Recently I performed at the University of San Diego. A lovely young lady named Kate helped me out in the show. The next day she emailed me, telling me she appreciated me coming and that she enjoyed the show. She also asked me a question about my marketing strategy and how travel life works for me. I gave her a very long answer and I thought I would share it here. I hope you enjoy but most of all I hope you find inspiration.
First of all, I am so glad you enjoyed the show and I appreciate you saying so. Believe it or not, even after performing professionally for 8 years, a good word of encouragement is needed every now and again. I THRIVE off affirming words. However, as my wife can tell you, I am always in the process of seeking God’s approval above all others – a lifelong process. I just tell you this because glorifying the Lord is the most important part about my job. As far as your question about marketing, touring, etc., it is so hard to know where to start, but here goes…
The Lord has blessed me with an entrepreneurial spirit – something I don’t think everyone possesses. When you have an entrepreneurial spirit, no one really has to tell you, “this is how you go do it, and these are the steps to get you there.” Instead, you just know what has to be done and you go do it. Not that someone without the entrepreneurial spirit cannot be successful – they just have to work much harder at finding a process that works for them. Entrepreneurship is full of unknowns, challenges, risks and at times, complete let-downs. On the other hand, it is extremely rewarding.
I started out as a restaurant magician in Kansas City, hopping from table to table, just like I was doing in the cafeteria at the University of San Diego before the show. I actually started out doing 2 restaurants as a Kansas City magician. But to land those 2 jobs, I walked into 40 restaurants looking for work as a table-side magician. I actually started by calling restaurants and introducing myself. After about 5 calls I realized the phone wasn’t good enough – I had to go there in person. That’s when I dressed up, grabbed a deck of card and some homemade business cards and began driving around to various Kansas City restaurants, approaching general managers, trying to convince them that my services would be to their benefit. After many “NOs” I finally heard 2 “YESs.” (I tell you this story to make the point that no one was telling me what to do and how to do it – I just wanted a gig so bad I could taste it and nothing was going to stop me. THAT is the entrepreneurial spirit).
When I began the actual restaurant work, I would place my business card on the table after each “performance” whether the customers asked for it or not. Then the phone started ringing: I landed birthday parties, church events, school carnivals, and even some corporate work right away. I also cold- called high schools to see if they wanted entertainment for after proms and project graduations. And it worked. Over the next few years, I would continue to craft my stage show, develop a website, and formulate my brand, which is still evolving and always will be.
Many small business owners ask me how they can “get their name out there.” I heard Steve Martin address this concern in an interview that has helped shaped my marketing strategy. He said something along these lines (and I paraphrase) – “Don’t worry yourself about finding agents and how you are going to get your name out there. Just worry about being so good that people cannot ignore you.” And THAT has been my marketing strategy. I haven’t made a cold call in I don’t know how many years. 90% of the work that comes my way is from repeat clients and word of mouth. Maybe 10% of my business is a result of online marketing, and that is being generous. So, my “marketing strategy” has been first of all, to work to be as good as I can be. And second, to be sincere, genuine and appreciate people properly. My aim is to treat people well (the way Christ would) whether they are a client, competitor (another Kansas City Magician), family member or stranger on the street. And last but not least, prayer has been a big part of my “marketing strategy.”
I realize you are going into marketing. My story and my point isn’t to say that there isn’t a place for marketing. Companies need it. But for me, if I would have hired a marketing strategist years ago, I would have gotten my name out there before I was ready, and my skill level wouldn’t have matched up to the demands. For me, the natural progression of developing my craft has lent itself to “bigger and better” clientele. The application for someone who is marketing as a career would be to believe in what you are marketing for and to be involved in the process of brand development. If you don’t genuinely believe your product or service is superior, you will never be able to promote it with confidence and failure is a guarantee.
This may be a longer answer than you asked for – but I thought I would just say what was on my mind and hopefully you can pick something up from this. Even though you are not wanting to become an entertainer, many of these concepts are universal to any career path. Granted, my method of starting out will not work for everyone. You have to realize what you want, the best way to get it, and find your own way of getting there. If you are trying to follow someone else’s formula, you are doomed, because then when things aren’t working, you begin asking yourself, “So what do I do now?” But when you are creating your own path, hindrances don’t set you back – they are just motivation to keep trying harder.
For instance, about halfway through my process of trying to land the restaurant gigs, I became extremely discouraged. I remember pulling the car over into a parking lot and asking God, “What do I do if this doesn’t work out?” But at that point failure was not an option, and fortunate for me, I was not going off of a formula for success – I just kept doing what I thought needed to be done. And this process helped me seek God and trust Him for the answers. I am not saying we shouldn’t seek mentors, read books, listen to CDs and go to conferences, because I do all of that. I am just saying that we have to be careful to let one person, formula or concept completely shape our plan of action, goals and mindset. These should come from an accumulation of bits of advice, education, personal experiences and what your heart is telling you.
As for the touring part of what I do…
I do about 4 shows out of town every month. About half of those require a flight and the other 2 are road trips. Everything else is relatively close to the Kansas City area. I don’t necessarily tour – only on rare occasion am I doing 2 out of town shows in a row without coming home in between. I have two daughters – ages 2 and 4, and we are expecting our third. My wife and I agree that me going out of town is good for all of us – the time away makes us all appreciate each other more. But, I don’t like being away for very long. We are trying to find ways to be a family despite my travels.
Most of the time when I am on the road – they come with me. In fact, we are going on a road trip today for a show. They love hotels, mainly because of the pools! The University of San Diego show is the first time we have brought the kids on a plane. It wasn’t too bad. Also, we are considering homeschooling. That way, they will be able to come with me on trips when they can without having to worry about missing school. They can do their homework in the car or on the plane. I just don’t want my kids to say someday down the road that their dad was never around.
Geez, I’ve written you a book! I hope you can find some inspiration in all of this. Thanks again for your email and your question. It was great meeting you – and thanks again for helping in the show! You are a beautiful, bright young lady and I have no doubt you are going to be successful in whatever you do. Just remember to trust in the Lord. “I can do everything through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13