Sunday, July 29, 2012

Diversification STILL Critical to Video Business Survival

There are logical exceptions to most any claim, rule or philosophy but independent professional video services providers who fail to diversify are making their business life much more difficult than necessary. Sure, you can specialize, establish yourself, a solid brand and even succeed in the video business, working ONLY weekends and producing ONLY weddings. This is certainly the most acceptable form of video business for those holding down regular weekday employment and seeking to slowly extend their reach, develop their business and brand.

It often works well for those who have established a solid referral system, maintained a reasonable price/perceived value position in the industry and have engaged in an ongoing marketing program that keeps them in the bridal community loop. If you, however, are one of myriad independent videographers fighting over that 20 percent or so of the bridal market that actually WANTS a video of their ceremony and related events, you’re finding it a tough go trying to build your business and stay busy in an overwhelmingly saturated market, much less be or stay profitable.

Many variables come into play here. You’re a young family man or woman with a family to support and kids to raise. You HAVE to hold down your day job because it’s the cushion you rely upon to help until your video business gets established. You’re wife may, or not, also be employed and that brings about other responsibilities such as who is cooking tonight, who picks up the kids at school, takes them to dance or piano lessons, soccer or baseball games, swimming lessons. And how about when you want some quiet quality time with the spouse, or family time with the whole bunch?

Wedding production may very well be all you can, or want to handle. Weekend work that you can control by accepting bookings (if you’re getting the calls or inquiries and referrals) only on dates you want to work, occasionally working a bridal fair or other event that gets you exposure to the wedding community.  You’re in control, and sometimes your spouse is right there beside you, helping, working and even enjoying it.

Or, you could overbook, overwork yourself and/or your wife or husband, wind up with an overwhelming editing backlog, over-extend yourself financially trying to keep up with the latest technology and soon to become equipment standard, painted yourself into a corner that takes up all your former family or free time in order to try and stay afloat with all the productions sitting there, on the shelf, making you feel guilty in any number of ways. Usually, unfortunately, you’ve been competing on price and have not been bringing in enough to warrant the 40 or so hours you require to edit a wedding video masterpiece. Editing becomes a chore, no longer fun, and being especially creative with your work eats into the time you used to spend with family, friends, kids and yourself. You even start outsourcing your editing but that eats into the already small markup you have on your time and work, and one day you come to the realization you’re very close to burnout, personal/professional failure or going out of business.

If you DO have it all under control and are happy with how things are going for you in your wedding video production business, read no further. If you are REALLY happy doing weddings, enjoy the creative rush and have NO problem staying up all hours, missing the Little League playoffs or dance recitals (and your spouse has no problem with you having no problems) then by all means, Spielberg stay the path.

Diversification, however, can be the path to fewer ulcers, divorces, litigation, long and late nights eating junk food and editing. Diversification can offer you the change-up that variety provides, easing the pressure and workload while adding to the bottom line, usually quicker and in fewer hours.

AND, if you’ve been into video production on a full-time basis for a year or longer because you need the weekdays to edit, market, make and receive calls, book appointments with prospective brides and grooms (who usually want to meet with you in the evening, at a coffee shop or restaurant), maintain equipment, attend rehearsals and all the other stuff that goes with being a potentially successful wedding video production professional or specialist ... did I say “edit”? Then, diversification will be the best thing that ever happened to you.

Diversification offers both part- and full-time videographers an opportunity to further control their workload, commitment to family and get back the personal life they once enjoyed but had to give up for the sake of the business, or their sanity.

Anyone who MUST continue doing weddings because they’re addicted to them, love them, WANT to do them, PREFER to do them, can balance the load by doing fewer weddings and doing them at a more profitable price point. HOW? By having the option to turn down the low-ballers and tire kickers, those people who have NO real, educated perceived value for what you do, and accept ONLY the higher paying gigs because throughout any given week you’ve got a couple of montages, a funeral video gig, or if you are one of those ‘euuu, dead people’ people, there are dance recitals often held on thursdays, community and school drama performances often held on Wednesdays or Thursdays, daytime events ranging from school and community sports programs and nighttime events ranging from soccer and baseball to swimming competitions and more.

The concept of work once, sell many, often provides the same, or more, income as an average wedding but usually with an investment of one-quarter the time from shoot to delivery.

Consider expanding your services and production range and committing to the marketing and advertising needed to expand your business and its bottom line while reclaiming some of your personal life, family time and sanity. Be in a position to take gig that occur during the week, or even weekend gigs that require less investment of time for shooting as well as editing.

Check out my series of How-To books: “They Shoot Funerals, Don’t They: Complete Guide to Funeral Video Production & Marketing,” “Seven Ways to Make Money with Video,” (Book I, of a planned multi-book series, also in ePub and PDF), “Make Money Marketing & Producing Photo Montages: The Complete Guide” and the business marketing, branding and promotional program-in-a-book “Video StoryTellers!™ Productions.”

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

Sunday, July 22, 2012

No Chance for Wedding Video COOP

I've been sharing a one-on-one dialogue on another forum with fellow frustrated independent professional wedding video services provider, Ed Rogers (website link here), who, like me, thinks the wedding video industry is missing the ball when it comes to where the most benefit could be derived from a marketing strategy. We both believe a wedding videographer cooperative (CO-OP) would help put into motion a branding and awareness campaign that could convince otherwise the estimated 80 percent of the bridal market that thinks they DO NOT want a professionally produced video of their wedding day and events.
This is something I’ve pounded on since my early video career days, when I thought wedding video production was all that and a bag of chips, before I realized that in order to survive in the world of independent professional video services providers (IPVSPs) I needed to diversify — see VideoStoryTellers!™ and CorElAnn Video Productions. Not to say that, if they pay my price, I would hesitate even today to produce another wedding video for a discerning bride and groom. Nowadays, however, I don’t go after them, they find me, either by way of my long-standing wedding services website or through referrals.

I write this blog article believing, as I told Ed in my last forum response, that this topic hasn’t much appeal, or maybe my lengthy articles are too long for the average “non-reader” to digest, much less read, comprehend and comment about. I believe that the average wedding videographer is an independent sort, a person who doesn’t WANT to CO-OP with others in the wedding videographer community and certainly doesn’t want to help generate business opportunities for "The Competition” much less give anything BACK to the industry-at-large.
In all fairness many members of the wedding video services industry DO “give back” but usually, myself included, by sharing what they know in paid seminars and speaking engagements, via commercial publications, DVDs and other resources. Some will, as I often do, share free information, experiences and opinions on various video related forums. I was a past member of WEVA (Wedding and Event Videographers Association) and recently became reacquainted with this association via an associate of my own. I was less than delighted to find that this once venerable organization’s website is a wasteland, unvisited and inactive with rare posts and rarer replies. Postings and responses now there are often months, if not years, apart. Sad, but true.
Why? I believe, like myself, Ed and many, many others who’ve enjoyed, appreciated and even supported WEVA at one time or another in our professional lives, it is no longer gratifying to pay membership dues to ANY organization that only seems focused on getting more of our dollars without investing in an ongoing branding and awareness campaign that would put dollars in our individual pockets. Thus, early on, I’ve expounded time and again on the necessity of an organization focused in whole on a campaign that can convince the estimated 80-percent of the bridal market NOT wanting video, to WANT VIDEO! Can this be done? Well, when I originally brought it up, many years ago, I was told that WEVA wasn’t in the business to get its members business, but to teach, instruct and educate.
All this, and more, I’ve mentioned, covered, brought up or expanded upon in the Videomaker forums (see the link, first paragraph) with only Ed Rogers and one other, venerable professional video producer Jack Wolcott, as my (presumed) sole readers, and certainly ONLY responder. The rest of the series RINGS of dead silence. As our discussion continued, it begat the question “Why?”. Why it is impossible, unfathomable or otherwise unlikely a CO-OP focused on bridal awareness of their NEED for a professionally-produced wedding video, an ongoing branding approach that enhances the image of the independent professional wedding video services provider in the eyes of those who’ve read or heard one too many horror stories about bad videographers?

Wedding videographers who NEED to be members of a cooperative that focuses on developing public awareness and branding (such as ‘Where’s the Beef?’ or ‘Got Milk’ for example) probably cannot afford to participate. Heck, most of us are barely hanging on after over-investing in expensive equipment (needed or not) and up to our eyeballs in debt we cannot generate enough business to reduce. A LOT of us are thinking of EXIT STRATEGIES not ways to shore up our seriously leaning (into the red ink) independent video businesses.
Those other guys, the top 5- or 10-percent, already have independent (and well-deserved) brand recognition, already get all the business they want or can handle and have NO need or desire to invest in such a branding and public awareness, centralized resource program.
And NEITHER SIDE really wants to do something that’s going to help “The Competition” regardless of how much good an ongoing COOP effort at market saturation could do the industry.
We independents are essentially a selfish lot regarding sharing of our so-called trade secrets, client lists, or successful marketing strategies, other than, of course, getting paid for our seminar presentations, books and DVDs or Internet subscription programs.
And this is not to indict such behavior. We all should be able to profit on our knowledge, wisdom and skills. I’ve been known to publish and sell a book or three on how to make money in the video industry but I also have been contributing to this FREE blog since 2004, as have other friends in the video industry.
I’m just saying there also is a real need for a COOP that helps promote the professional wedding video community at large, possibly encouraging that HUGE CHUNK of the bridal industry pie who DOES NOT want video — an estimated 80-percent of brides — to change their minds.

It would take anywhere from 300-to-500 members (an easy number considering the vast community of people with cameras videotaping weddings) paying maybe $15 a month, to generate the funds needed to maintain a national awareness campaign and marketing/branding strategy; set up and establish an effective resources website; and organize a board or committee or whatever oversight structure is needed to ensure the organization focuses ONLY on what it should — promotion of the fact that ALL BRIDES, not just the current 20 percent or so who actually WANT a wedding video, should have a professionally produced wedding video of their event.
It would take dedication, commitment, resources, faith in the program and a consistent promotion mentality.
Can this happen? Could it be done? Would it work? Sooner or later the independent wedding video services provider community is going to have to come to the realization that unless this happens, they're going to be relegated to fighting and competing amongst themselves for the tiny, wee portion of the 20 percent of brides already sold on the idea of a wedding video. Not much profit in that, as all of us well know.

Remember, If You Market, You Will Make It! © Earl Chessher

Sunday, July 01, 2012

An Investment that will Pay for Itself with First Job

by Alan Naumann

Mark Twain’s famous quote, “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated,” can also be applied to photo montages. It is common wisdom that the photo montage is “dead;” yet, from my experience, and the experience of Earl Chessher, I would have to say nothing can be further from the truth!
“Make Money Marketing & Producing Photo Montages: The Complete Guide” is NOT an obituary; rather, it is a reminder that one of the services we as videographers should be offering is professionally produced photo montages.
This book is a valuable resource for the beginning videographer who has a myriad of questions, to the seasoned videographer who needs to be reminded about the basics of the video business that perhaps have been prematurely abandoned. The book is written in a folksy, storytelling way, giving many examples and stories to back up the points presented.
Earl begins by dispelling the myth that consumers will not pay you to do their montages. He points out that the keys to having a successful “photo-video montage production business are QUALITY, FAST DELIVERY and AFFORDABLE PRODUCTS — and ... great personal service.” Earl then makes a strong case as to why clients, such as funeral homes and churches, really need to use our services. The information given can easily be shared with those who need to become our clients.
Earl covers all aspects of photo montage production, from marketing, to the business aspects. Perhaps the most practical part of the book is where he takes the reader through the steps necessary to produce a high quality, professional photo montage in a relatively short amount of time. He covers everything from the equipment needed to where to buy supplies — and talks about the different levels of commitment the videographer can make to this aspect of the business.
He also reminds us of the importance of not using labels — but rather, printing directly on the disc; the use of the Internet in promoting your business; making decisions as to location and personnel for your business; and many other practical considerations in order to be efficient and profitable. Included in the book are many forms that will help clients communicate their vision; and forms that will keep you organized in fulfilling their wishes.
He also includes several appendixes at the end that give practical advice on everything from where to find supplies to getting the best deals on equipment.
I believe this book has value for every videographer — even if s/he doesn’t plan on making photo montages a central part of their service. The tips and tricks shared in the book can be transferred to many areas of video production and therefore should prove invaluable.
The book sells for $79.95 and can be ordered from Lulu Press. And, $79.95 might seem high for a book of (about 300 pages) but let me remind you that this is really an investment that will pay for itself on the very first job.

Alan Naumann,