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Unlocking the Sales Process

A key to success in corporate video production is having a keen understanding of what goes into the process of luring and booking prospects. We want to share with you some tips and tools you can use—information we wish we had at the very beginning of our foray into this brave new world.

Knowing Your Client

There are some key differences between commercial and personal event work that affect the sales process.

Clientele. You're obviously dealing with a different clientele—rather than an individual or a family, you're dealing with a corporation or perhaps multiple individuals on a team. Understanding what makes these types of clients tick is crucial for success.

Mind-set. Another key difference is the demographic you're pursuing and mindset of your new client base. We think it's crucial that you have a separate Web site for commercial and wedding work. Having a splash page on your site with a link going to each site is not the same as having a separate Web site for each. In fact, it dilutes your message by casting you as a generalist rather than a specialist.

Focus. The reason to have a separate Web site for each division is to appear to have a clear focus. Whether it's deserved or not, many corporate clients have a negative impression of wedding videographers that will preclude them from selecting you for a job. It can be harder to sell yourself to corporate clients if you are also showing them Sally and Harry's wedding video.

Deadlines. Deadlines are going to be much stricter in the corporate world than in personal event work. It's not uncommon in the wedding world to miss deadlines and promised due dates. There are some wedding companies that promise turnaround times of six months, but then they take a year to deliver the final product. That will not work in the corporate world. You need to be able to hit the date that you give your client. If you're going to miss a deadline, communication throughout the process is critical.

A Walk Through the Process

The process we're going to take you through is a generalized one that has worked for us. Take from it all the elements that fit best with your studio.

When you're in the process of submitting a bid to a client, many times the client will give you an RFP (request for proposal). This is a document that outlines the general objectives of the client, required deliverables, and a formal request to your company to submit a bid (FIGURE 4.4).

Figure 4.4

Figure 4.4 Sample request for proposal.

There are different schools of thought on submitting bids. Some video production companies will put together a detailed bid with line items for all the different aspects that go into the job. This strategy makes it easy for clients to pick and choose what they want if the budget is too high for them as submitted. We used this strategy for the first couple years.

Then, after some years of experience, looking at projects and keeping track of time and other factors, we revised our bid strategy. We shifted from having a line item for everything to having a detailed description of the project, including the number of people on the crew—anything that the client can physically see and quantify. What we don't include is the number of hours for editing or number of people involved in post-production. We also don't include hours allocated to the pre-production process. Instead of saying 20 hours of editing, we'll simply list motion graphic work along with the number of finished minutes for the project. The benefit of this is that if it takes you a shorter amount of time, you still receive the same amount of money originally agreed upon. Likewise, if it takes longer, you cannot charge for more hours unless the client requests additional work after seeing your first round.

If you go this route, we strongly suggest you create an internal line item bid so that you know how long it will take you. Then transcribe it into a written proposal with one grand total at the bottom.

Setting Your Price

When determining how much to charge for a corporate or commercial project, the process should be the same one you use to determine how much to charge for an event video. Figure out how much time is required for each aspect of the project and apply your hourly rate. An important thing to keep in mind is that you should not necessarily strive to be the lowest bidder. In fact, in many cases, being the lowest bidder may lose you the job.

The first five-figure corporate gig we ever produced was one we almost lost because we were prepared to bid significantly less than what was eventually awarded. Up to that point we were accustomed to smaller, sub-$5,000 projects for local nonprofits. When presented with this opportunity, our preliminary bid was a little more than double what we'd earned for our highest-paying corporate job prior to that. The point of contact in charge liked our work, and since he was referred to me from a friend, he let me see some of the other bids. They were all more than double what we were about to bid. It's generally not common to see bids from other companies, so we were fortunate in this situation.

This client provided a service to Fortune 100 companies. They were close to awarding the job to a major university whose bid was more than twice as high as ours. Had we gone in with that original bid, we would have been perceived as too inexperienced to handle this caliber of job. We revised our bid by making two significant changes:

  1. Charging a higher rate per hour than what we were accustomed to (a rate we had always aspired to charge but felt hesitant to charge).
  2. Itemizing aspects of the job we never considered one could charge for (such as concept design, producer fee, and professional makeup.)

In the end, we were awarded the job based on our work, and it was for an amount exactly double what we were originally prepared to bid. It was a terrific lesson in corporate bidding we learned. And it changed our whole outlook on the process.

Contract Terms to Include

Several key items must be included in any contract proposal. Regardless of the job, the proposal is not complete until it includes the following:

  1. Expected turnaround time
  2. Payment process
  3. Copyright usage
  4. Breakdown of what client will get (length and style of final product, not number of hours of editing)
  5. Revision process, number of revisions, or revision hours included
  6. Hourly rate for revisions, any extra cost for revisions beyond complimentary time
  7. Your use of completed project for marketing purposes
  8. Indemnity clause
  9. Place for initials by key components, including payment process, revision process, turnaround time, and your use of final product
  10. Corporate ID number

The last point to make about the sales process is that with corporate clients, the payment cycle is often much longer, sometimes as long as 60 days. So arrange your payment structure so that you get much of the fee up front (or at least prior to editing). Then, when you invoice for the final payment, send the invoice as early as possible.

Project Management

Once you have the job, we suggest setting up a good project management system. Ideally, it will be a centralized, online depository where you can upload files, leave messages, track progress, have a calendar, and so forth. You'll want a system where you can track everyone who is assigned to the job, including everyone from your team and everyone from the client's team. That makes it easier for collaboration and communication with one another about the status of certain projects' due dates and the like. A good project management system (FIGURE 4.5) shows a strong level of professionalism to the client, so they can see that you have your act together. You have a great way of tracking the project and keeping all the t's crossed and i's dotted.

Figure 4.5

Figure 4.5 ShootQ (www.shootq.com), a project management system, allows up to three brands so you can customize the logo and colors for the public page clients use.

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