SPREADIN' IT OUT
Published August 4, 2014
Specialized Diversification. It’s a term that is normally used in financial circles, but it’s a key to pretty much any business growth that I can think of.
To define it simply, SD is, for business purposes, becoming a specialist in a select number of areas for the purpose of increased and balanced revenue production.
Generally, all sources of revenue have cycles. There are certainly numerous exceptions to the rule. However, a good example of revenue cycles is the housing construction industry. There just isn’t a whole lot of construction work available in the winter months. Seasonal farming is another example.
In the voiceover business, if one depends on commercials for their income, the brunt of one’s work depends on the retail cycles. Retail cycles certainly vary. For example, automotive sales have their cycle, while the clothing industry has a very different cycle. Even healthcare advertising runs in cycles.
The significant problem that so many voice talents run into is that their income fluctuates with their client’s work cycles.
Enter Specialized Diversification. What if the cycles of your revenue sources worked in some sort of harmony so that your income flow would remain fairly consistent?
Yes, it can be done! However, every voice talent is different, therefore everyone’s Specialized Diversification will be different. Some voice dogs are good at only commercials, but they can do a variety of different kinds of commercials. Some have a vocal delivery style that can slip easily from commercial work to explainer videos, but couldn’t hard-sell if their life depended on it. Some can do corporate eLearning, or even educational eLearning, but haven’t the foggiest idea about how to create a game character. Some can do tons of character voices, but could never pull off an audiobook. Some voices have found their niche in network programming, but couldn’t sell mustard to a hotdog.
But what if you had two or three specialty areas? Niches that you were known for. Fields in which you were considered an expert. And I don’t mean considered an expert by you yourself, but by clients. Several clients. It’s not reasonable to consider yourself an expert in a particular genre if you only have three or four ongoing clients in that field, is it?
One other thing I might mention. I’m talking about building a career here. If voiceovers are a part-time business for you, great. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But be honest with yourself, if you are doing this part-time, you only have part-time to develop it and yourself. That means it’s going to take a little longer before you are ready to diversify.
This whole process is going to take some time. Actually, it may take lots of time.
Like I tell newcomers to the business: Nobody swam the English Channel after just a few swimming lessons.
How do you set up an SD plan that will work for you?
It begins with a brutally honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. That means getting those gut-wrenching insights from people you trust both within the VO business (talent, coaches, producers, agents, etc.) and clients. What are you good at? What are you not so good at? What do you suck at that you think you’re good at? Why hasn’t your business grown more?
And by the way, a little sidebar here. We LOVE to talk about marketing in voiceover circles, don’t we? We think marketing is what grows our business. We’re all looking for the Holy Grail of strategies. What’s the secret? What’s the best? Frankly, most marketing schemes are just “paintin’ a pig.” The pig looks good, but what got accomplished?
Here’s the secret to marketing: Find out who needs what you’ve got and tell them, and quit wasting your time telling people what you’ve got that they don’t want.
OK, back to SD.
Secondly, based on what you are good at doing, what do you need to do to be great in that field? See, experts are people who are great at what they do. Better than others. Maybe not better than everyone else, but better than the majority.
I’ve said this before in a previous blog: Good is based on the market standard. One isn’t even competitive until one is good. Better is stepping beyond good to get noticed. But great is what the client chooses.
Unless, of course, you’ve got a client that doesn’t care, but that’s for another blog.
Become great at what you do and you’ll be busy doing what you’re great at.
Thirdly, and this is critical, choose a complementary genre or niche that you can excel in. One that will produce a revenue stream that flows differently from your #1 field.
Let me explain. I got into the voiceover business much the same way most of us did – doing commercials. I had been in radio, and it was a simple, natural step. However, it took me years to realize that I sounded like a guy in radio doing commercials. Once I got that fixed, I soon realized that there are some types of commercials I just wasn’t good at. So, I began focusing on a handful of categories. As that business grew, I soon realized that the revenue cycles could be tough on the checkbook. About that time a local producer was needing a Spanish voice for some corporate training stuff. The more I got into that, the more I realized that it was something I was pretty good at. And that launched my eLearning genre.
Now, I have three genres that I focus on: commercials, eLearning and network programing. And the revenue flow from those three sources produce a fairly balanced and consistent income, along with great potential for growth.
Fourthly, get the word out. Nobody bought something they didn’t know about.
Well, there was that time back when I was in radio that my boss drunk-dialed one of my infomercials and couldn’t figure out why an exercise bike was delivered to his house. But normally, people know what they’re buying.
So, you have to get the word out. But here’s the secret: people buy what they trust.
A potential client that doesn’t know you might respond to your Madison Avenue marketing push, but even then they’re not going to hire you unless they trust you.
Here’s one of the best things you can do to get the word out: Client relationships. Why? Because clients have other potential clients in their circles of influence. And if people buy what they trust, they are more apt to buy a voice talent on the recommendation of someone they trust. Remember, clients hire great. They also recommend great. If you’re their expert, they are going to recommend you to their friends.
I don’t have any scientific research on this, but I can tell you that about 75% of my new clients come from referrals. I spend very little money anymore on cold marketing. I’d rather spend the money on clients that are already using me and believe in me, because I know they are my best option for new business.
There you have it. Specialized Diversification. It works. I wish I could tell you there is a quicker, smarter way to develop your diversification, but I don’t know of one. We’re in business. Good businesses diversify slowly and steadily as they build strong foundations and discover their real potential.
Think it through!