Three years ago I quit my rather comfortable (good pay and I wasn’t being eaten alive by mosquitos) advertising job to start my own film company. Three years later we’ve been to some of the most remote parts of the world, won five film awards, had our TV programs distributed globally to over 700 million homes, ate through my savings, made money in yuan, pounds and rupees, lost clients, gained clients, started lawsuits, screamed at and apologised to a translator, had my money stolen, my bag stolen, my jewellery stolen, my underwear stolen, lived in three different cities, seen three wonders of the world, climbed above 5000m three times, puked my guts out more than once and was once treated by a Chinese doctor. I’ve slept in a yurt, a tent, a bivouac, a hammock, a five star hotel, a sleeper bus in India and not slept at all … and I’d do it all again, but… !
I’ve made some mistakes, most I’ve learnt from and others I’m doomed to repeat. The slowest and hardest learning curve for a creative like me has been wrapping my underused right hemisphere around business strategy and marketing. After sitting down with a friend who recently got his MBA (Masters in Business Administration… and a far more comfortable way to learn these lessons), I’ve distilled his knowledge and repacked it for the creatively inclined. I have not made up these strategies, simply reworded them as I understood them and now apply them to my creative business. The corporate language used to describe basic concepts can be alienating to creatives who would rather focus on what they’re good at and not getting caught up in business. It can be dry but very exciting when it works and makes you money!
We will delve deeper into other business strategies, but let’s start with asking these 5 questions, which are designed to map out where you’ll fit in the market place… who your competitors are and the open spots where you can compete.
For your reference, I will be answering these questions below as they pertain to our company: 1iOpen Productions.
What business are you in?
Why is this an attractive market?
Where can you compete to make money?(Divide this question as follows) *
How many people are buying your product? (low/high buyer bargaining power)
How many people help you make your product? (suppliers bargaining power)
What other alternatives to your product exist?
How hard is it to get started in your industry? (Driving your car for Uber is an easy business to get started in but starting your own airline is a tad harder…)
Who is your customer and what do they value?
How are you breaking the mold?
1. What business are you in?
Content Production - specifically adventure film and TV shows
2. Why is this an attractive market?
There is a global daily high demand for all types of content across growing number of Video On Demand (VOD - iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube...) platforms, in addition to sustained traditional markets such as cinema and TV.
3. Where is your competition?
Our Buyer’s Bargaining Power is high - our buyers being our TV and Film Distribution partners of which there are few and their standards are high and subjective. Additionally our clients who commission our work are few and we are competing with a constant influx of aspiring filmmakers who will undersell themselves to get their first job.
Our Supplier’s Bargaining Power is low - our suppliers are our crew. The upside of so many aspiring filmmakers is there are many of them so we have choice.
The alternative films for viewers to watch is high - there are tons of new entertainment options being pumped through our iphones, TVs, computers and movie theatres on a daily basis. However in the genre of “adventure” the alternatives are low as there isn’t a lot of quality adventure content being made.
The barrier to entry for filmmaking is low in general but rather high for adventure filmmaking as you not only have to be able to film, but do it at 5,000m above sea level, with depleted oxygen levels and roped in to a team so you don’t get blown off the side of the mountain.
*So … our best areas to compete in will bet the “barrier to entry” and our “suppliers” - for us these two are referring to the same group of people. So we can get competitive with our crew members fees (suppliers pricing) as there’s a high barrier to entry for adventure filmmaking.
4. Who is your customer and what do they value?
Our customers are divided in our Clients (like Chinese Tourism who wanted a ski film), the Distributors (Fox Sports TV network for example) and the Viewers (YouTube subscribers and film goers). These all range in age, gender and race but they all value quality! (YouTube is a slight variant that will sacrifice a little quality for more videos!)
They also value: adrenalin, adventure, travel, learning something new (to educate, entertain and inspire themselves)
Thus we have concluded to: talk more to the audience in the video, ask questions, engage them, learn about what they like and share our story and expertise. (User engagement)
5. How are you breaking the mold?
This is the question of are you “doing things differently or doing different things?”
Doing things differently is like AirNZ with their fun safety videos
Doing different things is a new market like UBER & AirBnb
1iOpen Productions and The Crew are doing things differently - we have not invented film or a whole new way to watch content, but we are making different films - combining humour with adventure (a traditionally serious pursuit because it’s so dangerous), a young woman working with an older man (typically hosts are same age and gender which provides a different entertainment value.
*A general note: Don't feel you need to answer these questions with black and white answers - it's ok to have grey answers (hence business strategy is tricky!)
In answering these questions you may have already discovered some holes in your plan that need to be addressed (if you're business idea was to sell french fries out the front of McDonalds, for example, you may have found something customers value, but might want to re-think how you're "breaking the mold").
We will however be continuing our business video series, delving deeper into strategies, using the answers to these questions to guide us.
Comment below if you have any questions or other suggestions and check out our video on the topic.