Self-Promotion for the Creative Person: Get the Word Out About Who You Are and What You Do
By Lee Silber
Define and Refine
You don't want to be running around in circles without a clue about who your target is. Knowing who needs what is a key to success. A niche is a specific area that you specialize in. One man creates golf-related art and sells it through pro shops, country clubs, and ads in golf magazines and newsletters. This niche is good for him because he loves golf and lies found that golfers have the discretionary income to afford his art and it gives him an edge. When I wanted to sell a set of my drums. I took out an ad in a magazine read by musicians rather than the daily paper. I didn't need to pay to reach a million people. I needed to reach far fewer who were more likely to buy drums. It worked. The splintering of the television networks led to what is called "narrow casting." They are programming for specific audiences because they're so splintered. This allows the shows to be more creative. You can take the same approach too. attention you can give. This kind of myopic focus allows you to stay in touch with core customers and meet their needs. You get too.
I think it is also important to define who you are and what you do before you can promote yourself to others. It's called "positioning." How can we explain to others (promotion) what we do if we aren't clear about it ourselves? Having a focus makes it much easier for others to spread the word about you. I know we hate labeling things-it pigeonholes us. But in other people's eyes it helps to define what we do. Besides, it's better to pick a label than let someone else hang one on you. Are you a blues band? Jazz? Rock? Reggae? Country? New Age? Hip-hop? A combination of two of those? Maybe get outside of your label of "I'm a painter." What else do you do well? Any opportunities there? Concentrate on your strengths and market those. Companies get to know you for a specialty, and this is the age of the specialist. Just remember, self-promotion starts with the customer, not you. A clear understanding of your audience-the editor, record executive, retailer, or end-user-is invaluable. It influences everything that you do, from presentation to publicity. The more you know about your audience, the more you can create things they would love to have and will gladly pay for.
Looking for Love in All the Right Places
Aside from all this talk about a niche and a market, we want to remember these are people with emotions and desires. We also want to find ways to make your goals, and the goals of those you want to reach, overlap. It's not about trying to trick people, it's giving them what they want. It's about trying to help them. Consider these points as you ponder that:
It's lonely at the top. There are very few BIG acts. There is a lot more room in the middle and bottom. Yes, try to hit it big. but also take advantage of small markets and a loyal following. Start small and build your following one fan at a time. Start by getting your feet wet and enter at the bottom, then build and expand. When Life's a Beach began selling its Bad Boy beach gear, there was a limited market for that kind of stuff. But after losing control of the company to their partners, Brian and Mark Simo started No Fear, based on extreme sports, which had a broader appeal. They took their knowledge from their earlier success and expanded into a bigger market. Their success with the No Fear brand is undeniable. Where would be an easy entry place for you to begin your marketing? Is there potential to grow and expand?
You can choose a niche, or they will choose you. I was doing a talk at a bookstore, and one of the attendees asked if I would be interested in speaking at their annual regional conference. Sure. At the conference, I was asked if I did any consulting on the side. "Sure," I said. This led to a nice little consulting gig doing makeovers of their marketing materials. Since I was now hooked up with the regional branch, they helped me get work with other offices all over the country.
Every time our band plays, it seems like the entire San Diego contingency of South Africans comes out to hear us. (Half of our band is from South Africa.) It is apparent that our core fans are also from South Africa. So why fight it? It has helped us build a loyal following and guaranteed a good turnout each time we play. (Plus, they're the nicest people.) Look at your existing clients: Do you see any patterns of the type of people who appreciate what you do? Can you build on that?
Be proactive. The Dallas-based restaurant chain Canyon Cafe combs the local papers looking for announcements of people who were recently promoted. Then they mail a personalized letter and gift certificate congratulating them and inviting them to dine with them for free. What ways can you go out and actively recruit new customers? Are you doing all you can to reach new people and win them over?
Find common ground. Can you turn your passion into a profit center? Yes, you can. Find something you are passionate about, and then use your knowledge of the people and their passion for promotional purposes. Using sailing as an example, once you do good work for one person, your name spreads quickly in the small, tight-knit sailing community. (Of which you are a member also. Can you say instant credibility?) Let's say you write fiction and your main character lives on a sailboat. You can target sailing magazines, boat shows, buy boat-owner mailing lists, put flyers up at marinas, post to sailing-related websites, and so forth. Yes, you will also go mainstream, but here's a chance to build a little momentum with a target market that you know intimately and which is interested in what you do. (You can also trade for stuff you can use-like new sails, for instance.) As Chevy Chase said in Caddy Shack, "Be the ball." What are your passions, and is there a way to tap into a market that you are already connected to?
Work with your strengths. I am not a technical person. I know what good design is, however. My strength is designing (not creating) websites. I don't want to deal with the details. What are your strengths? Do you offer something that is hard to find? One of a kind? Do you do things better, faster, more creatively? Are you more experienced? More credible? Have superior equipment? Basically, what makes you great?
Compare yourself to your competitor. What do you do better or different than your nearest competitors? A struggling wedding photographer had a special talent for photographing babies. She was unable to find enough work in the highly competitive area of weddings. So she would look up birth announcements in the paper and send parents a beautiful brochure and a discount for new parents. Business is booming. Study the competition and look for holes that aren't being filled, needs that aren't being met. Look for ways you can stand out in a crowded field by being different or the best. Best-selling author Suze Orman writes books about financial management. She doesn't try to compete directly with other self-help gurus like Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, and John Gray, and thus doesn't dilute her brand. With all the financial management books in the stores, it would seem impossible to find a way to break out. But Orman did by being a little different. She doesn't claim to be holier than thou, and she freely admits to making mistakes herself earlier in her life. She also doesn't make managing your finances seem overly complicated. She talks in terms that most people understand. What do you want to be known for? How will that set you apart?
Find your champion. One artist tied in with a local Realtor who gave her art away as a gift to new home buyers. Once these people got one of her paintings, it seemed they wanted more. This was one of those ideal situations where everyone wins. The artist sold her paintings for full price, the Realtor impressed clients with a really nice gift, and the new homeowner got some great art. After this local success she approached Realtors in other cities and set up similar arrangements in other parts of the country. If she chooses to advertise, she said she would do it in real estate journals. Find someone who is "connected" to a target market you want to reach and team up. Name at least one person who could be your champion and help you reach a target audience.