The number one thing you should do, and do it now
Contact your clients
Call them, write to them, send an email – whatever way you contact your past and present customers, contact them. Don’t commiserate about how bad the economy is. Don’t complain and moan how quiet business is, simply ask if there’s anything you can do to help. As Seth Godin says contact them along these lines:
“I know that times might be tough for you. Is there anything I can do to pitch in and help?”
Listen, and then do it. Even for nothing if it’s a small thing that you can do to help. Even the fact that you’re listening and asking will score you some karma points for the future.
If you get a meeting
If, as a result of asking, one of your clients wants to “talk” in a meeting, remember that there’s nothing different in this economic climate than any other: you need to add more value to the client’s business than you cost.
Know your client
Before the meeting learn as much as you can about the client. Feel free to share your “war stories” but be very careful to keep the meeting about the client. Learn as much as you can about their business: read through their website and spend a few minutes googling the client company and contacts.
Know what you don’t know
Even if you’re well researched, arrive with a curious attitude and lots of questions. People instinctively like people who are interested in them.
Keep your eyes and ears open for any little clues in your client group during a presentation or the meeting. If you see a reaction among one or more people to the point you’re discussing, follow up on that point with a question to discover the client’s agenda on the subject. Being able to think on your feet and move toward the client’s need in the presentation shows that you listen and can be flexible – also desirable traits in a contractor.
All business is a people business, but production and post more so than most.
You won’t be the only one
You can almost guarantee that you won’t be the only person contacting, or presenting to, your clients. Every other production or post production business in your area will likely be calling, as well as any new entrant to the business who might be prepared to undercut to get started.
Whether or not you get the meeting or the job will depend on the sort of relationship you’ve had with your client in the past, and how well you can articulate to the client, the value that you bring in specific terms.
Most of your competition are going into these meetings focused on their need to stay in business. No doubt that’s in your mind to, but it can never be the focus of your presentation. There is only one thing the client is interested in: how you’re going to help them make more money. Keep that clearly in mind and the total focus of what you present.
Also, be very clear what business you are in. It probably isn’t the one you think it is.