Do Your Homework

Recently someone contacted me about getting involved with my filmmakers podcast Crossing the 180. He asked me something to the effect, “I don’t know if you’re still doing your podcast, but…”

Okay, let’s stop and percolate on that for a while. “I don’t know if you’re still doing your podcast, but…” I thought to myself, “Really?! You want to be on my podcast and get that exposure, and you can’t even take 5 minutes to see if I still do it? Not to mention that it’s obvious you don’t even listen to it.” What does that immediately tell me? He was basically just interested in promoting himself and really could care less about the podcast.

© Geir Halvorsen on Flickr

That got me thinking about the importance of getting to know your prospects before you do business with them. Before you ask someone to make an investment in you, you need to show them that you are willing to make an investment (in time) to know a little about them. I don’t care if you shoot weddings, bar mitzvahs or commercials. Every client wants to know that you are invested in their project. Invested mentally, artistically, and where applicable, emotionally. The same goes for if you’re in the job market looking to get hired by a company. Do your homework!

  • Website. Start here. This is a no-brainer. Read their “about” page. Look at their products and services. Look for ways in which you can contribute to their success.
  • Social media. Just about  everyone nowadays has a Facebook page and Twitter account. Check them out. What kind of things have they been tweeting about lately? Is it their birthday? Are you already connected to them via a mutual Facebook friend? Do they have videos on YouTube that can give you more insight?
  • LinkedIn. Most companies and managers also have some kind of LinkedIn profile. Check that out too. What is their work history? Do you share something in common that could be fodder for “small talk” as you get to know them?
  • Google ’em. Find out what else has been written about this company and/or person. You can not only find out things that will help you provide better service, but you may discover things that may even aid in your negotiation? Is competition stirring up in their industry you should know about? Are they a multi-millionaire socialite in your city you didn’t even know existed? Did they just make a $2 million donation to some charity? All that info is good to know before negotiating.
  • Ask. Lastly, ask them about what they’re looking for. What are their goals and objectives? What are their hopes and dreams? How did they find you? And it should go without saying that if you land the gig, continue to learn about their needs via meetings, e-mail, phone calls, etc. I send all of my clients a form to fill out that has a series of questions about their objectives, branding, etc.

In today’s globally connected, social media-crazed world, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go into a conversation with a potential client knowing as much about them as the FBI would know. (Well, maybe not as much, but you get the idea).

What other ideas do you have for getting the 4-1-1 on a prospect before meeting/speaking with them?

8 thoughts on “Do Your Homework

  1. I agree completely agree Ron! I think the same can be said for both sides of the Client/Business line. We as filmmakers and anyone in the “creative” business should work extra hard to get to know a client and their specific needs. It irks me when I see the same photos and style of videos on someone’s blog over and over again. Each client is different and unique. You may have a certain style – but don’t make everything cookie cutter.

    On the flip side – a note for clients to get to know who you are hiring. I had someone recently who kept pointing me to another filmmaker in the area saying they wanted a video just like theirs and not like mine. This happened even up until the night before the shoot. It hurt because they hired me to do the job, not him. I love the other filmmakers work but its unrealistic to ask someone you are hiring to do exactly the same work as another and limits the creative process. It also shows you have little faith in their ability to create something special and unique to your needs.

    Thanks so much for the inspirational and though-provoking blogs Ron!

    1. THanks for the comment Jonathan. You’re point about clients doing their research is a great one. When you’re meeting with a prospect, all around it should be about mutual info-gathering. As far as your client who kept asking you to make your video look like the other guys, was it a case where the other guy was way more expensive? Why not just hire him/her?

      1. We are are both in the exact same price range. The other filmmaker was booked on the day they needed the shoot. I was called in 2 weeks before the event. And he even referred her to me. It was a great experience but was definitely stressful because I had to ask myself What would this other guy do – instead of what would I do…

        1. That’s a bummer. Glad the experience was great overall. Would you take a job like that again in the future though? What were the lessons learned for you, if any? If you don’t mind sharing of course.

          1. Honestly, I didn’t know it was that serious until we had the meet and greet. I think if I had it to do over again, I would be even more clear than I already was that I am who I am. And let them know if they want me to drastically change – I’m not their guy. I love trying new styles but I can’t have a client ask repeatedly for me to watch the same videos over and over to emulate them. And to be completely honest – the my style is quite similar. Just one of my videos was a bit up beat and playful instead of romantic – but that was how the couple was – fun loving and quirky.

            However, I may have considered when the last email came just before the shoot – I may have said clearly yet nicely- I am my self and if that isn;t what you want then please hire someone else.

            It is all about managing expectations and being clear up front with what is going on. That way you can see any issues before they happen. Sometimes, nonetheless, you are forced or chose to take jobs that you might reject otherwise to pay the bills.

            But again, it was a great experience and the video turned out beautifully. At least I think so 😉

  2. Kudos to both Ron’s article and Jonathan’s response. It’s just like when I tell my kids to do a “little more” with their homework assignments or projects. Doing “just enough” doesn’t cut it anymore. With the ability to see someone else’s work in a click of a mouse we need to spend more time on distinguishing ourselves from everyone else. And just that lil bit o’ information goes a long way.

  3. Excellent advise Ron! You’re right, there isn’t any excuse to not do your research homework. Looking over a potential client’s online presence will give me “some idea” of their current sophistication and quality expectations. I try not to be too prejudicial in this initial assessment and keep an open mind. But it helps to know where they are at currently when you pitch them a higher quality product. You’ll have a better idea of the “budget ballpark.”

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