Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Ken Brantingham and my business is Arizona Filmworks. We are a premier video production and digital marketing company in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. I started in 2011 doing all kinds of video projects including TV commercials, music videos, training videos, Kickstarter videos, and tons of Web videos promoting businesses and people.
A lot of clients wanted videos and professional photos to use in their marketing efforts. When doing a video to showcase a business, messaging is critical. This meant talking to clients about their messaging, branding, and marketing goals. The business evolved into offering more marketing services like website design, SEO, content creation, PR, and campaign management. It also produced a critical step in revenue generation: subscriptions. Instead of just doing a video here and there for a set price, I partnered with small businesses to manage all aspects of their digital marketing for a recurring fee. This is how I managed to generate revenues over $12,000/month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
Sprint PCS, the cell phone company, began in 1996. In 1997, they hired me to write their sales training. Part of that project was creating a suite of training videos. I wrote the scripts and we hired an outside production company to film them. I became the guy to do videos for any department. It wasn’t long before they created their own video production department in-house and I worked with some of the best video production people in the Midwest. I was also sent to many training courses on editing, filming, lighting, audio recording, etc. This is where I learned my craft.
There are plenty of people who need help. If you can do something to fill a need or solve a problem, they will pay you for it.
In 2010, I was tired of long winters and shoveling snow, so I moved to Phoenix. I had a job-creating a TV commercial for the largest personal injury law firm in Arizona. The creative control was a bit limited, so I began Arizona Filmworks as a way to express my creative vision. I did TV commercials for local businesses and moved into all types of Web videos. At this point, my full-time job was funding my startup.
Describe the process of launching the business.
In my previous life, I was an Instructional Designer and Master Trainer. My writing skills were fairly developed and I understood how to communicate a message to an audience. I also developed Web-delivered training courses so I knew Web programming. I was able to program the website for Arizona Filmworks with no problem. Websites have four main components; code, videos, images, and textual content. It was easy to develop a kick-ass website. Business philosophy was another issue.
A lot of people, especially Millennials and Gen-Zs, are interested in film and video production. They would like to make a living with their own video production company. There is a huge decision that must be made going into this field; what is your business philosophy?
The best advice I ever got about the video production business was, “do not invest in a studio or expensive equipment. Invest in marketing yourself.” In this business, I can rent $50,000 cameras or big studios and I only have to pay for them for one day. If I own them, I have to pay for them every day.
One of my best friends owned a big studio in town. He told me, “Ken, I have to pay the mortgage on the studio, plus utilities, plus salaries. I have to bring in over $12,000 per month before I even get paid a penny.” I have seen so many people invest big money in studios and equipment that they kill their business before it starts. I have dozens of studios I can rent when I need a studio for a day. I can rent a RED or ARRI camera when a client needs over-the-top image quality. I also only hire freelancers. This allows me to keep my costs lower than my competition.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Marketing Arizona Filmworks became a passion. I read everything I could find on effective Internet marketing. I took some courses. I bought books. I got better and better at finding customers. One of the big lessons I learned was that you have to target customers. You have to know what your customers want. You have to know what problems they face, what causes them pain, what they will pay money to solve.
Arizona Filmworks is a service for small businesses. If we were selling a product, Social Media might be more important. Customers for our services are not as interested in video production as a topic as they are in getting more customers to buy more of their products.
For us, things took off when we got to the first page of Google in organic search results. There is a saying among SEO managers, “The best place to hide a dead body is the second page of Google because no one ever looks there.” Getting to the first page of Google took some SEO. I studied effective on-page and off-page SEO and was able to use my writing skills to create blogs and content that kept moving Arizona Filmworks higher in the search results.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Arizona Filmworks has been evolving into a full-service digital marketing company with a subscription service. We were already creating awesome videos and professional photos for businesses. We took the lessons learned from marketing Arizona Filmworks and started applying those to our clients.
One of the big challenges for a video production company is the feast and famine aspect of doing a lot of projects one month and few projects the next month. A subscription service eliminates this. Offering digital marketing services allows us to offer various levels of marketing for a monthly fee. This eliminates the up and down income.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The biggest lesson learned about starting a business is to do it to help people. There are plenty of people who need help. If you can do something to fill a need or solve a problem, they will pay you for it.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Along with the foundational business philosophy of not investing in studios and expensive equipment, I hire freelancers for each project. This eliminates payroll and salaries which must be paid in the lean times.
The video production business is fortunate because there are many great camera operators, grips, gaffers, etc. working as freelancers. I made friends with people at the Arizona State University film school department and I hire lots of film students to help out on sets through the film school.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
My best advice for people wanting to start a video production business is to create a plan that involves steps. The first step is to get really good at creating videos. This requires understanding cameras, lighting, audio, and post-production including editing and motion graphics.
The second step is to become really good at photography.
The third step is to partner with someone who can create websites.
The fourth step is to partner with someone who knows how to market with PPC, PR, and Social Media. At this step, you can offer digital marketing services on a subscription basis and have recurring income.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
One of the best things I do for my business is hiring freelancers instead of full-time employees. I am always looking for good freelancers in the Phoenix area.
Where can we go to learn more?
To learn more, visit our website.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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