Your Existing Clients Are Important, Too!

One ongoing project we love working on here at Creative Media Recording is with an ad agency who regularly records audio interviews of successful business consultants and subject matter experts from a variety of fields. Then that interview audio is turned into audio CD’s and/or Podcasts for their client to share.

I always come away from an interview session with 1 or 2 great little business nuggets that I can put to use in my OWN business. Last week one expert shared this piece of advice:

“If you constantly focus on getting NEW clients and ignore OLD ones you’ll end up on the downside.”

That hit home for me! The past three years have been very busy for our little studio. Plus I was making time to hit some conferences and trade shows. I started working on some other important audio related projects that are taking me in a different direction. I may have let some deadlines slide here and there but we were busy, right?! — Wrong.

The downside for me was losing one good client last year – out of the blue – who was unhappy with the service they were getting (or weren’t getting in our case). That harsh reminder hit home for me as I sat there listening to this business consultant. Losing that other client had been a resonant reminder to make sure we were all focused on our existing client base – some of whom have been working with us for over 30 years.

We’re lucky to have some long, successful existing relationships with many of our clients. But it doesn’t take much to get off the track.

Yes, farming for new clients is important; doing lots of new auditions is good; working your social media (looking for business) can be good; going to conferences and learning new stuff is key. But be aware of the valuable time all of that might take away from doing work for your existing client roster.

Bottom line: Don’t forget to touch base with your existing clients once in a while, too. Try something you haven’t done before – make a phone call. Send a card or postcard instead of an email. Buy some small gift cards and start sending them out when you get a nice gig or a referral from someone. All of those little surprises do have an impact on clients/producers.

 

Photo montage by VO pro Mike Laponis @mikeraphone on Twitter

A look at the new Marantz Pro TURRET

One of the best things about attending the annual NAB Convention in Las Vegas each April is that I get to check out, first hand, some cool new gear like microphones and outboard audio gear. NAB is also a great place to get introduced to the trends in video production so I can stay in step with my clients.

This year one piece from Marantz Professional really caught my eye. It is the TURRET – an all in one, freestanding HD webcam camera & microphone package that is perfect for wide range of users – including voiceover professionals, podcasters, online presenters, streaming video pros and more.

For VO pros this is a tool that will allow you to communicate during live directed sessions with your clients during a voiceover session via SKYPE, Zoom, etc. – allowing you to keep your focus on recording audio on your main system & microphone.

The new Marantz Turret

Presenters will love having a professional rig for their live streaming projects, video tutorials and online sharing segments, etc. – all while communicating from their presenting space with a professional look AND sound.

Marantz is known in the broadcast and production world for their professional hand-held portable audio recorders. This is a great compliment to that line-up. I loved the “all-in-one” aspect of having a professional HD camera and LED adjustable Light Wheel system plus semi-professional Marantz quality condenser microphone with pop filter all in one unit with one USB cable is pretty slick. Buttons on the main pedestal allow you to control the camera, microphone, headphone volume and lighting from one location.

The TURRET is not on the market quite yet so look for it to be released later this year.

Keeping Clients Coming Back for More

We recently had the opportunity to record an audio interview with a business consultant for an ongoing business training series. The consultant was not discussing the “media” business, but his words really resonated with me. Among the many insights he reminded me of was that “people buy from people they like and trust.” This is so true. You will probably only take your car to an auto mechanic you trust and get to know. You tend to eat at the places that treat you right time after time, and so forth.

This is true for OUR businesses as well.

Here at Creative Media, if any of our vendors or freelancers are rude to the team or to a client, we just don’t bother to bring them back again. We love what we do. That’s why we do it! But to continue loving our work, the experience has to be upbeat and enjoyable. I’m planning to put these ideas to work.

If our goal is to grow our businesses we need to BE that “trusted source” and “trusted advisor.” We need to create a “spirit of hospitality” in our day-to-day work habits even if we only deal with clients on-line or on the phone and/or provide a service from a home studio or off site facility.

How do we do that? The visiting consultant suggested that we “fall in love with our customers.” He was speaking figuratively, of course. And working hard to find out what we can do for our clients includes goes above and beyond. It helps to just create a positive atmosphere and not push too hard. Sometimes this is difficult, as I well know.

Blog after blog suggests that our best sources of new work are actually our existing clients. My business has thrived because of the relationships we’ve built over the years and the repeat business that continues to bring. Despite the tremendous changes in technology and they way we do business, some producer clients have been working with us for over 30 years. But building and maintaining those relationships takes work. And the end work product needs to be good, too.

We record professional voice talent a lot here. The best voice talents we’ve worked with at our studio over the years were the ones who came to a session with a smile on and were upbeat throughout despite the challenges of the script or the session. They also need the talent and skills in order to be hired again, but having a positive attitude really helps. Everyone wants to work with upbeat, positive people – and with voiceover especially – that attitude will show through in your voice.

We recently watched the documentary “The Wrecking Crew” about the freelance backing musicians who recorded the music on numerous hits of the 60’s & 70’s for groups like the Mamas & the Papas, the Beach Boys, the Righteous Brothers, Frank Sinatra and the list goes on. Some went on to achieve musical success on their own like 60’s session guitarist Glen Campbell.

This small group of about 30 L.A. based musicians kept working on hit after hit, year after year for over a decade because they were good. But it was more than that. The freelance music folks who got hired had to have a positive attitude to be a continuous part of the team. Wrecking Crew member and noted drummer Hal Blaine summed it up in the documentary when he said, “if you smile, you stay around for awhile: if you pout, you’re out.”

For some this is a culture shift, for others it is just a reminder. But at the very least it is food for thought.

Small Space Syndrome by Tim Keenan

A passing comment in an email from a client the other day got my wheels spinning. I’ve noticed this phenomenon, but was never able to put my finger on the issue so well. The client shared that a batch of recent e-Learning auditions we sent him sounded “soft” – as if the narrators we’re reading a book aloud in a very quiet room. In other words, there was no energy, no engagement with the potential listener.

Now, I know VO pros are always encouraged to think of the microphone as a person’s “ear” and be aware of the power of the intimacy of their voice when speaking softly. But this client was hoping to hear more energy and enthusiasm, yet still have the read be conversational.

It came to me that I had noticed this same phenomenon myself when working with voices from their home studios. I have have had to push the talent to get a little more zest.

The one thing that just may be holding them back in their delivery could be the SIZE of the person’s recording space. I’m going to call it “small space syndrome.

Human’s, by nature, will tend to speak softly when they enter a closet sized room because they know they don’t have to speak-up to be heard. A small VO booth may be having that same subliminal effect on narrators. Even a space carved off a larger room using acoustic curtains can have a dampening effect on a performance.

I know I’m spoiled. I own a professional studio with a nice, roomy VO booth that we designed from the ground up. It is, on average, 9’ x 16’ with enough room for three voice talent at a time comfortably. It’s big enough to feel like a room. When you perform in our VO booth you can speak in normal, bold tones with no hesitation.

So how do you overcome small space syndrome? Well, just being aware and conscious of it is a good step one. Listen to your auditions back in another room or on a different computer and see if you gave it enough energy. Part of your prep might be to imagine yourself in a larger room. Forget that it is just you and the microphone. Down the road you might consider an expansion of your space. Adding a window might give you a different perspective, too. Something to think about.

Who knows, knowing this just might give you that little edge in your next voiceover audition.

5 Tips for a Better VO Session

1) Make sure your client thoroughly reviews and signs off on the final script in advance of your VO session. If you think your client needs the extra effort, record a “scratch track” with a temp voice for your client to review. Revisions to the narration after the initial VO session may not always match the energy and sound quality of the original performance and can be avoided with pre-production efforts.

2) Prepare the script in a format that is easy to read and understand. 12 pt fonts or larger and lots of spacing for the narration copy will make the session go smoother. The extra space allows for the talent to write in last minute changes that come up during the narration session.

3) Work out ahead of time how you would like the program paced and which places are good for music and narration transitions. What kind of music (if any) will be used throughout. This will help the talent get a feel for the segments that need more emphasis.

4) Direct the voiceover session. This seems like the obvious one but with the changes in the VO business this step is often overlooked. It is important to give guidance and direction as the VO is being recorded, either by phone or in-person, to avoid costly re-do’s. It also helps assure correct pronunciations and emphasis as well as a good performance.

5) Don’t over-direct and avoid the use of “line reads” if possible. Respect the fact that every voice talent has his or her own pacing, tempo and speech patterns. It is best to use positive words and encouragement to guide the talent to where you would like them to go with their read and which words require more emphasis.

This piece originally ran on the www.mcai-oc.org website.