Not all of my business failures were whole businesses. Some failures were ventures I had during my tenure as a video producer. One such failure happened back when my company was called Cinematic Studios.
During the spring of 2007 I made a decision to change the focus of my business from weddings to corporate work. That coincided right with the time we produced the first recap video for WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International). That same year was the first time we also started doing video work for Pictage. Then we did the recap video for PhotoPlus Expo. That fall I also started my now defunct photographers podcast F-Stop Beyond. Cinematic Studios was becoming synonymous with videos in the photography world.
We were also one of the first companies to start marketing promo videos for photographers. I had started the practice back in 2004, but when our work in the pro photo world became so prolific, I decided to kick it up a notch.
We partnered with a company that was serving thousands of photographers with a product/service that helped them market themselves. (I hope I’m being vague enough here. But if I’m not, know ahead of time that I have had and still have a great rapport with this company.) Our plan was simple. This company would market the production of promo videos to their photographer base, and my company would produce them. I started putting in plans to do dozens of promos every month. Because of the national presence I’d built in the pro video world, I had the ability to tap and hire contractors all over the country. We would make a fortune!
Well, we didn’t exactly meet the numbers I had predicted. We didn’t get anywhere close. The branding was top notch. The videos we had as samples were uber cool. Both my company and this were well known in the pro photo world. On paper, it looked great. But, it just didn’t pan out. My theory is that it was too soon. Yes, there were some photographers getting promos, but I don’t think it was seen as much of an imperative marketing tool as it is now. (And this was well before the HD DSLR craze). The lesson here is that the right timing plays a huge role in the success of an endeavor. Who knows how this venture might have panned out if we started it the summer that Vincent Laforet’s “Reverie” hit?
The unfortunate thing about this lesson is, you can’t always control it. Research can help, but even if you do all the research, the timing could still be off. The best way to cope is learning how to deal with timing-related business failures. In this case, we realized early into the contract that it was not going to be all the great. Both sides decided to stop putting marketing muscle behind it. Also, as I mentioned in Part 1, have a back up plan as well. Whenever possible, go into such a venture like this with a Plan B (even if Plan B is a good plan of how to get out of Plan A.)
Over these past three days I’ve shared three very different stories about failures in my career. I can look back on all of them now and laugh. Naturally, while I was in the midst of them, they weren’t that funny. But one other thing I learned from all of these failures was this: don’t have money be a major reason why you put your heart and soul into something. If the first thing that comes to mind when you think about any venture is that you’ll “make a fortune,” that’s probably a good sign not to do it. IMHO.
I still do photography promos, but no where near the 30/month I once dreamed I would do (even saying it now makes me laugh. Ha!) But, there’s one photographer out there I’ll make promos for until the cows come home…