December, 2016

The Planet

No matter if it’s a record label or tech company, CEO or musician – I find that most people have issues in one simple, but difficult area: Balance.

The majority of my work centers around the concept of balance. For instance, my view on the 70-20-10 rule in social media.

This “rule” states that you should split up your content with 70% branded, 20% third party, and 10% direct sales.

Because if you post too much sales – you become spammy. If you post too much branded content – you become one dimensional. And if you post too much third party stuff – you become so random that folks miss your message.

However, the idea of balance in business goes far beyond what we post on our social media feeds. It plays into our overall business philosophy and mission. I often speak on a very promising (and funded) record label that had to fold after they invested so much in pay-for-play shows, and pay-for-post blogs that they just didn’t have the capital to continue operating. I’d certainly say their shift of balance was far too aggressive.

They wanted quick wins – instead of slow paced movement, which would have resulted in a strong organic following. On the flipside, I’ve worked with app or tech companies, that were more interested in a certain phases of product development,  or pitching an investor – that they never focused on rolling their product out appropriately. I’d wager that their shift of balance was far too loose. Or maybe too aggressive in one aspect – that they never saw the forest for the trees.

As we venture into a new year – we must actively analyze our actions and ensure that we are balancing our work appropriately.

Here are a few aspects of our lives as artists and entrepreneurs, and how we can ensure we are well balanced and well oiled for our journey.

Meditation: It’s more than just sitting.
Photograph via Pexels

A Quick Story.

There’s this beautiful but simple story that stems from Buddhism – and comes from the Buddha himself. It’s really defined how I approach my management and marketing projects.

A sitar player, after struggling with his meditation practice, asked the Buddha for advice. Buddha answered with a question,

“What happens if you tune your sitar too tightly?” the Buddha asked.

“The strings will snap,” the musician replied.

“And too loose?” the Buddha followed up.

“Then no sound will be made at all,” the musician answered. “The string that produces a tuneful sound is not too tight but also not too loose.”

“That,” said the Buddha, “is how to practice: not too tight but not too loose.”

Apply this to spirituality – but also to business, relationships, personal goals.

Too tight, you break. Too loose, you fall apart.

“The string that produces a tuneful sound is not too tight but also not too loose.”

Balance in Marketing.

I would say that a good 70% of poor marketing – comes from impatience. This is especially true in the artistic markets – where “image” and “persona” are incredibly important. We want the blog coverage, we want the opening slot, we want the follower count. This impatience leads us to pay for performances, invest in “blog placements” (not PR), and throw cash at other things so we can “look the part”.

While branding is very important – being too focused on the “look” rather than your ROI (return on investment) will lead you down a bad path. Because for every bit you invest in your career, there needs to be a way you can see a return on that expense. You need a proper mix of doing things for brand awareness alongside doing tasks for a financial or realistic goal.

Brand awareness without strategy is a key indicator of an imbalance in your marketing. Here’s a few more specific examples:

  • Your Marketing Roll-Out. 

Follow it too closely? You get tunnel vision that blocks opportunity.

Too loosely?  Your roll-out never… rolls out.

Too Tight.

I often create what I call a “Happy Meal” roll-out for my clients. We call it the Happy Meal because we know that when we do a roll-out, they get the same things each time. Just like with a Happy Meal you know you’re getting a burger, fries, toy and a drink. So, when you release a new product – you’ll have a set list of items, too. A press release, a series of Twitter and Instagram ads, a count-down until the launch, and so forth.

But remember – there’s more than one Happy Meal type, right? Sometimes you want the McNugget meal, other times the cheeseburger.

Your roll-outs will shift, they’ll change. Sometimes they will need a bit more of one thing, a little less of another. We’re prepared, but we don’t follow the plan too tightly (because sometime the toy sucks, or the fries are cold) – so we switch it up.

I often see artists and companies have one goal – and they get so caught up in that one goal, that they miss other opportunities. For instance, a lot of artists want the record deal, they want to impress the A&Rs or the “influencers”. They become so attached to that one “vision of success” that they overlook tactics to engage the fans they already have. I often recommend that artists target selling 500 $30 t-shirts to their fans, rather than worrying about engaging labels early on. The same can be said for an app who’s so bent on finding investors, that they lose the momentum found in marketing to fans.

Labels are great – investors are great – goals are vital, but we cannot become so attached to our man-made perception of what success looks like – that we forget the audience that is right in front of us.

We become like a fish, who’s dying of thirst. Don’t forget what’s right in front of you.

Too Loose.

On the flipside – I see a lot of artists and entrepreneurs who just hope that their music/product/app “speaks for itself”. However, if your product is just collecting dust in the corner of Soundcloud or the app store – does it really make a noise? How can it speak?

Every project needs a roll-out plan. This could be an in-depth one with media lists and messaging already pre-written, or it could be a “plan on a page” that just has a brief PR and ad spend strategy. Nonetheless, a roll-out plan is certainly needed for progress.

  • Your Social Media

Too tight – folks tune you out. Too loose – folks forget you’re a brand.

Too Tight

As I alluded to earlier in this article – if you post too much of any “one” content type, you’ll come off as uneven. Too much sales posts? Spam. Too much third party content? Too random. Too much branded content? One dimensional. You need a viable mix of the three.

While I used 70-20-10 as an example – even that should be taken as a suggested rather than a set-in-stone formula. (Balance, remember?)

I also think that there’s a robotic nature that comes when forcing yourself to be a certain way online. Be aware of how you’re writing, speaking and showcasing yourself online. If you feel unnatural or like you’re pushing something – address it! And tweak accordingly.

A few other examples of “too tight” would be a brand using product placement to mourn a public figure’s death or tragedy. Or maybe a personal figure (an artist or CEO), who spends so much time talking about their brand that people see them as a 24-7 spokesperson rather than someone or something they can genuinely connect with.

Too Loose

There are some artists and companies who’ve come to me for consultations – and when looking at their social channels – I see so many memes and articles that I never learn what they do and what they are about. While it’s imperative to post content that shows your personal/fun side (even for a brand) – don’t forget the reason you have social media: to engage a fan base and create brand awareness that eventually results in your goals (sales, sign-ups, and so forth).

Another “loose” category could be the types of content you’re putting out. Is it well.. lazy? Are you posting unique content from your blog? Or just sharing links and third party articles all day? Are you setting up an impersonal auto-responder – or are you actually taking the time to write personal posts? These things matter. That extra effort takes you a long way.

  • Your Sales Strategy

Too Tight – you burn out or lose focus. Too Loose – you never get it going in the first place.

Too Tight

I think a lot of entrepreneurs are caught here. We want to take it all on – we want to establish 62 ways to bring in income just within a few weeks of launching a project. But even “good” opportunities should be approached with caution. I see many artists as well as companies that launch six or seven arms to bring in income – the product itself, some merch, a production arm, a licensing arm. Income streams are vital (I even wrote a book on it!) but let’s establish our main product before we branch out into more.

If you have an app or an album – let that be the focus. Finesse your album into a tour, focus on selling the album and licensing the album. Garner traction – build milestone one as high as you can before moving on to milestone two. Hell, build milestone one up so tall – that milestone two is optional.

Too Loose

This goes back to the sentiment I’ve been echoing all along – some of us just wait for a label to approach us, an investor to approach us, or a service to go viral. But no. You need to hit the grounds – you need to be talking with media, and perfecting your social media strategy.

Like I said before – if you have 1,000 social media followers, work on converting that into sales. 500 $30 t-shirts is $15,000. Hell, even 1,000 $5 mobile app sales is a pretty little profit.

Don’t wait. Work.

Balance is vital, not only in action, but in mindset.
Photograph via Unsplash

Balance in Mind.

While it’s imperative that your footwork is balanced – it’s even more essential that your mindset is balanced. A lot of what we’ve already mentioned begins mentally. But let’s dig a little deeper.

Here’s a few ways you can balance mentally and make your mental approach streamlined and simple.

  • Simplify Your Outreach

I love a good algorithm and life-hack as much as the next guy. But in a world full of auto-responders and copy/paste email pitches – do you know what makes a good impact? Being a real human being.

Genuinely reaching out to a writer or a potential vendor and just being authentic about who you are, what you do, and what your goals are goes a long way. Same with your “brand” online – too much of a persona, you become a gimmick. Too little of one? You fall apart.

Be real and be who you are. When you pitch press, write a personal email – talk about why you chose to reach out to THEM as a person. Maybe it was an article they wrote? Maybe it was a tweet you liked? Let them know. Connect with them.

  • Realize That Success Isn’t ABC.

We must also find balance in how we react to our wins and losses. Success isn’t going to look like ABC. Sometimes you’ll be at A for a few days, then D, then J for some reason – then back to B. It’s not always a logical process.

One day you’ll be headlining a festival, but the next you’ll be trying your hardest to keep the attention of 6 patrons at some dive bar. One week you’ll have a huge media mention and a spike in app downloads, but two weeks later, you’ll be struggling to get a retweet on Twitter.

This is just how it goes. But stick with it – ensure that you are improving just a little at each step, and you’ll be golden. Every “milestone” or “victory” for an artist or company isn’t just one single win. Rather, it’s a thousand tiny victories stacked on eachother. The Grammy win is made up small victories in production, marketing and creative. Meeting the sales goal is made up of the small improvements made in marketing, outreach and branding.

It’s not always ABC, 123. But if you improve at each step – you’ll progress.

  • React To Reality. 

The above bullet point is just a fancy way of saying: See how people are reacting and adjust.

If folks are liking a single or a feature more than what you planned – react accordingly. You may have hit the road on a tour, or released a geo-targeted app – and found some surprising results. I had a client from central California who released a product with ads that were geo-targeted to Southern California and South Texas.

We were surprised to see that after a few weeks – we saw a huge boom in Mexico. Like, all of Mexico. Not just near the border.

Organic Mexico-based press mentions, organic Mexico-based social conversations. Was great, but we had some local events we needed buzz for. So, we could have easily steered this around and put our focus back in the US – but no. We decided to give our international fans some love, too. We started including Spanish Twitter ads, we began finding vendors near our hottest Mexican cities to further that push.

Of course, we kept pushing in the US and made momentum in the states, too. But don’t ignore what’s facing you.

This is a very specific example. Yours will be different. Maybe a certain piece of unexpected content is working well on your social channels. Or maybe a certain page on your website is visited more than others. Be aware of your results, and move accordingly.

Action Items:

I’ll never give advice or point out a marketing mistake – without ensuring I give actionable items that follow. So, here we go.

  • Define your content strategy. Look into the 70-20-10 rule. But also realize – that even that, is just a guideline.
  • When you’re approaching a marketing roll-out or opportunity – remember, “too tight and you snap, and too loose you don’t make a sound”.  Follow the plan but adjust as needed.
  • Be personable and authentic in your marketing and conversations. It’s a lost art that takes you further than you realize.
  • Realize what’s a genuine obstacle – and when it’s all in our heads. Ask yourself: Is this really impeding my growth? Or is it just different from what I envisioned success to look like? 
  • Have fun. Yep – sure – if you eat too much you get sick, but not enough you remain hungry. But remember – we signed up for this business or this art to enjoy ourselves. Don’t forget it.

A Visual Meditation on Balance:

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