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Getting some sound advice

January 31, 2008|Cyndia Zwahlen | Special to The Times

As the owner of a one-man shop, Bill Trousdale is faced with the classic small-business challenge.

When he's busy with a big project at his Tustin recording studio, AudioVision Production Services, he doesn't have time to market his services. When the project is done, he finds that his job pipeline has dried up.

Trousdale's problem is exacerbated by the fact that his most recent big project was a five-year job for a single client, producing audio Bibles.

"Over that period of time he wasn't building a lot of awareness for his company in the marketplace," says Mike Mata, a volunteer consultant with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. "And a whole new category of opportunities have come up that he hasn't participated in, such as podcasting."

Here is Mata's checklist of steps that he suggests Trousdale take to jump-start sales.

Remove obvious barriers

to potential clients.

Clients have asked if the studio has Pro Tools, a popular audio software package. Trousdale doesn't have it but typically has convinced them of the benefits of his proprietary Fairlight system.

Mata asks: Why not just add Pro Tools? It probably could be installed for $4,000 or less, he has two contractors that are very familiar with the platform, and it will pay for itself over just a few projects, Mata says.

He also would like to see the business owner formally promote his talent casting services, which he taps only informally for clients. Other audio houses specifically tout their casting, Mata says. Though it might not be a big moneymaker, it's important, especially for corporate clients that often are looking for one-stop shopping.

Consider subcontracting.

Some independent production companies that offer clients both audio and video services don't always have enough work to have full-time, in-house audio talent with the level of experience and skills that Trousdale has. He could explore opportunities to subcontract jobs for them, Mata says.

"That might be a quick way to fill his pipeline rather than going out to search for his own clients," the consultant says.

Meet the top executives

at local interactive agencies.

Such agencies blend traditional advertising services with Web development. These interactive agencies, which largely sprang up while Trousdale was immersed in his Bible project, are doing exciting work online, on DVD and in streaming media for national brands, Mata says. Some are installing green studios. The sound work, though, may not be all it could be.

"It's a hypothesis, but if they don't have anybody in-house that is necessarily an audio expert, he could explore the opportunities," Mata says.

Learn how to optimize your

website for search engines.

To ensure that his firm shows up at the top of online search results, Trousdale should decide which terms searchers are most likely to use and then add them throughout his website. They won't necessarily be searching for "AudioVision," but they might use audio production, Mata says. So the business owner should add that to his website's title tag, the title that shows up in a search result. Google search engines will also look for the most prominent words: those that are higher up, in headers, in bold or used frequently on the page, Mata says.

Links that come to his site from other websites also count. So listing his company in online directories is just as important as appearing in print versions.

Mata suggests reading "Search Engine Optimization for Dummies," published by John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Offer podcasting workshops.

Podcasting is just getting off the ground, and many people are interested in how they can use it. Trousdale might consider offering his audio expertise through a workshop series at local community colleges or local public relations or marketing associations, Mata says.

Presenting workshops would give Trousdale an excuse to become known as an expert in an emerging market. It also would tap into his natural enthusiasm for audio but not trip his aversion to selling.

"Don't think of it as sales," Mata says. "Think of it as: You've got great experience, you've got great stories to share with people, you're very enthusiastic, you have a lot of work to be proud of. It's just communicating to people who need your service and expertise."

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cyndia.zwahlen@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Meet the Expert: Mike Mata

Mata is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives and a member of the advisory boards of several growing businesses as well as the UC Irvine entrepreneur center. Previously, he was vice president of global accounts and operations at Hewlett-Packard Co. and worked in management at Compaq Computer Corp., BMC Software and IBM Corp.

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