doing closeups and medium shots, the distant camera shooting wide and medium. Both follow the action.
Halftime performances are almost always shot with one camera in the stands and the other on the director’s platform. I have a video shooter’s ladder I use in cases where I can be along the sideline, but cannot access the platform.
We use the wide-to-medium shots from the stands as our base, and cut the secondary camera closeups, etc. into the mix. I place several Zoom H2 recorders where I think they will best provide backup auxiliary audio. I haven’t always done this, and I don’t always use these recordings, going instead with audio collected through the on-camera mics. Whatever it takes to get the best depth of audio, and control crowd noise/ambient if any, sound.
The DVDs are packaged in clear plastic library cases with custom color graphic inserts, DVDs printed with same, and contain chaptered (where needed) selections of the performance(s).
We almost always deliver in four weeks or less.
Bob Anderson, on the other hand, offers not only finished full productions at a premium price, but individual performance DVDs on location during a highly involved production process that he has honed to a fine edge.
Get the best information possible on how to increase sales by offering more complext productions and instant onsite sales by going to Start a More Profitable Event Video Business Today - Oak Tree Press, $77.00 plus $4.50 S&H.

No comments: