Sunday, June 14, 2009

Outshining the Competition

There are six basic ways to set yourself apart from the competition. Five basic ways to establish yourself, your business and brand in a prominent position in your career as an independent professional video services provider.

1.) Price competition
2.) Price competition (not a typo, or a mistake - read on)
3.) Production value
4.) Branding
5.) Delivery
6.) Packaging and presentation

Additionally, there are four basic elements that effect a positive influence on your potential clients, referrals, past and renewable customers and the millions of eyeballs you strive to reach daily.

1.) Personality
2.) People
3.) Price
4.) Product

Additionally, there is one basic rule of thumb in successfully establishing your business, yourself and your brand.


While the captions may be similar, there's a vast difference between each. Each is also, however, directly related and intimately linked to the base concept of the other, and all are crucial to your overall success - in high times as well as periods of economic distress.


You have a unique style, a unique product, a unique personality, and a creative expression that is by and large recognizably different from, if not superior to, the works of your competition.

Therefore you charge more, expect more and receive more from your client base than the average and below independent professional video services provider. You can do this because you have taken the time to develop a unique style, a front-running, trend-setting approach that is original, unique, exceptional and readily identifiable.

Like testing dark colas - you are able to recognize the difference between Pepsi or Coke, and colas 1, 3, 5 or 7. It can be discerned. And you command a premium for your highly sought creations.

Price competition of the highest order.


You have a quality product with good-to-great audio, solid shooting, excellent coverage and professional standards that cannot be impeached. Your pricing is fair for what you deliver...
...the "meat and potatoes" if you will, of documentary style, un-embellished production work - stable, consistent color, discernible audio quality and solid coverage.

And, you are "affordable" - reasonably priced in a range that the average client can afford with a little budget bending. You do not give it away, but at the same time you are not placed in a category by the seeking public consumer that makes you a cheat.

While affordable you are not cheap by definition. You do, however, study your immediate competition and attempt to establish quality, services and pricing that under most circumstances will edge the competition out = set you and your business apart.


I only listed it twice, but there is a third and viable approach to competing by price. I know a person in the industry who refers to this category as "scum sucking bottom feeders" but that label is not necessarily accurate in the reality of things.

Some quite confidently have found an underserved market - the low/no budget client - and have honed their acquisitions and productions to a fine line, doing what is necessary and ONLY what is necessary to put out an acceptable product that is cheap, fast and good.

Along with any of the three pricing structures, early delivery will enhance the renewable business, encourage the referrals and enhance perceived value. The possible exception being, as many in the higher pricing bracket have noted, that people who pay more might actually expect, or be willing to wait longer for delivery. The concept being that of a good wine or cheese - it takes time to refine a high quality product.

In my personal opinion, many often use the above as an excuse for delaying work on a product that should and could have been finished much earlier; their way of denying a lackadaisical work ethic. True or no, the longer it takes to deliver any video product, the more opportunity for misunderstandings and hard feelings to get in the way of the results. This usually adds up to negative marketing value for you and your business.


Multiple cameras, multiple operators, multiple points-of-view (POVs), redundant audio backup and resources, consistent audio levels, color correction, white balancing, solid shooting techniques and great framing are all important ingredients of high production value.

A second tier to this is the creative content: unique angles, exceptionally intimate and poignant shots, high emotional quotient, special moves using any of a number of available camera stabilization systems at a broad range of prices and functionality.

A third tier is treatments, special effects, etc. and knowing when to use them, and when to let the visuals and audio stand on their own merits. This tier is most successful when used minimally and when the artist has practiced and studied the applications and learned how to use them to the best effect, or not.

Production value often is taken to mean an over-application of too many production elements that result in a work that is too far out there for all but the most open-minded client. Too many in our industry think with color, weird intros and exits, over-done blown-out shots, flares, and more the way early industry video producers used to fight camera shake - "strobe it!"

All too often, too many think they are fooling their clients and their contemporaries when they over-apply color, black-and-white, slow motion or other effects in an effort to cover up mistakes. They do this when back up footage, carefully acquired cutaways an B-roll footage, and solid editing capabilities would serve them better so far as creating a video representing high production value.

On the one hand the right production value will further set you apart from your competition while the wrong concept of what represents production value will also set you apart - but in a negative sense.


Set your values high. Generate visibility and linkage everywhere that identifies your product, your name, your chosen or elected image or logo. Use it in your packaging, on your stationery, your post cards and direct mail pieces, your web site.

Be consistent and persistent in presenting your brand. Continuity of use is important. This is why so many of your major brands are variations of their original visual elements - updated to keep with the the times, for sure, but retaining much of the identifiers that are so valuable to the brand now.

Rarely will a company that has maintained and sustained a long-term branding decide to can the image and start all over. The success level of this approach is low and rare. The shape of Coca-Cola's original bottle, the Pepsi symbol, AT&T's stylized globe, Nike's swish are only a few of the successful branding elements that are strongly defended by their trademark holders, and not subject to total change - the branding identity is simply too strong after so long.

So is yours, from your company name and visual identifiers, to the style and content and approach of your productions, to the packaging and labeling...
...all this identifies you, your business, your product and who you are. Think long and hard about how you want to do this and develop a linked and consistent look that covers everything you use to represent your business and product.

If you think and realize that you got is all wrong, change quick and change early, making a new marketing decision, look and name as well. I mean, there are times when you have to accept that you made a mistake, and can only hope that you haven't waited too many years and done too much work that change is going to do you more harm than good.

I wonder how soon Chevrolet made the decision to pull its Chevy Nova model from Portugal when it realized Nova in that country (pronounced no vah) means wont go?

Tie it all together, make it link visually, audibly and solidly in every facet of your business. Consistence and persistence in applying your brand will make a huge difference in setting you apart from the competition in the long haul.


It has been said that you cannot have all three - good, fast and cheap. Yes, you can. Yes, your clients can. And should. If not good, fast and cheap, at least good, fast and affordable. Or, how about GREAT, FAST and AFFORDABLE! What a concept.

Early and on-time delivery will go a long way in gaining customer endorsement, referral and renewable business. It only takes one or two times coming in past deadline to change an otherwise satisfied client into one bad-mouthing you and seeking another source for your services and product.

Even if you deliver a "great" video product, if it is six months later than promised, a year later than expected, and following upon the back of the countless excuses and broken promises along the way, you're history my friend.

Even if you have an unbeatable price, the lowest in the lower hemisphere, a give-away price, extraordinarily cheap price...
...oh, and a "great" product, late delivery and the lies that often accompany it will negate any good will or potential for client satisfaction.

Set yourself apart from many of your competitors by simply delivering as promised, or earlier than promised/expected, and doing more than was expected. Go the extra distance to establish yourself and your business and product as not only a great combination, but one that is reasonably priced AND always delivered early or on time.


These are components of branding and delivery, and also go hand-in-hand with pricing, perceived value and all the other things you do in an effort to set you, your business and products apart from the competition. Packaging and presentation, given a quality product delivered in a timely manner and provided for a fair and reasonable price, will further set you apart from the crowd.

Quality full-color, clean and creative, professional quality graphics on your inserts, DVD and CD surfaces, as well as the quality of the cases themselves, how you label and mail or hand-deliver - neat handwriting or clean and professional-looking mailing labels that carry forth your branding and company identifiers - all have to do with your image - what further sets you apart.

Don't give in to the thought among many in our industry that "less is more" when it comes to packaging and presentation. Too many are looking at ways to cut their costs and doing it "bassackward" by cheapening the looks of their final delivered product, or covering up with cheap materials.

Determine what it will cost you to deliver a professional quality package and product. If you have to job them out because you simply are not artistic or creative enough with print graphics, or do not own the equipment or possess the software knowledge to do it yourself - find out what it will cost you to outsource to a professional and factor that into your prices.

Do not cut corners with the presentation and quality of your final product if you want to successfully set yourself apart from much of the competition - people in the business who either do not know better, or couldn't care less, or are simply too lazy or cheap to make the effort.

By going this one step further in your overall business strategy and approach you will soon become recognized as a standout among your competition.

Now, the four "P's"

Personality, Price, Product and People (not in any particular order of importance) are, in my humble opinion, of absolute equal importance when it comes to having a positive influence on your potential or renewable client base.

Perhaps it actually IS impossible to win everybody's heart, or faith, or trust. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

In spite of the economy one of the three things I enjoy most on a personal level is dining out. And I have my favorites. And, among those favorites I often feel I also am a favorite of the host, owner or server(s) there. I can tell early on if the establishment's representatives are simply parroting their training by rote, or do not really "feel" the smile or warmth they try (poorly) to convey.

Likewise, I can tell if they are really sincere, truly trying, and are committed to establishing a positive relationship with me as the patron, and presenting the establishment with which they are associated in a positive manner.

Treat me good and I will leave a decent tip, smile at you when I enter and leave, tell others about my pleasant experience, or participate with affirmative remarks to web or phone "quality" surveys, and return. Do all this AND make me believe it is genuine and I will tip large, smile wide, return often and with my friends.

The same with your business. Be informative, patient, honest and sincere. Fake it (if you have to) until you get it right and can come across as Mr. or Miss Sincerity of the Year. It isn't THAT difficult folks. And openness, honesty and sincerity will go a long way to establishing the relationships with potential clients that convert them into return, referral and renewable clients - year after year.

Again, you cannot win them all. People are unique, different and often as perplexing as they can be. Go into any given business atmosphere knowing that your personality, as hard as you try and as sincere as you come across, simply will not always win them over. People react and respond to a million triggers and it only takes a second to pull the wrong one. So, get over it! And realize people are diverse and someone out there isn't going to like you for a bounty of ill-founded reasons.

Be honest about your pricing. And firm. Be firm. Sure, you can flex a bit, but knowing the value of your work, your experience and the professional quality of your talents, equipment and software, don't always drop to the lower denominator. Allow some degree of "dealing" if you are so inclined. While being compassionate and understanding about their economic woes, also define your limits early on so false expectations do not take root too soon.

Don't hem and haw around about what you will, might or will not do for a given price. Shoot straight and your successes in negotiation will rise to the top. Honesty is always the best policy. Do not make promises you cannot or do not intend to keep. Your clients will call you on it every time. Do not let them assume something. If you are aware that they may be misleading themselves, take the responsibility to steer them, and yourself, clear of that pitfall.

Show what you do. Share your product(s) and deliver what you show. Again, be honest about what they are seeing. Control the presentation, but also allow them to see enough of your honest work and creative talents that they can be comfortable and confident that you are the honest, easy-to-get-along-with, professional you represent yourself to be.

Clients get around. They see a lot of stuff, be it web clips, sample DVDs, interviews with independents or exposure to large studio environments. You might get by with the occasional misrepresentation of others' work as your own. It is wise, if you MUST show something you did not personally create or produce, that you are up front about this, noting to your potential clients that while you did not produce this element specifically, you are using it to represent that you CAN provide similar or exact work of the same creative caliber and unique quality.

You will eventually get caught out in this age of a shrinking global community and the World Wide Web.


Did I say "consistent marketing?" ALWAYS market yourself, your business and your services and products. Be relentless. Never stop talking about, showing or elaborating upon your concepts, availability, flexibility, creative drive, price, experience.

Use every possible available resource for getting the word out about what you do. Go for every eyeball you can get. Use the web, Twitter, Facebook and the host of other available social sites to full advantage. Inform, advise and advertise.

Market EVERY DAY! Don't kid yourself that calling a phone number and leaving a message, or hanging up after a busy signal is your effort for the day. KNOW that you must do something definitive, be active and engage potential clients in some manner on a daily basis or your market share will slant toward your competition.

Be consistent in your marketing efforts and you will receive consistent positive results. You will SEE the difference, and recognize it for what it is - successful marketing.

Remember: If you market, you will make it! © Earl Chessher

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