And thanks for reading! In keeping with a similar theme to last week’s post about agents and managers, this week I want to talk about marketing yourself, or what I like to call “hustle”.
So, there I was…
I had a boss while I was working for the Navy as a civilian, who was a Navy Captain; during all-hands presentations he would illustrate whatever point he was trying to make by giving us an example from his career, and it always started with: “So there I was…”. As soon as he said that you knew there was a “Sea Story” coming up that would be both entertaining and have a lesson included. Well, I don’t know how entertaining this will be (I mean, hey, I’m only 100 words into writing this!) but I feel certain there will be a lesson here.
It’s everyone’s (well, almost everyone’s) favorite topic to hate. Did you watch Mad Men? I did. Now THAT was entertaining! A bunch of lecherous, drunken guys working hard to manipulate people into buying the products they were pushing. It was fun to watch, but made marketing and advertising seem sleazy and a little dirty. Entertaining, maybe, but really not what marketing is about. The dirty truth here, though, is that if no one knows you exist and are awesome, no one is going to hire you.
First, as an actor or VO Artist, unless you are a hobbyist, you are trying to run a business. True, a very small one-man freelance business, but a business, nonetheless. And here’s the thing: You are both the CEO of the company AND the product the company “sells”. And believe me when I tell you, you are trying to sell a product. So you set up shop, buy all the best equipment, get the training you need and buyers just roll right in, right? RIGHT!? No. As you sit there in your newly furnished office somewhere in the heartland of America (or wherever you live) …no one is waiting to beat down your door to hire you. You have to let them know about you, and that’s what marketing is.
So, there I was…sitting around waiting for my agent to make me famous. HA! I use the word hustle here because that is exactly what you are going to have to do in order to successfully market yourself. You see, as a VO artist or actor, you are your own one-man marketing department (along with CEO, HR, Accounting, procurement, production…and the list goes on). If you want to succeed, you are going to have to HUSTLE..even when it seems nothing is happening…hustle. Just keep hustling.
Agents and managers are (or can be) important parts of your team to help build your business and move your career along, but they are not going to do it for you. NO ONE is going to promote you the way that you will. NO ONE cares as much about your success as you do. If you want to be successful as a VO artist or actor, YOU have to be the one to market yourself.
Marketing alone isn’t going to bring in a ton of work, at least not in the long term. You have to have a valuable product to sell. I’ve talked about it before (HERE and HERE for example); in order to be successful you will need the training and coaching to make your “product” desirable and competitive in the marketplace.
There are examples of successful marketing for products that had little or no real value. Ever heard of Pet Rocks? No? Well, back in 1975 someone (That someone was named Gary Dahl, and you’ve probably never heard of him either) got the bright idea to package rocks and market them as pets. That’s right: ROCKS. Like the ones you find in your yard. They sold like crazy. For about 6 months. And that was it. I mean, it was a regular rock (well, Mexican Beach Stones to be exact) in a box. Rocks. Anyway, the marketing worked well and Gary became a millionaire and a bit of a short lived celebrity, but without a valuable product (really, ROCKS) to sell, it was unsustainable. But marketing works.
Just to follow up, Gary later went on to have a successful advertising agency and wrote “Advertising for Dummies”. Not ironic I suppose.
What IS marketing?
Dictionary.com defines marketing as:
- the act of buying or selling in a market.
- the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.
So marketing, truly, is pretty much your entire business. Now, what we are primarily talking about today is the “advertising” part of marketing. Just remember that everything you do in your business is marketing. You can’t just be good at attracting customers, you have to be able to keep them AND keep them coming back for more. See the pet rock example above.
And now you know…
As you can see by the pet rock example, marketing works. Certainly, there is more to success than marketing, but even if you have the best product on the planet that everyone needs, if they don’t know about it they are not going to buy it. I could probably find numerous examples of products that are useful, valuable and would be great to have that no one has ever heard of. You don’t want to be them.
OK, so it works, but…
Great, so now you believe that marketing works and is essential to your business if you want to sell your “product” (which, remember is YOU), but how do you market yourself? Well, first it’s probably good to know the steps to a successful marketing campaign.
- Set Goals: These are your goals; they are not chiseled in stone but give you a target to shoot for.
- Marketing Audit: What marketing HAVE you already done? What worked, what didn’t.
- Market Research: Get a realistic picture of what the market (and your niche in it) really is.
- Analysis: Using the results of the market research, determine who your customers and competitors are. What do you bring that your potential customers need and your competitors don’t provide…or don’t provide as well as or in the same way you do.
- Pick a target audience: Who are you trying to sell TO? Yeah, you’ll sell to whoever wants to buy, but what group are you especially good for, who are you “targeting”?
- Set your budget: Know how much you want to and can afford to spend. This might be a lot if you are hiring a marketing firm, or not much for paying for a CRM or other software to help you along the way.
- Pick a strategy: Define what steps you will take to create special value to your target customers? What execution steps are you going to take to reach your target audience?
- Set an implementation schedule: When are you going to work on marketing? Whatever strategy you choose, you have to implement it, and that means setting aside time to do that.
- Evaluate and adjust: Every so often, and a set time schedule (every three months? Six months?) review your marketing efforts and adjust for what is working well and what isn’t.
Well, no…but it is pretty simple. It can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. It’s your plan and your goals but be realistic (based on market research) and keep moving forward…that’s the important part.
Some basic marketing materials you’ll need to create or acquire to successfully market yourself are Head Shots and DEMO reels. You will need those at a MINIMUM to start putting yourself out there. Other items that could be useful are Business Cards, One-Sheets and post cards. Additionally, helpful items are a regular BLOG and a recurring newsletter. The main idea here is to get your face/name/voice in front of as many potential customers as possible, and then keep showing up for them. You want to be top of mind when they are looking for watever you are offering.
Here’s what I do…
I spend no more than 3 hours a week on marketing, but I do it every day/week for some amount of time. My target audience is Production companies, producers, directors and casting directors.
Each week, I search for and compile a list of those people along with their contact info. Then each morning I send 5 cold emails to them introducing myself providing a sample of my marketing materials. I let them know what makes me…me…and what I can do to solve their problem (of casting appropriate talent) and how I am different from everyone else who is contacting them. Then each day I send 5 follow up emails to keep my name/face top of mind. I schedule intro meetings with anyone who shows interest. Finally, I send a monthly newsletter update to everyone I have reached out to in order to let them know what interesting stuff I am working on. I’ve managed to build a healthy list of people I communicate with regularly. Oh, and I write this blog each week on Monday morning, edit it Tuesday and send it to my subscribers Wednesday.
At the end of the day
Obviously, there are more details than I can cover here in a 1500-ish word post, but this should give you a rough idea of how to get yourself in front of potential clients and keep yourself there. No matter what you decide, you are GOING to have to market yourself if you are going to be successful. So, learn more about how to market yourself and don’t forget to HUSTLE! You got this!
If you want to learn more about marketing as a VO artist, check out Marc Scott or Joshua Alexander. If you’d like to know more about marketing yourself as an actor, check out Actor’s Fast Track.
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