Lessons from 26 years in the video industry. EP #156 - Den Lennie


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Today, Den raps about his 50 years on this spinning ball… and… reveals his biggest lessons, insights, and trade secrets from 26 years in the video industry trenches. This is what's called in the podcasting industry, "A not to be missed episode".

But first...

Here's a sneak peek at what you'll hear:

  • An almost deplorable thing many one-man-band video businesses do, that's quickly becoming Den's bete noire. (Not only is this thing lame... it's also disingenuous. - 1:50)


  • Why many video business owners are like the pufferfish. - 2:30
  • 3 hardly-ever-talked about reasons why running a lean-and-mean business is severely underrated.


  • Ever feel intimidated dealing with a large corporation because you're just a one-man band? (Then listen in 4:00 and you'll start relishing the fact you're a lean operation.)


  • Why having a big office and a large team of employees is like being the world's tallest midget. - 4:10


  • A special kind of sales pitch that solo video business owners can use when dealing with big companies and corporations that can turn your lack of size into a red hot reason to hire you. (This sales pitch is based on something George Bernard once said: “If you can't hide the skeleton, you might as well make it dance!" Hear Den reveal this ingenious sales pitch at 4:15)


  • One of the most crucial things potential clients want to know before they hire a video production company is this... - 7:15
  • Why obsessing over how big your prospective clients perceive your business to be is downright foolish... and... what you should be obsessing over instead. - 9:35


  • The “skid mark on the underwear” of the film industry. - 10:00
  • Den talks about the torrent of BS that cascades down the hallways of the video production community. - 10:20


  • A “caveman simple” sales-pitch that's almost guaranteed to be music to the ears of prospective clients. (This type of sales pitch will work just as well for any business in any industry, too. - 11:00)


  • Why offering MORE services can sometimes make your video business LESS profitable. - 12:00
  • Is the number of services your video business offers multiplying faster than a catholic rabbit? Then you might want to tune in at 12:30


  • Should you go “broad and shallow” or “narrow and deep” with your marketing? Hear Den's answer at 14:40
  • The #1 mistake most video production guys make when dealing with clients. This is a very subtle thing, but its negative impact is not so subtle. - 16:10


  • 6 things all the most successful video business owners do that their lesser brethren don't do or at least don't do as well. - 16:40
  • How to get your clients to see you as a business partner instead of a lowly gun for hire. - 17:50


  • Den's surprising revelation about "time" (Admittedly, this one sounds strange coming from a 50-year-old, but it's also hard to argue with this one. Hear this at 18:20)
  • Den boogies on out of his studio to party hardy. Happy 50th birthday, Den!

Connect with Den on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/denlennie/
Get more great resources over at https://www.denlennie.com/ 


Episode Transcription

Den Lennie (1s):
Good day, guys! Den Lennie here host of the How to scale a video business podcast coming to you this week. And it's my birthday, it's my 50th birthday today, which seems ridiculous, on how that happen. It's only a short while ago was 30 and then 40, and then suddenly I'm 50. So that's something we have to reflect on in terms of how does that feel? And the more importantly, what have I learned in the last 50 years spinning around on this planet? It's a fairly mind blowing actually. Good news is, people say I don't look like my age, which is nice.

Den Lennie (47s):
So here we are episode 156. Okay. And the 50, and that represents my actual birthday today, which is, it was kind of weird. You are not when I got to 40, that was really freaked out. And, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't bother me being 50. In fact, I feel pretty chilled out about it. I'm in a good place in life. I'm, I'm working as much as they want to work. I got some great mate's I'm happily married. I'm, you know, I'm in a lot of money. I don't want really want for anything. I know we lived by the beach or in Australia, it's like the stuff plus plenty of wash places to live and work out ways to live. And, but I want it to do today was just talk a little bit about some of my experiences I've gone through the decades.

Den Lennie (1m 30s):
I mean, this is my third decade in video production. And I don't assume for a second, just because I'd been doing this longer than a lot of people that it, somehow it gives me any kind of rights to predict what's going to happen next because it, and he doesn't. But there are things that I've observed along the way that I want to share with you that I think, you know, experienced teachers, you, ah, that there is a certain way of behaving, I think is, is, you know, more fruitful than others. And, and the first one I want to start with is a, it's a bit of a pet peeve actually. And its something that I'm seeing increasingly, and that is I'm Video businesses that are essentially a one man band.

Den Lennie (2m 16s):
She did, you use that kind of phrase, but they present themselves as if there are a bigger company than they actually are. And you know, as one example, I was talking to someone of a while ago and you know, they had like eight people on their website has been part of the team that will actually spoke to them. They are making it a couple of grand in a month and Andy, and it was like the kind of like all their mates have got together and go on and let's all put this, this branding on and look like we're a part of the same company. And I think there's a real dangerous precedent with that approach because I think people see through it very, very quickly. It doesn't take anyone really any time to start out. So if you are a big in the agency within an established reputation, therefore you have that kind of level of staff or that you would just kind of trying to look bigger than you are.

Den Lennie (3m 4s):
And I see this more often than I like to really where I'm a business owner seem to choose to pool resources or have it kind of like, you know, a bunch of mates or freelances on the website as part of their team. And the thing is I get that, you know, you might hire those people from time to time. But I think where the, where the precedent is misleading is that you basically lying to customers before you've even done it. Any business you're you are saying, Hey, we're willing to kind of try and pull the wool over your eyes and pretend to be like a bigger outfit than we are. And if for some reason, someone does get in touch, there's two things that might happen.

Den Lennie (3m 44s):
They might not be thinking well, you have all these stocks to pay it. So you're not, you're not going to be cheap. You can come in. And not that I think that's necessarily a bad thing, but someone might be looking, seeing, well, they've got a load of most, a feed there for the price is just going to be through the roof as opposed to a company that's got two or three people. And I have so many incredible clients who are doing multiple six figures a month and I'm talking 40, 50, 60, 70, $80,000 a month. And they are in a business with two or three people. And it's absolutely possible to do that. So I don't really understand why business owners try to pretend that they're like a bigger deal than they are.

Den Lennie (4m 25s):
I mean, I did eat the 10 or 15, 10 or 12 years walking with the Sony. I never had the fact that it was just me. I mean, I didn't, I didn't highlight the fact that he was walking from a shed at the end of my garden, but it wasn't important. And the one time when you did ask me how big my team was, as I said, well, the Corps team is only two of us, but we scale up and scale down depending on what we need. And he wasn't bothered by that. And in fact, I would always argue that if you say that we are, we are operating quite a lean way, then what would actually seeing is, and we want to make sure that any money you invest with us is seen on screen and we don't waste necessarily on daft officers, our overheads, that that can have just add to our daily operating cost, which then ultimately it gets passed down to the client.

Den Lennie (5m 12s):
And I don't remember talking to our friend of mine who was, who was working at Sonja at the same and, and European markets. And he said, you know, I'm just tired of agency is ripping us off. I remember him showing me this thing quiz. We are talking to you or maybe eight years ago showing me a one page ad. They had written for a UN all led monitor and it was late 25, 30,000 pounds as the court. And it was like creative director fees and account manager fees and copyright to freeze an art director fees and graphics fees and agency fees. And I can't management fees. And, and he just said to me, look, I'm just sick of being ripped off. He said, what could you do with this kind of money? And we were like, well, we can actually go and produce all of this content.

Den Lennie (5m 55s):
It went right. Why don't we do that then? And so he can have, would rather work at a smaller company that I know we still make money on it. And he was happy with that, but we were giving him so much more for his coin. I think we ended up spending 60 grammar Starling in pones to produce a series of video content that became up. I think it was a Blu-ray DVD on the Fs 100, but they give that away to every customer that bought a camera and it became this really powerful marketing tool. So I guess what I'm saying is, you know, what my experience has taught me is like, don't pretend to be something you're not just be proud of who you are and actually people will respond better to that authenticity. Then they will someone who is trying to pretend to be a bigger deal than the art.

Den Lennie (6m 37s):
Because when you look like you've got 10 staff, like it doesn't take anyone more than a bit, three seconds to big into, you have a foreign call with you to realize that when they call you, you pick up on a mobile phone and there's no kind of front house. If you, if you had an office with 10 people in it, you'd have someone on reception, you'd have someone out in the Coles. So are definitely people will be picking up the call. So you'd have a direct line and there will be an, an, an, an unsatisfied BL office that you could go too, not just like a, kind of an office, which is like a, a registered office in another country, or, you know, another tone. So, so I, I want it to just kind of be really open with you and say that don't bullshit your customers. Like they, they are on to you.

Den Lennie (7m 17s):
Like people want since out to, they want honesty that you want to see that you are like authentic. And so in my 50 years have spinning around in this planet, literally that I've been working for the last day of August. I guess I started working in about 20, 24 hours. So what's a parity. What are your 2026 years? I've been employed in various rules and television and broadcasters and companies that rent gear and sell gear and, and run my own business for 11 years. And I've seen quite a lot. And, and I think, you know, especially with the way in which we communicate these days, people just smell bullshit a mile off. So like, just be authentic, be yourself, especially with what's happened in the last year.

Den Lennie (8m 0s):
It there's no need to try and pretend to be a bigger deal than you are. A, another thing that I see a lot of, which I think is a very, very questionable morally is someone being a DP or walking on a project and, and then passing off the entire project is if they've produced it. And I think that can be a bit tricky answer. And I think that there's times when people do that and they get into trouble with the agencies that perhaps have hired them. And we had a few of our members talk about this, where they've got suppliers who say, Hey, can I use this footage to my short, you know, and what they're doing is they're putting it on their page as if they produce the whole thing, rather than saying, Hey, I was the second camera on this, or I was the editor on this.

Den Lennie (8m 44s):
And, you know, again, like be proud of what you're doing. You don't have to try and pretend that you are this amazing, all singing, all dancing agency. When you're in fact, a filmmaker who makes a corporate videos from your spare room and your hosts like this. And there is no shame in that way. And I think that is a real problem in the industry we are. And I think it slightly out of desperation when people are just like desperately trying to come across as being a bigger deal than they are when there's just no need. And I think that's what experience has taught me. Just be who you are. You don't have to pretend to be something you're not to try and impress someone. 'cause if you understand your target market, then you understand their needs and you understand how to help them solve their problems.

Den Lennie (9m 28s):
They will be the biggest fans of you. You know, most, most creatives get this wrong. They, they, they, they try and overcompensate or cause they think they should be farther done in their career than they are. And the fact that you are aware you are in your career and, and, and, and the business is that I see having the more success or are the ones who you stick to the lane who saved our audience really well and go deep and help them just to achieve their goals. If you do that than you will find yourself in a position where you can completely and utterly. So all of that market very, very well and, and have no issues that you build, build your business.

Den Lennie (10m 8s):
So that's this up. We, second thing that I have noticed a lot recently, I talked to are a lot of filmmakers, and I'm always surprised by, you know, they don't just say the amount of bullshit that I hear. And the amount of story is that people are telling themselves. I mean, the fact is video production is like any service industry, okay? It's about helping a client solve a problem. And you don't have to convince people that video is like the next best thing for, for managing the, the lead generation. You don't need to be an evangelist for video. You just need to ask them, what is it you're trying to achieve and how can I help you? And then if you can figure it out, you can't help them than you can actively talking about how that might look.

Den Lennie (10m 51s):
And from there, you can discuss, if you are in fact, the right people to help them with that, because in many cases you may not be. And I think that where a lot, if you will make a lot of mistakes, is there are trying to do everything for everyone. It's like the classic art Luke, yet we can do that. Yeah, we can do that. Yeah. We can do that yet. We can do that rather than saying, look, our area of specialism is helping these types of business achieve these results with this method that we use, which is a very pro is proven to show that we get results. But actually this part of the area is not something we were a specialist's in. So we can actually outsource that on your behalf. Oh, we can point me in direction of a company that they can do to help you with that.

Den Lennie (11m 33s):
But we're happy to manage it for you just to let you know, we will probably outsource that bit. So if that's cool with you, then we can, we can certainly do that. People would respect you far more, if you are honest with them about what you can and can't do. So I think that's what we, another lesson that I learn with experience is, is, you know, just, just stay in your lane, get really good at being known for that one thing. And I say that one thing, I mean, from a marketing perspective, what is it, what is your key area of specialist? What is the one thing you really do very, very well. And we've noticed that in our own business where we used to have a lot of different ways in which we helped people. And it became kind of like, this is an analogy called chasing too many rabbits.

Den Lennie (12m 15s):
You know, when you are you constantly going in different directions to try and keep the plates spinning and you end up not really serving anyone. So we just decided, you know, a three or four years ago and just focus on helping Video business on a 60 day in business. And we have seen our business grow exponentially year on year because we are focusing on that one thing and great friend of mine and mentor Ben Simkin, who's been on the show says, you know, you'll only need one target market, one offer, and one funnel to make a million bucks. And, and that is a kind of, it, it's an analogy for the fact that most people try and do too many different things. They feel that they've got to offer lots of different services.

Den Lennie (12m 56s):
And so a lot of websites are look at when I'm, when I'm reviewing people for people to join our programs. I look at their websites and I can see there are trying to do too much. And the business is that I find have the more success we call core focus on two or three markets and the, the good deep, and they help them really achieve their goals. And one of the biggest advantages of focusing on niche markets is that you can go too deep into that world. And if you're working in an education, for example, then there are certain press. If it's an education, you know, a certain safety and police cheques, you have to have, but there's a certain understanding if one educational establishment is looking for, for content to help attract students into that establishment, then other establishments are going to be looking to do the same.

Den Lennie (13m 41s):
And so you become known for expertise in that space and, and you might have some insights into how that might look, or perhaps you're not going to health care. I'll have clients who are working in healthcare and then get known within the health care world amongst consultants. Who've moved from company to company and they know that compliance. And, and I think, you know, a certification is a very big deal in a lot of those spaces. And so, and when they're working with their supplier B, normally they don't have to keep explaining themselves. So I've got a client who works in, in a distribution haulage in, in, in, in manufacturing and in what is the one I'm looking for a distribution, you know, we are right, the housing and And and haulage.

Den Lennie (14m 28s):
And, and in other words, escape me, but he's in a very specialized niche. Well, by that industry understands has market. And often times in these companies, the people that are working in the us have relationships with other people that have worked with in other companies. And so it's a great way to refer our business. So I think that that's my biggest lesson as well. What made him one of my biggest lesson is that, you know, going deep into the market and becoming known as an expert in that market really helps you to establish your authority and you get incredible referrals. And, you know, once you get one referral and once you get known for being in that space, people just trust you more.

Den Lennie (15m 11s):
And so, you know, being, having the, having the guts to go niche and really focus on that will serve you enormously well. And the funny thing is when you do go out and it's, you know, you can still do other bits and pieces of work, but once you're known for a particular approach to storytelling on a particular approach to filmmaking, people will get to know that and be like, well, we want to work with people like you because you know, you new our industry. And I think that another big lesson I've learned in my 50 years is that nobody cares about, you know, us in our passion nearly as much as we do. And I think filmmakers, they are, I say, we can be a little bit kind of, you know, there is an upper on us. So we kind of get a bit too carried away with the tack and a bit too carried away with the, the process.

Den Lennie (15m 58s):
And we sort of fall in love with the process. And we sometimes forget to really hear what the client's trying to achieve. It's not that they don't enjoy the process and love it. It is exciting, you know, but, but it's like the mistake I see people making is that the, they simply don't spend enough time in the client's world. And the client's had understanding what the clients or prospects and customers need and helping to communicate that through video. I think that's a real kind of problem area in video production, but then there's also a lot of really, really positive things. You know, I think that, I mean, I've, I'm fortunate. I work with incredible clients. We have a really successful business is growing year on year inside of the video business accelerator.

Den Lennie (16m 43s):
And then, and what I observe as the ones that do well are extremely focused, extremely disciplined. They know their space. They, they are experts at delivering high quality. They're not afraid to charge what they're worth. And, and, and, and part of our training is making sure you maximize the revenue you generate from every project. And, and its not that you can have repeat clients off are necessarily make a huge in every project. But we looked at build a lifetime value. You look to, to charge what we're worth. So people will respect the fact that we are not cheap. No one likes to by cheap, despite what the might say now, if you are going SEO in attracting lots of inquiries and to your website and that, that kind of a general nature, then you know, people are only gonna base you on, on, on price.

Den Lennie (17m 28s):
And you know, he was talking to someone last week and I said, look, you know, you're, you're like a Plummer. You just, your charging bar at prior power hour, you, you will do pretty much anything. You will go out for three hours and, and film and, and like that's okay, but understand that you never going to be treated or anything like other than the gun for hire a service provider. And if you want to be like a partner, then you want to get more involved with an industry and more involved with a set of clients that you can have really truly help so that they understand that you're there as a partner for them. And some of my most successful clients, you just have a catalog of amazing clients who they partner with and they just automatically go to them.

Den Lennie (18m 12s):
But that takes time. And I think that's what we in my last lesson to share with you. So that is that patience. And you know what? It is 30. I just wanted to do everything yesterday. And there was this mad rush. I know that I've had 50. I realized there's plenty of time I'm and I'm 50. And some of you listening to this, probably a lot younger and maybe you are older, but you know, as you get older, you realize that there is plenty of time just use your time carefully and it don't be wasteful with your time. Make sure you focus on helping people who want your help. And if someone doesn't want you to help, it's okay to say, look, if you don't want me to help, that's okay, just let me know an hour. And I won't bother you again because I don't want to be chasing people.

Den Lennie (18m 51s):
And, and you shouldn't be chasing people in your business. You know, there's a difference between following up with prospects, but you get to a point where a prospect is just not ready to make a decision. And you got to say, well, is this, is this just a kind of question of timing? Or is it something that you're not ready to commit too? And then you can move forward and drive your energy towards having people who do need your help because you know, not everyone is going to be ready for what you've got to offer. And so getting clear about what you're offering, who you're offering it to, what your value is and understanding how to, to communicate that effectively to the world. That is that as very important. And that takes time. That absolutely takes time getting your marketing strategy dialed in and getting your marketing dialed.

Den Lennie (19m 34s):
And you have to follow up strategy, your ongoing, nurturing sequences. There was things take time to create. Having said that once you've got the up and running, it is an absolute kind of goldmine because you got predictability. And once you got predictability, that is when you can start to relax. So guys want to keep it short this week. I'm off to celebrate my birthday weekend with friends. And thanks for listening. And I will talk to you next week. You've been listening to the how to scale a video business podcast with your hosts, den Lennie. If you are a video business owner, it's hit a ceiling and we have benefited from mentorship support and coaching and check out how you can work with me over at denlennie.com. Don't forget to subscribe and rate the shore over on iTunes.

Den Lennie (20m 17s):
And we really appreciate you taking a few minutes to leave review and don't forget to share if you feel you've gotten value from this episode and you think it would be useful for other filmmakers. Do you know? And please do me a massive favor and share it on social media and in groups that you might be in. So thanks for listening. See you in the next episode.




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