Just keep pushing, even when you fail.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Mike Vannelli.
Mike is the Head Video Producer with Envy Creative. In this role, Mike leads a production team to film online and TV commercials and explainer videos for brands, products, and businesses. Envy Creative specializes in making sure each commercial is unique and delivers the message the client is looking to convey to their target audience.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
There was a commercial video we did for a mattress company. The company wanted the commercial to take place outside, in the forest, since they were marketing to hikers. So, we found a location with a nice clearing in the forest and rented it for the day. We brought the mattress into the forest for the shoot, along with a boxspring-less metal frame, so we would not have to haul as much. However, with the boxspring-less frame, it had longer legs on it to hold up the mattress (which is usually so people can store things under their bed). So, the shoot went great, except for one part of the video where the actor needed to jump on the bed.
Before setting up the location, we did not realize how soft the ground was under the bed and the frame. Once the actor started jumping on the bed in one of the shots, the frame started skinking into the dirt and it took all our crew to try and get it out and back onto solid ground.
The lesson we learned from this was to always check our shooting location thoroughly and make sure you have tried to foresee any abnormalities or potential problems.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
The tipping point was definitely when we started focusing on one thing and doing it as best as we could, and that one thing is making commercials and explainer videos. Before that, we did a little bit of everything, just to try to get work. We did web design, photography, graphic design, wedding videos, anything that would bring income to the company. We were stretching ourselves too thin. So, once we decided that we wanted to specialize in producing commercials and explainer videos, we started booking more work, getting more noticed and our work definitely improved in quality.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
Value your time. What I mean by that is that we all know that this is the “now” generation, where people expect to be answered right away. While it is a good practice to answer as soon as you can, be sure to save time for yourself, your family, and to take a break.
For instance, when it was just me working at Envy, and before I had kids, I would answer an email from an overseas client as soon as I got it, even if it was at midnight since I knew it was during the workday, their time. But, once I started letting clients know ahead of time that we only worked, responded, and delivered Monday through Friday, from 9 AM to 5 PM, PST, my stress level went way down.
I was hesitant to do this since I thought clients would feel like I was not prioritizing them, but once I implemented it, I didn’t see any backlash, drop in new clients, or anything really. Then, this gave me more time to spend with my family, friends, and some time to relax. I still do check my emails constantly and there are times where I need to answer on my off-hours to “put out fires,” but overall, having a “work time” and “non-work time” has been for the better.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
We have really seen a boom in video marketing in the last 5 years. Before that, most brands, products, or businesses relied heavily on text blog posts or graphically designed images for sales. But now, consumers want to see things in live-action scenarios and from actual people, rather than animated characters, text, or photos. This is because videos resonate with people by them being able to relate to the person they are seeing on screen. I believe that video will be the new standard for marketing your brand with the highest ROI (return on investment) from here on out.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started?
- First is that it’s ok to be the only boss and run your business yourself. When I was first starting in the video production space, I had a 50/50 business partner. All I can say is that it did not work out and we ended up dissolving the company. After that, I started Envy Creative and have been so much happier running the company myself, since I am the only one I need to consult with to make executive decisions. Yes, sometimes they might be the wrong way to go, but then I work on correcting it and I learn from the experience.
- Next is not to get ahead of yourself. Envy Creative is a bootstrapped company, which means that we have built the company with the money we have earned over the years from the work we’ve done. We haven’t taken out loans, searched for investors or anything like that. However, it did take me about 5 years of hard work and 100 hour weeks to get to the point here Envy Creative is today, with full-time employees, our own film studio, and more.
- Focus on what you want to do. When I started, I could take any kind of creative work I could book, like graphic design, web design, photography, you name it. But, once I decided that video production was the thing I wanted to focus on, that is when Envy Creative really found it’s footing and started becoming a major competitor in the space for video production for brands, products, and business.
- It’s ok to get inspiration from competitors. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make a better or different wheel. We continually monitor our competitors to see what they are doing that is new to the market and we hope our competitors are doing the same for us. We try to stay ahead of trends in the commercial and video ad sector and most of the time, we are ahead of our competitors, but sometimes we miss something. Seeing what other people are doing is good to keep updated with what the industry is doing.
- It’s ok to get feedback, whether it is positive or negative. For example, every week, our team has a group meeting and we have a “feedback” session for everyone to pitch ideas, comments, or to speak their mind about the goings-on at Envy Creative. Sometimes they are great ideas that we implement right away, sometimes they are ideas that the admin staff needs to look into more, and sometimes it is just a comment that has been on someone’s mind. We think it is a good idea to take any and all feedback, so nobody feels like they don’t have a voice and so the company as a whole can grow with new and fresh ideas.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
Right now, I am enrolled in Masterclass where I am taking some business courses from people like Anna Wintour and David Axelrod. I also watch a lot of Youtube videos from different filmmakers and marketers, like Peter McKinnon and Video Creators.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?
The main person in my life that has helped me achieve success is my wife. When I was first starting my company and career, she was supportive all along the way. Although I know there were some times when she probably wasn’t too jazzed about some situations, like when I was between studio leases and we had to film a number of videos out of our house, actors and all, she has supported me and my company from the beginning.
One more before we go: If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The movement I would inspire would be to just keep pushing, even when you fail. There have been so many times in my career where I thought that it would be easier to give up and choose another career, but I kept pushing forward, over those failures, and I believe I’ve become a better business person and better person in general for it.
Thank you so much for these fantastic insights!