Music marketing tips, self-promotion ideas and more
Here's another free excerpt from the Unleash the Artist Within four-week workshop:

Day 18: Seek Out Unconventional Promotion Opportunities

As we discussed in yesterday's lesson (Day 17), there are an infinite number of strategies you can use when promoting, marketing and selling your creative skills and talents. With a little brainstorming, you could soon have a lengthy list of high-impact ways to reach an audience of potential fans and paying customers.

Why, then, do so many creative entrepreneurs cling to only the obvious marketing routes, never taking the time to discover and pursue less-traveled (but highly effective) promotional paths?

As we've talked about before, it's the age-old dilemma of tunnel vision. It's so much easier and more comfortable to go with a short list of traditional methods than it is to exert brainpower on conjuring up new, creative ways to cultivate new clients and fans.

Want some examples of shortsightedness?

Let's say you're in a dinner theatre troupe that is opening a new murder mystery. To promote it, you send press releases and invitations to regional newspapers and radio stations. Then you throw an opening night party at the venue where the performances will take place.

And that's it.

No more attempts are made to send attention-getting news concerning the production out into the world. And the cast members and producers will say, "We've done all we can to promote it," then wonder why only 30 people attend the entire first weekend.

And what about the photographer who desires to make some decent money by specializing in band photos and album cover shots? She runs classified ads in local newspapers and pins up fliers at music stores, then sits at home and waits for the phone to start ringing. She gets a few calls, but after three months she's only landed five low-paying photography jobs. What else can she do to create more business?

The answer: a lot!

"If you're a small company, a new venture or a single individual ... you've got to be fast on your feet, to employ a vast array of marketing tools," writes Jay Conrad Levinson, author of the Guerrilla Marketing series of books. "You may not need to use every weapon in your potential marketing arsenal, but you're sure going to need some of them. So you'd best know how to use them all."

What if our photographer friend sat down with a pen and writing pad and started challenging her mind to come up with effective, low-cost ways to promote her services? She might even ask herself, "What are some things I can do, starting today, to promote my photography business on a small budget?" (Remember the power of questions from Day 9?)

Before long, she'd start writing down lots of ideas, such as hooking up with a recording studio and offering to give one of its clients a free photo session. The studio could hold a drawing and even advertise that fact in its display ads (which wouldn't cost the photographer a dime).

Or she could write and print a simple one-page newsletter filled with tips on shooting and marketing quality band photos. Whenever she encounters anyone who might be a possible customer, she'll offer to put the person on her mailing list for free.

By constantly adding to her list and regularly sending out newsletters, she'll keep her name in front of musicians. And when they need a photo, she'll probably be the first one they think of.

And what about our dinner theatre troupe with the new murder mystery? If the members took the same creative approach, they'd also have a list of innovative marketing ideas.

Perhaps they could arrange a series of free sample shows at local art galleries or coffee houses. That way they'd not only reach people in those locations during these free performances, but they'd get weeks of extra publicity through posters announcing the free shows.

Or what if they added some extra punch to their opening night party by getting local merchants to donate door prizes - maybe a stereo system, record store gift certificates or even a weekend trip through a travel agency?

And if something about one of the actors or maybe the subject matter of the show could be tied into a specific cause or charity, they may be able to use that to give the party an additional theme - and a great media hook, to boot.

By now I don't need to remind you, but I'll do it again anyway: Look beyond the tried and true. Stretch your imagination. Challenge your mind to come up with creative ways to get more people talking about you, covering you in the media and buying from you.

Opportunities are sitting right under your nose. All you have to do is look for them.

Commitment statement:

"When marketing and promoting my creative business, I resist the urge to stick only with obvious methods. There are gold mines of overlooked promotional opportunities waiting to be discovered. And I have an ongoing, burning desire to find them."

Today's Action Step

We're going to have some fun today and use a brainstorming technique to help us uncover some uncommon promotional tactics.

Turn to the next blank page in your journal. Draw a vertical line down the middle of the page. State your particular creative offering in two simple words. The photographer might write "Band Photos." The theatre troupe guy might write "Murder Mystery." Let's use the latter as an example.

Write "Murder" at the top left and "Mystery" at the top right. Free associate with the word "Murder" and under it write the first five words that come to mind. Do the same under "Mystery." Don't feel you have to stick with obvious references to the product or service. Go off on tangents. You may end up with a page that looks something like this:

    Murder           Mystery
     Killer               Suspense
     Chalk Line      Sphinx
     Detective       Sherlock
     Clue                Unsolved
     Butler             Blind Date

Now randomly pick one word from the column on the left and one from the column on the right. Put them together and see what ideas come to mind. Play with this and have some fun.

Let's say you combine Clue and Blind Date. This might lead to the idea of pitching your performances to singles groups. At the beginning of the night, each attendee is given a clue that can only be deciphered when matched with one other person's clue. Attendees must then discover who has their corresponding clue.

Next you combine Butler and Sphinx. This line of thought leads you to ponder someone who serves food in an exotic, faraway place. Then you might ask: What if our dinner theatre specialized in a specific type of ethnic food, instead of the predictable, standard fare? Italian murder mystery, anyone? How about Chinese dinner theatre?

Now that you're on a roll, you decide to match up Chalk Line and Sherlock. Instead of a body outline, you think about a classroom chalkboard ... then Sherlock Holmes. What if you held a contest to see who could draw a picture of Sherlock Holmes? The top 10 winners get free tickets and you get whatever free publicity is generated as a result of the contest.

I hope you're beginning to realize that good ideas are out there waiting to be discovered. You just have to motivate your brain to stretch to find them.

Happy idea hunting.

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