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I recently secured a commercial video project, where I will be responsible for all aspects of production, and I felt this would be a great project to do a complete BTS blog series. The idea is for you to come along for the experience as the project progresses, allowing a look into what it takes to create a compelling, promotional business video. There will be insight provided into the client / sales process, closing the deal, beginning pre-production, creating a lighting design, helping the client sharpen the script and brand message, through the days of production, and finally into post-production as the raw files are turned into a finished product.
For our Part I, we’ll take a look into acquiring leads, creating the proposal, setting our pre-production parameters and responsibilities, and reviewing the locations.

Leads & Proposals
In any kind of business, there is always a customer seeking a service or product, and someone providing that service or product. It’s important to identify your customers, what their needs are, and which demographic you are trying to attract and work with. This is where having a personal style will help to identify with certain groups of customers and clients. Typically these include things like the following: small business promos, music videos, TV commercials, live event coverage, real estate videos, etc. There are a lot of people who have a need for professional video production services, and are regularly hiring for this service. Identifying these groups in your area, and making logical decisions as to who to pursue as your client base is incredibly important to acquiring clients who will hire you for profitable jobs.

Sales-PipelineAll service based industries, especially in the media, advertising and marketing realm, rely heavily on an active sales process. It’s critical that you understand basic sales processes, such as the concept of a “sales pipeline.” This is the total volume of prospects that you are in communication with at any one time. Your total sales pipeline should be 5x your desired monthly income. For example, if you wish to make $5,000 monthly through your video projects, your sales pipeline should represent $25,000 worth of business ($5,000 x 5 = $25,000). This is important as you will not close every deal or prospect that you communicate with, and some proposals will take a long time before they turn into active, paying jobs.

Acquiring leads is arguably the most important part of the sales process. This is where you have to be an active salesperson, promoting your business and letting the world know that you exist. Start with friends and family, and circulate your business cards. Make sure you have a polished website, and a social media presence. Your potential clients will only take you as seriously as you take yourself. No one in their right mind would try and start a company without a clear business strategy, with a logo, business cards and a website. You should not try and start a video production company without doing the same.  Your public image and creative marketing material must be flawless and show that you are a professional. This is a visual art form, so potential clients will be looking to your marketing material and show reel to really impress them.

Once you’ve created a professional marketing image for yourself and started acquiring leads, you will have to meet with clients, with likely a series of emails and phone calls leading up to your meeting. It’s important to do your research, and learn as much as you can about your clients before you meet. Once you meet with clients, I like to bring a review sample of my work on my own laptop. It’s very important that at this stage, you learn all of the details of the project. Things that are very important:

  • Who will write the script and come up with the video treatment?
  • What is the target audience of the final video and how will it be displayed?
  • Where will your locations be?
  • What is the project timeline?
  • Will you need hair and makeup artists?
  • What are the lighting/sound conditions of your locations?
  • When are down payments to be paid, and following payments due?
  • Is stock video / audio required?
  • How many rounds of revisions will be required for the editing?

Try to be as detail oriented in this meeting as possible, and take clear, extensive notes. You can also use a pocket field recorder and record the whole conversation for later review. Make sure to clarify towards the end of the meeting the following important points: who is responsible for what parts of the project, what is the timeline for completion, and what the target audience is.

Once you’ve had your initial meeting with the client, it’s time to review your notes and turn it into a full proposal. I personally like to use Adobe InDesign to create my proposals, and I have a template created that I change for each client / type of project. Make sure to include all of the details in your meeting, and verbally describe the product you will deliver. Clients like to know you have a thorough understanding of their needs, and that you are competent and able to handle all aspects of the project. Make sure there are no typos, and utilize some visual design elements such as horizontal rules, bullet points, your logo in the header, etc. This will help you to stand out from all of the other proposals and quotes that come across their desk.

proposalOnce proofread and thoroughly checked for typos by TWO PEOPLE other than yourself, save your proposal as a PDF, and attach it to an email. Treat this like you are applying for a million dollar job, even if it’s not. Treat each lead and proposal like a seed that you have to water in order for it to grow into a sale. If you ignore your leads, or take too long to get back to them, they will go elsewhere to a more attentive vendor who can supply the same services.

In this case, there were a series of meetings, emails and revisions to the proposal. Once the client was satisfied that I had covered all aspects of the project in writing, and provided a clear strategy they decided to move forward. I require a 50% down payment to start all jobs, and the remaining 50% due upon project completion.

In regards to setting pricing, that is another large topic and I’ll be covering that in a separate blog post later.