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by Edwin J. Somers, CAS Batteries… those indispensable little items that we all depend on for remote operation or backup. How many times have you put a cell in backwards? Come on now, admit it! I’ll bet every one of you has done it at least once. Remember that panic battery change in the middle of the night, in total darkness, when the director was screaming at you? With equipment using two or four cells, the mistake is usually very evident because of improper or non-operation after the battery change. What about the Nagra or a field mixing panel that used a dozen D cells? If you accidentally put a cell in backwards, it will still work fine and is hard to detect. They do make batteries very distinctive in appearance to reduce the problem, but it still happens. What is the effect of this mistake? A reversed cell will still conduct; however, the battery voltage will be several volts lower, and that is a very easy warning sign to miss. Now, for the bad news: That cell will discharge very quickly, rupture, and release very caustic liquid electrolyte. If the equipment is stored in a position where the electrolyte leaks onto circuit boards and chassis parts, they will be destroyed and will have to be replaced. It is almost impossible to stop this corrosion once it starts. If you open a battery compartment and find leaking cells, and none of them are reversed, take a good photograph before removing the batteries. Battery manufacturers will not warranty equipment where a cell has been reversed. My recommendation is to be extremely careful during a battery change, take it very seriously, and don’t let anyone rush you.

Have you ever received a postcard in the mail? What was the first thing you did? I bet you turned it over to see what the postcard was for, didn’t you? So do most other people, including your customers! Imagine, your customers actually reading the information you sent them.

Now you might be asking yourself, “why a postcard? Why not a sales letter, catalog or product brochure?” Well, at Studio 1, we do use sales letters and catalogs in our marketing efforts, however, postcards have some very important benefits that most people tend to overlook. Therefore, we make sure we use them in our overall marketing plan.

Some of the benefits of using a postcard are: 1) Reduced marketing cost. They only cost 24 cents each to mail first class, even less if you choose to mail 3rd class. 2) They are inexpensive to have printed. We pay about $230 for 10,000 postcard. This is with black ink on a goldenrod color card stock. 3) It can save you time, especially if you are putting together the mailing yourself. 4) It is fast, easy and effortless for the recipient to see what you have to offer and this is very important.

Studies have shown that most people don’t take the time to open every piece of mail that they get. Why? Because, it takes too time and effort. If they don’t recognize the name on the return address, chances are they won’t open that piece of mail. (How many of you are like me, standing over the trashcan sorting the mail?) Unfortunately for people using direct mail, a lot of mail can go unopened. No matter how good of a teaser line you have at the bottom of an envelope, it just gets tossed.

Here is where a postcard comes in. Most people are somewhat curious by nature and since a postcard doesn’t take any time or effort to open, most people flip the card over to see what it says, even if they don’t recognize the company name on the return address.

Last year we ran a test. We did a mailing to 6000 people offering one product, our XLR audio adapter. 3000 people received a postcard, while the other 3000 people received a product flyer in an envelope. In order to track the results of this test we gave the XLR two new product numbers, the XLR-1 and the XLR-2. This allowed us to separate out the sales from the test mailing from our normal sales on this product.

We used a rented mailing list for the 6,000 names and addresses, this was a cold list. In other words we never mailed to these people before. We sent the first 3000 names on the list, the product flyer, while the other 3000 names received a postcard. We mailed to all 6,000 people at one time using first class mail.

The results were totaled at the end of 45 days. 68% of the orders came from the postcards and 32% came from the product flyer. Knowing that one test was not a precise test, we ran another test. Like the previous test, we used 6000 rented names and addresses. This time 62% of the orders came from postcards, while 38% came from the product flyer in the envelope.

Each time the postcard out pulled the product flyer for this particular product. People just flipped the card over, saw what we were offering and ordered.

We have found another use for postcards, we use them to draw people to our website. For example, you have a Special Interest Video you are marketing. Use the postcard to announce your new video to your customers and give them a brief description about the video to peak their interest. While some people will order directly from the postcard, others may want to know more about the video. Let the postcard to direct them to your website so they can obtain further information on the video.

By directing them to your web site, this takes down barriers for the customer. They don’t have to call and talk to someone, especially a “salesperson”. They don’t have to wait for you to mail them more information. And they can get more information about your video at any time, day or night. Not just during your business hours. That is a big convenience for some people.

Keep in mind, that not everyone is on the web, be sure to mention that if they don’t have access to the web, you’ll be more than happy to mail them more information on the video.

Does directing them to the web site really work? It does for us. This past spring we mailed out 10,000 postcards to a rented mailing list. The postcard highlighted several products that we offer and directed them to our website. In the bottom left corner we made mention that if they don’t have access to the web, simple call or fax us and we would mail out a catalog to them.

The results we received were great. 653 people called for a catalog, but more importantly, we saw an additional 1,760 visitors to our website over the normal monthly average during the 30 days after the postcard was mailed out. That’s not a bad response rate for 10,000 postcards.

One last thing, a question that we are always asked is, “why don’t we mail the postcards 3rd class bulk rate.” It’s simple, by mailing first class on a Monday, we will start getting orders or responses in just 3 days, usually on Thursday of that same week. With 3rd class mail, it can take 10 to 21 days for the postcard to reach your customer. Remember, time is money.

So the next time your thinking about doing a mailing, you might want to consider trying postcards to reach your customers.

In almost every industry, there is a trade show somewhere in the United States. These trade shows can give you a chance to meet your potential customers face to face. Whether you’re setting up at a local or regional bridal show or at an industry trade show, you will be presenting your company to the public. You will need to make the most of it while you are there. After all, this is an investment that you want to get maximum results from and gain exposure for your company.

Depending on the type of show you are setting up at, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $2500 or more for booth space. Now, that’s a big price range isn’t it? There are several factors you have to consider before you put down your money for the booth space.

Space Size
Location of the booth
Restrictions (can you sell on the trade show floor?)
Do you get electrical service for the booth
Do you get phone service for the booth.
Demographically is the location for the show a good location?
Do they provide tables or do you
And more.

These are all things you will have to know before you sign up for that booth space. In order for you to have a successful show, you have to plan for it and understand how everything works. This is where this report comes in. We will go over all of the different things you will need to know to make your experience at the show more successful. We will cover what you need to know and do before the show, during the show and what to do after the show has ended.


Keep yourself organized. Grab a notebook and start writing down everything that you will need to take. One of the first things you will need to do is start planning on which shows to attend and the estimated cost involved for setting up at each show. No matter how big or small the show is you have to be prepared if you want it to be successful.

Will you need to travel far to setup at this show?
Will you need lodging and food?
What materials are you going to hand out at the show?
How many people will you need to staff your booth?
What is your booth size?
What are you going to display?
What is the average attendance? (So you know how much material to bring for handouts)
Can you sell on the show floor?
What about security, especially on a multi-day show?

The more prepared you are, the smoother everything will go. At least it should go smooth. Make sure you have a list of all the materials you want to hand out at the show, and make sure everything has your name on it. Never hand out anything without your name, address and phone number on it. Depending on the type of show you are setting up at, you may want to hand out a basic brochure at the show and then do a follow-up mailing to the people who stopped by your booth.

If you are going to be selling products right on the show floor, make sure you give everyone a receipt. Security at some shows can be tight and if an attendee leaves with an item they may have to show a receipt for it.

If the show charges admission to get in, make sure you have ample passes for everyone who is working the booth with you. Also, see if there is an exhibitor parking area and if you will need parking passes.


Start by asking the show promoter what the attendance was over the last few years. If they have a registration system, that should be able to provide you with fairly accurate numbers. Also, ask if they can give you a breakdown by the day for the attendance. This will show you if attendance will be heavier on certain days than others. This will also show you on which days you may need extra help in your booth. I know one 5 day show we setup at, the first three days were dead, and the next two days we were overflowing with attendees. By knowing the previous years attendance records per day, we were able to have extra help in our booth on the busiest days.

If they do not have an accurate attendance record, then be very careful of the number they give you. Generally, it’s a very high estimate of what they hoped they had. It is also a good idea to find out who had display booths at the last show and ask them how the attendance was and if it was a good show for them. This will give you some information to gauge your decision on, as far as setting up a booth.

If this is a first time show, you will have to hope that the attendance will be good. One way judge is to see how the promoter is promoting the show. Are you finding ads for the show in the newspaper, on the radio or TV? Are flyers being handed out anywhere? Are there signs or billboards advertising the show? How about ads in the trade magazines? If you are not seeing any advertising for the show, chances are, no one else is seeing it either, so attendance may not be high. If the promoter is mailing out flyers or brochures on the show, ask them how many are being mailed out and where did they get their mailing list. This will provide you with at least some information. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, they are asking you for your money, you have the right to know if you are spending it wisely.

On the other hand, if you are seeing a fair amount of advertising about the show, even though this is a first time show, then chances are the attendance will be good.

On the subject of attendance, make sure it is not including any school field trips. We had setup at a business show in Harrisburg one year. The show promoter stated that they have about 4000 attendees for the show. During the first day of the show, we started noticing all of these high school and college students showing up and handing out resumes. When I asked them where they were from, the explained that every year the show promoters invite the local high schools and colleges to bring the juniors and seniors over to the business show, this allows the students to get to meet people from the local businesses and for them to even bring resumes to hand out. I know we were handed over 250 resumes on the first day of the show alone. Needless to say, we were not the only exhibitor shocked by this. We found out later, that this is how the show promoter gets good attendance records. They bring in about 2000 students out of about 4000 total attendees!

The Cost Of The Booth

What you will pay for the show booth will vary from show to show. Prices for a booth can range for $50 to $2500 or more. It all depends on the show, the show’s location, the booth size and the booth’s location, the attendance levels and the services you receive. Don’t think that because a show only charges $50 for a booth, that it is not a good show. Check the attendance levels and check with past exhibitors. If the show is being held at a hotel’s banquet hall, you can bet the booth cost will be alot less than if it is held in a convention center in a large city like New York.

Be careful of hidden costs for your show booth. If you need electricity at your show booth, make sure the show’s promoter is aware of it before you sign the contract and see if you are going to have to pay extra for it. Depending on where your booth is located, you may not have any outlets in your booth. Make sure you know how many outlets you are going to need before the show, so they can have them installed. If you are going to be putting up accent lights, TV’s, VCR’s, computers, cash registers, etc, make sure you will have enough outlets to run everything.

Will you need a phone line run into the booth? If you are going to be taking credit card orders, you will need a phone line to get authorization for each charge. If you need a phone line, check with the show’s promoter about having one run in. You may want to use a cellular phone at the booth to call in the charges, instead of going through the expense of having a phone line put in.

Are they providing the tables for the booth or are you? What about table cloths to cover the table? Some shows will provide this for you, while others require you to provide these necessities yourself. If this show you are setting up at is out of town and they don’t provide the tables, you may want to find out about renting these items, instead of hauling them with you. Ask the show’s promoter if there is a company that is going to be handling booth equipment for them. If you do rent the equipment, be careful of any other add-on charges for delivery and setup of the tables. You can get nickeled and dimed to death with some companies.

Does the show’s promoter provide you with a sign for your booth, and if so how big is it? At some shows they provide you with a standard 10″ by 3ft sign with your name on it. You may want to consider having your own sign professionally made up for your booth, one that is a larger and fancier than what the booth comes with.

Be careful of all of the add-on costs involved with a booth. That $200 booth may end up costing you $400 by the time you are done.

Always ask the show promoter, if vendors are allowed to distribute material from anywhere other than their own booth. If they allow this, be careful, you may find your competitor hanging around your booth area during your busy times, handing out their information. Yes, this really does happen. Make sure the contract clearly states that this is not allowed to be done. Another thing that can happen is, someone gets the lowest cost booth, just to get into the show, then they start walking the show floor and hanging out in front of the more expensive booths, handing out their information. It’s not right that you paid more for better location, and someone who is not with your company is just outside your booth handing out their material to people who are trying to see your booth. This can be an annoyance to the attendees.

The Booth Location

Have the show’s promoter show you a layout of the exhibit area. Have them show you who is exhibiting at each booth. This way you can avoid being too close to a competitor. Try to determine the primary traffic patterns for the show. If they are having seminars at the show try to have your booth along the major route to get to the seminars. You will have higher traffic levels passing your booth, this will give you added exposure. In order to assure yourself of a good booth location, you will need to reserve your booth as early as possible.

Your booth location can also determine the price of the booth. With some shows the end booths may cost more, because they offer you two exposed sides, instead of just one exposed side as a regular booth has. While we are on the subject of booth location, make sure you are aware of which other exhibitors are around you. You may find you are set up right next to someone who uses a PA system to talk to the crowd of people in front of their booth. If this happens, you may find it impossible to talk to someone who is at your booth. I have been to several shows where they have someone standing there with a PA system, demonstrating the product that they are selling. While they usually generate a large crowd, it is almost impossible to talk to anyone at the other booths around them. Don’t get yourself into this position.

The size of your booth may also determine your location at the show. Some show promoters will put the smaller exhibitors (less expensive booths) on the outside edge room, and the exhibitors with the larger booths getting the center of the room. This may not be so bad, being on the outside edge, you are less likely to have someone putting on a floor show next to you.

Try to stay away from the concession area. You may find attendees leaving trash from drinks and sandwiches on your booth. If seating space is limited in the concession area, you may have them standing in front of your booth eating. Thus, blocking people from getting to your booth.

Setting Up Your Booth

See how early you can arrive to setup your booth. Make sure you are setup before the show opens. Before you start unpacking everything, check the electrical outlets and phone outlets, if you have any. If something is not working, contact the show promoter at once. Don’t start setting anything up until everything is taken care off, just in case you have to move to another booth location. If that should happen, have the shows promoter put up a sign stating that your booth has moved and give the new location.

Make sure you have a tool box with you, also have electrical tape, duct tape, safety pins, flash light (with new batteries), etc. You never know what you’re going to need at the last minute, so be prepared. If you are going to need a handcart to move your stuff in with, make sure one will be available to you. It is also advisable to find out where you should park for loading and unloading. Some hotels or convention centers will have a specific location and they may have a specific time for you to be there to unload and setup. This way they don’t have everyone trying to use the loading docks at the same time.

Take some time when setting up your booth, you want it to look as nice as possible. Walk around and see what other exhibitors have done at there booths. If this is your first time setting up at a show, you may want to visit other trade shows in your area, just to get some ideas on booth design.

When using tablecloths to cover your tables, use cloth ones, not plastic. The plastic ones look cheap and will hurt your image. You may want to check with the show’s promoter to see if they are working with anyone to provide booth display items. You can usually rent display stands, lights, tables, curtains, table covers, etc. Don’t go overboard, you may find that it will cost you a small fortune.

Don’t use hand written signs. Again, it looks bad and unprofessional. Have a printer make up some signs for you for labeling your product display.

If you are going to be setting up a TV to show a video on, have the TV about 5 feet to 6 feet off of the ground. This way it will be at or above the crowds eye level. You may want to put the TV on a box on top of the table. Just make sure it is a sturdy wood box. Don’t use a cardboard box! Drape a cloth over the box to make it look a more professional. Make sure the TV is not turned up too loud. You don’t want to offend your neighboring exhibitors. Also, you want the people who are talking to you to be able to hear you over the TV.

If your booth is big, you may want to setup two TV’s, one at each end of the booth. Also, have your brochures near the TV, since it will become the center of attention, you will want your material right there.

If you are a photographer and are hanging samples up of your work, make sure they are large enough to be seen. At least 11″ x 14″ or larger, also have a photo album with only 8″ x 10″ sample photos.

Keep your booth as neat and professional looking as you can at all times.

Meeting The Other Exhibitors

After your booth is setup, take a few minutes before the show starts and walk around and meet some of the other exhibitors. Take some time to learn about the services they offer, so you may be able to refer customers to them. In return, they may become and excellent source of referrals for your business.

NOTE: Some exhibitors may feel uncomfortable with you visiting their booth, they may feel that you’re a competitor of some sort. If that is how they feel, don’t be offended, just move on to the next exhibitor.

Working The Booth

Don’t be pushy! Don’t try to close every sale right then and there! Listen to what the people are asking you and answer their questions. Be friendly and courteous at all times, and make the person feel welcome. A lot of times people hesitate to talk to someone in a sales booth, they would rather grab the sales material and run. This is because, they feel they are going to have to listen to a long drawn out sales pitch. Just say hello and ask them if there is any questions you can answer. Strike up a conversation with them, ask them about their needs.

Always make an offer to send them your information packet or brochure. Especially, if they have bags full of information. That last thing you want to do, is have your information get lost with everything else they have picked up. Some attendees pick up so much information, that yours doesn’t have a chance to standout, especially if this is a large show. If you are having a drawing, ask everyone if they would like to register to win. Or ask them if they would like to be on your mailing list so they can receive upcoming promotions.

Don’t let one customer take up all of your time, offer to send more information to them or to have them call you, so you can talk with them in-depth at a more convenient time. Remember, you want to talk to as many people as you can during the show.

You will have slow times at your booth. This is very normal. In fact, if the show you are setup at is a multi-day show, don’t be surprised if you have some very long and slow days. Don’t panic and close up shop. My wife and I were working a show booth at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show for 10 days last year. The first 7 days were absolutely dead. In fact, the exhibitor across from us, packed up and left after 4 days. On the eighth day, the crowds came, and boy were we mobbed. You see, the big name riders started showing on day 8, and everyone came to watch. So don’t panic if the crowds are not there on the first day of the show. Remember, ask the show promoter to let you see attendance records for last year’s show. You will probably see which days are slow and which days are the busiest. This will also help you in determining how many people you will need working the booth and on which days.

Make sure you keep the booth clean. Straighten up your displays constantly. Don’t eat, drink or smoke in the booth, if at all possible. If you do have a drink, keep it hidden. You want your booth looking professional at all times, not cluttered with drink cups and sandwich wrappers. Don’t sit down in your booth especially when it is busy, it gives the people visiting your booth the impression you are not interested in them. If you want to sit down, make sure there is no one around your booth and the minute someone steps up to your booth, be back on your feet greeting them. It is also advisable to take a quick break outside of the booth during the slow periods, this will give you the chance to relax a little.

Never have more than one person on break at a time. You never know when it might get busy, and if you’re all alone in the booth, you may not be able to handle everyone.

One thing that we have done for some trade shows was to buy a small set of inexpensive walkie-talkies. This way if someone from the booth goes on break, they can take a walkie-talkie with them and if we need them to come back early, we can radio them. This has proven to be very helpful at larger shows.

Sometimes you may need to have extra help at shows. You may end up asking friends or relatives to help you staff the booth. If this happens, it’s wise to go over everything with them before the show. Make sure they know something about your products or services, so they can deal with the attendees more effectively. Another thing is to make sure they get regular breaks and keep them well fed. It will help keep them fresh and they won’t feel so run down. Don’t work them to death either, remember they are there helping you. If they start feeling tired or run down, they may not deal with the attendees too well.

For example, an incident happened to me at a trade show in New York City in September of 1994. My wife and I were attending this Video and Imaging trade show in New York City in September of 1994. At the time, I was looking for buy-out music to use in our video productions. I stopped by this one booth and asked this gentleman if he could tell me a little bit about the buy-out music his company was offering. I explained to him what I was looking for and that I needed it for our video production company and I was interested in making a purchase that day. The next thing he said to me was “Do you have a business card?” I responded yes, as he held out his hand. I explained that they were in my jacket pocket and my wife was holding my jacket across the isle as she talked to someone at another booth and I said that I would get one for him in a minute. He then said, “Well come back when you have a business card, then I will give you our brochure”, and he walked away from me. Boy, if that didn’t frost my marbles!

To make a long story short, I did purchase a library of buy-out music for about $600 from another company. As we were leaving the show, I stopped by the booth where I was treated so rudely, and I walked up to the salesman that wanted a business card before he would talk to me. And I showed him that he lost a sale, then I handed him a business card. As we were walking away, another gentleman approached me and asked me what that was all about. I explained to him what had happened and how rude the salesman was. He then apologized for what had happened and he told me he was the president of the company. It’s ashame that they had to lose a sale because of a rude sales force.

I know that this was a rare incidence, so just remember, whoever you have helping you in the show booth, make sure they are friendly, courteous, rested and not demanding. It’s your company and it’s your sales that can be affected by someone helping you at a trade show.

Don’t bring small children to your show booth. Have a friend or relative keep an eye on them at home. As cute as they are, they can be distracting and they may end up occupying more of your time than you think. Some show promoters may not allow small children there, so check with them first.

Compiling A Mailing List

If the type of show you are setting up has a registration booth, negotiate for a list of all of the attendees. By having this list, it will allow you to do a follow-up mailing to everyone who attended the show and to the people who missed your booth. Some show promoters will give you this list as part of being an exhibitor, while others will either charge you for the list of attendees or they will simply not release the list. Whatever you do, make sure you ask before signing up for the booth. If they agree to releasing the attendance list, make sure you have this in writing on the contract before you sign up for the show booth. I have heard of some show promoters not giving the list of attendees to the exhibitors after they verbally said they would. Another thing is to have them specify when you will get the list of attendees. You don’t want to be waiting four to six weeks for the list.

As attendees stop by your booth, get their name and address or a business card from them. One of the best ways to do this is to give something away. It’s always best to make the first prize something your going to give them for FREE. Such as a copy of your video tape or to give away one of the products that you are selling. Don’t give away a coupon for 10% off one of your products, you will find that most people won’t take the time to register for your drawing. You have to really entice them!

If you are setting up at a bridal show, along with obtaining the bride’s name and address, get her wedding date. This way after the show you can see which dates you have open and mail specifically to those brides. After all, you won’t need to mail to brides whose weddings are on the weekends that you are ready booked for.

You will need to make it easy for them to register. Here are a few ideas:

1. Have a fish bowl set out for them to drop their business cards into. Put a sign on the fish bowl stating that it is for business cards or entries.

2. Make up some registration forms and have them readily available to everyone who is stopping by your booth.

3. Put the registration form on a clipboard with a pen. Have a dozen or more of these clipboards ready to be handed out. Depending on the size of the show, you may want to have quite a few clipboards handy. You will find that there are certain periods of the day that you will be swamped. Remember, it is always better to have too many clipboards, than not enough. Also, make sure you have a pen that is attached by string to each clipboard. This will make it easier for the attendee to fill out, since they won’t have to go searching for a pen. By having the pen attached by string, this will prevent someone from walking off with it by accident.

4. Keep the registration form brief. If it is a long questionnaire, you won’t collect as many names and addresses. Also, if you are in a real busy period, you won’t want to tie up all of your clipboards with people filling out your long questionnaire. You will want them to free up the clipboard as fast as possible so it can be passed onto the next person.

5. If you don’t want to use the clipboard method, then make up some registration slips that are about 3″ by 5″ and have pens available for people to use to fill out the forms.

6. Have a nicely covered box or a large fish bowl for people to deposit the registration forms into. Depending upon the booth size, you may want to have more than one box or bowl. If you are using a box, use wrapping paper to cover it. If you are at a bridal show, use wedding wrapping paper to cover your box, it adds a nice touch.

7. Another option for collecting attendees names is to have a book or clipboard set out asking the attendees if they would like to receive future mailings from you. Again, keep it simple. Just ask for the name and address. Once again, make sure you have a pen attached so they can fill it out with ease.

Some people may say that the names and addresses you obtain when you have a booth setup are not really qualified people. In other words, they may not have an interest in what you have to offer, they are just there to get the free stuff and register for drawings. This may be true with a few people, but most of the people who attend a trade show really do have an interest in the field. So, it is really worth the time and effort to collect as many names as possible.

When you attend some of the larger trade shows, when you register, you are given a badge with your name and address imprinted on it or electrically coded on the card. As an exhibitor, this will help you to collect names and address alot easier. You will simply ask for the attendees card and you will take an imprint of the card, in the same way you take a credit card imprint or you will swipe it through a card reading machine, again like on a credit card terminal. This will then give you printout the attendees name and address.

There is one thing I would like to point out, it has been our experience that you collect fewer names this way. After the attendee has been to several booths, they seem to get real tried of taking that plastic badge out of the badge holder for you to swipe it through. Have another method available for them to give you their information, like taking a business card or having them sign up on your mailing list.

Security In The Booth

While most people are honest, there seems to always be someone attending a trade show that will try to rip you off. Here are a few tips that may prevent you from being ripped off.

1. Have more than one person in the booth at all times. Most rip-offs occur when there is only one person in the booth, and it doesn’t have to be a busy time either.

2. Even as you’re talking with a customer, keep an eye on everyone else at your booth. A common rip off is, one customer will walk up and start asking you to show them something and at the other end of the booth, while you are walking there or are occupied there, the accomplice is lifting something from the other end of the table. Keep glancing around to watch for anything suspicious.

3. Be careful of taking checks for large purchases. Always get a drivers license number and check the address on the license with the address on the check. Also, watch for low check numbers, like 100, 101 and 102. We have only had one bad check at all the shows we have setup at.

4. Watch for credit card fraud. Someone who is out to rip you off, will watch to see if you are getting authorizations on each charge at the time of sale or if you are doing the authorization later, because you don’t have a phone line in your booth. They may walk up to you and start up a conversation, ask you for your advise about a product that you are offering and make a small purchase based on what you have told them. They will then come back a few minutes later, telling you, that they have thought about what you have said and they would like to make that purchase of the expensive product now. All the while knowing that you’re not going to check his credit card to see if it is good. They have just ripped you off. Their credit card will come up declined or stolen and you lose.

5. If the show allows kids, keep a watchful eye on them. They may descend on your booth all at once, while two or three of them have you occupied, another one maybe lifting something from your table.

6. Never walk away from a customer who has asked to see a product and is holding it, so you can help another customer. Pretty soon, you will have several customers looking at and holding your products, that you won’t know who has what. Some scam artist will work this way. Once they have you off guard, they disappear into the crowd with your product.

Even though you may be at a professional show, don’t count on people being honest. Someone there may try to rip you off. Keep your guard up. At the shows we have attended and ones that I have helped out at, we generally had two or three people in the booth with one person on the outside of the booth, keeping an eye on everyone.

Now, if you are not selling on the show floor, keep an eye on your display merchandise. I lost a video tape that was on display at one show. Luckily, I put blank tapes in the boxes that were on display, just in case one would happen to disappear.

The Last Day Of The Show

In the last few hours of the show, it may become real slow. Especially if this is a multi-day show. Whatever you do, don’t start breaking down your booth early. In fact, with more and more contracts, it specifically states that you cannot break down early and you may be charged a penalty if you do so. Just hang in there, you will be surprised at how many people get real offended when they attend a show on the last day and everyone is starting to pack up and leave. No matter how slow, just hang in there and keep promoting your business. If you’re selling on the floor, the last day is usually the best day to reduce the price and sell it off quickly, this way you will have less to pack up and take with you.

At The End Of The Day

If you are setting up for a multi-day show, make sure you cover everything up in your booth. You can use inexpensive sheets or table clothes to cover your table tops. Don’t leave anything exposed, it’s tempting for someone to steal it. You would be surprised at how effective covering up your tables can be. Remove anything of value from the table tops and either take it with you or put it out of sight. Most shows have security, but always ask to be sure. Also, check with the show’s promoter about insurance against fire or theft. See if his policy covers it or if you may need to obtain a rider policy from your own insurance company. Also, ask your insurance agent.

If you are setting up at a show with very expensive equipment or products, you may want to retain the services of a security guard. Find out who will be exhibiting around you and see if they want to go in with you on hiring a security guard. Depending upon the area where the show is being held, this might be worth it.

Don’t ever leave money at your show booth after you have closed down for the day. If you have been doing sales at the show, you may want to have a security person walk out with you or leave with a group of people. Out of all the shows I have been to we have never had a problem personally. However, at one show an exhibitor I talked to was robbed of that days receipts when he was getting into his car. So be careful.

After The Show

Start entering in all of the names and addresses that you collected and mail out to them right away! Don’t wait a week or two before mailing to them, do it right now. Then follow-up with another mailing to them about three weeks after the show. You have to keep in mind, that alot of people need that second mailing to give them the nudge they need to respond.

If the show promoter has agreed to give you the names and addresses of the attendees, make sure they do it in a timely fashion. I have heard of one show promoter that took six weeks to get the exhibitors the attendees names and addresses! That is too long to wait.

Follow up with a phone call to people you gave demos to. You may be surprised on how many of them turn into sales. If you can’t follow up with a phone call, then at least plan on mailing more information to them right away.

If you are planning on going to another show, start making a list of everything that went wrong at the last show. This way you can be better prepared for the next show you are setting up at. You will learn from your experiences. Every show is going to be different, so don’t be discouraged if the show you were just at wasn’t as good as you were hoping it would be. You will have to tailor your show booth to the different types of shows that you will be setting up at. This means you may not be using the same material or display at every show.

We wish you success at all the trade shows you attend.


The first thing that most established producers will ask you is, “What’s the point of your story, and why is it worth telling?”

When a group of filmmakers spend months shooting a feature or short film, they often become shortsighted about how the rest of the world perceives and understands their film. To put it plain and simply, make sure that your story is CLEAR and OBVIOUS – especially the ending.

Whether the film is an eclectic experimental or a family drama, make sure that those who read the screenplay – and eventually watch the film – understand the journey on which you are taking them.

A great way to learn about screenwriting is TO READ: Novels, short stories, short film screenplays, feature film screenplays… Reading the work of other authors enriches a storyteller by allowing them to see how other authors have effectively (or ineffectively) told stories.

The general rule with screenplays is DON’T START SHOOTING UNTIL YOUR SCRIPT IS READY. Often times writers will go through draft after draft and eventually settle for a mediocre product in the interest of time. Don’t make this mistake. Remember, it’s better to wait to shoot a great film than to shoot a not-so-good one right now. Just don’t wait forever!

IN SHORT: Story is king.


Actors, crew members, performing artists – whomever you end up hiring to work in your production, MAKE SURE THEY ARE THE BEST CANDIDATES FOR THE JOB.

Along with a poor screenplay, the most common weakness of films is BAD ACTING. This does not mean, however, that you need to hire professional actors with years of experience and training. Quite often non-actors perform the best because they’re not even trying to act, making their performance look very believable.

Whomever you decided to cast in your film, make sure that they can portray your characters interestingly and accurately. Another way to improve their performance is to WORKSHOP them for weeks before you start shooting.

Bad actors can make or break your film. Irrespective of whether you have the most talented crew members, a massive budget, the best equipment or a great screenplay, if your actors do not perform well it will be difficult to attract audiences.

Crew Members
Although you might be limited to working with those crew members who won’t charge you anything, WORK WITH THE BEST PEOPLE FOR THE JOB.

If a cinematographer, music composer or production designer has a particular style that would work perfectly in your film, IT DOESN’T HURT TO ASK them to help out.

Up-and-coming filmmakers are always looking for a good project that they can be attached to. Put a package together for your film including such items as an information kit, promo reels, story boards, etc. and pitch your project around. You might be surprised who falls in love with your vision.

IN SHORT: Film is about collaboration. Find the best artists for the jobs and don’t be afraid to delegate responsibilities.


Anyone who tells you that filmmaking today is expensive is downright lying. Okay, maybe it can cost a few bucks, but with the advent of digital filmmaking and home editing, making a film can be very inexpensive.

Even before the digital filmmaking craze struck, filmmakers were able to shoot critically acclaimed low budget films for a fraction of what others could produce them for. Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi” and Kevin Smith’s “Clerks” cost $7,225 and $22,769, respectively, and they were FEATURE FILMS SHOT ON FILM. And then of course they was the “Blair Witch Project” which was shot on Hi-8 and 16mm which was shot for less than $30,000 and grossed over $170 million worldwide.

Whether your budget is $10 $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 or $1,000,000, STICK TO IT. It’s proven every year that talented filmmakers can make highly acclaimed films within any financial constraints.

The general rule for making a film as cheap as possible is to ASK PEOPLE FOR HELP. Everyone wants to be associated with the next “Blair Witch Project,” and quite frankly you might be the person to do it. As with any fundraising, YOU MUST FIRST ASK before anyone gives you a dime, so don’t be shy. There are hundreds of organizations and individuals who would consider supporting your production.

To find grants or high-net work individuals, conduct a web search for “grants,” “high net worth individuals” or “humanitarians”. You can also view the film grants list on this site. Remember, you lose nothing by asking.

IN SHORT: In this day and age a film can be made for any amount of money. Whatever that amount might be for you, find ways to make your film with it, even if it requires swallowing your pride.


Bad sound, weak screenplay, bad acting, visible mistakes in footage, bad budgeting… If you take every point from this article and flip it to the negative, it’s probably a good list of the most common mistakes that filmmakers make. Avoid them whenever possible.

As many of your mentors will tell you, the best way to learn what to avoid is to make the mistake yourself. We’re not saying to start making all possible mistakes in your film, but rather to learn from those that you, your friends or other filmmakers have made.

IN SHORT: If there’s a mistake to be made, it’s already been made. Do your prep work. Plan and collaborate early on to avoid making mistakes in the future.


Generally speaking a film that is not cleared is NOT DISTRIBUTABLE. This means that if your film infringes on the rights of others, you will not be able to screen it at film festivals or commercially distribute it – this applies to both feature films and short films.

The best way to make sure that everything is cleared is to DO THE LEG WORK EARLY. Quite often filmmakers pursue a production and four months into the project they’re told that someone else owns the copyright of their film title or even the story concept. There’s nothing worse than to be told that you will not be able to finish your film because of something like this.

The most common uncleared material in a film is the MUSIC. Filmmakers often fall in love with a particular commercial song and simply through it into their final mix thinking there won’t be any repercussions. Clearing such music at a later date can be very costly or even impossible. The best thing to do with music is to purchase stock music, use royalty-free music or to hire a composer to write original music.

You can find such items on the web if you search for “royalty free music,” “music clips” or “sound clips.”

One thing that many filmmakers don’t know is that any music that was written over 99 years ago is royalty-free as long as you can get the musicians who played it to give you permission to use their version of the song.

There are several other items that must be cleared in a film production. Please visit Clearance Guidelines for more information.

IN SHORT: Make your film as if one day you plan to sell it. You never know who’s going to come knocking on your door with a checkbook. The last thing you’d want is to have copyright infringement break a potential distribution deal.


Whether you have a short screenplay that you want to shoot or a short film with a feature length screenplay, the best thing you can do to market yourself is to make a package and get it to anyone that can help.

Everyone on this planet is separated by only six hand shakes from every other person. Therefore, the chances are good that you know several people who can get your material to those who possess the power to give your career a jump start.

A verbal pitch is important for an artist to have – especially an elevator pitch (a verbal pitch lasting from 30 seconds to a few minutes). However, there’s no better follow up or stand-alone sales tool as an informational package.

Another great way to showcase your projects is to create a web site. There are several sites on the Internet that offer free web sites and web tools that alloy anyone to configure a web site.

To find such sites, conduct a web search for “free web hosting” or “free web pages.”

IN SHORT: Make a web site, buy a color printer, get some business folders and put your visions on something that you can show other people, not just tell them.


The beautiful thing about winning acclaim is that there is no set rule for it. Quite often the most unique – and even obscure feature films and short films – are the ones that take home the most trophies.

Point of the story is – AIM HIGH: you never know where or who will love your film.

IN SHORT: Even though your film might only cost $10 to make, you never know what ground it will break or award it will win.


Copy, credits, great meals… Gratitude is a concept that too often gets breached. Crew members often end up receiving cold left-over pizza and never see their names in the end credits, let alone get a copy of the film.

If there is one expense that is always worth it, IT’S TO FEED PEOPLE WELL. Aside from the physiological repercussions of feeding people unhealthy food, it’s a great way to show your appreciation for their efforts.

Regarding credits, it’s always a nice feeling to see one’s name in the end credits of a film, even if they donated only a few bucks for film stock or food. Don’t hold back when it comes to including names of those who helped you in the end credits. You might be surprised how prone they will be to help you again if you show your appreciation to them the first time.

IN SHORT: Be thankful and show it.


As mentioned earlier, it is very easy to get shortsighted about the story that you are trying to tell – and in the process forget about your audience.

A great way to avoid this is to constantly get feedback about your project. Whether for your outline, screenplay, directing style, casting, post production, rough-cut, final product, or previous short film, FEEDBACK IS CRUCIAL. Friends, teachers, mentors, and industry veterans pride on providing advice and often it can be integral.

IN SHORT: Filmmaking shouldn’t be done in a bubble. Feedback from experts and novices alike might be the most beneficial thing that you get.


Art is about expression, but it is also about communication. The final challenge of a filmmaker is to get people to go see their films. For up-and-coming filmmakers their film often serves as a résumé to gain future work.

Between film festivals, industry screenings, home video distribution and broadcast, there are several ways to get independent short films and feature films exposure.

Some filmmakers set aside a budget of a few thousand dollars just so they can submit their film to festivals. Though this is not crucial, it can be a great way to showcase your work to film fans and industry professionals around the world.

Remember KEEP YOUR GOALS IN MIND. Whether you want to be a screenwriter, film director, production designer or work in any other aspect of filmmaking, you must constantly strive to achieve your goals and use your previous work to showcase your talent.

IN SHORT: Your work represents your talent. Get it out to as many people as possible and always keep your goals in mind.

By: Stephen Yankee
101 Washington, Suite 230
Grand Haven MI 49417

(A short Commercial: the following information is excerpted from my Master Video Program Secrets of Creating A Dynamite Demo Tape! More information on how to order this Prova Award-winning 55 minute production is available on our website. Thanks –and I know this info will help you in your business, as it’s helped many others thus far.)

If you don’t have a demo tape –or you’ve got one that isn’t doing the job –don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. A good demo tape is a rare commodity in our business, simply because we’re like the shoemaker of legend. Many times we’re simply too busy making shoes for other people to take the time to put shoes on our own (barefoot) children. Well, if you want to run with the big dogs instead of staying on the porch, you’ve simply GOT to take the time!!! Because a good demo tape, properly planned, produced and distributed can win you a lot of profitable new business.

So what IS a demo tape, anyway? Contrary to what you might think, a demo tape is not a random collection of snippets and scenes from video productions you’ve already shot and sold. Even though we’ve all cut and pasted and used these types of tapes before, for all intents and purposes it is NOT a real demo tape. Because “Demo” stands for “demonstration.” It does NOT stand for “a miscellaneous collection of unrelated scenes.”

The first mistake –you’re moving too fast!

The first big mistake most producers make is to hurriedly throw a demo together because a client wants to see it –right now. The second biggest mistake is to grab unrelated or imperfect bits of video footage –bits that don’t convey the message you need to relate to your prospect or suitably showcase your production quality –and hope, somehow, that it will suffice. It used to, back in the days when being a video producer was the only qualification you needed to work on a video; but video is no longer a voodoo technology; most everyone owns a VCR, if not a consumer camcorder, and has the basic knowledge of how videos are put together.

Far and away, though, the very biggest mistake you can make when you assemble your demo tape is to center the attention on yourself…and NOT your client.

Your demo MUST be client-centered!

Let me elaborate. I’ve talked to hundreds of video producers. Many of them wonder why they’re not bursting at the seams with profitable jobs. Most of the time I believe it’s due to a common fault: too many video producers focus their marketing efforts on themselves, their own talents and equipment, and on what they’re selling…and NOT on the prospect and why he or she is buying.

I’ve been harping on this subject for a long time now, so by know you ought to know what I’m saying. Your demo tape MUST use what I call client-centered marketing to get people to come knocking on your door after seeing it.

Client-centered marketing is simple. All you have to understand is the difference between features…and benefits.

Features are about you and your product or service. Saying “we use 3-chip broadcast quality cameras” is a feature .

Benefits are the results that your products or services offer to your prospects

It would be far better to tell your client that their production is captured flawlessly, in perfect color and sharp focus –which is the benefit of using a 3-chip camera…than to tell them you use 3-chip cameras, and letting it go at that.

Are you with me so far? Good. Because I want you to make a real point to remember that whether you’re making a new demo tape or writing a sales letter or talking on the phone to a new prospect –you must use BENEFITS to sell to their wants and desires.

And that’s the First Commandment of making a dynamite demo tape: focus on the client’s benefits of using you as their video source…not on the features of you, your equipment or your company.

Here are the other six commandments you need to follow:

II. Your demo tape must be planned properly. Creating an effective demo tape is not a one-day job…it’ll take some time to create and execute a video program that’ll really do the job you want it to do…to reach the audience with which you wish to do business. It doesn’t help to show wedding scenes on a demo tape aimed at corporations…or vice versa. So always keep the needs of your target audiences topmost in your mind.

III. Your demo tape must be produced carefully and exemplify your very best work. No glitches, no bad camera moves, no bad edits. Simply the best you have, presented in a logical sequence.

IV. It should contain testimonials from satisfied customers! You need benefit-oriented testimonials to defuse any prospect anxieties while simultaneously enhancing your credibility.

V. Your demo tape MUST have a call-to-action! It MUST offer something to make the client respond, and respond NOW! It (or the note or letter that goes along with it) should contain a limited-time discount offer, a coupon good for a dozen free duplicate copies of the finished production, or some value-added benefit that makes the prospect reach for the phone to call and book you…NOW.

VI. Your demo tape must be packaged properly. A hand-written label and a cardboard sleeve just won’t cut it in today’s competitive marketplace. You need to consider printed labels…plastic library cases with printed inserts…anything and everything that will set your tape apart from your hungry competition.

VII. You must get your demo tape in front of the people who you want for your customers! Like any marketing tool, a demo tape is useless unless you get it out there working for you constantly. So who should get it? ANYONE that you contact –or who contacts you –who requests more information about your company and your video capabilities! Mail it, deliver it yourself…but get it out there where it can be seen…appreciated…and responded to.

Remember the value of good & proper follow-up.

Now your demo tape may be the demo tape to end all demo tapes. But you’ve got to remember that people can be lazy or unwilling to commit to a video project. And while your demo will certainly get their interest, by itself it’s usually not enough to get them to call you. So you’ve got to realize the value of proper follow-up. That includes phone calls, postcards, and even a second or third sales letter if required.


Steve Yankee is an independent copywriter and sales consultant, and
the author of over 50 books, tapes and Special Reports on video production,
advertising and promotional topics. He can be reached by
emailing , or writing him at Steve Yankee
Communications, 101 Washington, Suite 230, Grand Haven MI 49417.
Phone 616-844-6783. You’ll find lots of money-making FREE information
on his website:

By: Stephen Yankee
101 Washington, Suite 230
Grand Haven MI 49417

We could easily spend a month straight talking about “direct mail.” There’s a zillion books on the subject; it can be very, very complicated. But you know me –I’m a great believer in simplification.

So first, a definition. Direct Mail is anything you mail, hand or present to someone to introduce your business, your services, or to ask for an order. As you may have guessed, Direct Mail encompasses a very wide range of products; everything from a simple postcard to a multi-page letter, or series of letters –to a newsletter, or an item mailed to a customer or prospect.

Why use direct mail?

Two good reasons. It’s relatively cheap, AND it gets results.

What kind of results?

Well, crystal ball time! That’s a completely reasonable question to ask, but almost impossible to answer with any degree of certainty. With so many variables involved in Direct Mail, I really can’t nail this one for you.

The response and closing rates for Direct Mail are higher than those for classified or display advertising simply because DM is usually more targeted than print advertising. Which is why I like Direct Mail better than I like advertising. It gets better results.

But do you see how things work here? It’s what we call the “Law of Large Numbers.”

The same principles that rule live sales calls also work with direct mail. (Make a hundred cold telephone calls; out of those calls, 10 people will agree to read more information or make an appointment with you; out of that 10, one will give you a project). On a typical promotion, you send , say, 1000 direct mail postcards with a specific offer. You may get as few as a quarter of one percent (2.5) people to respond. You may get as many as five percent, or 50 people to respond. And of those 2.5 or 50 people, you may close one order or less, or 12.5 orders or more. Not exactly an exact science, is it?

Again, Direct Mail consists of something as plain as a one-page letter, and gets as fancy as a whole bunch of items stuffed into a good-looking package. But for the most part, an effective and economical direct mail campaign you can use to get started will consist of a series of letters (or flyers or postcards) sent to targeted prospects.

Here’s how it works. Say, for example, that you’ve decided to do a mailing to insurance agents in your area, seeking new clients for your home inventory video services. You can look in the Yellow Pages to put your mailing list together, but these listings won’t tell you the name of the person you want to contact. Depending on the size of the firm, this may be the president, the VP of sales, or the office manager. So you may have to do some phone work to find out who should get your direct mail offer; just call ’em up, explain BRIEFLY what you’re doing, and ask for the name and title of the person that should receive this information. (Get the spelling of the names right, too!)

An alternative is to get hold of your local Chamber of Commerce membership list, or their business directory; they’re available in most all cities.

So, you’ve got some names? Now what?

Well, my direct mail pieces typically have four elements. First is a personalized letter. Second is my business card. Third is a sheet or flyer which gives the benefits of using me as a source for copywriting business communications. And last, it would contain a postpaid business reply postcard.

Now, assuming you’ve sent your articles to the right person in the organization, you have three obstacles to overcome. First, you’ve got to get that letter opened. Second, you’ve got to get that letter READ by the right person. And lastly, you’ve got to get that person to take some action!

How do we get it opened? Well, you can spend hours and hours writing and editing and laboring over a great sales letter, but your time will be wasted if your prospect doesn’t open it. Remember, businesses get dozens of direct mail offers every week –most of it unsolicited stuff –and your letter is competing for your prospect’s attention!

My advice to you is to avoid gimmicks. For business types, what traditionally works best are personalized business letters, mailed in #10 size envelopes.

Don’t use labels. Type the addresses right on the envelopes, or print them on with a laser or inkjet printer…especially if you’re sending out a lot of letters. I also occasionally hire someone with good penmanship to address my direct mail envelopes, supplying them blank envelopes, the proper sort of pen (I prefer Pilot Rolling-Ball black markers), and addresses. They receive a nickel for each addressed envelope.

Mail first class and use a stamp! Don’t use a postage meter. Stamped mail is likely to get opened faster than metered mail. If you want to attract a lot of attention, use three or four stamps instead of one 32 cent stamp.

Use good quality #10 envelopes with your company’s name and address (logo, if you’ve got one, too) in the upper left hand corner.

If you’re going after four or five prime prospects, you might try sending your materials to them by Priority Mail or FedEx, and put it in the appropriate envelope or pak. It is definitely expensive, but have you EVER seen anyone toss away an unopened Priority Mail pouch or Federal Express Letterpack???

And don’t forget follow-up. You’ll get replies: cards will be returned, and you’ll no doubt get phone calls and email, too. Follow up on your leads PROMPTLY by sending the information you promised, or calling your prospects as they requested. I’ve seen good direct mail campaigns that have cost five figures sink quickly at this point, because their users weren’t foresighted enough to prepare to deal with incoming leads promptly and efficiently.


Steve Yankee is an independent copywriter and sales consultant, and
the author of over 50 books, tapes and Special Reports on video production,
advertising and promotional topics. He can be reached by
emailing , or writing him at Steve Yankee
Communications, 101 Washington, Suite 230, Grand Haven MI 49417.
Phone 616-844-6783. You’ll find lots of money-making FREE information
on his website:

By: Stephen Yankee
101 Washington, Suite 230
Grand Haven MI 49417

Are you lost out there? Drowning in a sea of competition? Up to your neck battling it out with competitors who already seem to be working with every new client prospect you contact? Perhaps you’ve been around for quite awhile, relying on word-of-mouth advertising for work but the younger, hungrier sharks are out-hustling you?

Or perhaps you’re the new guy in town, ready to put your skills and equipment to work…but nobody knows who you are –or what you do –and nobody seems to care. It’s the old analogy about building a better mousetrap. You may indeed have the world’s best rodent catcher, but if people don’t know about it…you’ll never sell any of ’em. You really have to add a new facet to your personality. In addition to being a businessperson, you need to be a first-class business promoter as well!

You can promote your business in many ways, of course. That includes everything from buying expensive newspaper or magazine ads, creating and producing slick and colorful brochures, or embarking on an intensive direct mail campaign designed to introduce people to you, your company and your services. All of these strategies work, but –like you –I’m always most interested in results that require a minimum of investment of my hard-earned dollars.

So why not use the power of the “free press?”

Today, I want to introduce you to the humble press (or news) release; a terrific advertising/marketing vehicle that will cost you a only few sheets of paper, a couple of stamped envelopes, and an hour or two of your time. But lest you sneer at such a lowly marketing device, let me assure you that if you follow the simple advice I’m about to give you, you can turn that modest investment into literally hundreds of dollars worth of valuable magazine and newspaper space, which can lead directly to thousands of dollars in new business!

Here’s how it works.

I spent a couple of years editing newspapers and city magazines. From first-hand experience, I know full-well that magazine and newspaper editors love to receive submissions and news releases from their readers. Why? Simple; it’s not that local editors and writers are intrinsically lazy –it’s just that they’re generally snowed under in sentences, piled high with paragraphs, sinking in a sea of special features, and drowning under inescapable deadlines. It follows that the more things you write and provide them for their publication, the less they have to write!

If you follow these steps, you’ll be on your way to creating enhanced
visibility for your company –which will lead to more and better sales
opportunities –for a very modest out-of-pocket cost!

1/PREPARE A MAILING LIST. I recommend that you send news releases and photos to every local and regional newspaper and magazine in your business area. Thus, you’ll need the names and addresses of every publication in your local area. Easy. Make a list of every publication or media name, address and phone number listed. The more the merrier! (After all, it’s only going to cost you a couple pieces of paper, an envelope and a 32 cent stamp to reach each name on your list.) Then, call each of these organizations on your list, and get the name (correct spelling) of the managing editor or news editor or business news editor. Those are the people you want to reach, so they’re the ones that should receive your releases!

2/PREPARE A LIST OF POSSIBLE TOPICS. Everything you do is news. Here are some suggestions for releases: .You join a professional organization. .You attend a regional or national convention or trade show .You extend your office hours .You are now open on Saturdays .You are producing a new product for a local client .You hired a new staff person, or just promoted a staff person .You expanded your capabilities .You just opened a new office or studio

3/GET SOME PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN. You should automatically send a photograph of yourself the first time you send a release to local and regional publications. Even if they don’t use it, it’ll go in their picture “morgue,” and be on file for later use. If you’re sending in a release about a new staff person or a promotion, you should also send along a picture of that person or persons. In many other instances, print media editors will respond to your release by calling you and asking for a photo. If at all possible, you should have these ready beforehand.

4/WRITE AND PRODUCE YOUR RELEASE. You don’t have to be a great writer to put a news release together. There’s a simple format that editors like, and you should follow it. First, use your company letterhead. If you don’t have one, type your company name, complete address and phone number(s) in the upper right-hand corner.

Next, provide a release date. Type “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” near the top of the page. This lets editors know that they can use this information immediately. If you don’t want the news released until a later date, then write what we call a “news embargo” date in its’ place, such as “FOR RELEASE 11/1/97.”

Next, write the title or headline of the release. Such as “ACME VIDEO NOW OFFERS HOME MOVIE TRANSFERS TO VIDEOTAPE.” This should be written in all capital letters (easier for editors to make it into a headline that way by counting letters, and easier for them to quickly determine the contents and/or newsworthiness).

Next, of course, write the release itself. Keep it as short as possible; typed double spaced, it should never run longer than two pages. If your first draft runs longer, start editing. You need to cover the basics –WHO, WHAT, WHY, WHEN, WHERE…and HOW. I always try to load the release up with feature-benefit points, though, because some magazines will print virtually every word that you send them; and you must be ready to take advantage of those opportunities.

Now most newspapers and magazines will reduce all these wonderful words down to a paragraph of two at best –or a line or two at the worst. But remember –it’s FREE advertising. And if you’re living in a one-newspaper town, this is probably going to be BIG local news; you might get the whole release printed just as you wrote it….along with a picture or two.


Steve Yankee is an independent copywriter and sales consultant, and
the author of over 50 books, tapes and Special Reports on video production,
advertising and promotional topics. He can be reached by
emailing , or writing him at Steve Yankee
Communications, 101 Washington, Suite 230, Grand Haven MI 49417.
Phone 616-844-6783. You’ll find lots of money-making FREE information
on his website:

By: Stephen Yankee
101 Washington, Suite 230
Grand Haven MI 49417

How you present your company (particularly in a first-time situation) has a lot to do with how you’re perceived in the marketplace. Sad but true, you may be an absolute whiz with your equipment and you may be a virtual expert in your chosen field, but if your company looks like a bunch of amateurs, you personally may be treated like one, and not get the respect (or the big budget projects) that you so rightfully deserve.

If you’ve ever worked for (or worked at, for that matter), a big corporation, no doubt you’ve been specifically told how to use their logo, what typeface to use for their name, and what corporate colors you must use for reproduction of same. You may even have been handed a bulky “Corporate Graphics Standards” binder, replete with color swatches and exacting dimensions of everything from door signs to envelopes. The name of the game is “corporate identity.” And it’s just as important for you as it is any Fortune 500 company.

When you strip away all the clutter and marketing gobbledygook, the real purpose of a corporate identification program is to produce a system of graphics that is professional, attractive and that will enhance the image of your firm. Such a program should encompass all aspects of visual communications –including your stationery, advertising, packaging, brochures, signage, trade show booth design, and other printed material that will be viewed by both current and potential clients.

Okay, so you’re not quite at the level of General Motors or Microsoft. It doesn’t matter what size you are. Establishing and maintaining your corporate identification is very important in your marketplace –whether you’re doing business on a local, regional or national scale.

Why? Simple. Because whether you’re a company of one, or a company of 100 people, you want people to remember you; you want to look like you know what you’re doing; you want to look stable, creative and –most of all –professional.

Let me tell you how we made my last company look much larger than life. Great Lakes Video Services was incorporated about nine years ago. At the time of our inception, the staff consisted of yours truly, my partner Randy, and two part-time technicians, and we had two dinky offices on a side street office building.

We were little. But we wanted to look larger than life. We wanted to look like we were well-established (which we weren’t), savvy (which we were), professional (yep), businesslike (ditto), and creative (fer sure).

So one of the first things we did after setting up the videotape dupe rack and plugging the editing suite together was to hire a professional designer and had him develop a logo.. Simple, strong, colorful and eye-catching, it features our name and a graphic device which resembles both a wave (Great Lakes –get it?) and an artfully draped piece of videotape. We decided on our corporate colors –strong shades of blue (for water) and green (for money, natch), and locked in a “corporate” typeface –one that would not vary, regardless of where it was to be used.

And then we proceeded to put our new corporate identity/logo on EVERYTHING we could think of. Our shipping boxes. Our letterhead (even our second sheets carried the simple wave device on the left-hand side). Our business cards, envelopes, order forms, mailing labels, VHS tape box labels, cassette top and spine labels, rate cards, service brochures, invoices –even our equipment identification stickers carry the message in a consistent fashion. And even though Randy (the business and finance guy) winced at the cost of three-color printing for “throwaway” shipping labels, I persisted. If we wanted to convey the image that we were big and slick and could deliver, we had to consistently look that way.

And it worked. The corporate identity we established accomplished its purpose. We were perceived as having our act together.

The frightening thing about public perception is that we in reality could have been totally unhinged and thoroughly unprofessional, working in our garages or basements with antiquated equipment, but our graphic identity made us look like we knew what we were doing. Hence, people trusted us with their work. And when we did a good job, they kept coming back. And we prospered for it.

The underlying principle here is to present your customers and prospects a strong, consistent image. Fragmented or sporadic adherence to this idea ultimately damages your corporate credibility. So decide what you want to be in the mind of your public. Take the time to develop a corporate identity program that says who you are and what you do, and exudes professionalism. And when you’ve got it, use it! Emblazon your name on everything from labels to baseball caps, ads to vehicles, business cards to building signs. Remember that synergy is strength, and consistency is the name of the game.


Steve Yankee is an independent copywriter and sales consultant, and
the author of over 50 books, tapes and Special Reports on video production,
advertising and promotional topics. He can be reached by
emailing , or writing him at Steve Yankee
Communications, 101 Washington, Suite 230, Grand Haven MI 49417.
Phone 616-844-6783. You’ll find lots of money-making FREE information
on his website:

By: Stephen Yankee
101 Washington, Suite 230
Grand Haven MI 49417

It shouldn’t be a surprise to you that our language plays a key role in how we provide service. Language can reflect our view of a client when we properly identify them as the sole reason for our service. Which is true, isn’t it? If you don’t have clients, it stands to reason you won’t be providing anyone your services!

At any rate, I think we’d all agree that words can be used to build up the customer’s confidence. But when the wrong expressions are used, the total opposite becomes true.

So how do you build this confidence? First, as the old joke goes, “eschew deliberate obfuscation.” In other words, keep it simple as possible. each yourself to use simple, direct words. Your verbal expressions really do have the ability to make a significant difference.

Here’s my first example: the expression, “I’ll take care of that for you.” Now –what does this statement say? “I’ll take care of that for you” not only inspires customer confidence, but also improves your sense of self-worth, as well. By forcing you to act, these words enable you to perceive yourself as an important part of your business! Expand that a little bit. Do you have employees? Teach them those seven magical words, “I’ll take care of that for you.” You’ll get the same results. The customer’s confidence level will skyrocket, and your employees will feel like an important part of the business, too!

Can your remember the last time you heard the words, “I’ll take full responsibility”?

If YOU continually protect yourself from criticism from avoiding words such as these, you can be certain no one else in your company will ever utter them either! However, when you have established yourself as the person ultimately responsible for the exchange between your company and your client, you will find yourself going to great lengths to be sure no mistakes are made! So these are good words for you and your staff, too. “I’ll take full responsibility.” Learn them for yourself; teach them to your employees; and live by them.

I can’t tell you how many meetings and proposals I’ve sat in where the head presenter finished making his or her sales pitch, delivered the unsigned contract, murmured a few final thoughts on budgets and schedules and details and then sat down without saying this. And I resolved that whenever I made a presentation to someone –whether it was selling them a $500,000 corporate advertising program or a half dozen copies of a videotape –I would always end my spiel with the words, “Mr. Client –we WANT your business!”

Saying “We want your business” makes the message clear that THE CUSTOMER COUNTS!!!! Too many businesses tend to think of their clients as an interference. And why should the client assume that you want their business unless you tell them!? Think about it. Think about how you’d feel if you called some supplier and got a quote and they said, “Mr. Jones, we’d really like your business.” Would you feel wanted? Would you feel special? Would you feel that however loyal you were to your usual suppliers that you just might give these guys a shot at handling your business? Thank about it.

Let’s move on. “Thank you for thinking about us” is a short, direct sentence that simply tells what business is all about. When a client enters your facility or calls you with a purchase in mind they are, in effect, paying your business a compliment. When you or your employees use these words, you (or they) will have a better understanding of the customer service relationship, and everyone will feel good about the sale. Practice this one. “Thank you for thinking of us.”

I firmly believe that every business –whether it’s a one-person desktop publishing company or a two-person pet store or a multi-billion dollar corporation –has only ONE reason for existing –and that is to make something happen for the customer –giving good value, and doing it on time. Remember that your clients NEED to be reassured that you’ll do WHATEVER needs to be done. And to that end… your words can work wonders. They can create confidence, and establish better customer relationships. Most importantly, they keep your customers coming back again, and again!


Steve Yankee is an independent copywriter and sales consultant, and
the author of over 50 books, tapes and Special Reports on video production,
advertising and promotional topics. He can be reached by
emailing , or writing him at Steve Yankee
Communications, 101 Washington, Suite 230, Grand Haven MI 49417.
Phone 616-844-6783. You’ll find lots of money-making FREE information
on his website:

The State of Texas offers sales tax exemptions on many items that are purchased or leased for at least one year for use in multimedia production, allowing producers to save up to 8.25% on many of their production expenses. Many services performed during production or post-production are also exempt from sales taxes. A producer may claim exemptions on qualifying equipment purchased for use exclusively on eligible projects for which the producer receives compensation. Eligible projects include games; education, reference, training or entertainment software; software for kiosks; and advertising software. Equipment and other items used in the creation and/or maintenance of web sites are not eligible for these exemptions. Any equipment used for a dual purpose, e.g., to create or maintain a web site and to create software, does not qualify for these exemptions. Intranet equipment does not qualify for the exemption. Producers may claim the exemptions if they will sell the software they develop.

These exemptions are covered in the Texas Tax Code Section 151.318, and the Comptroller of Public Accounts Administrative Rule 3.300. Exemptions are also available to music and film producers; for information, contact the Texas Film Commission (512/463-9200) or the Texas Music Office (512/463-6666).

Purchases and Leases

Multimedia producers may claim 100% exemption from state and local sales taxes on purchases, financing leases, or fixed-term leases of at least one year of qualifying machinery, equipment and consumable supplies. To qualify, all items must be necessary and essential to the project, and used directly in production.

Examples of qualifying items: cameras and camera accessories; lights and lighting control systems (used directly in the production and that are not improvements to property); props and costumes; video assist systems; time code equipment; editing equipment; stock film, photography and sound; CD-ROM duplication equipment; digital audio equipment including recorders, players, and mixers. Software packages, computers and workstations are eligible for this exemption as long as they are used solely for the production of eligible multimedia projects. If a producer is running email, word processing or accounting software on the same computer he or she uses to create projects, that computer is not exempt from state and local taxes. If he or she has a separate workstation used for production, that workstation is exempt. Examples of eligible software packages include Macromedia Director, Adobe Photoshop, drawing and painting programs, animation programs, and 3D imaging programs.

Certain items are specifically excluded from the exemption. They include: office furniture and supplies, business software, storage disks and tapes, high-speed modems or other networking equipment, research or reference materials, and training manuals.


Certain services that are necessary to the project are tax-exempt. They include: editing, film processing, Foley and sound recording and mixing, animation, storyboarding, QuickTime VR development, CD-ROM mastering, CBT design and development, interface design, instructional design, scriptwriting, blue-screen studio services, digitizing services, packaging and jewel-box design, and VRML and virtual reality development. Other services that are not taxable include music composition, legal services and accounting services.

Some examples of services that do not qualify for the exemption include: data archiving and compression; HTML, Java, CGI and other web-related programming; file conversion; and technical support.

NOTE: Software itself is taxable. These exemptions apply only to the work and materials that go into creating software. Any company that’s selling software should be collecting sales tax.

To Claim Exemptions
Fill out a Texas Sales and Use Tax Exemption Certificate and give it to the vendor. Certificates are available either by calling the Texas Multimedia Program (512/463-5842) or via Tax Forms Online.

How to fill out the Certificate: in the section marked “Purchaser claims this exemption for the following reason,” an appropriate entry would be:

“ITEMS ARE TO BE USED DIRECTLY IN PRODUCTION OF [project name and very brief description, such as EDUCATIONAL CD-ROM ABOUT THE ALAMO].”

Provide a completed Certificate to each vendor from whom you’re buying or renting qualifying items or services. If you’re making several purchases from the same vendor, they may keep one completed form on file.

The vendor will include sales tax on your invoice. Deduct the amount from the total, and include the completed Certificate with your payment. Both the vendor and the producer must keep a copy of the Certificate on file for at least four years.

For more information on sales tax exemptions, contact:

Adina Harrell
Tax Administration Division, Comptroller of Public Accounts
(800) 531-5441 extension 34614
(512) 463-4614 from Austin


Julia Null Smith
Texas Multimedia Program, Office of the Governor
(512) 463-5842

Last updated: October 22, 1997

©1998, State of Texas, Office of the Governor, Texas Multimedia Program


From: AV Video & Multimedia Producer
November 1997

Everyday, professional product equipment is bought, sold and stolen. Methods for tracking it as it changes hands are not as effective as one might think. AVV&MMP spoke with Dale Storz, manager of equipment sales for Bexel Corporation in Burbank, California, about this often overlooked aspect of the industry.

Q: As a dealer, you’ve recovered stolen production equipment. How is this equipment dealt with in the industry?
A: A man recently called to sell me an HL-V55 camera. I ran the serial number through Ikegami, which told me that the camera had been purchased by ABC a few years before. When I called ABC New York, I was told that an HL-V55 had been stolen two years earlier while a crew was flying from New York to Australia.

Once you knew the camera was stolen, what did you do?
A: I called the Burbank Police and said that I had a man offering to sell me equipment that I had confirmed had been stolen.

Time was limited, so I was able to give the police only 20 minutes to arrive and prepare to a sting. Normally, we have a day or two to execute a plan. We set it up so that when the man came in to pick up the check, the police were there. Once I gave him the check, they took him away.

What happened to him? Was he aware that he was trying to sell a stolen camera?
A: We recovered the HL-V55 and it turned out that he was the real victim. He had bought the camera from a store in a strip mall. Now he’ll have to sue the camera store to try to recoup his money.

How can producers protect themselves?
A: We encourage anybody who deals in used production equipment to routinely run the serial numbers to make sure that the equipment is not stolen and that there isn’t an outstanding UCC – that is, a lease or a loan against the equipment.

Check out the person or company you’re buying from. Check with the state in which the company is located for any outstanding UCCs. At Bexel, we take those extra steps so our customers can avoid becoming victims down the line.

What if a producer has some equipment stolen?
A: First, call the police and file reports. The police are networked nationwide. Second, notify the manufacturer that the unit has been stolen and give the company the serial number so that the manufacturer can distribute it to all of its service areas. Should the piece of gear ever go in for service, the company will be able to track it.

Third, post the information on the Internet at, a Web page that has been started for stolen equipment. The Web site is exclusively for listing stolen professional production equipment.

How do people know whether the equipment they’re using or selling is stolen?
A: That’s still a tough call unless you work with an established dealer. It’s too bad that equipment that costs as much as a car is not regulated or tracked the way the department of motor vehicles tracks cars. You get a title for a $15,000 car but not for a $60,000 video camera.

When a manufacturer sells a camera, why doesn’t a title go with it? I think this has to be each manufacturer’s responsibility. Without a title system, stolen equipment is very easy to move.

“A Modest Proposal”
By William Ronat
Videomaker Magazine
October 1995

Your phone rings. On the other end is a potential client. You like potential clients, as they represent potential profits. The conversation is pleasant enough, with the potential client giving you a nebulous description of his potential video project. Then it’s your turn. “What’s is going to cost?” asks the potential client pleasantly.

That’s the problem with some potential clients. They want to know exactly what you are going to do before you do it. And they want to know exactly what it will cost before they even know what they want to do.

Here’s how I handle such a question. Look, I say, every video project is different. It’s like asking how much a house is going to cost before you tell me what kind of a house you want to build. How many rooms does the house have, does it have a vaster view, how many acres of land? Ceramic tile? A swimming pool? You see?

“Ah, of course, I see perfectly,” says the potential client pleasantly, “But how much is it going to cost?”

“A million dollars,” I reply.

Learn to Earn

This is the time to get some details on paper, usually in the form of a proposal. A proposal simply outlines what the video is going to accomplish, how you plan to make it happen, and an estimate of what it’s all going to cost. Ahhh – we’re back to the cost issue.

How can you come up with an accurate estimate of a “potential” video? By learning everything you possibly can about the project.

Who will be watching the final video – CEO’s of corporations or first graders at the local elementary school? How long is the video? Will you need to shoot on Digital Betacam or is SVHS acceptable? Are you and your crew going to have to travel to Istanbul or will everything be shot locally?

Be sure the client understands what he or she is getting. If your price is for shooting and editing, then let the client know that scriptwriting will be an additional expense. Or if you do take the job from start to finish, then outline all the steps (selecting talent, scouting locations, production scheduling, shooting, editing, dubs). Make sure the client understands that your price includes these items only.

Before you state a price for the project, see if you can find out what the client’s budget is. It may be more than you thought, which gives you the freedom to add more elements to the productions. On the other end of the spectrum, the budget may be so small that it’s not even possible to accomplish what the client wants. It’s better to learn this sad fact early before you invest your valuable time.

Set the Parameters

Once you state a price, the client will try to hold you to it. Client-human nature is to lock you into a price and then add complexity that will cost you more money. “Did I forget to mention that you could shoot on the warehouse floor only between 3amd and 5am? Must’ve slipped my mind.”

This is why you want to be specific in the cost estimating process of your proposal. If you tell them exactly what they are getting for the price you are quoting, the client won’t be able to add on more complexity without that price going up.

On simple jobs, I usually break my estimate down into two parts: 1) the Treatment and 2) the Estimate and Authorization.

Earlier, we looked at how you should ask questions to learn about the client’s project. With the information you learned through your questions, a natural method of creating the video will probably pop into your head.

For example, a client might be a builder of million-dollar homes. The client wants to show off the many features of the different models. Your treatment might look like this:

Classical music plays as the camera floats past the house with a breathtaking wide shot. The scene dissolves to a closer shot of the front of the house. As the camera floats forward, the front door opens and the camera (who is the viewer) is greeted by a butler. This butler (a professional actor) proceeds to give the viewer a full tour of the house.

The treatment can be as simple or as complex as you like, as long as it serves the purpose to telling your client what the show is going to look like. If the client likes the concept and agrees on the price, you are ready to move into scripting. If there is something the client doesn’t agree with, you know it before you discuss money.

Also, if the client loves your idea, they’re more likely to go with you than one of you competitors. Of course, the client can always steal your idea and use another company, anyway. The unfortunate effect is you can’t copyright an idea.

Author, Author

The second part of the proposal I send to clients is the Estimate and Authorization. On this sheet, I try to be as complete as possible, putting down my best guess on what each part of the video will cost. There are two schools of thought on this. A buddy of mind, who also produces video, only tells his clients what the total cost of the production will be. He has found that some clients try to lower the price by eliminating parts of the video. (“Look, we can save $200 if we re-use a stack of VHS tapes from home.”).

Whatever method you choose, the important item is the last line on the page. This is where it says:

Authorization: ______________

Date: ______________________

Have the client sign and date your proposal and you can get started.

Does this document protect you from a client who wants to rip you off? Nope. But neither do multi-page contracts. I know of a disreputable fellow who has run up thousands of dollars worth of video production bills (though not with me, thank goodness), refused to pay, been taken to court, ordered to pay by the judge, and still refused to pay. The last I heard, he had left town – without paying.

If you don’t have a good feeling in your gut about a potential client and you think they might be in the sleazy category, back off. Talk to other people in the community who have worked with this person. Are your fears legitimate? A little homework can help you avoid major headaches.

So why go to such great effort to get a signature? Honest people (the ones you want to work with) stand by their promises. But even these folks sometimes have short memories. (“I never agreed to that.” But you singed this document saying you did.” “I did? I’ll be darned.”) Leaving a paper trail helps everyone remember these little details.

by Mark J. Foley

At this past week’s MacWorld in New York City, I was completely taken by surprise. In the middle of a lively discussion about the tough economy, one of the participants said flat out and without any hesitation, “That’s OK; I know that I can always undercut my competition on price and get the work anyway.” When I pressed her for the business sense of that comment, she had none to offer. That the value of her work meant so little to her really shook me up.

Fair Market Value

Most, if not all, production communities around the US have a fairly uniform pricing structure based on the local economics. The day rate for everyone, from sound engineer to director, are usually consistent. This ensures that the professionals in that particular market are going to earn enough to stay in the business.

Everyone involved knows that there are ups and downs (lately more downs) in the economy and that we work in an extremely competitive business. So what happens when someone in your market starts lowballing the quotes?

Everyone suffers– here’s why. Most clients don’t see the value of you and your experience. They see per hour charges, edit suites, tape machines, all form a totally different perspective. They are under pressure to deliver content in the most economical fashion possible. Undercutters not only sell themselves short but force all other professionals to justify their reasonable rates.

Fighting Back with a Vengeance

There is only one way to fight an undercutter. First, look at your current client list. What happened to that agency guy you always counted on? What about that annual sales meeting? Who are your clients going to and why? Second, get mad. It may be the motivation you need to get on the phone and stop the hemorrhaging now. Their, sit down and list why you and your company are work a certain day rate. You know why you are worth it, but does the client? Case in point: four times a year, I produce and direct special events programming. My handheld guys are the best. They get awesome shoots and are rock solid. They are not cheap, but I don’t mind paying their going day rate because they are worth every penny in production value and for (this) director’s peace of mind. This year, our client talked about cutting back. I had a choice to either make some serious cuts (hacking my production values to hell) or to sit down and explain to them why they needed to stay the course.

Then our client mentioned “this other production company. They quoted us less and are going to give us something like 500 copies on DVD when we are done”…and so on.

I sat and I listed closely. I responded: “You know us and our organization. We have worked on these productions together for five years running. We have never hosed you and we never have promised more than we could deliver. We have provided a consistently professional product and we enjoy a pleasant working relationship. If you really think you can get the same quality of work at that price point, then maybe you should try these other guys out. Our price is what it is needed to secure the best crews, trucks, and locations. We know it is a fair price.” I left it al that. Two days later, I got a phone call; “We don’t know what we were thinking! Let’s set up the next three events now.” Whew! By knowing the relative values of production and knowing what was out there, I defended by pricing structure and that of others in my production community. The other guys? Yeah, they get productions — but not the good ones.

Standing Tall
People want to feel good about the decisions they make and look good making them. Be proud of what you do for a living and don’t sell yourself short. The undercutters will always be there, but when it comes to the quality clients and doing your best work, stay the course and you and your business will be all the better for it.

Mark J. Foley
Videography Magazine
August 2001

It is a good practice to always use a release form when you’ll be including a person’s name, face or voice in a video that you are producing for pay. A signed and dated release form for each person appearing in a video is the best way to protect yourself legally from requests for additional compensation. Click here to go to a page you can copy and paste to your word processor.

September 1998