Figuring out how to win and maintain a client base is one of the most challenging and critical questions that a commercial production company can face. Client volume can directly determine a production company’s levels of output and income, but the actual process of getting clients requires significant energy, time, and money, with no guarantee of results. That's why knowing how to effectively network as a producer is vital to getting business.
In this post, we’ll review some networking and self-promotional best practices, and point out a few pitfalls to avoid so you can increase efficiency in client lead generation and outreach. You can use these tips to optimize your strategies following the specific goals you’ve set for your production company.
Before we get into practical tips of networking and self-promotion, it's important to look at who we want to be promoting to---to secure not only more clients, but the ones that are best for you and your company.
Client acquisition should begin by taking a long, hard look at your business goals and deciding what kind of clients you want to work for with as much specificity as is feasible.
Advanced client profiling might understandably not appeal to every producer’s networking instincts, but it’s important to consider the benefits of reflection for production companies working at any level. Production companies operating at all points in the spectrum can work with more focus and efficiency if they’re aware of how client-types relate to their larger goals.
Pursuing the wrong clients will inevitably lead production companies to waste time and money. Worse, it may also lead to the pollution of their brand identity and subsequently devastating long-term effects to the company’s bottom line.
By contrast, building a profile that describes your ideal client will help your production company prioritize potential clients and narrow down the list of ways that you might pursue them. This will dramatically reduce waste of all kinds within your client acquisition strategy including with whom and how you network.
And there are practical benefits too.
While most client leads will usually come as a result of referrals and networking, knowing the ideal size, age, funding level, and other demographic data points of your potential clients can help you generate brand new leads organically and at minimal cost. Searching databases with this information is one of the most accessible methods for finding new clients in the digital age.
But now for the fun.
Gaining new business goes beyond standardized networking practices. While those are avenues for many producers and ones we’ll cover here, we’ll also be diving into how and why relationship maintenance is key.
But let’s start with the fundamentals:
It should go without saying that if you want to get clients for a production company, you have to first prove that you can produce. The cornerstone for winning clients at any level should be the produced work itself.
The portfolio of a production company is most commonly presented in the form of a reel. However, while the reel is certainly the most straightforward and essential component of a production company’s portfolio, it’s important to consider other forms of presentation to round out your brand.
A company website, for instance, is often just as critical as a reel, and company profiles on visually oriented social media platforms (like Vimeo, Instagram, and even LinkedIn) can elevate your brand’s presence and help you position it in the market with more precision.
Infrastructure and service capabilities can also be treated as part of a production company’s portfolio. Do you offer in-house post-production? Equipment rentals? Do you have creative directors or brand strategists on staff? Your production company’s assets can be just as compelling as its reel. Don’t be afraid to showcase them when appropriate.
The beauty of portfolio items is that they primarily leverage pre-existing strengths. Ideally, they can be used to attract, win, and keep clients at minimal added cost.
Connections create opportunities.
A production company’s best bet for getting new clients will be to reach out to its collective network with specific needs. The truth is that most people want to help when they’re able to do so, particularly if they’re helping someone who might someday return the favor. By actively leveraging its network, your production company’s access to resources, knowledge (and yes, even clients) will increase dramatically.
On the other hand, if you need to expand your network, there are many ways to make that happen, from meeting professionals on the job to making new contacts through mutual acquaintances to running into production people at the grocery store. There are a million possibilities.
However, if you want to expand your circle more actively, organizations like the AICP frequently host networking events designed to help producers forge new connections.
Promotion is the publicization of your production company and its services in an effort to attract clients or build brand presence.
Traditional promotion mostly takes the form of advertisement: billboards, commercials, branded content, etc. It’s designed to persuade customers of a product or company’s relative value. However, while it is possible for a production company to see some benefit from such traditional promotion, advertisement strategies often come at a burdensome cost and are difficult to aim at potential clients as a target audience.
To maintain optimal efficiency, production companies should be wary of engaging in traditional promotion campaigns unless the goals of the strategy are very clear and well-considered.
Beyond leveraging its network and portfolio, the best way for a production company to promote itself is often through a sales representative.
Sales reps specialize in connecting the needs of brands and agencies with the capabilities of production companies. They’ll use your reels and other materials to pitch the company and its directors for opportunities you may not have had access to otherwise. In other words, a rep’s entire job is figuring out how to source new clients so that you don’t have to.
There are, of course, still costs associated with hiring a rep. In making the decision to enlist a rep, carefully consider your growth level and strategy beforehand.
Keep in mind, expanding who you know can be a true waste of time if those who know you don’t enjoy working with you. While there may be something to be said for the success of those working producers who actively step on others to get what they want, there is room for the good ones.
The truth of it is- successful self-promotion happens as you’re working a job.
When you do your job well and treat those you work with even better, you’re creating a real-life resume.
We caught up with someone who has been in the business for quite awhile who shares this sentiment.
Chris Ruiz, AICP and long-time producer reminded us that this is a flooded market. Everyone wants to be a producer. If people don’t enjoy working with you, when it comes time for the next job, it won’t matter how big your network is and it certainly won’t matter how well you did three jobs ago.
Beyond expanding your network and promoting yourself on paper, ask yourself how you can enrich the network you already have.
In order to secure repeat clients, you have to do your job well.
The reality is that production companies operate in an industry defined by performance. Therefore, a positive reputation is the most valuable asset a production company can possibly possess.
Chris Ruiz shares with us that...
“You’re only as good as your last job.”
Because impressively executing a job for your clients means more than just delivering what they ordered on time. This is a service industry, and the key to figuring out how to attract new clients into your network is to immerse them in a compelling professional experience.
Of course, exactly how you do this is entirely up to you and your company.
In terms of efficiency, the good news is that the costs of executing well should be business as usual. Measuring the financial effectiveness of spent time, energy, and money should be easier than it is with most other business activities.
And remember that a positive performance from your production company and its freelance teams can be profitable even if a client does not provide you with immediate work. Even in the pitching phase, strong execution will cement your position in a client’s mind for the long term, which may, in turn, help you source new clients elsewhere in the future.
However you choose to promote yourself, getting more work is dependent on how you present yourself on the job. Treating others with respect and executing well will likely go further than throwing a resume into the ether. If you’re looking for more tips on how to source more clients, check out our post that outlines just that for both freelancers and companies.
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