“Without Promotion Something Terrible Happens…Nothing” –P.T. Barnum
Marketing yourself is one of the biggest challenges creative people face. No matter how much help you get from your agent, well-meaning relatives or friends; the person you need to get squarely on your side is you.
While there are notable exceptions, those P.T. Barnum types who have no problem being their own best ad man; the greater majority find it easier to promote virtually anyone and anything else, than to trumpet their own work and accomplishments. I’ve found the same with arts organizations, much more so than in dealing with business and industry. I think the reason is due to the intimacy you have with what you’re promoting.
Take for example tech or service companies that have a new product or training program they believe will be useful. They can talk about capabilities, improvements in quality and increased productivity; how they can improve what’s being done. That’s much easier to quantify in terms of ROI.
When the product is more personal – how much someone will enjoy your artwork, game or book; experience a concert or new play; what you’re promising is quite different. It’s subjective. And knowing that is what stops the creative business person in his or her tracks – because they want to deliver what they promise.
What to do? Once you get past your initial inclination — pulling covers over your head (not at all effective), wishing someone else will do marketing for you (costly and only works well when you’re prepared to be fully engaged), hoping you’ll get discovered and duly rewarded for your hard-earned talent (wonderful when that happens on its own, but not a waiting game most can afford to play), you need to find a good, practical solution.
The answer lies between knowing what inspires you and what makes you mad. If you’re devoted to the creative life, you’ve chosen to forgo what others might have advised would be a safer path. Revenue’s not guaranteed, there’s not defined career ladder, and you don’t know how what you’re creating today will be received when it’s eventually brought to market.
It’s the strength of your passion about what you’re creating and the belief others should want it that must motivate you to succeed. Beyond that, what’s crucial is a clear understanding of what’s distinctly marketable and knowing what to do to advance your product or cause.
It can be helpful to get mad –“How dare they not see that they should buy this?!” Then it’s good to step back and look at what may be missing in your approach. How can you be clearer, add value, convey excitement? What’s worked in the past to get you to buy or commit?
Marketability is unique to each situation. Ask yourself, does this advance a trend? Is it a departure from the norm, a new technique, require a particular mix of talents, or offer an audience new ways to engage? Ask yourself which elements are primary and what drives you to go back to your work again and again to do better? That’s how you’ll find the key elements.
Then look at tools and techniques you can use. Start in your comfort zone then expand from there. Outline possible strategies and make a case for how what you’d like to do is best suited to advance your goals. Now, go back to your publishers, promoters and friends. Ask what they suggest. Try several ideas out, reassess and decide what’s working well and what may need to be changed.
Keep your ego out of it as much as possible. It’s not about being accepted or rejected; it’s whether you’ve found the right message and techniques to convey what you believe in to your potential audience. If you believe you have something worth sharing, this is not sleight of hand; it’s acting on the strength of conviction that you wouldn’t be investing so much time and talent, unless you believe you have something of real value to impart. Success is both in doing the work well and in finding those who want to be part of the experience you can offer.
Pitching well is tough whether you’re on the mound or in the board room. It takes focus, concentration and a lot of practice. Pitching in a business setting is challenging because you’re expected to deliver your message in a succinct, meaningful way and your pitch time can easily be cut short if you aren’t well-prepared. No wonder that this type of selling can produce performance anxiety much the same as public speaking, which is known to be a top fear for many people.
Learning to pitch effectively is well worth the effort and the secrets to doing it well, not surprisingly, lie with research and preparation. But other factors can impact your success, and it’s important to understand pitching as a form of performance and engagement as well as sales.
First, think about whom your audience is and the time you’re likely to have. These days, almost inevitably, time will be short. Think about the setting you’ll be in. Will it be a person’s office, a conference room, or a booth on a convention floor? What potential interruptions or distractions might there be? Will you have access to the set ups and equipment you might want to use in your presentation? In terms of content, ask yourself what you have to offer that will engage and interest the person or people you’re talking to. Consider what you can you do to make your presentation to them memorable both audibly and visually. Do your research well in advance so you can 1) make sure you’re talking with the right people, 2) know their concerns and possible objections, and 3) come equipped with a way to present that you’re comfortable with and is appropriate to the setting.
Know too that despite the fact that we’re constantly being told that everything is about storytelling, pitching well is about having interaction that’s designed to draw out meaningful information. It’s like a first date – you want to introduce yourself, but also get to know the other person to see if your styles and interests will mesh. As with dating, being nervous is okay and showing that you genuinely care about the other person will go a long way. Courtesy – being punctual, respectful of the time being given to you and staying focused on what their objectives are – is imperative as is honesty and a willingness to walk away, if you find it’s not a good fit.
Be prepared to keep the first meeting brief and to the point, and don’t be “pitchy.” Think beforehand about you can offer and what the obstacles might be. The most common are cost, whether the person has decision-making authority, if needs are likely to be met, and time commitment.
Don’t make the mistake of turning someone off by coming on too strong. These days engagement is expected to be a two-way street with both parties having equal chance to provide input. Customization and personalization are of great value. Use what you’ve prepared as a jumping off point for meaningful conversation rather than keeping to a script, but still keep in mind the information you need to remember to convey. Decide ahead of time what you’d like to take away from the conversation, let the person know how you’d like to follow up and, when you do, consider whether there’s anything else you can provide them by way of thanks – which can be information, a connection, or suggestions based on your conversation.
Now that we’ve hit the end of the generational alphabet with Generation Z (mid-1990s-present), we’re in the midst of courting a group born and cultivated with more market savvy than any who preceded them. Forrester Research has found them to be “demanding consumers” exposed to many brand choices. And, compared with their parents and grandparents, they are proving to be more resistant to persuasion and fully expect to have a say in the evolution of products they consume. Further, they’re digitally savvy, constantly connected and experience driven. They’re also looking for ultra-personalization in their buying choices and in how they connect with marketers and companies.
A study published by the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University, http://bit.ly/1iRLUh7, found four trends likely to characterize Generation Z as consumers: 1) a focus on innovation, 2) an insistence on convenience, 3) an underlying desire for security, and 4) a tendency toward escapism.
It’s interesting to view these in light of trends recently discussed by Randi Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, at Vocus’s Demand Success conference. Engagement, innovation, and crowd-sourcing were all highly touted by Zuckerberg as critical components to successful marketing in today’s competitive environment. Author and illustrator groups might want to take a turn at what companies like Google and Facebook have done with their hackathon initiatives – where employees are encouraged to take time every few months to stay up overnight, brainstorm and try out new concepts with the group based, not on what employees do in their day jobs, but on their individual passions. Zuckerberg said that at Facebook, many of their most interesting innovations had been conceived in that environment.
Per Gen Z’s second priority, we’re certainly seeing consuming made increasingly convenient and customizable. Purchasing today has much less to do with physical location or availability than with discoverability of products and services. Online shopping has prompted a massive shift, and now we’re hearing about almost instantaneous gratification, with the imminent package delivery by drones (which Zuckerberg believes is something we’ll see from Amazon in the next couple of years), and with 3-D printing of virtually anything you can imagine – and some I hadn’t – from designed-on-you clothing to printed spaghetti and pancakes to (and apparently China is working on this) 3-D printed homes you can live in. This ties-in with Gen Z’s desire for convenience and for products that have been personalized for them, so be prepared to have your customers want to engage more and more in the products they purchase.
Fun and engagement are also paramount to this group, and that’s where gamification fits in – and is prepared to be part of every minute of our daily lives. Having trouble waking up to catch your next flight? Snooze is an alarm clock app that pledges $0.25 of your own money to charity every time you hit the snooze button. Want to visually capture a day in your life as an artist to share with your fans? The Narrative Clip is a new wearable device that can take and store a photo automatically every 30 seconds. Wondering where your dog or cat goes when he vanishes out of site? Tagg or Tractive, which use GPS technology, give you the chance to virtually “ride along” with your pet as they prowl the neighborhood – good perhaps for authors overcoming writer’s block on that next animal fantasy story. And for sci-fi, it’s hard to imagine what’s next when there’s so much technology we couldn’t have even imagined five or ten years ago cropping up all around us — and which will be the reality for Gen Z. Next up, in the generational nomenclature – a group some are beginning to call Generation Alpha. Terrified to think what that may indicate when we meet them as consumers.
by Andre Smith
Many people linger in museums, longing to bring such beauty into their homes, perhaps dreaming of someday investing in artwork. So, what restricts that wish to a dream? For many art lovers and would-be buyers, the art market seems too complex and daunting, or art prices appear economically out-of-reach.
To accommodate this widespread but largely unfulfilled interest in art acquisition, many major museums and smaller galleries have started offering rental and rent-to-own programs, such as San Francisco’s MOMA.
While art rental has a long tradition, especially among corporate clients, the rent-to-own movement is increasingly gaining popularity. In many cases, the arrangement may benefit the buyer, the selling institution and the artist. Buyers get to see how they like “living with” the painting or sculpture before they commit to a major expenditure. As a result, individuals who would not usually consider purchasing art “whet their appetites” and just might begin a lifelong habit of collecting.
In the meantime, throughout the rental period, the gallery makes artwork available to appreciative eyes, which would otherwise be displayed at considerable expense, or kept out-of-sight in storage areas. In the long run, the gallery and artist also benefit, as the pool of potential buyers increases.
When a work is displayed in a home instead of a gallery setting, it instantly creates the word-of-mouth buzz that galleries usually labor to generate. Imagine that you’ve just acquired a beautiful piece of artwork, and you may only have it for a couple months: Wouldn’t you tell your friends, show it off with a dinner party or two, and flood your social media streams with proud images?
How Rent-to-Own Programs Work
In general, rent-to-own agreements are based around a commitment-free rental period, followed by the opportunity to make a purchase. Beyond that, individual programs can vary widely in the agreement details. According to BBC reports, two or three-month rentals are fairly common. Rental terms of a few months allow individuals to try out living with the artwork without burdening themselves with an excessively long commitment.
Pricing can also vary widely. As an example, the San Francisco MOMA might rent out a piece worth $30,000 for a little over $1000 per month. Taxes and installation charges also apply, and insurance costs will also vary. As with any rent-to-own arrangement, should the renter eventually decide to purchase, the final purchase price will be lowered to partially reflect the funds already invested during the rental period. For example, the Seattle Art Museum lets buyers put half of the rental fees toward the purchase price.
Expanding the Pool of Buyers
In general, the rent-to-own arrangement appeals to potential buyers for a few simple reasons. It allows them to enjoy artwork, in their homes, without committing to a major investment. Plus, for those interested in an eventual purchase, beginning with a rental significantly lowers the pressure and the risk of “buyer’s remorse.” As a result, risk-shy investors and novice art buyers are especially likely to find the option attractive.
Rent-to-own arrangements also offer a convenient alternative for a range of specific scenarios. For new companies in high-end sectors, acquiring the right artwork is fundamental to creating the office environment that gives clients the right impression. However, the cost of purchasing art outright can prove prohibitive for startups. By choosing to rent, with the option to buy, companies can suit their spending to meet the changing budget of their growing business.
Given the increasingly popularity of the rent-to-own arrangement, why should the scheme be of interest to artists? Firstly, by working with galleries that specialize in rentals, artists can massively increase their exposure. Although you may typically imagine your artwork to eventually grace a handsome home, consider how many more people will see a piece that hangs in a workplace. High-end hotels and competitive firms constitute many of the most ardent art renters. Many galleries, such as CKI Fine Art Rental, have specialized services to shepherd such clients through the art rental and rent-to-own process.
As an added bonus, letting galleries rent out your artworks ensures that they will be loved and appreciated. Instead of hanging at the back of a gallery, waiting to be purchased, your artwork will be continuously pleasing viewers. And at the same time, a growing public will be getting to know your name.
Wondering how to drive more traffic to your business via your website, blog, and social media sites? Consider these stats on data per minute on the Internet (and that was last year, so of course even more now):
-204,166,667 email messages
-2,000,000 search queries on Google
-684,478 users share on Facebook
-1,300,000 video views
-47,000 app downloads
In the marketing world, the messaging has been that “content is king,” which makes sense given that we know consumers have been getting more and more fatigued and resistant to advertising. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, “more than nine out of ten B2B marketers are using some form of content marketing.” So that’s not the problem, the issue moving forward is in how to create content that will get noticed – and how to engage consumers in a way that will create loyalty to you and your brand.
Very difficult these days, but Jay Baer, author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype, and Mitch Joel, author of Ctrl Alt Delete and Six Pixels of Separation, are evangelists for the concept of utility marketing, which suggests that content focus and consumer engagement should shift from promoting the value of a product or brand to developing a user experience that is concrete and useful to the consumer. It’s a welcome shift from pumping out quantity messaging to looking for new ways to engage in a meaningful way.
Baer says, “Success flows to organizations that inform, not organizations that promote. Three key concepts described in his book are to provide “Self-Serve Information,” which is to figure out what you can provide that can be most useful to your consumers, thus establishing yourself as an ongoing source of information; “Radical Transparency,” anticipating and providing answers to the questions they may have about you; and “Real-Time Relevancy,” which is about being prepared to provide information timed when it’s most useful to the consumer.
Joel believes “the next five years will be about the brands that can actually create a level of utility for the consumer.” He sees an era of increased personalization that requires different types of messaging not just by knowing your audience, but by media platform.
This is the ideal to be able to engage meaningfully and even specifically, but may feel overwhelming if you’re running your own business and trying to create at the same time. Something like being told to: “do everything, get to know everyone personally, and think outside the box.” However, taking a step back, it’s a way you should already be thinking. First, think in audience segments. What do you know that you can teach them? You can share information on new techniques, how to present, how to research, how to make a story or a piece of art extraordinary. Second, consider how others have shared that knowledge in the past? What new tools are there now, or new ideas you have for engaging them in a different way? What’s particular about your work, and are there specific times when that information can be most useful – at a particular time of the year, for special programming and events, in conjunction with trends or what’s happening in the news?
Third – and here it’s tougher – how can you learn enough about your customers, and how can you engage with them personally? Truthfully, you probably can’t if you’re thinking of them individually, but if you think in segments, you certainly can – and you can use different messaging, platforms and tactics to reach them. The trick is to break the message down in meaningful ways and then customize based on what you know about them.
I’m not sure how you measure the attention span of a goldfish, but those who know have determined that as of 2013, our average attention span is less (8 seconds) than that of your average goldfish (9 seconds).
Fortunately, Vine is within range with six-second video and Twitter, of course, keeping it brief with 140 characters. Web lore had it that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text and while that’s not necessarily the case, a team of neuroscientists from MIT recently found that the human brain can process entire images the eye sees for as little as 13 milliseconds.
There are many ways to tell your story to engage your audience with illustrations, data, video and text. Here are some free or reasonably-priced tools and some formats you can use for presentations and for social media:
- Quotes Cover, www.quotescover.com, is easy to use to make a quote eye-catching for e-cards, wallpaper, prints, posters and social media. Just paste any quote into the toolbar, select fonts and colors, and design using the program’s drawing tools. Then you can share on social media or download the image.
- Loupe, www.getloupe.com, lets you make a shaped collage using your photos.
- Piktochart, http://piktochart.com, provides templates; an image gallery with icons, maps and charts; and editing tools to create appealing, searchable infographics. You can incorporate your own photos and art and, once you like it, you can link, embed, email or share it.
- IMGFlip, https://imgflip.com/memegenerator, is an image generator that allows you to position one or two lines of text on top of a photo to make a meme that can then be shared.
- Common Craft, http://www.commoncraft.com, uses cut out character videos to explain a broad range of complex processes simply, including: how we elect the U.S. President, plagiarism, how to prepare an emergency kit, and what augmented reality is all about. You can also download their cutouts and create your own how-to videos.
- Bitstrips, www.bitstrips.com, and GoAnimate, www.goanimate.com, are two big-name programs that help you create your own comics for online use.
- Tiki-Toki, www.tiki-toki.com, and Dipity, www.dipity.com, are tools to create illustrated timelines. Tiki-Toki also has a group version upgrade where you can create a timeline that then allows students or others to add to and interact with the timeline you’ve created.
Another visual technique that you can use to engage your audience is visual note-taking where you combine drawings, doodles and text to illustrate a concept or process. This can also work well for an online contest where fans submit an illustrated panel about an aspect of your book to show what they thought about as they read about an event or character.
These, along with YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, and Pinterest will provide opportunities for using images for creative branding. And, of course, keep in mind that using text is also good, given that the 8 second attention span we now have is only down from the 12 seconds reported for humans in 2000. Goldfish, I believe, remained constant given that they rarely use the Internet.
Crowdfunding and crowd promoting is on the rise, and whether you’re creating an app, a book, a game; launching a series of events; or even just cultivating a fan base; you should learn about these platforms and campaigns.
Kickstarter recently reached its $1 billion mark in pledges and named Newbery Medalist Neil Gaiman it’s most influential user both for projects he’s funded and for backing hundreds of others. Started in 2009 and considered the granddaddy of crowdfunding, Kickstarter brings in more than $1 million per day. And while the site; which focuses on design, the arts (including publishing), gaming and technology; is the best known, it now has lots of company. There are the large players like IndieGoGo and RocketHub, which take projects from around the world, whereas Kickstarter accepts from the U.S., UK and Canada.
According to the Crowdfunding Industry Report, campaigns raised at least $2.7 billion last year. Crowds Unite, which reports on the space and a good place to learn what’s new, estimates there are more than eight hundred sites as of early 2014 and projections are for substantial growth particularly of niche-specific platforms.
Barriers to entry will vary, and the amount of support you get from each platform will as well. RocketHub, for example, has an excellent “Success School,” filled with information on how to structure and run a campaign. They also provide a breakout of how many backers you’d probably need to reach a given goal: for $1,000-10,000 expect 40-200 backers; $10,000-$100,000 150 or more; and to raise more $100,000, you’ll want at least 1000 backers. To get specific examples of the funding process, you can look at Kicktraq, an analytics tool that monitors details of Kickstarter campaigns where you’d be able to see how many similar projects funded successfully at a given level, the arc of the campaign via graphs that show how much was funded on each day (typically most in the very beginning, a lull in the middle, and a push again at the end); and you can see what media coverage and offers may have impacted activity.
Pubslush and Unbound are book-centered crowdfunding sites that offer the real benefit of understanding the nuances of the market. Pubslush has an Author Assist program and works closely with clients, according to Development Director Justine Schofield.
“We’re geared to the needs of people in this niche, and we work to help them structure a campaign that will reach their target audience,” says Schofield. “I think crowdfunding is ideal for books and particularly for children’s books. We’re often asked if non-fiction or fiction do better and if some genres gain more traction, but the truth is that what really drives the campaign is the author. The passion they convey about the project, the drive to make the campaign work, and the work they do to market both before and after matter.
“Key factors are to have a clear goal for your campaign and effectively brand yourself as an author. People will be more likely to back you, if you tell a compelling personal story, help them understand why the project’s important, and explain what will be done with the money once it’s raised.
“The goals structure is also very important. Think about giving backers experiences not just gifts. They want personalization and a connection to you. You can offer autographed copies, Skype visits, personal appearances, and also special group rates and incentives.” Creating a video is also very important. In fact, Slava Rubin, co-founder of IndieGoGo is quoted as saying that “crowdfunding pitches with video content raise 112% more than pitches without videos.”
Of course, if you don’t want to go project by project, you could take a look at Patreon, which enables fans to give ongoing support to their favorite artists – love it! And if you get that to work, get your crowd to shout it out with Thunderclap!
Storytelling and storydoing are the new “it” words in marketing, advertising and pr. No longer are we focused on, catchy phrases and attention-grabbing headlines. From tech to tofu, we want more than just concepts, we want to bond over our products and the people who create and sell them. But think carefully about positioning, because with storytelling’s new marketing sibling, “storydoing,” we are being asked to live the brand we create.
With storytelling, it would seem you couldn’t dream up a better scenario for writers and artists, and it’s true, we have great stories to tell and the skill to drive them home. But, as Colin Robinson, co-founder of OR Books, pointed out somewhat kiddingly, I think, in an article for The Guardian, “if writers today are ubiquitous, readers seem an increasingly endangered species.” Robinson was alluding to book authors, but the point is the same. We have tons of content, what we need is to have an audience that cares to read it.
With marketing, that means cultivating the right audience and finding ways to get your story heard. To brand in a meaningful way, you must identify the connecting strands that run through your work, your own story, and how you want to be known in the marketplace and give your audience good reason to identify with you.
What works? Take a page from what corporations do for their brands. Look at your body of work as though you were the head of a company – what would your mission statement be?
Doing this brings your target audience into focus and informs the role you intend to play. It also provides the underpinning of your marketing communications strategy and the tone of your messaging. A corporation would then go deeper and look at what content, information, and experiences it could provide that would be consistent with the brand and voice of the company and appealing to its audience in an ongoing way.
Content can be practical – giving tips on what you know, and what consumers want to know; personal – providing an opportunity for them to get to know you better – and for you to know them; experiential – offering ways for them to connect directly with you, which could be via events, contests, or other activities; educational – video works great for that, or humorous.
Humor’s worked perfectly for Amsterdam’s Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, which figured if they couldn’t be at the top of the city’s list of hotels, they’d stake a claim for being best at the bottom with the slogan, “It Can’t Get Any Worse”. Their website proudly offers a list of amenities the hotel doesn’t offer: No Tennis, No Room Service, No Bellhop, etc. But that messaging’s proved perfect for attracting their audience of students, backpackers and others who, instead of seeing any of this as a negative, pride themselves on surviving a stay at the world’s worst hotel — and they brag about it to others.
Storydoing is about exemplifying what a company stands for and connecting over that with customers. The outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, does that by producing environmental content campaigns and materials that focus on issues of concern to the outdoor enthusiasts who buy from them. But they go beyond what other companies do by taking a long view of the commitment to the topic they and their consumers care about, and they believe this will be to long-term success.
America is the land of ownership – we like to own our house, our business, our cars, our tools and our tech toys. But more and more, that model is being challenged by new ways of thinking about products, property and what works today and what may work in the future in business and personally.
Examples are everywhere – from crowd-source funding entities like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to share-a-bike and share-car companies that we’ve come to appreciate like Bike Share and ZipCar, we’re becoming accustomed to thinking about how convenient it can be to have others help us shoulder the load, particularly in a tough economy.
It’s fun to explore what you can share and to think about how that might apply to your life and to your business. While the idea of couch surfing or house swapping may have seemed a stretch for a lot of people, AirBNB has made the idea of renting someone’s extra room for far less than the cost of a hotel, seem very appealing and quite do-able. In fact, an artist I spoke with recently said AirBNB made a big difference in making it viable for her to travel to teach around the country for an affordable speaking fee because she had the benefit of earning extra income while people stayed at her home. For help with work, there’s the concept of virtual offices and virtual service providers. Like them or not, Odesk and Elance and other companies can connect businesses with specialized workers at competitive rates. For help at home, there’s TaskRabbit, which you can turn to for help getting errands done.
There is a growing number of sharing business models challenging the traditional ways we think about consuming. There’s Feastly, where you could go to someone’s house for great food rather than to a restaurant, and Leftover Swap, if you don’t want to eat your own leftovers, but think others might. Will you need a place to park? There’s ParkatMyHouse for parking spaces at homes here and abroad.
Perhaps you have tools you rarely use, but are willing to share, you can think about starting a tool library in your community as other places have done. KitchenShare in Portland and the recently launched, The Kitchen Library, in Toronto do the same for kitchen appliances.
There are complications to be sure, as discussed in an October Chicago Tribune article by Ameet Sachdev in which he interviewed New York University’s Stern School of Business Professor Arun Sundararajan, who is a leading expert on the subject. Furthermore, giants like Hertz and Avis (which now owns ZipCar), large hotel chains and others are doing corporate acquisitions and launching sharing programs of their own to compete with companies challenging their space.
But for business owners and consumers, this is still a very interesting time to consider new options and opportunities both for shared services you need, and for considering the skills and products you have that you could share. To learn about more companies pursuing this space, check out the collaborative economy master list compiled by Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group.