Client Communication in Video Production Industry, as well as any other business, is very important. Clients, look to us as professionals to provide solutions to their problems. From the easiest request to the most ridiculous, our clients expect us to deliver.
Can't Means Never Could!
When communicating with the clients, they don't want to hear that "we can't do that" or "that's not part of our agreement." They want to know that we believe they are in control and that we will do whatever in our power to accommodate their needs.
If you haven't experienced it already, you will have clients that need a project completed by a certain date. When negotiating the contract, you make sure that the client understands that they will be required to provide a certain amount of support so that you will have what you need to complete the project on-time and on-budget. They agree to their responsibilities, sign the contract and you are on your way.
As the project progresses, you realize that due to other business needs, your client is unable to give you the support you need to adhere to the terms of the contract. For instance, you need them to provide pictures and graphics for the project but after several requests, you still haven't received them. Or, you need to set up an interview with the president of their company but they aren't able to schedule him until two days before your project must be complete.
You are frustrated because the project has stalled and you will be forced to work crazy hours in the last couple of days of the project just to meet the deadline. This is when you have the opportunity to shine above your competitors and win a client for life or to do what just about any other service provider would do and lose the client forever plus get a bad wrap in the B2B business community because bad word spreads...FAST!
In this situation, you MUST schedule an appointment to sit down with your client to discuss the fact that it will be extremely difficult to meet their deadline if they are unable to get you the pictures/graphics or whatever in a timely manner. Offer them an adjusted timeline that they can follow that outlines when you need certain elements to keep the project progressing smoothly. You can also offer to do a lot of this legwork for them but that you think it will cause you to go over the original budget agreed on in the contract.
Have a number ready because you will almost always be asked "how much extra will it cost for you to hunt down the pictures?" If they are extremely busy and feel like they may cause the project to fail due to their inability to respond based on your timeline, they will pay the extra money. If they feel like they can make it happen, they will appreciate your offer to make it easier on them but will refocus their efforts to meet your timeline.
After this meeting, thank them for their time and ask them to contact you anytime if they decide to ask you to help move the project along based on what you recommended above.
Now you have to watch the timeline carefully. If the client responds well, you will have no problem meeting the deadline. If they continue to miss project milestones, you could be in trouble. When the first milestone is missed, send a polite email to your client contact asking them if they will be able to meet the milestone within a day or so. If they act like they will have trouble getting you what you need, offer to do this again for them based on what you explained in the meeting. If they still want to keep that responsibility inside their four walls, simply mention that you are concerned that it will be difficult to meet the deadline if the project is delayed much more.
This is the time in the project where you have to start figuring out how you can finish the project without the help of your client. If they've missed several milestones along the way, the odds are good that things won't change before the project is due. Decide what the "point of no return" is and make a promise to yourself that once you reach that date before the deadline, you will roll your sleeves up and do whatever it takes to complete the project for your client.
Now, you will be aggravated with the client and your family may be pissed that you are working all the extra hours. However, your client will not even realize you are doing all this work until you show up with a completed project on time. They will realize that you went WAY above and beyond the terms of your agreement to make sure the project was a success. Plus, they will also realize that you probably saved their job.
If they are good, ethical people, they will never look for another video vendor again. You will get all their business as long as you remain competitively priced and hopefully, you won't reach the "point of no return" more than a couple of times more in your dealings with them. Now that you know how they work, you can negotiate project terms to put you in a position to be successful.
When they say that they'll take care of a portion of the project with their staff, you can remind them of how difficult it was for them to meet the milestones in previous projects and ask that they give you the extra budget to make sure it gets done promptly. If they won't give you the extra budget, then you may want to consider dropping them as a client. Yes, it is perfectly normal for successful video businesses to drop clients. I've dropped several over the past 7 years and am better off for it.
The main point I've tried to make in this post is that you will be put in situations quite often where you have to decide whether or not you are going to go way above and beyond for your clients. You may lose money because you've spent more time than you budgeted in your contract, but if you do everything in your superhuman power to make each project a success, you'll win clients for life. In
the early years, extra work without extra pay sucks. But, one day you'll have several employees that you have to pay every two weeks and a large base of clients that "know you will deliver no matter what" will be needed to make payroll or better yet, to have a decent profit.
Communicate Often With Your Clients
How often were you communicating with the client between projects? As video producers, it's pretty common for us to only speak with clients when they are either talking about producing another project or during the production of the project. The problem is, when you aren't talking to them between projects, other production companies are. You MUST find a way to stay top of mind with the client.
We communicate with our clients in the following ways:
1. Monthly newsletter
2. Sponsor events that the client also sponsors
3. Offer pro bono services to support the organizations that the client supports
4. Take clients to lunch to "learn more about their communication needs and to discuss your new capabilities."
5. Write an article once a month that can help them improve their communication efforts "How to design better PowerPoint, Effective Ways to Use Video on Your Website, etc." and email them to the client.
Clients need information:
Clients need information and they want someone to provide it. We all wish loyalty would keep us in the driver's seat with all of our clients. The problem is that WE aren't their priority. If one of our competitors happens to be in front of them when a need is identified, their stands a good chance we'll lose the business.
You MUST find ways to let clients know what your capabilities are soon after you produce a project and up until you begin the next project. When I produce a marketing video, I'll send the client information on our seminar and training video services.
This keeps the ball rolling when they are at the height of satisfaction with my company. Then, just when things start to settle down, I make sure I'm in their face again and again so that they don't forget we are the best option for their video, multimedia and webcasting needs.
Increase Sales By Offering Options When Communicate With Your Client
If you want to close more deals, offer your prospects more options to choose from. But be sure that one of the options is an entry-level, extremely budget-conscious product/service.
We have a marketing video production we offer called the $5kMarketingVideo. As you may have guessed, the package is $5000. This is one of our lower-end products but it is easier to sell and there are thousands of potential customers in my market that can afford it.
In the 6 months that we have been pushing this product, we've only had a few takers. I found that people were still shocked by the $5k price tag even though our usual marketing project budgets are well over $10,000.
This led me to try something else offer an even lower budget marketing video product that would have limited time and services put into it but that would make it impossible for any business to pass up. The lower-end product is priced at $1500 and includes a one-camera crew for half a day, then about 6 hours of editing. These videos aren't award-winners, but they are clean, creative and the client's love them.
The idea for the lower-end product is so that we could close more deals, faster. Then, when the clients get used to using video in marketing communications with tour clients, they'll allocate more money to video in the future and come back to us for higher-paying projects.
Then, to my surprise, something amazing happened. When we present the two options to prospective customers (low-end and the $5k) they are now buying $5k's like crazy. It's as if no one wants to be the company that purchases the bottom of the barrel product. Since they understand there is a lower-end, more budget-friendly option, they feel good about spending more money to get the better product. In fact, many of these folks have bought $10k plus in services after I present the lower two options.
In our industry, we suffer from the "how much should I really pay to produce a video" perception. And, they have absolutely no idea if we are trying to rip them off or not. By offering a few low-end, yet profitable for you, products to get them in the door and accustomed to using video, you'll be able to close more deals faster, and, will most likely end up selling more of your normal budget or above normal budget projects as well.
I used to think that the only good projects were big-budget projects. However, it is almost impossible for a small business to have enough money or marketing muscle to get in the faces of larger businesses.
The key is to offer products that smaller businesses can afford, or that people lower on the totem pole at the big companies can get approved. Then, when you make them happy once or twice, the bigger fish come swimming and so do their bigger budgets.