"So generous, and so TIMELY! I am just now cobbling together a storytelling business plan for an organization here that helps folks get started in small businesses. The points on marketing are GREAT-GREAT-GREAT!" - Abegael Fisher-Lang, British Columbia
The other day, I coached a storyteller. I said, "What is the area of your storytelling life that most holds you back? What is it, if you got a hand with it, would make the biggest difference?"
He didn't hesitate. "Marketing," he said. "I hate to call up folks cold and 'sell' myself. But I suppose I should just get more disciplined."
He was right about marketing. But dead wrong about cold calls. They are the least efficient way to get bookings. And discipline wasn't really what was missing for him, either - his problem turned out to be a lack of good marketing information.
I spent the rest of the hour giving him a few of the basic concepts I've learned in these last 30 months of reading, listening, thinking, and trying things out. He left saying, "I understand now - what to do, and why it will work. I'm so relieved to be un-stuck!"
After he left, I began to think about the similar struggles of so many other professional storytellers - part-time, full-time, or "I would like to work more as a storyteller, but I don't know where to start."
Most of us - and that includes me, several years ago - find marketing distasteful. We would rather do our art. And we associate marketing with manipulative, invasive messages from companies we distrust, trying to convince us to buy things we don't need.
With that mindset, it's a miracle that we do as well as we do! Sadly, the nature of our society does not give us the chance to avoid marketing. But it does give us the opportunity to market in a way that:
Promotes the same values we advance in our art.
Helps people meet their real needs, not "pseudo-needs" created only by advertising.
Is focused on finding just those folks who want what you have to offer!
Is based on building connections - relationships - with folks who are not only your customers, but also your allies in promoting and enjoying the art of storytelling.
Actually brings in more money with less effort than traditional "brand" advertising and manipulative campaigns.
"During the workshop, I suddenly had a personal revelation about how much of my energy and time gets siphoned off by activities that do not advance me towards achieving my dream. I came away far more committed to achieving what I really want....I have found it much easier to say no to things which do not advance my major goals. I am getting more accomplished - and really nurturing my relationships with my peers."
- Connie Dodge, Atlanta, GA
I've been free-lancing since 1971. That's 31 years of being responsible for my own paycheck - of doing my own marketing, one way or another. In the beginning, I approached getting work the way I had approached getting jobs: write a resume, "apply" for jobs, call potential employers. I didn't like selling myself, but the fear of hunger made me willing to try anything.
I hated the idea of "marketing." That meant, to me, manipulative advertising. Plus, it seemed so hard to describe myself. I didn't want to be defined by one way of describing myself. At the same time, I wasn't sure which ways of describing me were really accurate. So I'd tend to put it off.
Still, every year or so I would face a calendar without enough work on it to support me in the coming months. So I'd try something, anything.
I did what other folks seemed to be doing. I spent many months and many dollars on a printed brochure - that my friends all loved, but never got me more than a job or two. I tried mailings. Fliers to post on local bulletin boards. Workshops on marketing. Much more.
I read what people said about advertising. Marketing. Selling. Most of it made no sense to me as an independent artist. Some of it seemed worth trying. Some of it helped - a little. But it always felt like a shot in the dark. I'd do what the experts said to do - as well as I could. When it didn't work, though, I had no idea how to fix it. When it did work, I had no idea how to make it work better. Worst of all, I had no clear idea how to adapt their ideas to my unique situation.
I felt like a bumbling magician, never getting the spell just right. Other magicians claimed to have "the way," but the prosperity gods seemed fickle and hard to please.
I dreamed of having a tape out, so I'd be a "real" storyteller. I had a tape published. It earned a few hundred dollars a year. It bought me a little more credibility with some folks. But it didn't change my life.
I recorded ten more tapes. More of the same.
I dreamed of appearing at the National Storytelling Festival, so I'd be sought after near and far. I appeared at the National Storytelling Festival - twice. It helped a little, but didn't change my life.
I dreamed of having a book published, so I'd be famous and sought after. I had a book published. It helped a little, but didn't change my life. I had three more books published. More of the same.
Then, two and a half years ago, I was coaching someone who wanted to take her storytelling into the realm of motivational speaking. I went with her to an all-day seminar featuring eight famous public speakers. There was a "bonus" ninth speaker at the end of the day. We almost left before he spoke, but then he began to tell a story - about a way someone had reached him through well-designed marketing.
Suddenly, I glimpsed a new possibility: this was an approach that I could try out - and improve easily if it didn't work. For the first time, I could fully imagine adapting a kind of marketing to serve my work goals - and, at the same time, meet the goals of the folks I worked with. This new approach was based on three principles that, deep in my heart, I knew all along had to be at the basis of my efforts:
Building a mutually respectful and informed relationship with customers.
Finding ways to have interested parties approach me - not having me chase after the unwilling.
Using direct, immediate results that allowed me to test, compare, change and improve the effectiveness of my efforts.
After hearing this speech, I went on to discover the whole world of "direct response marketing," which is based on those principles. I bought books, listened to tapes, attended workshops - as I had done before, with different approaches.
This time, it changed my life.
For the first time, I used one idea - that I learned in a $1000 seminar - to earn an extra $1000 a month! For the first time, I learned how to fix my failures and improve my successes.
I learned things I didn't even know I needed to learn: how to further develop mutually profitable relationships with existing customers; how to use what I already knew and the customers I already had to increase my income without great expense; how to make and test new products and services quickly and easily; how to make much more money by specializing than I could as a "jack of all trades" - and much more.
But there were problems. "Direct response marketing" actually works - and it works for small folks like me much better than traditional marketing does. But, like any powerful tool - even storytelling - it can be abused by those out to make a quick buck.
How could I separate the wheat of true insight from the chaff of manipulation and shallow values? How could I use these practical techniques in a way that didn't compromise my own voice?
After two and a half years of studying, tinkering, trying, and revising, I'm ready to share what I've learned.
In this 90 minute recorded seminar, I tell you:
How to build on-going relationships with customers who come back year after year.
How to make more money by meeting people's real needs.
Why cold calls are inefficient (not to mention unpleasant), and what to do instead.
How to use your storytelling-related abilities of imagining, empathizing, and communicating in the service of making a good living.
How to earn at least some of your income while you sleep.
Five common advertising mistakes - and how not to make them.
How to stop chasing after folks who don't want you and attract the ones who do.
The four requirements for your ideal market.
The biggest money-losing mistake that most storytellers - and small business owners of all kinds - make. And how to avoid it.
How to create new products and services quickly and easily.
The secret you must know before you spend money on a brochure.
Obviously, I couldn't teach you everything I've learned in 90 minutes. But I did explain the key concepts that underlie all the others, and the most productive techniques - enough to begin to change your life - guaranteed.
"Since our last session I have been quite busy with my business bringing in $ between the raindrops this summer so I can have a security blanket for a tour I am planning for next summer. I have more clearly defined my market and distilled it...and am familiar with the specific benefits I have to offer. Thanks again for your support!"
-Wesley August, Moultonboro, NH
An hour and a half of private consultation with me costs $187.00 and up. A week-end marketing workshop costs $500 and up.
Of course, you could do what I did, and learn from the marketing experts directly:
Books I bought and read:
Tape sets and toolkits I bought and listened to:
Workshops and lectures I attended:
Total I paid:
But you don't have to re-invent this particular wheel. Instead of learning all this yourself, you can listen to the recording of this 90-minute telephone seminar for just $29.95 - and get the key concepts and the most immediately useful techniques. (The CD version is $39.95. Shipping and handling via First-Class/Priority Mail is $4 for either version in the U.S.).
Take this 3-question quiz to find out if you should not buy this tape.
Why don't I want some people to buy it? My priority is to help those who are qualified to take advantage of this information. If you do not qualify, there may be other ways you and I can work together in the future. But please think carefully whether you meet the following criteria:
1. This recording gives you proven methods for communicating your strengths to the folks who want them. If you're brand new at telling stories and haven't developed your basic strengths as a teller yet, you have a storytelling problem, not a marketing problem. I'd be happy to work with you in a coaching workshop, instead.
On the other hand, if you have been telling but don't know how to articulate your strengths, that's a marketing problem. I can teach you a process to learn to describe what you do to a chosen market - even if you can't yet describe it yourself.
2. If you are completely flummoxed emotionally by the idea of putting yourself out there - if you can't bear the thought of marketing yourself - then you have an emotional issue to work on first. You may want to seek out a therapist or peer counsellor for help.
On the other hand, we all have feelings about marketing. If you have some slack here, the methods and principles I'll teach you can help you get started, with concrete steps, on a path that can lead you out of paralysis and into effective marketing of your storytelling.
3. It's common for us to wish to be rescued. Ask yourself: are you willing to give up the daydream that someone will come along and do the marketing work for you? If not, you probably shouldn't bother with this recording. This seminar tells you how to use marketing effectively on your own behalf. But that means you'll need to actually take charge of following up and implementing the ideas.
On the other hand, perhaps you haven't taken action in the past because no action seemed both possible and in accord with your values. If that's the case, this may be the perfect opportunity to begin to use marketing to change your storytelling life.
"Since the workshop, I have kept moving on finding a venue(s) for my long story. Many thanks!"
- Mary Hamilton, Frankfort, KY
"I loved your workshop and the way you so gently and positively worked with us. I am so full of your excellent attention! I appreciate all you did to help me on my path to publication."
- Gail Herman, Swanton, MD
"I am amazed at your business skills along with your knowledge of the world and the powers of storytelling. Keep doing what you do best!"
- Mary Jo Huff, Newburgh, Indiana