Market Research – Got Customers?

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Producer vs Entrepreneur Series – Part 2

Idea -> Create -> $$$

That’s how it goes, right? That’s the ideal, yes. But there are many steps in-between that need to be done before you get to the ‘$$$’ that people seem to forget. I’d add three steps inside that

Idea -> Research -> Create -> Test -> Iterate -> $$$

Those additional three steps focus on your customers and what they want, what they’re willing to pay for. Without those key steps, your idea and creation won’t result in maximum revenue, if it generates revenue at all.

That process applies to both Film Producers and Entrepreneurs, even if not exactly clear on the surface. Let’s take a look to see how Entrepreneurs and Producers would follow the process:

  1. Idea
    1. Entrepreneur: Come up with the idea for a product or service.
    2. Producer: Come up with an idea for a film
  2. Research
    1. Entrepreneur: Research the industry, competitive products or services, while also creating your hypothesis for your target customer.
    2. Producer: Research past films, their revenues, and create your hypothesis for target viewers based on the past films.
  3. Create
    1. Entrepreneur: Create your MVP (minimum viable product) quickly.
    2. Producer: Get a Screenplay 1st draft written quickly.
  4. Test
    1. Entrepreneur: Start testing your MVP with friends, family and whoever else that’s willing. Start collecting data on what’s working and not-working with your product, simultaneously testing your target customer hypothesis.
    2. Producer: Start testing your screenplay with friends, family and whoever else you trust. Start collecting notes on what’s working and not-working with your script, simultaneously testing your target viewers hypothesis.
  5. Iterate
    1. Entrepreneur: Iterate and repeat testing of your product. The more you’re fine-tuning your product, the more polished and tailored it will be for your target customers.
    2. Producer: Iterate and repeat testing of your script. The more you’re fine-tuning your script, the more polished and tailored it will be for your target viewers.
  6. $$$ Revenues Roll In
    1. Entrepreneur: Product launches and you hope you’ve created a great product for your customers.
    2. Producer: Film releases and you hope you’ve produced a great film for your viewers.

As you read each step, no, you weren’t having déjà vu. The steps for an Entrepreneur and a Producer were almost identical, save for a couple words. That’s because this process can be applied to many different industries. The product is different for each industry, but the general process is the same.

The middle steps are always the longest and most laborious steps, because you’re researching, creating, testing, and iterating. Figuring out what’s working, not working is looking at a bunch of data, analyzing the data and making adjustments based on that data. The key with these steps is to get started with your MVP and continue based on the feedback you’re getting. You need to get a MVP out and it doesn’t need to be a ‘perfect’ representation of what you had in your head, but rather the idea of what you’re going after. Let’s take a look at various examples of a MVP:

Airbnb – Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia started by renting out the air mattress in their living room to help cover rent.

Groupon – Started as an email list with PDF attachments.

Zappos – Nick Swinmurn took photos of shoes and listed them on the website. If someone purchased a shoe online, he’d go to a store, buy it and ship it out. No inventory overhead. Today, this is basically the dropshipping model, except the supplier ships directly to the customer for you.

Pre-registrations – Many Entrepreneurs have used this tactic of creating a landing page with a description of the product or service, then a registration field for people to sign up to show interest. Once enough people register to prove that the product is something that people want, the Entrepreneurs will go build it.

With films, I’ll admit that there’s no foolproof ‘science’ when it comes to what will play well and what won’t. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re lying and pretending to know. What happens usually is one film, eg., comic book film, becomes a blockbuster and then all the studios and Producers are scrambling to make comic book films. That’s their ‘research’ and proof that it’ll work. All they did was find a trend, not the ‘formula’ of what will make a successful film. There just isn’t a perfect formula, but there are still things you can do to test.

For Film Producers, while a screenplay is the blueprint for the film, the specific visuals and aesthetics don’t always come across and that’s when the Producer creates a sizzle reel or shoots screen tests to give financiers an idea of what the film will be visually and tonally. These vision videos are the MVPs in film:

Deadpool “Leaked” Test Footage – Fox had essentially killed the idea of a solo Deadpool film and put it on a shelf for four years, because they didn’t think it’d play with viewers. Fox gave money to director Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds to shoot test footage, but it didn’t impress Fox. The studio that had been doing such a ‘great’ job with the X-Men franchise, didn’t like the idea of Deadpool. So someone leaked the test footage online. The viewers went crazy and well, history is being written as we speak. This is a clear example of creating something that viewers wanted. The MVP version was the Deadpool character in the X-Men Origins: Wolverine film, which viewers hated. Ryan Reynolds knew that no one wanted to see that version of Deadpool, so he went back to the source in the comics and iterated.

Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.’s Original Screen Test – I know it’s hard to imagine anyone other than Robert Downey Jr. in the role, but there was a point when Marvel and director Jon Favreau were auditioning actors to find the right person. He wasn’t a shoe-in right off the bat, because he had a checkered past. But Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Jon Favreau both thought Downey Jr. was that guy and shot a screen test to confirm their thoughts. Once anyone saw that footage, no one else but Downey Jr. was Iron Man.

Various Sizzle Reels – These videos are created by directors to pitch their overall vision for a film to studios and financiers. While Fox gave money for the Deadpool test footage to get a vision, sizzle reels are done because the directors are still pitching to get hired for the project. They’ll edit together shots from different films, tv shows, and any media. Take a look at some and see what you think when compared to the actual films that were released.

Without research and MVPs, even if you have the greatest idea since sliced bread, your venture will fail. Remember not to skip this step.

Check out this video on MVPs to help you understand more:

Making sense of MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

If you want to dig further into the topic of research, take a look at “big data” and why it’s big business. It’s why companies like Facebook and Google are as big as they are.

I’ll save Big Data for a future post.

In the meantime, feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

A recap of the key steps that Film Producers and Entrepreneurs take to creating the products that their customers want:

How to Create the Products that Your Customers Want to Generate Revenue and Profits

Let’s take a look to see how Entrepreneurs and Producers would follow the process to increase revenues and profits:

1. Idea
2. Research
3. Create a MVP
4. Test
5. Iterate
6. Revenues Roll In

What’s a MVP?

A MVP is minimum viable product that entrepreneurs and producers create to get a product out quickly to test and get customer feedback. It’s a vital step that many successful entrepreneurs take to creating products that customers want.

What are Some Examples of MVPs – Minimum Viable Products?

Many entrepreneurs and film producers create MVPs to start testing and iterating to get to products that generate revenues and profits:

1. Airbnb
2. Groupon 
3. Zappos 
4. Pre-registration Landing Pages 
5. Deadpool “Leaked” Test Footage
6. Iron Man Robert Downey Jr.’s Original Screen Test 
7. Various Film Pitch Sizzle Reels