This post is part of Brian Tate’s series, The Seven Elements of Strategic Marketing: Tools for Artists to Advance Their Careers and Communities. Read Part One: Marketing Is Storytelling, and Part Two: The Story Chooses Sides.
On Tuesday September 27, Brian Tate leads his Professional Development Program Webinar, “The Seven Elements of Strategic Marketing,” which examines these elements, and how we use them to advance our communities and careers.
Like most journeys, marketing strategy can be broken into a series of steps. They begin with choosing a path.
Make a Self-Inventory: The first step is to make a self-inventory of what’s important to you, why you’ve chosen a certain path to pursue it, and just how far you’re willing to go. The results of that examination will form the arc of your Story, and it can help you connect with like-minded others. The next step is to define the qualities or intentions that link your work to a tradition, yet also set it apart.
Strengthen the Core: Marketing campaigns are reflexively aimed at a Target Audience, but the people who make up your Core community are more important. In promoting a destination, for example, the pivotal audience isn’t visitors, but residents. If locals have a stake in the place, they will become its boosters, but if they don’t feel excited about being there, no one else will. If the message is made with craft (e.g. “I Love New York”), visitors will want to experience the place for themselves.
This may seem counterintuitive, but the Target Audience is secondary: without a strong and evolving Core, we have nothing.
Identify With Your Target Audience: People find themselves in your Target Audience because you want something from them: a show, a sale, an introduction, a spotlight. But is there a harder way to approach someone than to want something from them? Once you’ve voiced this desire, there are four questions they will ask, perhaps silently: Why this, why now, why me, and why you? Once you’ve responded, a bigger question awaits: Why should they care?
Now see the world through their eyes. Think of the many consumer, political, and charitable appeals you receive every week, if not every day. Add to them the barrage of event notices, street solicitations, and social media requests. Why do some merit a response and some don’t?
Now rethink your pitch. When you make it without the benefit of a referral or the knowledge of opportune timing, how do you make your case? Do you even have a card to play? Yes. An effective outreach will appeal to their values, their self-interest, or both. It will have relevance and take its time. It will start a conversation with something grander than, “I want.”
Bring the Target Into the Core: The goals of our communication are bigger than any deal, project or sale (that may not even occur for reasons outside our reach). We want to start a conversation that can grow. We want to truly see and be seen. We do this by communicating what we’re doing and why, and by giving the listener a stake in our success: in short, by building community. In marketing, this is called bringing the target audience into the core audience.
To pin this down further, say you’d like to meet a curator who is unknown to you. Research her shows, curatorial statements, and interviews. Join her mailing lists, attend her events, and link with her on social media. If you feel there is a real match between her interests and yours, contact her and tell her that. Make a proposal. It doesn’t matter if the connection between you is slender. We are multifaceted people, and our stories are made of many parts. If you think an alliance could be of value, then you can cultivate even a patch of common ground. Expose her to your work, yes, but also to the Core community that could back your alliance. Then let her find her way into that community.
That is what Jobs, Cochran, Bush, and Obama did: they bonded with Core supporters, then appealed to Target Audiences with whom they shared at least one bit of common ground. Those targeted others – consumers, jury members, world leaders, journalists, or voters – may have had their own read on events, but at the moment of truth they sided with the Core loyalists. Even when that alliance was brief, it was decisive.
As artists, we can study those events for strategies to advance our communities and careers. The challenge is to discuss our work in a way that will attract others even as we make no investment in how they respond – if they respond. Everything isn’t for everyone. Marketing can heighten visibility and clarify intentions, but it can’t govern how people will react. Once the art has reached its audience, we can get out of the way and let things occur. The work will do its work, or it won’t.