The marketing blues: an antidote

Show of hands: how many people out there are struggling with marketing? Let's see... one... two... twelve... eighty... three-hundred-fifty-three... okay, okay. We'll just say that there's a lot of you. I’d like to share my overall philosophy when it comes to marketing for artists. Just like there is no one path to a successful career as an artist, there’s no one right way to market yourself as an artist either. And while that idea can be somewhat liberating, it can also be scary to a lot of people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spent entire coaching sessions sitting across from nervous-looking artists as they fire off one question after another about marketing. “How should I put my mailing together? What should go in it? What shouldn’t I do? What kind of envelopes should I use? What should go in my cover letter? Who should I send it to?” And the questions go on and on and on.

I don’t blame you if you’re nodding your head in recognition right now. Marketing for yourself as an artist can be terribly overwhelming, because there are a ton of variables to consider depending on your craft and your marketing materials. The bad news is that there’s no one answer to all of these questions, because — believe me — if there were, I’d be a rich woman. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to despair. What I do have for you is a different kind of answer in the form of an equation or a formula, if you will. Think of it as an overall marketing philosophy — something to help simplify and de-mystify the process. Here it is:

Prepared Materials + Specific Strategies + Personal Style = A Powerful Marketer

Thankfully, the equation is much simpler than this.

Thankfully, the equation is much simpler than this.

Let’s break that formula down.

First, you have to make sure you’re prepared with the best possible marketing materials that support your branding within the market you’re interested in working. Your marketing materials will vary depending on your craft and level of experience. For some of you they could include a demo recording of your music or a headshot and demo reel of your acting work, or if you’re a writer, your writing portfolio, or a website or monologues and songs — whatever materials correspond to your craft.

It’s your job to know what marketing materials you need and to make sure that they represent you as best as possible. You’d be surprised by how many actors I know who use out-of-date headshots that don’t really look like them anymore. I know this may sound obvious, but unprepared marketing materials really do hold you back from being a powerful marketer. Your first priority is doing whatever it takes to have relevant and prepared materials, the benefit of which will be a sense of confidence when using them.

Next, you have to have specific strategies. What do I mean by this exactly? I mean that you have a game plan for who you’re reaching out to and what the desired outcome is from approaching each individual. It’s not enough to just have an idea of that outcome; you need to be able to articulate it in writing or in person. This is big. So many artists simply focus all of their efforts into mass mailings to get work, which is way too general to be reliably effective. I’m not saying that mass mailings are worthless as a rule, but I believe you’re more likely to get results from targeted marketing efforts. Remember when I talked about getting clarity when writing cover letters? Figuring out who you’re writing to and why you’re writing to them are a big part of that process; the more specific you are with your game plan, the easier it will be to do the marketing.

Personal style: This works for Devo, but you should probably find your own.

Personal style: This works for Devo, but you should probably find your own.

Finally, throughout all of this work you’ll want to sprinkle your personality and style so that your market can get a real sense of you and where you fit in the industry. This is about bringing your whole self and spirit to strengthen your presentation, making sure the essence of you is present even when you can’t be there in person.

For example, when writing cover letters, so many people become robotic assembly lines, churning out impersonal form letters that read as if they’ve come from a machine. Why would anyone respond to something that feels completely anonymous? Until the recipient of your letter is graced with your presence in person, they need to get as much of a sense of you as possible in order to say, “Hey, I’d like to meet this person.” That doesn’t mean that you should be bold for the sake of being bold and use hot pink envelopes simply to catch someone’s attention. If that’s your style, go for it. But I’m talking about being authentic in how you market yourself and really bringing your personality into the mix. This is a key element of powerful marketing that most people just gloss over, if they even consider it at all.

In the end, the sum of this equation is greater than its parts. Without all of these elements working together, you can’t be a whole and complete Powerful Marketer. You might have your materials in order and a sense of style, but without strategies your game plan will be haphazard. Or, you may have a rock solid plan, but your materials are woefully out of date. Can you see how every part of the equation is essential? With this in mind, I encourage you to take a look at your own marketing equation in order to make sure that you’re running on all cylinders. If you find that you’re lacking in one or more areas, focus your attention on getting them up to speed. And don’t forget, this is an on-going process — just because you’re rocking it today doesn’t mean that you’ll be good to go a year from now. So, get used to checking your equation on a regular basis. By doing so, you’ll be on top of the game, ready to present yourself in any marketing situation that comes up!