The goal of any production company is to grow and expand, taking on bigger clients and challenges. However, finding, pitching, and securing new clients is a tall order. There is no rulebook on how to land big clients, so producers might feel lost on where to begin.
To help producers and production companies navigate the business side of content creation, Wrapbook sat down with Tabitha Mason-Elliot of Bark Bark. In this article, we explore how to land big clients and give insight into the basic steps you need to take to grow your business.
Award-winning producer Tabitha Mason-Elliott is a Partner and Head of Production at Bark Bark. Based out of Atlanta, Georgia, Bark Bark is a full-service entertainment company collaborating with agencies, networks, and brands of all types.
Tabitha has a storied career in the entertainment industry, having worked with institutions such as HBO Sports, Warner Brothers Television, ESPN, Sony Pictures, FX, AMC Networks, and more.
Tabitha and her partners bought Bark Bark close to six years ago and have since grown their operations as an entertainment company. She has invaluable experience within the industry, so here are some of her tips for growing your production company.
The first step to landing bigger clients and growing your production company is preparation. You must know precisely what you have to offer so that you can strategically choose projects that will help you grow your brand.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is vital as it influences how your production company will grow. Tabitha suggests:
“You have to learn from both successes and failures. Sometimes, we don’t look at our successes and question why it was good. But then, when examining your failures, you start to realize that the success was the outlier.”
When trying to grow and improve, we often focus on our failures as a way to reduce mistakes. But the best way to actually grow in the production world is to replicate the successes you have achieved in the past.
When evaluating how to land big clients, look back at previous projects and establish key factors that enabled success. Replicate these strategies as part of your production process.
Then, when pitching new clients, you can highlight these successes as proof of why you are equipped to take on a more significant challenge.
If your eyes are set on expansion, you must be comfortable and excel at pitching. While preparing your pitch, you must:
While pitching clients,
“... Being dynamic is really important. People really can't buy into an idea that you don’t seem excited about or believe.”
Be engaging and show the client that they have your full attention. If you get them excited about collaborating with you on a creative project, they will likely choose your production company for the job.
An underrated yet crucial part of preparing for a pitch is practice.
“I don’t care how long you’ve pitched; you should still practice. It makes a huge difference [...] and there is a tangible difference between people who practice and those who don’t.”
Practicing allows you to work out the kinks beforehand so that the pitch is perfect. A perfect pitch can convert prospective clients to repeat customers, so don’t underestimate the value of practicing your pitch.
If you are wondering how to land big clients, consider investing in a sales team or salesperson. Established production companies, like Bark Bark, have an in-house sales team responsible for client outreach and securing new business.
“Salespeople are people who naturally don’t feel uncomfortable approaching people they don't know. They’re the people who don’t feel uncomfortable calling a client and asking for an introduction to someone else.”
Having an individual or a team focused only on securing new clients is far more effective than a producer overseeing production and trying to grow the business simultaneously.
However, if you are just starting out, you have to be willing to take on a sales role to grow the business.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Leverage any pre-existing relationships to try and get a meeting with someone or ask them for lunch. Tabitha points out:
“Typically, people will always see you for lunch because who doesn't love a free meal?”
Once you’ve secured that meeting or lunch, you must put your best foot forward. The goal of a first meeting should be to get a prospective client excited about working with you.
“It's up to you to be charming. You have to be sales-y without being sales-y.”
A common pitfall during creative calls or pitch meetings is overselling. This can quickly scare away any prospective clients who can smell desperation. Be measured in your approach, and once again, practice beforehand!
According to Tabitha, the secret of how to land big clients boils down to:
“... Being likable and competent. We think it's all going to be about the work, but frankly, a lot of people really just like working with people they like.”
Show your relevant experience through a pitch deck or sizzle reel during a pitch meeting. Giving prospective clients a demonstration of your work proves that you have the expertise required to take on their projects.
But having the best creative brief won’t win you a project. As Tabitha says, be personable and willing to communicate with clients to achieve the best possible product.
If you're new to the industry and wondering how to get big clients, you may consider cold emailing potential clients in the hopes of securing a project.
But is it an unprofessional strategy?
“It’s not that it's unprofessional; it's just unlikely. If you reached out to me cold [...], I may not respond to your email. Not because I’m being rude, but because it's not high on my list of priorities. People respond to people they know or are introduced to. Most are too busy to do more than that.”
Consider using cold emails to grow your network. Instead of asking for a job, ask that person for advice or offer to buy them a cup of coffee. They might be more inclined to listen and converse with you if no financial strings are attached. If you organically build and sustain the relationship for some time, they might offer you a project or, at the very least, a chance to pitch.
The entertainment industry is a relationships business. The success of your production company and career depends on your ability to network and sustain relationships with people within the industry.
Effective networking requires more than being personable during meetings; it requires research. You need to research your network to see if they know anybody who can help you reach your goals.
“Nine times out of ten, people you know are happy to introduce you to other people they know. If you are good at what you do and likable, they’ll make introductions.”
Asking for introductions is a simple way to grow your network. Remember to be tactical in your approach and not overbearing.
Similarly, use each pitching opportunity as a way to grow your network. While the primary goal of these meetings is to secure a job or sell a project, building a long-lasting relationship with the person sitting across from you is equally important.
That way, even if you don’t secure that particular project, you will have the opportunity to pitch for future projects. Tabitha explains how some of Bark Bark’s client relationships have:
“... Been amazing relationships with clients leaving a company and going somewhere else. They see you as an asset and a tool in their arsenal to prove themselves in a new environment. Make it worth it.”
Learn to play the long game and focus on how to build meaningful relationships. It is rare and very difficult to achieve immediate success in this industry, so make sure you take the proper steps and position yourself for long-term success.
Pro tip: always send a thank you note within one day of the meeting. This not only serves as a way to check in and review the details of your meeting but also gives you a chance to stay at the top of their mind.
Another core element of sustaining long-term relationships with clients is face time. Tabitha makes it a priority to meet with her clients in person on a regular basis.
“I make it a priority to physically put eyes on them because being top of mind is half the battle. When something crosses your desk, you think of the people you just had contact with or people who have been keeping up with you.”
Timing can be a major factor in landing bigger clients, so regularly checking in with clients or people within your network is important. People at agencies and networks are often busy with their own work. They won’t always remember you as the perfect production company for a job. Therefore, it is up to you to stay in regular contact with them so that you are the first person they think of when an opportunity arises.
Apart from the pitching and networking, you must also deliver on the production experience and final product itself. To do so, keep the following in mind.
When exploring how to land big clients, be prepared to deal with new challenges that come with expansion. According to Tabitha:
“The biggest challenge around expansion is infrastructure.”
Bigger projects with bigger clients mean more moving parts that the production company needs to manage simultaneously. Ensure that you are equipped to handle the infrastructure requirements of larger projects.
Otherwise, you might bite off more than you can chew. Be honest with yourself during the self-evaluation phase and prepare for bigger projects accordingly.
“Do you have the right producers? The right team? Do you have [...] experienced folks who have done this before? And do you know they can deliver? Because now you are entrusting more people with your company’s reputation, and by default, financial stability.”
An excellent way to prepare for a larger project with complex logistics is to speak with or hire experienced agency producers or creative directors who have been in similar positions. This allows you to sidestep the common pitfalls and meet the project requirements.
The best way to guarantee repeat business is to make each client’s experience seamless. Tabitha highlights how production companies should focus on fostering a seamless collaboration experience.
“When they work with you, make that seamless. Make it so easy for them that working with you feels like short-cutting their own job. They need to feel taken care of [...] and your job is to over-deliver and make their job as easy as possible.”
Effectively communicating client expectations ensures that clients have a positive experience working with you. Therefore, when they have complex projects in the future, they will turn to you because you make their job less complicated.
It may feel like boasting, but self-promotion is essential in this business. Showcasing big projects or clients you’ve worked with on social media or through a newsletter is a great way to let people know what you've been up to. Don’t be shy to tell people:
“What you are doing or launching and what your aspirations are. Sometimes the opportunity comes just because you voiced it to the right person.”
If someone in your network who works at a multinational company sees that you've been working with brands of similar stature, they might be far more inclined to reach out with an opportunity.
Updating people on your career or your production company’s achievements is like a bat signal that will attract more positive attention toward you and your production company. It also highlights a level of competence, trustworthiness, and experience.
Growing a production company and securing bigger clients requires a balancing act. On the one hand, you must effectively network and expand your circle of influence to attract bigger and better opportunities.
On the other hand, you must also foster a seamless and collaborative experience with each client to ensure repeat business. We hope this article serves as a starting point for those thinking about how to land big clients.
To learn how Wrapbook can help your commercial production company, check out our Roundup of Commercial Clients’ Case Studies. And if you are looking to grow your commercial network, read up on the Best Commercial Meet-ups in LA.
At Wrapbook, we pride ourselves on providing outstanding free resources to producers and their crews, but this post is for informational purposes only as of the date above. The content on our website is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for legal, accounting, or tax advice. You should consult with your own legal, accounting, or tax advisors to determine how this general information may apply to your specific circumstances.