Saturday, July 11, 2009

Keeping Busy in a Down Economy

The California Governor is writing I.O.U.s and nobody wants to accept them, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo. AIG is planning more bonuses. Cap and trade threatens a new focus on economics. A national medical plan overhaul is going nowhere fast. Radically reduced home equity and values has people looking a life on the streets. People with lots of money "on paper" are finding themselves in a reality check.

A lot is being said about the very real economic threats to small businesses and independent professional service providers. All of us who once enjoyed a modicum of prosperity are now worried that our investment in tools of the trade and education will be for naught.

One group tells us the sky is falling! Another group says everything is going to be OK. Who to believe. And, whatever you believe, what can you do about it? How will you weather the economic slump and the myriad ways government, big money and competition, or worse, pose threat to your survival?

While the wedding business as a whole is cutting way back with a return to potluck rehearsal and reception dinners, home made cakes and punch, family and friends shooting photos on some of the hundreds of consumer-owned digital cameras, even shooting video with any one or more of the countless camcorders available for a few hundred dollars, the wedding video production community continues to fight over a 20 percent, or less, wedge of the business pie.

Is there no good news in sight, or even over the horizon? Well, it's actually up to us who have established, or are trying to build up, perhaps simply maintain, a independent professional video services provider business.

Survival, even growth, perhaps prosperity are as simple as marketing. Now, more than ever it is important to realize that customers simply are not going to be calling you like they used to. My mantra, "If you market, you will make it!" © 2009, Earl Chessher, is true more today than ever, and if we in our chosen business fail to work even harder to gain market share, the sky is going to fall on top of us.

We can no longer depend on the simple routine of people searching for our services and products, or happy and content clients with a modicum of discretionary spending money telling others with a happy modicum of discretionary spending money how wonderful we are, and that they should use us. Today, more than ever, we're going to have to prove the value of our services and products, convince even the willing that they need professional video in their lives, and that what we give them in return for their hard-fought dollars is something that will hold its value for years to come.

Just know that if you do NOT market, you will NOT make it! That simple. OK, Earl, you ask, what would you suggest I do? I'm glad you asked.

1.) Go back and review my article "Your Basic Marketing Strategy" and DO IT! Now!

2.) Research the video market. Google key words for video production possibilities other than just weddings. After reading a number of the money-making ideas on E.C. Come, E.C. Go, figure out what areas are being under served in your service area and focus on them, using the basic marketing strategies listed in No. 1.

3.) Slim down and simplify your approach to production services, editing and delivery. Find ways to cut your costs without cutting the quality, and see if you can set yourself apart by offering something better and still more affordable than the competition.

4.) While you still have a dollar or two you MUST invest that into generating eyeballs, direct mail marketing strategies, and utilizing all available social web sites for the purpose of letting people know who you are, why they should care, and how to find you.

5.) Sell yourself, your services and your products like you've never tried before. Do like Jack Bauer - "Whatever it takes!" Go the extra mile. Stay up all night and deliver a day, two days, even a week earlier than usual, or promised. Accept a smaller deposit, or even establish a payment or layaway plan that the more economic strapped can handle. There's nothing better than building up a substantial cash flow operation by bringing in clients who make consistent and timely weekly or monthly payments.

6.) Take some risks. If you don't, if you persist in playing it safe, some competitor somewhere is going to stretch his or her luck and actually get lucky. If you believe in yourself, your business, your talents and skills, then gamble a bit. This is not a time for the timid, so if you fall into that category, grow some hair people.

7.) I have said this before, but it bears repeating: Dust off those demos, or take the time to "get around to doing one" NOW, and put them in the hands of people. Another slogan of mine: “Somebody somewhere celebrates something...every day!" © 2009, Earl Chessher holds true, and people might not think they can afford to have their celebrations professionally captured and produced, but you could try to convince a few of them you're worth the price.

Memories, good or bad, now more than ever are important. People are in financial holding patterns, cutting back on out-of-state, or country trips and vacations. Many are recording their own memories, using those countless digital still cameras and camcorders to preserve their moments spent on simpler outings. But that often leaves some member of the family out of the picture and brings up a selling point you can use to your own advantage.

8.) Hold off on investing in new equipment if your current tools are workable. Stay with standard definition, use cheaper lighting sources, to heck with how they look if they get the job done, and take care of your microphones, back up systems, computer or other editing systems like you have never done before. Spend the dollars necessary to keep your production arsenal maintained and in good working condition. Stretch the use of your current equipment for another year, maybe two. Sweat it out for now, making do with what you have. A house can STILL be built using a handsaw and hammer folks, now isn't the time to spend money you don't have on technology you don't really need to get work.

9.) Offer yourself to others in the business who advertise for help wanted/needed, and work for the "other person" an hour or two here and there. Essentially you are selling your time and it could very well be cheaper in the long run than what it costs you to advertise, generate and produce your own gig. Do not stay at home doing nothing when you could be working on another business person's dime. You may not have the luxury of refusing work just because it's possible a higher-paying call for a gig "could" come in.

10.) Do not sit at home and give in to a state of perpetual depression. Once it gets a hold of you, incentive drops, you lose your drive, your creative impulses take leave and you wind up sleeping in later, covers over your head, waiting until it's too late in the day to do anything to overcome your mental funk. Find a way DAILY to be productive, force yourself to be aggressive and not give in or give up.

Don't fool yourself into thinking that turning on the computer and tripping through the headlines, doing Stumbleupon, posting on Twitter and Facebook, or reading all eight pages of your web site and reading forum posts from three years back is doing something.

Understand that while it is fine to commiserate, to seek others of empathetic ear, to share laments, complaints and anger at religion, foreign entity or government, don't let that become your crutch or excuse for not doing something about the business.

If you do nothing more than one, single, isolated thing daily to sell, promote, communicate or offer your services, you will have accomplished a positive move in a direction that can keep you in business, if not flourishing, through the hard times. You have two choices in life - quit, or keep going. For those who survive and take action, quitting is not an option.

No comments: