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Marketing Hack #11:Promote your clients – like a champ 

 July 6, 2015

By  Pascal Depuhl

Promote your clients and let them tell your brands story

There is a God and He loves me.” That’s what I’m thinking when I hang up the phone. I’m so excited, I can hardly contain myself. I had just finished editing my first documentary film, that had been produced as a pro bono piece for a humanitarian organization. I made the movie to tell their story. A distant second reason was to learn how to shot a documentary film and even further down the list, I’m thinking it’s a great piece to launch the video portion of my photography business, if I could put the story about my client front and center. The organization had covered the costs of the production and I was happy to not charge my for my filming and editing, but we had never even considered to include any money to promote their story.

However, in my mind, their story deserves to be premiered in a bigger way, than just setting up a screen in my backyard with some friends – I’m thinking a lot bigger than that–in german we have a word for that Größenwahn (loosely translated it means megalomania = the delusion about one’s importance) or in my case the delusion about how important the story is that the film is telling–but it looks like in reality it is gonna be the garden party with a couple of friends, after all it’s my first documentary film and I’ve only been doing video for 6 months when I filmed it. Before that day, I had almost given up the hope for something big and almost accepted the fact of an intimate launch party with some friends. Almost. Until I get off the phone.

Watch for opportunities to promote your client, where noone is looking

I’m gonna be in Florida, can I come visit?” Daniel had asked me. We’ve know each other for decades and love hanging out together, although we usually live on opposite sides of the globe–we actually were in Cape Town at the same time once, but didn’t find out until weeks later – c’est la vie. Anyway, I was excited to get a chance to spend some time with my college buddy. At the same time I was curious, since he’s usually not in Florida when he comes to the States. When I inquired about the reason for the unexpected, but very welcome visit, his answer stopped me dead in my tracks: “I’m gonna be picking up the plane.

Wait! What plane?The plane on the tarmac in Florida that made it possible to promote my client

Turns out the plane he’s talking about, is the very one that I had flown in and filmed, while I was in Afghanistan. It’s now sitting at an airport 20 minutes from my house, waiting for a new set of engines and an avionics upgrade. “Can we do something with the plane and the movie?” was my first question to him. I’m envisioning something grandiose, like the plane parked next to a big screen that’s playing their story, like my friend Mary always says “Go big, or go home.” I like dreaming big. Remember Größenwahn? But since there’s no budget, the chances of anything happening are remote to say the least. I mean I have to find a place that’s big enough to actually pull this off and I need to be able to get the airplane to that place, if I find one. What are the chances of that happening? Slim to none.

Expect ‘No’ to be the standard answer

I call the company that’s working on the plane. They should to have the hangar, right? So I call them up and get a very nice secretary on the phone, who does a great job of not letting me even speak to her boss. Don’t get me wrong. She’s doing exactly what she is hired to do–get rid of all the crazy people. So how do you handle a polite “No“? Do (a) give up, (b) look for another location, (c) curl up in a corner and cry or (d) none of the above.

Don’t take No for the final answer

I send a nice email thanking her for her time and include a trailer for the movie. 20 minutes later my phone rings.

It’s the owner of the company that is doing the upgrades on the airplane. “When can you come by and show me the movie?” It pays to be patient.

A few days later I am on my way to show the owner of this local small business owner my movie on an iPad. My expectations of a local aircraft mechanic shop with a couple of guys running around in oil stained overalls, are quickly shattered as I pull into a parking lot. “Are you with the film crew?” the man in a three piece suit shouts across the parking as I get out of my car, “All the VPs are in town to watch the movie …” All the VPs, I was expecting a one on one meeting with a local business owner.

A short time later I find myself huddled around an office desk with 7 guys in suits (so much for the oil stained overalls) as I am watching them watch “On Wings of Hope” for the first time. They’re excited about seeing the backstory of how their work affects the lives of the people that our client is serving. After the viewing the owner takes me on a tour with his golf cart through what turns out to be half the airport: hangars, workshops, a restaurant, a pilot’s shop, passenger lounge, gate areas, … and as we’re in his big showroom hangar, he asks me: “How can I help you?

Go big or go home!

Before I go on let me define big for you: My house in Miami sits on a lot that’s almost half an acre, along with a small 2 bedroom cottage in the backyard. That includes the zip line and treehouse for my kids. (Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that I own a big property, I just want to give you a size comparison.) You can take that whole property, circular driveway, Oak trees and all and it will fit inside the hangar we’re in. This space is huge – almost 20,000 square feet. The CEO’s question “How can I help you?” is still hanging in the air. “Well,” I tell him “I’m looking for a space where I can park the twin engine aircraft next to a screen to tell our clients story in the world premiere of our movie.”

Is this big enough?

Is this big enough?” His question literally still echoes through the cavernous hangar, as I’m thinking yeah, but I don’t have a budget to promote the movie for the NGO, remember? To make a long story short, they offer me the use of the hangar for free. Now I have the movie, the plane, the pilot and the space to put together my world wide premiere.

Win big: The actual plane stands next to the screen at the world premiere of On Wings of Hope that promotes my client

Come hell or high water (and more people saying ‘No’) go for it.

Even with all these pieces in place many of my friends tell me that it’s a waste of time to even contemplate premiering the movie that is designed to promote my clients story in this way. “Your not in the event business.” says one “It’s a waste of your time.” says another, “You’re not gonna make any money with this.” Thanks for the advice, but no thanks. We’re gonna make this happen.

How to make a shoestring look like a million bucks

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you just ask. I end up calling in every favor: the caterer I use for my photo shoots provides the food for free, two photographer friends of mine cover the event for free, a DJ company, that a buddy of mine owns, provides the sound and lights for free. I end up renting a projector and large screen (at a discount) and a few tables and linen. All in all I spend $400.- on the premiere.

How do you promote a world class event with zero dollars?

Pulling off a world class event to promote your client is one thing. Promoting the event itself is a whole ‘nother ballgame. Check out how this event ended up trending on twitter and what we did to promote the physical event.

Here’s the secret to launch your business into the stratosphere:

Don’t talk about how great you are –that’s Größenwahn– and no one wants to hear about that. Instead put your clients in the spotlight and make the spotlight as big as you can possibly make it. Jump on the most insane sounding opportunity you can find and don’t take no for an answer. Spend your time and resources to make your clients shine and as a side effect, they’ll love to talk about your business.

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They say that “copying is the greatest form of flattery”, but we weren’t amused when Bitton, a local event planning company stole the images of this event and posted them on their facebook site, but claimed that they had actually produced this event. We ended up getting Facebook to remove Bitton’s page that included the images that violated our copyright and falsely claimed that they where involved in this event.

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Pascal Depuhl


Miami product photographer, video producer, cinematographer and chief mindchanger at Photography by Depuhl I love to share the knowledge I've gained over the past two decades. Catching light in motion.

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