bustin down the doors


So, its that time of year again: the trees are getting buds, the sun rises earlier, one thinks twice about donning one’s wetsuit when surfing Muizenberg and over in the video industry, we are all panicking because its quiet as hell.

As a professional video-maker (yes, I can call myself that after being in the industry for 12 years and owning a company for six), my absolute worst part of the job, is drumming up new business. I’m really lucky because 90% of the time, business comes to me through referrals or repeat clients, but sometimes, I have to put my big-girl bikini on and paddle out.  Which is what I’ve been doing this week.

I did the usual – call all the old clients, see what’s cooking and make some inappropriate jokes. Call all my friends, talk a lot of rubbish to them and at the end of the conversation, drop in a word about needing work. Nothing happened.

I realised I needed to bring out the big guns, so I waxed up my longboard and googled “Cape Town Advertising Agencies”. What came up was a whole bunch of old names and a whole bunch of new ones. This is Cape Town, after all.

I got really amped about all the small, new agencies, because I figured its cool to work with entities that have just started out – they’re more willing to take risks and more excited to make connections. Oh, how wrong I was.  My calls were 100% screened by small agencies. (In fact, one receptionist, informed me outright that they NEVER needed video production services….right.) So, I gathered names and email addresses as a consolation prize and set about crafting the “howzit” email. Hit send.

Then I called up all the big agencies and easily extracted all their producer’s names and details.  I wrote a “wazzup” email and off they went.

In all, I sent out 14 emails.  No replies. No surprises there.

The next morning I set about following up.  I called all the newer agencies first (we all know there are only two people working there fulltime and the owner is also the designer and and and…), thinking we could have a fun chat and get to know each other.  Boy, was I mistaken. All my calls were screened, except for one. And, to be honest, I wish they’d just told me he was busy or some other lie. It went something like this:

Me: Hi X, this is Yvette from Substance Films.  I sent you an email yesterday about us – we make video and I’m just reaching out to say hi and introduce you to us.

X: Who says “reach out”?

Me: (slight pause) Ha ha, of course, no-one does. Well, you know, X, I was just vibing an advertising vibe with you, but now that I see you are actually a cool human being, we can speak plainly (ie. let’s bond).

X: Where does that term actually come from?  Why do we even use it?

Me: Yeah, ha ha, whatever, buzzword bingo, aint life weird etc.

X: I saw your email, but you know, I’m busy, so whatever. To be honest, we don’t get many video briefs “through our doors”.

Me: Ok cool, well you know where we are now, if you need us.

X: (Then proceeds to lecture me on how to market my business using terms such as “point of difference” and “top of mind”.)

Me: (Attempting to control grinding of teeth) Thanks for the lecture, just one question…who says “top of mind”? (No – I didn’t say that, but oh how I wish I had.)

And that was the end of that.  X hopefully felt better about himself, because you know, sending out a newsletter is the most innovative form of soft marketing that exists and he definitely thought it up himself and I was left, well, speechless.

Shortly thereafter, I got a reply from one of the big agency (KingJames) producers, telling me she was on a shoot and then in an edit, but let’s connect when she’s done.  You know, like anyone with sense and dignity would do.

Because, honestly guys, I’m not trying to ruin your lives by introducing myself. I’m not some hardcore telemarketer reading from a script. I’m just a surfer girl with a couple of moves I’ve been working on and I’m genuinely excited to share them with you, so that when that brief does “walk through the door”, the client thinks you’re a total pro because you’ve already got a solution all lined up.

For now the wind may be blowing onshore, but the time will come when the sea is like glass and the waves are peeling.  And there’s nothing quite like paddling out with a new friend.

Surf’s Up!