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Cutting-Edge Strategies to Evolve Your Video Business: Commercial Success

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Get insight into the differences between commercial and personal event work as well as ideas for producing videos for more than just revenue--videos with a heart.
This chapter is from the book

ONE OF THE MANY BENEFITS of being an independent video producer is the flexibility and adaptability of your business. While it's easy to get stuck in a rut shooting and editing the same types of projects, you don't have to stay there.

If you're ready to try something new and start exploring options outside of shooting personal events, this chapter is for you. We'll give you insight into the differences between commercial and personal event work as well as offer ideas for producing videos for more than just revenue—videos with a heart.

We'll also cover working with small companies to global entities and agencies. Once you're energized and excited about the possibilities, we'll reveal the sales process for commercial jobs, which differs quite a bit from personal events.

Let's get started.

Changing Direction

We have always done commercial jobs, even from the beginning of our business. Prior to starting our company, Ron worked for Intuit as a business marketing manager. When he left that job in the summer of 2002 to pursue his dream of running his own video business, one of the first things he did was approach his colleagues at Intuit and ask if they had any work for a starving artist looking to spread his wings. And he got a job.

That first job was an internal concept video created to teach QuickBooks employees about the new version of QuickBooks 2003. We did a James Bond spoof that was written by one of the employees and directed by Ron. It was called "To Catch a Gecko" (FIGURE 4.1). (Like most technology companies, every year Intuit has secret code names for its latest product releases, and that year the code name was Gecko.)

Figure 4.1

Figure 4.1 Movie-like poster created for "To Catch a Gecko," featuring two of Intuit's employees as lead actors.

We went all out and got managers involved—even the vice president in charge of the QuickBooks division, who happened to be an avid James Bond fan. She was N in the spoof, which was a play on the character M in the James Bond series.

That project started us on the road to corporate work. Since then we've done corporate jobs for clients as a way to generate new business and keep revenue coming in as well as provide us with a diverse portfolio.

As you can tell from this example, there are incredible opportunities to stretch your creativity in corporate and commercial work. While some companies may be looking for a standard recording of their annual meeting, many other companies are ready to explore a more creative approach to training, marketing, and promotion. The more creativity and original ideas you bring to the negotiation, the better your chances are of getting to shoot and edit those types of productions.

In spring 2007, we made a strategic decision in our business, the first of many such moves that shifted our focus to commercial work. At the time, 65 percent of our revenue was coming from personal event work and 35 percent was from commercial work. All of the commercial work was simply from word of mouth. We decided to reverse that trend and change the direction from high-end weddings to corporate and commercial projects.

Up to that point, we had done everything to keep the two divisions separate. We had a separate name, brand, and Web site for each division. Cinematic Video Productions was the name for our commercial work, and Cinematic Studios was the name for our personal event work (FIGURE 4.2).

Figure 4.2

Figure 4.2 Cinematic Studios Web site portfolio page featuring a wedding image from Joanne Lee Photography.

A tricky part of changing directions was that we wanted to keep the name Cinematic Studios, which meant we had to change what Cinematic Studios meant for our wedding clients.

The first reason we made the change is that to do the kind of work we wanted to do, we needed to go after larger corporate projects. We believed there would be greater upside potential for the company in the long term in making the switch.

At the time, Ron was engaged in a business coaching relationship with Kim Fulcher, a business and life coach and owner of Compass Life Designs. Kim laid it on the line and basically asked, "Why are you busting your butt for small personal jobs when the type of work you do should and could be bringing in significantly higher revenue in the commercial world? Clients who have the budgets to pay for the talent you have are who you should be pursuing."

Leave it to a coach to challenge your best intentions and your inclination to play it safe. Our coaching work with Kim is what inspired both of us to start coaching clients in our areas of expertise: branding, social media marketing, business development, blogging, writing, and life balance.

Another factor that nudged us in that direction was that 2007 was the year we produced a highlights video of the yearly conference for Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), one of the largest, for-profit organizations for professional photographers (FIGURE 4.3).

Figure 4.3

Figure 4.3 WPPI 2009 hosted more than 12,000 attendees at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Photo © Kenny Kim Photography

When we first attended that conference, we did it ostensibly as a networking opportunity for the wedding business. More than 10,000 photographers attended the event. That sparked the idea that we had even more potential to reach those photographers and the companies that serve them.

Switching our focus to corporate work meant starting over with a new look and new positioning in the market. Clients were finding us through different avenues, and we were challenged to start marketing to a new clientele for the first time in our history. In the first year after making the switch, our ratio of corporate to personal events reversed.

Moving quickly, we formed strategic partnerships with other companies within the wedding and portrait world, including liveBooks, Pictage, and PDN Photo Plus Expo. In one year, we established ourselves as the leading provider of professional video services in the pro photographic industry. That was the niche for our commercial work.

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