It is nothing new that this business of music is highly competitive, especially now. And at the end of the day, the best marketer will “win” - whether intentionally or accidentally. I don’t know about you, but I want to understand how to do things and get things done intentionally. So I study, observe, and pore over as much as I can. I’m always learning and applying things I learn. And the lesson in marketing that I’m getting ready to share with you is one that I wish I learned years ago. The lesson surprised me. But, better late than never.
Before I go into it, I first need to say that what I’m getting ready to share does not apply if you do not have a truly good product in your hands to bring to the public. I should also note here that a good product is automatically crappy when it is marketed/delivered to the wrong target audience. So, before any of what I’m getting ready to share matters, you MUST have a good product and you MUST know who your target audience is and market to them.
I used to be afraid of always talking about my music to people, whether it was online or offline. Mainly because I was afraid I would annoy and lose them. I found myself in a dilemma of sorts because the promotion of my music was inconsistent as result. And inconsistency doesn’t breed success. So I had to check myself. I was taking this music thing too personally. I needed to step back and be a bit more objective with my career. I needed to think like a businessman. After all, I’ve spent 6 years building my own marketing company up to that point.
As I understood business, when you have a good product, the main task at hand is to figure out ways to let your target audience know it exists and raise your product’s profile in their lives. That is your focus. You are the owner. You are the marketer. The success of that product is in your hands. And, being in music makes no difference. If I ever want to make this passion my “9 to 5”, I had better pull it together. What I’ve found is that it took just as much creativity to be in business as it did to make music. Both requires you to take what is seemingly nothing and make it into something. Except when it comes to the business side of things, your job is to make your music, which at the start is nothing in the mind of a consumer, become something meaningful to that consumer. And the key to great marketing is one word: frequency.
Great marketers know how to keep their products in front of their target audience constantly, especially when their market is a particularly competitive one. They have to constantly make an impression on their target audience - constantly making an impression on someone new and constantly reminding that person their product exists. Not only do they need to let people know about their product, but they needed to do it with frequency.
I came across a video interview with Miles Copeland (the man behind the success of I.R.S. Records and The Police) on ArtistsHouseMusic.org that really helped drive this home for me. In it, Miles talked about the importance of maintaining gross impressions. He shared a compelling account of how Coke decided to cut their ads because they thought it was unnecessary because everyone already knew who they were. The next day, sales dropped and Pepsi gained ground on them. Pepsi became more ingrained in people’s mind - their profile raised in the lives of the public because Coke dropped out. Miles Copeland goes on to say that when an artist manager talks to him about overexposure, he looks at them like they have two heads. Miles doesn’t believe in overexposure in this day and age. His compelling argument made me ask myself two very important questions. Has anyone ever gone out of business because of overexposure? Umm…I couldn’t think of one. Has anyone ever gone out of business because of underexposure? Plenty!
It dawned on me. I had been irrationally afraid. Afraid to annoy people. I was sucking at marketing my music as a result. Sure, like many of us, I thought I was being noble and a gentleman in how I’ve been communicating about my music. Now, I just realized I was being foolish. And foolish for two reasons: First, I was insecure. My music was too personal and I did everything I could to avoid rejection in any ways I thought unnecessary. Secondly, I did not understand human nature. Great marketers aren’t afraid to annoy people because they understand human nature (or better said, the nature of human response).
So I had been operating out of fear. And acting out of a bad emotion usually does not yield good results. The fear is understandable because we’ve all experienced someone unsubscribing to our mailing list or “un-liking” our Facebook fan page or “unfollowing” us on Twitter. And I don’t know about you, but it made me cut back on my communications for fear I was annoying people - for fear more would unsubscribe, unlike, or unfollow me. But, that fear was irrational. After all, the majority of the people were still with me. They didn’t mind my frequent communications. In marketing, you cannot afford to act according to the objections of a few, but only according to the behavior of the majority.
Then, there was also the non-responsiveness from people who received my emails or saw my posts. Automatically, I assumed they didn’t care and that I might be annoying them if I kept at it. So I stopped the frequency of my communications. This was all out of insecurity. Again, I acted out of a bad emotion and it yielded inconsistent marketing results. Because the truth in marketing is this: a non-response is not a negative response. In fact, it usually means that the people are still in their discovery and decision making process. Some people can follow you and be aware of you for a long time before they decide they are going to buy your product. Think about this as a consumer - you know you’re the same way.
“Wow,” I thought, “I’ve been stunted by my own irrational fear and insecurity.” How could I have let this happen? I own a marketing company! Let me tell you how. I didn’t think with my head when it came to marketing my music. Make music with your heart, but you need your head to market it correctly. You need to think objectively.
Act according to facts and not assumptions. And the fact of marketing is this: you must constantly remind people of your music’s existence. Everyone is busy with many things. Like any other product in a competitive marketplace, if you want a good shelve space in their minds and a place in their lives, you must with much frequency remind them you’re there.
Suppose you do annoy some people. Let me leave you with a known fact in the marketing and advertising world that surprised me: If you have a good product, after annoyance usually comes loyal acceptance.
Even those who leave you because they were annoyed will come back once everyone around them is raving about you. They’ll say, “Oh, I was there when they started. I always knew they’d make it!” You’ll wanna show them a pretty bird, but you’ll forgive them because you realize: It’s human nature. Great marketers know this. I want you to take a look at a graphic piece below that was part of a press kit for an advertising campaign I was considering doing with the Washington City Paper. It’s a piece of advice from a nineteenth century businessman that still holds true today. Big brands understand this. Coke paid the price for not heeding this. Great marketers aren’t afraid to annoy and you shouldn’t be afraid neither. Just how frequent do you need to make an impression on your target audience? You’d be surprised. But note what happens after the 7th impression (which is when they get a little irritated).
Minh is an artist, producer, and entrepreneur based in the DC area. His official site is www.reachminh.com.