Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lighting up December!

Back in December 2008 I wrote an article about marketing a DVD of Christmas Lights in your town. I followed that article up in 2009 with another on the same subject. I had come up with this idea years before and each year I planned to put it into action only to have other projects push my plans to the back burner. In 2010 I decided I would not allow another year to go by and pass up on this project. Lets just say I had a gut feeling it would be very successful.

So at the beginning of November I started working on implementing the project. Even though December was already busy with scheduled video shoots, I pressed on. My wife and I shot almost every night after Thanksgiving and up to December 11th. I edited and completed the project by December 15th, during a very busy month. This article is a progress report on the marketing idea, things we learned along the way, and things we will probably do differently. Read on...

First, let me say this marketing idea was a resounding success! But that is not all, with this product in the can we are set up for next year to do the same! However we did run into issues along the way. Our first and foremost concern was time.

In a perfect world I would have had only this project going on during December. I don't know about you, but I do not live in a perfect world! Other jobs came and went through out the production schedule of our Christmas Lights project and that threw a monkey wrench into our plans. Our first lesson? Time Management!

In order to get the product out well before Christmas we already knew we were pushing it. Many people don't start to put their lights up until late into the month and we had a window of just a few days between Thanksgiving and our own cut-off date of December 10th. This means you will have a grueling shoot between those dates. Out every night in the cold shooting, usually two locations per night. We also set ourselves a curfew, no shooting after nine pm. It may be considered rude to knock on doors after nine. So we had about six pm to 9pm to shoot two locations.

It takes about one hour to shoot a well lighted lawn with multiple decorations. Of all that footage you will cut each home down to about 3 minutes of actual footage used. You need at least 12 locations. Start doing the math. Add in the fact it rained some nights, and other jobs fell within our window and you can see it was a mad dash around a four county area to get the homes we needed. We succeeded, and got all the homes on tape with no time to spare. Add to this the daily editing of not only the Lights project, but the other jobs and you can see how time management was a must!

We had one final shoot on the 11th and so final editing actually started on the twelfth. I had several sections already done but I needed to complete the project as soon as possible, so we could get the discs out to market. A 24 hour editing binge ensued and yes, I didn't sleep. This is not to mention the down time while the editor rendered and mastered the DVD. Finally the project was ready and uploaded on the 15th. We were getting dangerously close to Christmas!

The next factor we ran into was duplication.

I wanted a quality product and the cheapest and best idea was to use Kunaki. This was a blessing and a curse. Kunaki produces high quality duplicates and is not expensive at all. However, their turn around time is weak. Though the project was complete and ready to purchase online the moment it was uploaded, the discs we ordered for retail outlets in our market took forever to arrive. Even though we paid for 2 day delivery. We got the discs late on the 22nd. No time to put them out in stores. We pushed the limits and still got hung up with duplication.

So, though we had visioned a better local market run, we ended up selling most online. I knew ahead of time we would not have many days to market the product in stores locally. I had hoped for a bit more time but once we factored all the things that went wrong (weather, jobs, etc) and completion time we knew our best bet was to push it online rather than in stores. So the push began as soon as it was available online. This is where Facebook shined!

We posted the link, marketed every day and enlisted friends to re-post on their Facebook accounts. This strategy worked and soon the link spread to multiple people locally. The buzz started and even word-of-mouth helped. It's safe to say we sold a few. (grin)

However, in retrospect I would say we could easily have dropped the ball on several occasions. My wife got the flu during shooting and though I didn't have it during production, as soon as the project was online I succumbed to the dreaded crud. All those nights shooting, little sleep and a production schedule from hell were factors. My Christmas was spent overdosing on Tylenol and NyQuil!

Was it worth it? You betcha! And now we have a DVD to market well before Thanksgiving in 2011! Our plan is to have them in stores about two weeks before Thanksgiving and sell them up to Christmas. While also having the 2010 DVD online and in stores, we will shoot the 2011 season.

Though this changes our marketing schedule, we feel confident the best way to market is to keep the previous year available while shooting the current year.

This annual shooting schedule will work for us and have a DVD in stores well before the season gets into full swing. Sell last years disc this year, and so on. This year, in 2011 I will not be in such a hurry to produce the product and get it out. The 2010 lights look just as good in 2011, and the 2011 lights will be there in 2012. I think this is the best way to approach this idea. Especially if I have another busy December!

We learned a ton of stuff from this project. In fact I'm seriously looking at writing a book on the project to explain everything. There is no way I can cover all of the aspects of this in a blog article. We learned technical things you will need to know about shooting, how to shoot, and what to shoot. We learned better ways to approach home owners and organizations. And we learned to plan well and in earnest. We jumped in head first and frankly made mistakes, but ultimately we pulled it off!

The results of our hard work is abundant! We have contacts now for next year, we made friends with several families who loved the DVD and we started some buzz in the community that is better than any advertising you could ever buy. As one customer said, "...your DVD made it feel like Christmas..."

And if we learned anything at all from this project we reaffirmed that if you buckle down and make it happen, it will succeed. If you do nothing, you will end up with nothing. Armed with the knowledge I now have and a very good idea of what to expect, I'm ready for Christmas 2011 in a huge way!

Our Christmas Lights in the Pine Belt DVD is available here if you would like to see the production. If you are considering doing this in your community or town, this DVD will give you some ideas too. Now if I can just find time to write that book! ;-)


CorElAnn said...

Excellent article, Jay. And you MUST do the book. It will be a GREAT resource for many video producers from EVERY category, beginner or hobbyist, to semi-pro or part-time and the full time professional.

When you mention putting your product in stores (an excellent product I must add, with questions about some of the production from me & my associate - later) what did you have to do regarding the UPC?

Jay said...

Thanks Earl! Yes I will probably work on the book this year, there are tons of stuff to cover. As far as UPC, Kunaki will add one if you select it. The bar code will register it as a kunaki product. The LITES DVD has one. However, Mom & Pop stores may not need it.

Bill Mecca said...

Great Article Jay, and seconds on the book.