Media Magic Video Production Services

creativity...enhanced by experience and attention to detail....

WELCOME

Since 1984, Orange County's Media Magic video production services has been helping businesses and nonprofits increase their marketshare, mindshare  - and their annual revenue - without increasing their marketing and development staff. We can do the same thing for you – by creating a cost-effective, customized, video presentation that tells your organization's story in powerful and compelling new ways!

Whether you want to create a website video, fundraising presentation, trade show video, television commercial, PSA, television program, employee or customer training program, infomercial, or anything in between, we can provide you with the expertise and creative skills to bring your vision to reality - just as we've done for hundreds of organizations -  both locally and around the world!

Word-of-Mouth 2.0

There’s no question that word-of-mouth has always been the best form of marketing. In fact, in surveys of small businesses in the U.S., most estimate that almost 90% of their new customers come from referrals.

It should come as no surprise that 90% of consumers surveyed say they trust recommendations from people they know. The difference today is, those referrals and recommendations aren't always coming from personal, face-to-face conversations. Technology has upped the ante, as discussions are now visible to countless potential customers, thanks to the proliferation of social media.

Today's referrals are coming, not just from conversations around the water cooler, but through posted reviews, endorsements “likes,” retweets, hashtags and more for the entire world to see. Your customers now have a voice that can be heard beyond their immediate circle of close friends and family.

How to leverage this “voice” to help you grow your business

With the addition of this social media megaphone, you as a business owner can drive dramatically more results with a lot less effort. This is because social media enables a different level of customer engagement, one that you can use to encourage and reward customer conversations.

Plus, it’s much easier, less expensive, and infinitely more fun, to interact with people you already know—your existing customers, clients, donors or members.

By engaging your customers, you make them part of your marketing team

It’s this visible engagement and the positive endorsements that will bring you tomorrow’s customers. Not only do your current customers and fans influence how others perceive your business, they help build the trust needed to get others to do business with you.

Engagement does even more to help word-of-mouth

By engaging with your customers, you deepen your existing relationships while allowing others to get to know, like, and trust you. Engagement also allows you to stay top of mind with those who may recommend you and/or need your services.

What this evolution of word-of-mouth means to you

If you’ve been hesitant about getting involved in marketing your business through social media, you’re missing a huge opportunity to be who your customers and supporters recommend on a consistent basis.

By using online marketing tools and social media networks to engage your customers and build relationships, you make it easy for your best customers to drive referrals to your business.

Thanks to @Dave Charest for his insight into this subject.

Location, Location, Location!

No, this is not a real estate tip. I'm actually writing more about "proximity" than "location," but hopefully the metaphor will play out successfully....


As a small business or local nonprofit, you have one distinct advantage over the big players: you have the opportunity to form direct relationships with your customers. It may not always be face to face, but you have the ability to create an intimacy that just can't be duplicated on a mass scale. Having proximity opens the doors to opportunities that are extremely cumbersome for a larger entity to attempt to emulate.

Every time you talk with a customer in person, email someone who has a question, or engage in conversation with a client on the phone, you’re building a relationship. You often know the names of your customers and what they like. You may even know something about their personal lives. In today's mass-communicated environment, your ability to build personal relationships can be the biggest advantage you have.

Two of my best clients came through what some may call serendipity, but which are great examples of building and leveraging relationships.

While volunteering at a local business event, a corporate marketing and public relations veteran I had worked with in the past (and had not seen in several years) saw me, asked me what I'd been up to, mentioned she was now working for a new organization, and that they were looking for someone to produce a series of videos for them. A few days later, the job was mine. And to date, I've produced dozens of projects for them.

A couple of years ago, I received a call from a large, nonprofit Southern California hospital. They had been referred to me by their Vice President of Development, who I had worked with for several years back in the '80's and '90's in a completely different industry, then lost track of for almost a decade. A few days later, I started my first project with them. To date, I've produced more than a dozen projects for them as well.

Serendipity? Or proximity? My proximity to both decision-makers wasn't even current! Yet, the foundations I had built years before were not lost. The relationships were established. The sense of trust was fixed. They knew who I was and what I was capable of. They knew I had the ability, and the personality, to provide exactly what they were looking for. Of course, I still had to produce. This was not nepotism, but rather a foot in the door. And if you're good at what you do, that door is twenty feet wide and beckoning you to come in!

Let’s dig a little deeper here.

1. Your business has a personality

It's you! 

When you integrate your personality into your business, it differentiates you from your competition - and allows people the opportunity to decide to work with your organization because of who you are. That greatly reduces the tendency for customers to focus on tangibles that are the easiest for your competitors to match.

Of course, convenience and pricing are always going to be factors in their purchasing decision, but a great experience is also a deciding factor. In fact, a 2011 Accenture Survey found that service experience and brand awareness (your company’s personality) are the top factors for customers making a purchase - not price.

2. You know your customers

You know your customers in a way that big businesses don’t. If someone tweets you, you may know who they are. If they call the store, you probably know their name.

Your customers will remember their interactions with you, whether it was virtually or face-to-face. If it was a good interaction, they’ll tell friends about it and they’ll keep coming back.

3. You can build relationships that last

A lot of your customers are coming to you because they genuinely like your business, and the more times they come back, the more likely they are to become your most loyal fans. Long-lasting relationships can be the most important part of your company's sustainability and growth.

So, ask yourself:

  • How do I make sure that my relationships with customers last?
  • How can I continue to build those relationships?
  • How do I show the personality of my business across all points of contact? (I.e. in store, on my website, in my emails, etc.)
  • How can I use my personality to create a memorable - or Wow! - experience for my customers?
  • How can I give my customers recommendations that suit their individual needs?

The odds are good that you already have great relationships with your customers. Continue to focus on those relationships. You’ll find that your current customers are your best source of new business, because they end up marketing your business for you!

Thanks to Blaise Lucey @BlaiseLucey00 for his insights on this subject.


Bill Ennis
Media Magic
www.MediaMagic.TV

Three Ways to Get What You Want—by Giving People What They Want....

I call it "finding the customer's pain." Find it, and you're half way to making the sale (or getting the donation or....).

Successful marketing hinges on connecting your product, service or cause to one of a dozen or so innate human pain points (optimists would call these desires).

When that's done — when you’ve convinced people that you can satisfy their longings (the deeper, the better) — then people will not only fall in love with, and buy, your products, they will become unstoppable evangelists as well.

So how do we go about finding the pain points?

1. CHOOSE THE MOST POWERFUL DESIRE

Every mass desire has three components: Degree of Urgency, Duration and Scope.

  • Urgency: Selling the fact that your new automotive headlight cleaner will make our car look new again may stroke some egos, but does not address the deepest pain. Selling headlight restoration as a way to prevent disaster because of our inability to see far enough ahead in the road to prevent hitting something - or someone - strikes us at a much deeper level, and will make many more of us become customers.  The greater the degree of urgency, intensity or demand you can channel into your product, the stronger the desire will be to obtain it.
  • Duration: Once your customer restores his headlights, he really has no need for your product again - though he might become an evangelist for it. However, changing our car's oil is an ongoing need. And as our car's get older, the need for higher quality oil, or oil with special additives in it, becomes more important (or so the oil products manufacturers tell us). Do we want to risk destroying a $4,000 engine because we didn't want to pay $30 for an oil change? Being able to offer a product or service that has an ongoing ability to ease our pain will increase your success rate. Sometimes, it's finding different use cases for the same product that will help you meet this criteria (think Arm & Hammer baking soda).
  • Scope: How many people share this pain? More is not always better. It depends on what you're selling. A major donor may be all you need to help a cause succeed. A niche product doesn't need the entire population to want it. Know what you're selling and know how much you need to sell to be profitable. Then go after that market - not the entire universe of consumers.

Whatever you're selling should appeal to each of these components. But only one should dominate. Only one can become your "headline" - whether an actual ad, an initial meeting, a first impression at an event or trade show - you get the picture. Only one can unlock the full profit potential of your promotion.

Which desire you choose is the most important step. Get it wrong, and even the greatest copy won’t matter. Get it right, however, and the world will beat a path to your door.

2. SATISFY THAT DESIRE IN YOUR "HEADLINE"

Your "headline" is the catalyst that pushes your customer to your product. If you're fortunate enough to have a well-known brand, your headline should just cut to the chase. No need to waste precious time pumping up your brand. Let us know what you're offering that will change our lives. But a powerful brand is not what most of us have.

If your customer doesn’t know about your specific product, but only of the pain itself, your "headline" should be about the pain. Your prospect already knows the pain is something that needs to be eliminated - they just don't know how to do it. Your "headline" shows them you can provide the solution.

Finally, if your customer doesn’t even know the pain is there, your "headline" should identify the pain above all else. Once your prospect is convinced the pain is real, you can then lead them to your solution. 

3. SHOW HOW YOUR PRODUCT ELIMINATES THE PAIN

Once you’ve determined the strongest desire, your next step is to figure out which product performance best satisfies that desire. Remember, people don't buy products or services - they buy solutions to their pain. Advertising 101 speaks of "Features and Benefits." But a Feature means nothing if no Benefit is attached to it. Features help differentiate you from your competition, but they don't bring the customer into the store in the first place. Never start with Features. Let your prospect fully comprehend their own pain, show them how your product or service can eliminate that pain. Then, if there are other solutions available, pull up your Feature set to show how you stand up next to your competitors.

If you begin with the premise that you are not selling a product or a service, but a solution to a prospect's pain, your "headlines" and your followup copy will become more powerful and more efficient.

 Now, get out there and provide some pain relief!

* Thanks to Demian Farnworth @demianfarnworth for his insight on this subject, and to Eugene Schwartz, author of Breakthrough Advertising.

 

Don't "Silence" Your Cell Phone!

We've all heard it. At a conference, business meeting and virtually every public event we attend. And, of course, turning the ringer off is a protocol I personally wish more people would be cognizant of. 

So am I contradicting myself? Not at all. When it comes to your mobile phone, it's not about what's incoming that's critical in these situations. It's about what's outgoing!

Are you taking advantage of your phone’s content creation potential  - not just when you're in these venues, but throughout your business day? Most people aren't. And that's where you can get a leg up on your competition.

Often in these public situations, including when we're in our place of business doing our daily routine, we see, hear or even say something ourselves that has great marketing value. But just as often, we don't take copious notes. So that pithy comment, clever analysis or striking visual moment disappears into the ether. That's where keeping your cell phone at the ready can make all the difference.

Here are five ways you can—and should—use your mobile phone every day.

1. Take notes as you move through your day.

Instead of carrying around a notepad everywhere you go, use your smartphone to record ideas you can save and revisit when you’re ready.

Content creation often begins with a spark of an idea that needs fleshing out. For small businesses and nonprofits, some of the most interesting and engaging content can come from the most basic and routine parts of your day. Conversations with customers or clients, chatting with employees, observing an activity or event—are all great sources for marketing ideas that you can use in the future.

2. Bookmark stories that you find impactful

Almost as bad as not remembering a great idea is reading an article or story you know your customers will love and not being able to find it when you need it. With your smartphone, you can now bookmark those stories and revisit them when you’re ready. Personally, I peruse dozens of marketing oriented emails, blogs, etc. every week. When I find something interesting, I bookmark it; and often some part of it eventually ends up in one of my Marketing Tips & Tricks newsletter!

3. Record your thoughts

One source of rich media people often overlook is audio. Capture your reaction to events or interactions in your own words, brainstorm out loud or capture a brainstorming session, create educational content for your customers or employees. Often what we now refer to as "podcasts" can become an effective method to communicate with your local network of customers and employees—or to the entire world! 

If you want to make your audio easier to share and integrate with your social media marketing, check out the app tips below.

4. Shoot video to bring your ideas to life

Smartphones have given small businesses and nonprofits amazing new tools that let them shoot, edit and share videos that are actually pretty amazing. With the quality of cameras continuously improving and video sharing sites like YouTube making it easier to share videos, marketing with video is no longer a Hollywood affair.

As a small business, you can shoot videos anywhere, then either save them for later, upload them to YouTube or share them with your social networks in a matter of minutes.

Of course, shooting a video that will make your business or nonprofit look professional and credible takes more than a phone that shoots 1080p video. Content creation is an art, so make sure you're putting your best face forward when you enter the public arena!

5. Take photos that tell your story and compel your audience

Except for a few exceptions, like celebrity profiles or product shots, the most compelling pictures in most marketing material are candids. People love to see what's going on "behind the curtain." Show your staff interacting with customers, show your customers themselves (everyone loves to see themselves in print—and will often drive their own contacts to your website or forward your emails for you—just to show their friends). Show off your latest award, newest or recently promoted employee, use photos of previous events to drive this year's event attendance.

Photos aren’t just incredibly effective, they are also incredibly easy to use—especially when you have a smartphone. Find something you want to take a picture of, snap a photo, log on to your phone’s Facebook or Twitter app, upload the photo with a caption or create a tweet, and press ”Send.” That’s it! You can also save those same photos on your phone and use them again when you’re ready to design next month’s newsletter or update your business’ website.

With practice, you’ll be using your smartphones to develop valuable interactive content during your day-to-day operations and during live events. You won’t just be telling your customers and clients what you’ve been up to; you’ll be showing them—with text, candid photos and short videos. The best email marketing and social media campaigns include brief stories and compelling visual content!

Thanks to Ryan Pinkham @RyanPinkham for his insights on this subject.

 

Don't Say it - Show it!

Millions of people are watching videos online – including tons of your prospective customers. Video has been proven to creatively engage viewers – and as a marketing tool, they work!

Video in email marketing is found to boost conversion rates by 50%. Plus, it's a valuable resource for your event marketing (let your invitees check out the video of last year's event) and kicks your social media marketing up a notch, too.

Visible Measures’ Q2 2012 Social Video Advertising Report found that almost 900 million people watched video online in the second quarter of 2012, making it the second largest quarter for online video ever. That’s a 45% jump from Q2 2011 and a jump of nearly 75% from Q2 2010.


People aren’t just watching the latest viral videos, they’re also watching clips from their favorite businesses and organizations. If you haven’t started experimenting with online video, now might be the time. You don’t need a fancy production crew or a big budget, either. You just need a good story and someone who can help you tell it!

One you have the story you want to tell, you need to find the "hook." If you have a marketing department, they can often help here. If not, or if they're used to creating only printed materials, it helps to have a video professional provide input at this point. After that, creating a video is pretty straight forward. However, there are some tricks of the trade that you need to keep in mind - if you want to keep your audience engaged.

Good sound and good lighting are easy to ensure - and easy to ignore. Don't!

  • If you're using a consumer camera or phone with no separate audio input jack, make sure you get as close to your subject as possible. Viewers will watch ugly video if the sound is good. They will not watch good quality video if the sound is bad.
  • Don't stand your subject in front of a bright window or background that is brighter than they are.
  • Try and minimize ambient noise.
  • Don't hesitate to do multiple takes if you have the opportunity. Few people get it right the first time.

Video engages people in a way that photos and text alone can’t. For small business owners and nonprofit managers, using video in your marketing can bring faces, voices, personality, and heart to your operation, while also demonstrating your authenticity. To top that, on sites like Facebook, video posts generate 100% more engagement than text-only posts.

Plus, it’s free to host video on sites such as YouTube, Blip.tv and Vimeo, making your videos easily accessible, easily shared through social media, and easily embedded on web sites and in blog posts. Not only that, videos hosted on these sites can help your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, as they give sites like Google and Bing yet another piece of content associated with your brand to crawl and serve up to the masses.

So, how can you use video to increase your visibility and increase your audience engagement? Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

1. Thank your customers for their business or your volunteers for their support. Film yourself or a few of your staff members giving their well wishes, and stitch the clips together as fun way to say “thanks” to all those who support your business or organization.

2. Create a series of testimonials. Feature customers or advocates raving about your company, product or service. These can be done professionally; but you can also catch people when they’ve had a great experience and are willing to share it right there and then. Cell phones and tablets are actually quite usable to capture video for spur-of-the-moment customer accolades.

3. Share a cool company milestone. For example, dedicating a new facility, honoring an achievement or celebrating an anniversary.

4. Announce a fundraiser or special event. Let people know what you’re doing and why they would want to be involved. Capturing footage of this year's event and editing it into a short montage can make a huge impact when soliciting for next year's event.

5. Answer common questions from customers, or post "Ask the Expert" videos to give your audience useful tips and helpful hints about your product or service category.

6. Introduce a new product or service.

7. Put the spotlight on your team to highlight their expertise.

8. Build up a video training library that can save hundreds of hours in training new employees or volunteers.

9. Create a recruitment video that lets potential employees know why they need to come work for you.

10. Create a New Employee Orientation video that gets new hires up to speed quickly and efficiently.

These are just a few of the ways video can create a huge impact on both customer, and employee, engagement. If you'd like more ideas or information, drop me an email. Consultations are always free!

 

Please "Like Me?"

Facebook has somehow become the de facto standard for pushing our products or services on the web. Yet, it's probably one of the most difficult to grow and manage, simply because it is tightly controlled and monetized for the benefit of Facebook - not you.

Because Facebook is a closed system, the only way your potential customers can see your Facebook page is by joining Facebook themselves. This may not be a huge barrier to entry, since Facebook now boasts more than one billion (yes, "billion") subscribers worldwide; but, for some, having to perform this initial step in order to "Like" a page can be a barrier to following through. In addition, in the July 2013 survey performed by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Facebook received a score of 62 out of 100, placing it in the bottom 5% of all private-sector companies in terms of customer satisfaction, alongside industries such as the IRS e-file system, airlines and cable companies (What, you don't like your cable company?).

So, if Facebook is the place everyone visits, but no one is particularly happy with having to be there, how do you, as a business or nonprofit, determine whether to spend your time and resources getting people to "Like" your page?

First some quick stats. From a 2011 survey conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey:

  • 52% of American over 18 spend at least an hour a week on Facebook
  • 56% of those under 35 interact with their favorite brands on Facebook - far more than Twitter, Linkedin, etc.
  • 77% read the posts, news and offers of their favorite brands
  • 51% say they're more likely to buy a brand's product after becoming a fan

You can see the entire survey here.

The reason most people do business with you is because of the perceived quality of services or products you offer. Those same reasons are why most people will choose to "Like" you on Facebook.

Here are some things to think about when determining how you want to approach your "Like Us" campaign:

1. People "Like" you because they are already your customer and/or they are looking for discounts, promotions, special deals, etc. Providing benefits is the least expensive and most effective way to get someone to "Like" you. This method has impact beyond Facebook and out into the real world. Providing direct benefits leads to your customers acting as your extended sales team, letting their contacts know about what you're offering and touting its value for you. There's nothing better than positive word of mouth promotion from unbiased third party endorsers!

However, remember that one-time offers often provide only short-term results. Besides offers, you need to provide other tangible benefits, like useful tips, industry updates, access to priority customer service, etc. that will keep your fans engaged.

2. People "Like" you because they want to be the first to access exclusive content. One of the most valuable things you can offer is exclusive knowledge you can share with your Facebook fans before anyone else. Letting your fans be the first ones to read a guide or article, or watch a video - and then share it - is a powerful benefit you can offer them. Think about the content you can share on Facebook that will keep people engaged and interested in sharing with others.

3. People "Like" you because they want others to know that they like you, or they respect your views or skills. Some people have said that Facebook is similar to high school, where you want to be associated with the cool kids. On Facebook, instead of kids, it's brands. But now the customer can control what is cool, not someone who tells them what to like. This doesn't mean that peer influence has no impact on their choices; in fact, by sharing what they "Like," they're hoping that other people in their network will "Like" these brands' pages, too.

The bottom line is, if you give people good reasons to "Like" your business or organization in the real world, they will more often than not “Like” you on Facebook as well. Give your current and future customers a reason to "Like" you  - not just on Facebook, but in every aspect of your interaction with them. If you can do that, they - not your Facebook "Likes" - will become your best advocates in bringing you more customers, and more dollars to your bottom line.

 

Thanks to Heidi Wong (Twitter @htoby) for her insights on this subject.

3 Tips on Engaging Your Email Audience

From the deluge of emails we get every day, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to discern that this method of targeted marketing has become the poster child for cost-effective B2B and B2C message dissemination. 

The question is, how do you, as a marketer, get your emails to rise above the sea of email advertising (not to mention cats on skateboards) attempting to drown out your message to that potential customer?

To give themselves a leg up, more and more small businesses and nonprofits are incorporating photos, graphics and videos into their emails in order to quickly grab the attention of their readers. Unfortunately, many are incorporating these images and videos in ways that actually cause their potential customers to hit the Delete button before they read a single word.

Here are three tips to help you create positive engagement that can lead to measurable results.

Tip 1: Content. You love what you do. Unfortunately, not everyone is as excited about your message as you are. Dumping into your email every piece of content you feel you need to convince your reader to act on your message can lead to content overload. Readers fatigue easily, and may never get to that one message that might compel them to act.

One solution is to tease your readers. Let them see what you're writing about by using a compelling headline and showing the first few paragraphs. Then, add a link to the rest of the article on your website. If it's something they're interested in, they'll click through to read the rest of the article. There are two enormous benefits to this method.

One, it drives your potential customers directly to your website, where the chances of them engaging in the other opportunities there are greatly increased. Two, you now have the ability to capture exactly who is reading your article using your site's analytics.

Tip 2: Photos. A good photo can tell your story in a split second. However, too many photos can quickly detract from the message. Many email services still have severe limits on the size of an email allowed to pass through their servers. And, even if it is let through, if the reader has to wait for images to download, more likely than not they'll simply hit Delete.

A better solution is to provide a link to additional photos (along with a compelling caption) that takes your reader to your website. Not only does it reduce the size of your emails, but it also provides an opportunity to more fully engage your reader in the place you really want them to visit in the first place.

Tip 3: Video. The same is true for adding videos to your emails. There are services that will allow you to create emails with embedded video (for a fee, of course). However, I haven't seen one yet that seems to add sufficient value to make it worth the effort. Between spam filters and users who keep images turned off in their email app (a good reason to make sure you have "alternate text" added to your email images), embedded videos are problematic at the moment. 

The best solution is to provide an image (a screenshot of the video with the "Play" button visible is best) that contains a clickable link to your video. Once again, it will take your viewer to your website (or YouTube channel), where analytics are available to let you know who clicked through. I'll be talking more about this in future newsletters (since helping my clients' tell their stories using video is what I do!).

By correctly adding these features to your emails, you'll be able to collect valuable information about your potential customers...information that can dramatically improve your success rate!

Thanks to Katharine Farrell (Twitter @Katharine_F) for her insights on this subject.

 

 

Changing Times

As Bob Dylan once wrote, "The Times They Are A-Changin'." For the first 20 years of my career as an independent writer, producer & director, those words had little meaning in my particular field. The industry had some basic standards; and, though there were choices when it came to shooting and editing, everything fit pretty neatly within some very strict industry parameters.

Today, according to one source, there are more than 200 (yes, you read that correctly) types of video files in the wild. For those who are just getting their feet wet in this business (and for those who, like me, remember the "good ole' days"), the options are daunting.

So, how do you wade through the current chaos? In the I.T. world there's a phrase that I always try to keep in mind - and to avoid at all costs. It's called "Analysis Paralysis." It's easy to sit on the sidelines today and "wait until things shake out." The problem is, they won't. Those days are long gone. And, if you spend too much time trying to decide which option is going to come out on top, you'll never take the plunge into the waters of this Brave New World.

As a late adopter (I still shoot primarily on an old SD standard Sony D30), I'm being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. But, at the same time, my 25 years of experience has enriched me with the battle scars and "times of testing" that will help me move into this new arena with a little less angst.

Recently, I received a call from Crews Control, one of my referral sources to do a shoot for Kodak at The People's Choice Awards in Los Angeles. The caveat: they wanted to shoot 1080p HD using a Panasonic AG-HVX200; and, at the end of the evening, walk away with all of the footage neatly stored on an external hard drive.

First, I'd never even seen this camera up close. Second, I'd never shot using the P2 cards that this camera utilizes for acquisition. Third, I had no idea what the procedure was to transfer this footage to an external hard drive. So, of course I took the job!

Fortunately, I had time to do some research. Even more fortunately, I had a local vendor that allowed me to pick up the rental camera a day early. I spent that day testing the camera, experimenting with the offload process and familiarizing myself with the internal menu system. The advantage of 25 years behind the lens at least gave me a strong foundation from which to build on this new technology.

The shoot went off without a hitch (although a last-minute request by a PR person to offload some of the footage to a pile of USB thumb drives caused a stir - but that's a story for another day). And, today, I'm a bona fide member of the "Oh, yeah, of course I shoot HD" crowd.

Yesterday I got a call from an Executive Producer in New York who wants to shoot an interview with a PepsiCo exec out here on the Left Coast. They shoot with the Panasonic AJ-HDX900 to DVCProHD tape. Another day, another flavor. But now that my feet are wet, I know what to expect, and where to go to find the help I need for the technical issues.

So, my suggestion to you is to take advantage of the resources that are out there. If you have peers or vendors nearby, ask if you can test out their equipment. If you're shooting and editing for others, do some surveying to see if there's a preferred format. If you're doing your own projects for your own clients, the Format Wars really shouldn't affect you. Most clients simply want a great looking final product, and don't care about the technical aspects of how you delivered it. Today, creating that beautiful video can be done with a variety of tools, so pick the work flow that works best for you and your budget. 

Most importantly, don't succumb to "Analysis Paralysis." Be willing to be flexible, and when the opportunity arises, jump in with both feet. It’s the only way you're going to make a Splash!

 

The Fruits of Your Labor

Well, we made it through 2009 (or, at least most of us did). I seem to be surrounded today by what appears to be human voices expelling a massive, communal sigh of relief. There also appears to be a limited, albeit tangible, sense of optimism about 2010. Personally, I managed to get through the year relatively unscathed, though in a rather unusual way.

I always told anyone who would listen that I loved providing video production and New Media production services for non-profits (my wife sometimes believed I was one of them!). But, it was the corporate stuff that paid the bills, so I did video projects for non-profits in between the "real" work. Well, 2009 was the year my dream sort of came to fruition, but with very little fanfare, and actually unbeknownst to me - until I started working on my '09 taxes. Yes, last year, the corporate stuff became my "minor" income, and my non-profit work not only kept me afloat, but gave me one of my better years financially.

So, what's that got to do with you?

It's this. Because of my passion for working with non-profits, I began an exploration several years ago into what makes them tick. And I found an organization made up of non-profit professionals who met regularly to exchange ideas. So, I went to a couple of meetings, liked what I saw, and ultimately joined the group. Today, I am a Board Member of an organization made up of more than 300 staff members of Orange County non-profits, and my dedication to the group has created a level of trust that has steadily led to increased opportunities.

Many of us have developed habits of grabbing at what ever bag of potential money happens to land sort of in front of us. But everyone else sees those same bags of money dropping, so it becomes a rather tempestuous cat fight for all, with many a wound for the one standing at the end. Worse yet, today, those bags of money look more like the little play purses my six year old daughter uses in her dress up games with her friends.

You know you're good at what you do. You also know what makes you happy in relationship to the work you do. My suggestion for you in 2010 is to start planting and cultivating the seeds of your dreams. Find those clients you want to work with, or those projects you want to work on, without regard for the financial aspects of them, but rather for the fulfillment you'll receive when they ultimately drop directly in front of you - when nobody else is looking.

A word of caution - don't give up your day job! Those seeds probably won't sprout overnight, or even this year; but if you persevere and remain focused on your vision, you may find yourself in a place similar to mine - quietly, surprisingly doing what you love most, and earning a living doing it.

The Power of Testimonials

I recently finished a video project for Professional Health Care Systems, a provider of in-home care givers on an hourly, daily and live-in basis. The goal was to create a marketing presentation they could give out (on DVD) at trade shows, use for presentations to groups and to place on their website. The budget was small, but we still needed something compelling to drive viewers to action. Enter the testimonial.

PHCS has a loyal client base, and several clients - including family members, trustees - and even a patient - were willing to discuss their relationship with the company. These powerful, third-party endorsements drive the presentation forward, giving the viewer an immediate sense of trust towards the company. No amount of narration- no matter how well written - can replace a customer who says "I don't know what we'd do without them!"

Whenever you have opportunity - whether on video or in written form - ask for a testimonial from a satisfied customer. It's a powerful tool that will help drive more business your way.

 

Feed & Care of the Recession

We're hardscaping the backyard; our neighbor is short-selling. Are we feeding the recession with our own fears?

Whether you think the recent influx of Monopoly money into our economic system is a good thing, or a bad thing, it's ultimate purpose is, at least, understandable.

If you're old enough to remember the 50's, you'll remember that the U.S. was the world's largest creditor - and consumer. We were the Ultimate Consumer Nation. Every other country that had a "middle class" focused citizens' attention on "saving." The U.S., on the other hand, realized that, if people spent lots of money, businesses would have to create products and services to meet their demands, which, in turn, would force businesses to hire more employees, thus generating new income, which would generate new spending - and the wheels of commerce would be slick with the greased palms of the American consumer and his greenbacks.

Because of this philosophy, our country's financial institutions (with the government's blessing) began modifying its lending policies, and began extending massive amounts of credit to businesses and consumers, in order to "feed the economic machine." Now, some may say "How did the government "bless" this philosophy? One simple example: Remember when consumer debt (finance charges and interest payments) was tax deductible? Say no more....

But what happens when individuals, like you and me, decide they need to stop spending? Welcome to a Brave New World.

Today we're the world's largest debtor nation - and our title of the Kings of Consumerism is quickly eroding, as countries like China and India feed an explosively growing middle class. And now, those same financial institutions that foisted this "own today, pay tomorrow" philosophy on us, are now saying, "Sorry, we're not going to lend you money any more."

So the influx of capital is aimed at loosening the death grip our financial institutions have on their assets, so they will, once again, be happy to lend Joe and Jane Middle America enough money to buy that new GM SUV they've been drooling over. And to allow my neighbor to refinance, so the family doesn't have to be uprooted from their home.

Of course, we're all going to have to pay for this down the road. And the end of the road is a lot closer than it was two years ago. Our money is being diluted with this influx of capital (which, if you're not aware, comes from, yes, thin air). But, in the near term, there is a fix. If you and I kiss off the naysayers (read "the mainstream media"), and are willing to become consumers once again, products and services will again have to be provided, businesses will have to ramp up to meet the demand, employment will increase, and our economic engine will, once again, begin chugging forward. Not like it did in the 50's, mind you; but this "recession" will sting far less and for a far shorter time if we once again open our wallets and start passing around a few greenbacks.

Though I wouldn't recommend that new GM SUV. That's what got us in trouble in the first place....

Are We "Linkedin," or actually Isolated?

With access to a vast assortment of New Media clients, including Social Network sites, it's easy to feel like you're connected to the world, while remaining essentially isolated. But those of us who live (and die) by word of mouth and referral know the value of human contact. My business got started because of someone who knew me - and appreciated my work - at my previous employer. He called me when he found I was no longer there. It was my first freelance job, and it started me down a business path centered around developing personal relationships -- a path that continues more than 25 years later. 

Without becoming an active member of outside organizations that thrive on face to face, I would have never been able to build the multitude of valuable contacts I now have. Some are clients, some are referral sources, some are mentors, some are information providers, but most importantly, all of them I consider my friends. So, my advice? Keep using the Social Networks, but make sure you spend more of your time "face to face."