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Business Issues - Marketing

Promoting Your Services

It is essential to continuously promote your services to potential customers.  This is called marketing and differs from sales in that sales consists of actually making the sale, while marketing and promotion consist of making potential clients aware of your existence so that you can sell to them.

 

What is your market?

The first step is to determine your market or markets.  It is easy to say "people who need laser shows" but that is not particularly helpful.  It is desirable to define this more narrowly as different markets need different kinds of promotion.  A 'rave' style flyer is not what you would use to promote to corporate clients!
To some extent, the type(s) of system(s) that you own will determine your market(s).  If you have an under 1 watt system, your market is likely to be smaller indoor events as that power of laser is not suitable for arenas or outdoor shows.  If you own a 10+ watt YAG laser, then your market would be larger arena and outdoor shows.  If you have a 3 to 5 watt full colour system, then your market would be anything from the smaller indoor shows to arenas and small outdoor shows.
A secondary consideration would be the type(s) of controller(s) that you own.  If your system is limited to only 7 colours, then the types of shows you can do will be more limited than if you own a system capable of 16.7 million [or more] colours.  Typically low end dance, party and club shows prefer 7 colour system while corporate shows will want system capable of more colours (to match logo colours) and often 3D graphics.
Finally, you must consider what you plan to charge for your service and if you can make a reasonable profit at the rates and the kind of budget your potential market(s) have for laser services.  If you are charging $3,000/day for your system, it is unlikely that low-end clients will have the budget to afford you no matter how spectacular your shows are.
Potential markets for laser show are: wedding receptions, teen dances, parties, raves, clubs, discos, sporting events, awards banquets, trade shows, new product presentations, corporate events, laser and fireworks shows, civic events, laser billboards, grand openings and concerts.

 

Targeting your market

Once you have taken the factors outlined above into consideration, you should develop a "short list" of potential market(s) for your show. Depending on the type of client you plan to market to, different approaches will be required.  Traditional marketing such as TV, radio or newspaper advertisements are not particularly useful for laser shows.  This is because they have a 'shotgun' effect and reach a lot of people, most of whom are unlikely to need your services.  They are also more costly compared to other kinds of marketing that target potential clients more directly.

 

Marketing tools

There are a range of reasonably priced marketing tools that you can use to raise awareness of your services amongst potential clients:

Business card:
Your most important and useful tool is your business card.  Your card should have your company logo, your name, telephone number, E-mail address, web site URL and your street address.  That is a lot of information so care must be taken not to make the card too cluttered or the print too fine so that the card is easily readable.  If you can afford the services of a professional to design and print your cards, you will get a much better result.  If you are designing the card yourself, try to not use more than two different font styles or your card will look less professional.
With the proliferation of desktop publishing software, colour inkjets and laser printers, it is easy and economical to make your cards yourself.  Business supply stores sell pre-scored business card blanks in standard sized sheets.  These allow you to get a quality stock, often with a tasteful pre-printed background, on which you can print your information and then break them apart for a quality finished product.  If you have a colour printer that is capable of 300+ DPI resolution, you can get 'photo quality' paper and print cards with multicolored logos or even small photographs on them.
Always carry a quantity of business cards on your person and put an extra supply of them in a plastic bag in your tool kit or elsewhere in your equipment.  It is considered rude to 'foist' your cards onto people.  Four or five of them next to your control console invite people to help themselves [be sure to keep adding more as the supply diminishes].  If anyone expresses and interest in your system or show, give them a card.

Web site:
Lasers are a visual medium and a web site is a very economical way of presenting a lot of visual information.  A web site also allows a potential client to 'browse' through as much or as little of your promotional information as they need or want.
Discussing the details of web site design is beyond the scope of this article.  While it is not difficult with today's software to make your own web site, this is one area in which hiring a professional is well worth the money.  Before you go to see the professional, you should have a rough outline of what you want to see on your site. The easiest way to do this is to put down the basics with each web page on a separate sheet of paper - E.G. home page, systems page, services page, examples of your work page, contact page and any other pages you may need.
If you are going to make our own web site, spend sometime on the net looking at web sites of other laser companies.  The objective is to research styles and ideas you like rather then try to create a carbon copy of another company's web site.

Printed materials:
You may need to have some printed materials such as a flyer, a catalogue sheet, or a brochure.  Again, hiring a professional to create these is well worth the money.  Depending on the market(s) you plan to serve, you may need to have different printed materials for each market.
One method of doing this economically and still retaining the flexibility to have targeted marketing  is the catalogue sheet.  This is a glossy page with your logo and full colour pictures of your services along with a slogan and contact information on one side.  By leaving the back blank, you can run these sheets through a laser printer to add market specific promotional material on the back.
If you are creating your own printed materials, a little "puffery" is acceptable but don't make exaggerated or untrue claims.  Try to emphasis the positive benefits the client will get by hiring your services.  Make sure the end result is not to 'busy' and overloaded with information by leaving plenty of white space on the page.  Try not to use more then 2 or 3 fonts to avoid looking unprofessional.

Portfolio:
A portfolio or photo album of large, clear photos of shows you have done is also very useful.  Some of these photos can be shot in your studio in controlled conditions to demonstrate the effects you can produce such as examples of logos or beam effects.  You should also have some photos taken at shows to demonstrate the type of work you have done and the range of clients you have served.
If you are just starting out, all you may have are studio shots but it may be worth it to get a professional photographer to come out and cover your first big show.  If you can't afford this, inquire amongst your friends and contacts as there are many dedicated amateur photographers who might be willing to take photos for you if you cover the cost of film and processing.

Video:
Again, lasers are a very visual medium and thus a video is one of the best ways of demonstrating what you can do for the client.  A mix of controlled studio footage along with live segments for your shows is a good way to show your skills. Keep your video at under 10 minutes, especially if your are promoting to business clients, as most people loose interest after that time no matter how spectacular and interesting your video may be.
Be sure to label your video tape with your company logo and contact information, both on the top and on the spine. You can also convert some short segments of the video to net-video formats to put on your web site.

 

Reaching the clients

Now that you have your promotional tools in hand, you need to get them out to potential clients.  Direct mail is still one of the most effective and low cost methods of promoting your services.  Once you have identified potential clients, you can send them a polite letter introducing yourself and your services, along with a copy of your flyer, catalogue sheet or brochure and your business card.
You can also do the electronic version of this by scouting companies or organizations that may have a need for laser shows and then E-mailing them a brief note with an invitation to visit your web site.  Be selective in doing this and don't resort to mass mailings as nobody likes Spam and it is just ignored or deleted, or in the worst case, gives you a negative image.
Networking through professional organizations is another way to find potential clients, especially if your plan to serve the corporate market. Many larger cities have organizations for event planners.  Join the organization and attend meetings to make contacts.  Informal networking through friends and colleagues can also be helpful.
Charity events are also a good way to make contacts.  Volunteer your show to a high profile charity fund raiser on the condition that your company name and web site will be mentioned in the program and that you can distribute flyers and business cared.  Distribute this material in a low key manner by making it available on a literature table or at the side of the stage.  Many prominent business people and the 'movers & shakers' in the community attend such events and if your show is a spectacular success, it will generate leads.
Press releases are also a good way to generate leads.  If you have just done an interesting or unusual show, or acquired some advance technology, write a short article about it.  As a general rule, there should be only one paragraph that talks about your company directly and the rest of the article should talk about the show or the new technology and it's benefits.  Develop a list of science, entertainment and technology reporters in the local media and send the article out to the relevant reporter(s) with a cover letter inviting them to contact you for more information.

 

Once you get a lead...

Once a potential client has expressed interest in your services, arrange to send them more material or offer to meet with them.  Be sure the material you send them is tailored to their market and resist the temptation to send them a copy of every promotional item.  Include a cover letter and offer to meet with them at their office, or at your office where you can provide a demonstration.
If you are meeting with them at their office, try to determine what the corporate culture is like and dress appropriately.  Arrive five minutes early and be prepared to wait patiently if they are busy.  Bring along a couple of copies of your video so that you can show it to them [if they have the equipment], and give them a copy to view at their convenience.
If the client is coming to your office to see a demo, have everything ready and tested well in advance.  There is nothing more likely to kill their interest than having to wait for your to be ready, or having a technical problem during the demo.  As they are leaving, be sure to give them copies of the appropriate literature and a copy of your video tape.

 

Summary

Promotion is the art of making people aware that you exist and what services you can offer them.  First you must identify your potential markets) based on the system(s) and equipment you have. There are a number of promotional tools you can use such as business cards, flyers and brochures, a web site and a demo video.  The materials should be tailored to the market segment you wish to attract. Once you have prepared your materials, you can use direct mailing, networking, professional associations and phone calls to locate potential clients and send them material.

 

DISCLAIMER: Some of the information in the Backstage area is provided by the persons or companies named on the relevant page(s). Laser F/X does NOT endorse or recommend any products/services and is NOT responsible for the technical accuracy of the information provided.  We provide this information as a service to laserists using the Backstage area.

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