I’ve been working on videos for startups and small businesses for awhile now and one of the constant points of tension is in trying to convince my clients that they don’t have to include every detail about their product in a video. I understand they built this amazing new thing and it’s going to change the world. They put their blood, sweat and tears into the product. However, when you’re marketing your service or product you need to keep it simple.
For potential customers who come across their video or webpage, they want to learn what it is that this service or product is going to do for them and why they need it. If they can’t relate to what they are seeing, they won’t stick around. You need to convince people there’s a good reason to choose your product over another equally good product. Think of it like the cherry on top of a sundae. That cherry isn’t going to make a bad sundae good, but if you have the option of the sundae with the cherry or with-out, the one with the cherry is going to win. The video adds little to the service but it makes that sundae look even better.
Skip all the marketing jargon, explain it in a simple easy to follow manner. Capture their attention and don’t bore them with details. Give your customer that cherry and you’ll win them over.
I find myself splitting my time between the tech start-up world and the craft beer community. I’m probably more involved in the start-up scene now since I’ve been building my own business over the last couple years but the beer world has given me a lot of insight. I’ve hosted an internet video series for the last five years about craft beer and I spend a good deal of time with brewers. I’ve noticed that the start up community and brewing community have some similarities in how they operate.
A Look Back We had a boom and crash with both industries in the 90’s. The beer boom and bust of the 90’s is something I’m less familiar with since I wasn’t able to drink at the time. Even though I wasn’t part of the dot com crash there is a lot more written about it so I get an idea of what happened. I’ve run into tech and beer people who look back at that time and either argue that it’s different or who often remind us that what is happening now is basically the same and we should get ready for the crash.
"All of This Has Happened Before And it Will all Happen Again."
I, for one am on the side that this is different. Most people are being a bit more careful this time around. The growth on both sides has been slower and more focused.
Changing Teams I’ve met a number of brewers over the years and have heard their stories about how they used to brew at this place and then went here and then there. Typically they have brewed at two or three places before the place they are at now. It’s pretty common to be moving around as a brewer, unless of course it’s your own brewery, then you might want to stay and build it. The same thing happens in the tech community, you hear about people leaving Google to work at Apple or how they helped build a couple of start-ups before getting hired or aquired by Facebook. You learn a lot when you’re able to move around and see how other people work. But the end goal for most brewers and tech folks is to have their own business that they are building or helping to build.
Start Small Growth in both usually starts small whether with a team of two or just one person who love’s brewing. They start small trying to gain interest and attention and they grow as it’s needed. No matter how big they get there is always a core group of people at the center making the calls, brewing the beer and figuring out their direction for the future.
Making A Great Product If you’re creating an app, a service or brewing beer you need to make sure the product is top notch. For the most part the ones that start out are making something great, not just focusing on the low hanging fruit to make lots of money fast. They want to create a good product, to stand out from the rest.
Things Fail Failure is a word start-ups know too well and they are fine with it. Services fail, they don’t catch on, or they don’t fill a need. You shut it down and move onto the next thing. Breweries fail too. If it’s not working, then it might be time to move on.
Make Your Customers Your Beta Testers You don’t know if something is a hit or a bust unless you put it out there and test it. This is something that’s a bit annoying on both sides but its something start-ups and breweries do all the time. Startups build something that sort of works and they push it out to see what people think. Then they release a new version and then another. Getting user feedback all the time to make it better or changing it all together to make something people really want. Brewers and breweries test on the customer too but often for different reasons. One, they can’t afford to dump a product so they put it out there even if it might not be stellar. But they also put it out there to see what their customers want. Beer is subjective so what might be too hoppy to you, isn’t hoppy enough to someone else. You have to learn what your audience wants.
Getting Acquired This is something that is pretty common in the tech world when Facebook, Yahoo! or Google purchase an app or team for a crazy amount of money. In the beer community it’s something fairly new and we haven’t really seen much of it yet… the bigger one we’ve heard about was AB-InBev buying Goose Island. This isn’t the last we’ll hear of these sorts of deals. I think they aren’t as common now because it takes more time and money to build a brewery than an app. The bigger breweries aren’t interested in you until you have a big following. You’re not on their radar. That’s where the tech world and the brewing industry still differ. The big guys in the tech industry want the software, the app, or the idea and it doesn’t have to be known or heard of by a lot of people. The big breweries right now are only interested in acquiring a smaller brewery if that brewery has the people and beers in place. Sometimes when an app or service gets bought by the big guys, the app or service gets better, grows its fan base, or is included or bundled with something already existing. And then there are the times when an app or service is bought just to squash the technology. Hopefully, for all the craft beer lovers out there, the big breweries don’t take a page out of the tech industries play book and start acquiring breweries at that same rate.
Groupon and Living Social tried to coupons cool, and it was working… for a little while But at some point we all just got stick of it. I’m sure someone has pointed the reason for the fall but for me was I just got sick of keeping tracking of coupons. I’m all for saving money but when it becomes a chore to deal with, well it’s not worth it.
It’s the same thing that happens when you think you’re going to pick up the Sunday paper and start clipping coupons. You do it for a little while and start to save money but some it’s a hassle it’s more work and you realize pulling out a bunch of coupons at the store is lame. Plus when you go to the store or restaurant and you forget your coupon.
That’s why I’m loving services like Belly, LevelUp and Foursquare that offer a deal not a coupon when you are at the location. You’re already at the location, you likely didn’t make a special trip and it’s a bonus you’re saving money. We’ve seen Groupon and Yelp start to offer deals when you check in or are nearby and that’s great. The less work I have to do to save money makes me more likely to use the service and come back to the location. Foursquare is really smart with the last couple moves with American Express and now Visa. They are offering discounts if you check-in and use the credit card you have linked with your Foursquare account. Talk about easy! I was already go to check-in with Foursquare and since I was to use my card too since I almost never have cash.
Everyone wants to save money it’s simply figuring out how to make it work simply and without have to luge around a coupon organizer and looking like a totally nerd.
When working on broadcast commercial spots, there are not usually a lot of delays in production, the airtime has already been paid for and something needs to air.
However, I work with a lot of startups and issues can come up and there are times where the products get delayed. Even if something happens with a launch date or product release date, the video isn’t necessarily going to be coinciding with that, it could be coming out with a press release instead. Its important that I know what role the video I am producing will play in the overall plan.
When there are these real deadlines, such as a launch or a press release coming out, I’m more than happy to put in the extra time, the late nights and even weekends if needed to make sure that deadline is hit.
If the deadline for the video I’m working on has been pushed back, its important that the client let me know. I know dates are often flexible but when I go into a project thinking a video is needed for a certain day, I do my best to make that happen. There have been instances where I’ve met the deadline for a project and then the client ends up wanting to tweak for an extra week past that drop dead date they gave me.
Maybe I rushed parts or scaled back on what I wanted to do because I was worried about this date. At 2:00 AM I’m not at 100%. If I would have known there was an extra day, I may have changed something in my design or animation. I would have put that time to use, improving elements and fine-tuning the piece. Not to mention that when I schedule a project for a certain amount of days and then the client wants to tweak past that date, that adds conflicts with my schedule. So its always important to communicate these important dates with all involved on a project, if a deadline changes then include the people working on the project with that bit of information.
There are new startups everyday and its hard to sort through and know which ones to trust. It’s especially hard to trust a new service when they are offering a service that you need to enter your credit card number in to pay for something. We do a lot of business online so we don’t typically have an issue with this. However, we know a lot people have difficulty trusting a new service. A number of startups have told us that they have received emails and phone calls asking if “this was real” or saying “I didn’t think this was real until I tried it”. Building trust is a huge issue for a new startup.
One way you can help reassure your customers is with a video. When you only have a bunch of text on your site it can be hard to figure out the right tone; you might think you’re being quirky but your customers might think you’re a joke. A professional video can help give your service some trust and credibility. Video takes time and costs money and your customers know this and are more likely to sign up when they know you’re taking your business seriously.
Last night was the Chicago / Midwest Emmy Awards; LooseKeys was nominated for the :30 second BodyShopBids commercial spot we put together. We were up against some great work from some very talented people and unfortunately we didn’t pull out the win. Win or lose, it was a pretty amazing accomplishment to get nominated. LooseKeys has only been around a year and a half and we’re already playing with the big boys. Being a small company and being up against bigger teams and companies who have been doing broadcast work much longer than us is awesome.
The startup world always talks about disruptive startups; if LooseKeys isn’t destructive to the industry I don’t know what is. We’re seeing the industry change and we’re zigging and zagging with it. Showing that you don’t have to be a big studio or even TV station with a large budget in order to put out great work that can get you recognized by your peers.
Even though I didn’t come home with an Emmy last night I’m not going to let that slow me down. Everyday I’m going to keep hustlin to make great work, share what I learn and continue to grow.
Everyone always wants to work on big brands like MTV, Coco-cola, Nike and Apple; its nice having those names in your portfolio and the work featured on your site. Besides the bragging rights, what else do you get out of working with these brands? You’re designs or animation didn’t necessarily help grow their business. The ad or work you did for them may have helped increase their profit but there are so many other factors involved when dealing with a large brand.
That’s one of the great things about working with startups and small businesses, they are changing so rapidly and when you do work with them, it matters to them. The work you do is meaningful to them; your not only getting paid but you’re helping this business to succeed. Yesterday a video I helped with was featured on TechCruch. It was just a quick little logo animation I did for them. They got some seed funding which means that they can continue doing their thing and hopefully continue to grow. When I saw this news it felt good to know that what I did may have helped a little. I’d like to think that maybe my work made a difference for this business. And I hope we can make a difference for many more businesses to come.
Asking yourself, how can I get rich with this business is a silly question. Unless you win the lottery or rob a bank, no one get’s rich quick. The chances that one day you’ll own your own private island is pretty slim. Even those successful startups you hear getting millions for their ideas took time to get there. None of them were a million dollar business the first day they launched. Instead you should be asking, what do I need to do to build the sort of business that I’ll want to work at in two years, five years, or 10 years. Is this something that you’d be proud to tell your kids that you do? I believe that most people start a business because of an interest. Whether it’s a bike shop, a bakery, or a design firm. Be sure to start a business based on your interest or passion and not just for the money because you’ll get a lot more out of the business that way.
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Maeve and I put together a montage of the explainer and demo video work we’ve worked over the last twelve months. The last year building LooseKeys has been a blast and it has been a pleasure to work with so many wonderful people and businesses. I’m really looking forward to another exciting year.