in Philosophy

Planning For The Future

My last post  was me saying that it’s time to double down on operations at Simplifilm.   Our energy has gone into the product itself.  We have a barely -coherent website and set of marketing materials.

We’ve been successful because we’ve focused on the product, but we need to ship our beautiful products in a beautiful box.

I’m not going to slide back into my frustrated nihilism.  It’s time to make a Grown Up’s business.

Meaning this: so far, it’s been only about our work.  We have done amazing work.  We don’t have much of an amplifier just yet. The amplifier is me.  I’m hustling one-to-one and picking the right targets in the space.  That’s not scalable. I want to get bigger and stay as good as we are.

We have some incoherence and confusion – you can’t see the process to order on our site.  You don’t get much of an indication of what pricing is. You can just see that we do good work, and that’s sort of enough.

That will be fixed.  I need leverage beyond my schtick as a one-man boiler room.

I’ve got to build a business. We’ve succeeded because we’ve focused on product quality, but we don’t carry our own message very well yet.  I’m just starting to think of some ideas to go along with it but here’s what’s on my mind:

1.) Everything that we put out is first class, and the best in the world.  

This means that  even the contracts we create have to be elegantly worded and visually appealing. We need to have a put together website that carries our message.

The way we present scripts, the way that we present footage.  The way we submit proposals.  The way that we close files.  Everything has to be the best in the world.

We need to solicit feedback from our customers and have them tell us what they want (and ignore the nonsense).

We need to kill a lot of anti-marketing.

We need to focus on pages that people will use.

Our process has to be consistent.  It has to be amazing.

We will send out mementos and things that serve to pad our lead as well as be useful.

Apple doesn’t have a huge product line.  Apple doesn’t ship junk.  Check this out:

That is where I see us going.  To be better than our competitors, and to make them irrelevant.

2.) We need to execute our social object ideas.  

Our intention is to memorialize all the work that we do with our clients.  We want to create something that’s an artifact beyond the digital bits and bytes.  We are a premium brand and we need to reinforce that. We need to do a social object so great that they think it’s a gift, and they think it’s better than the money we spent on it.

We have to find something social execute and share with every client at every price point.

The video process is between 2-7 weeks of regular contact, fairly intense dialogue, and collaboration.

Leaving that to a “hey, thanks, appreciate you,” isn’t reverent. Doesn’t respect what we’re doing.

3.)  We need to define our design philosophy more explicitly and concretely.

Unlike our competitors, we make the product the star.  Other animation explainer shops are completely fixated on being clever and animating goofy cartoon characters.  It’s like they didn’t get to make Family Guy so they inflict their mediocrity on their clients.

We have always out-converted the animations we replace.  Always.  This is partly because we don’t have an anime fetish to  satisfy–we have been charged with the sacred task to carry the message for a fast growing set of first class products.

We have to create stories that convert.  I look at so much other work and I see that it can only have been created to amuse the creators.  [pullquote]Our competitors are negligently indifferent towards the products that they serve, satisfying their cartoon fetish instead of revering the products that they make.[/pullquote] That sort of indifference for the products that they get to work with makes me angry.

How this translates I don’t exactly know yet, but we’ll find our way to the expression of a style that matters.

We like, generally, what Common Craft does as a style, but we’d never imitate them. 

4.) We need a content strategy that makes great sense. 

We have ideas that we want to test and prove. We want to have a content strategy that reinforces them internally and externally.

I know that we’re going to be doing some type of Screnflow tutorials to champion ideas and aps. We have other things we want to say about conversion and what works.

Marketing people know very, very little about what creates actions – they have some sense of brand consistency, but they are often magnificently incorrect about what produces actions. They have preferences and their objective is to be made happy in lieu of what’s effective for the brands they serve.  We have to teach them.

Other animation studios will benefit as well, so be it. I’m a little bit crazy seeing what they create and the self indulgent nonsense they put out that spits in the face of Ogilvy, Caples, etc.

We have to prove our ideas, and it’s tricky because companies resist testing, but it might be something we insist on.

5.) We need to determine what channels are going to be open and what’s going to be closed.  

I don’t exactly know how to put this.  We get asked by resellers to resell our stuff. It has gone poorly.  We want to work with and discount accredited ad agencies, and even qualified resellers.

Hustlers that don’t close cost us time.  We want to open a channel that is “take it or leave it” and that explains our process and the rules so we can have other people help us.

It seems that if we created some rules we might be able to make this happen.

6.) We need to accumulate options in every area.

We want to get options together for writers, animators and even project managers and salespeople. I am a closer and the more I can be spent selling this stuff, the more we make.

We need to always, habitually and deliberately:

  • Solicit clients -regardless of how long our queue is
  • Recruit animators- we always will need more animations.  Animators make them.
  • Find writers-  I think I do a good job scripting videos.  We need people to do what we are doing.
  • Find project managers- In my world, the writer and the project manager should be one guy.
  • Find account guys (later)- Once our company is big enough, we need to find an account guy.

This means we need to create a robust set of practices that one dude can’t break.

7.) We need to plan improvement  in every area:

I was at a coffee shop that had ancient Mac Addict magazines from 1999-2002 or so.

The improvement that Apple has had in every area is instructive and inspiring.  The old stuff was a kludge, and they found their way to the iconic, symbolic products we enjoy.

Look at the chintzy plastic iBooks and look at the Airs and Pros we enjoy today.

We need to be thinking constantly about improving things.  I want to go to the top of the heap, not just in explainer videos but in commercial storytelling.

We need to know that in 10 years we’ll be around, making art and stories, and doing it in a better way than we are today. Our tools will get better.  Evernote’s CEO wants to be a 100 year company.  That’s inspiring.  I want that, too.

This requires time, thought and attention.  We don’t have enough of any of it, but this is what we do to make a difference.  We can get this done over the course of 2012, and replace the old stuff with the good stuff.