Part 3: Are you paying attention?

So how do you know what to put out there and what not to? Today our society rewards the quick fix, the share without attribution, and ends in repeatedly being told this economy favors giving it away to get them hooked. Let’s investigate why that sort of fortune only favors the bold & vainglorious.

See Part 1: Everything you need to know about Publishing

See Part 2: Know Thyself and Thy Target

Everything you need to know about publishing cover crop

What you’ll learn:

  1. Everybody’s doing it, why can’t I?
  2. The average attention span on the web is miniscule
  3. How to find your worth when you feel worthless
  4. The only person who has the power is you
  5. Truth hurts, sometimes
  6. Let the power of analytics soften the blow (hint: It always points you in the right direction)

TL;DR: At 8 minutes to read, there is really no one way to sum this up neatly. If you don’t have those precious few minutes, then reading this isn’t going to make any difference or give you the time. Yet if you want to know why all your best attempts are failing, it is because you are using the wrong yardstick to measure your success. You also might not know what you are worth. Which means you probably should read beyond the blurb. This is about managing your expectations and theirs.

Everybody’s Doing It

There is no fighting a prevailing attitude that no matter what you do or make, any claim to fame in today’s climate requires a scheme that involves you giving a free sample to people as enticement for them to follow, like, or buy your art. It is the ultimate race to the bottom, and the only game guaranteed to fail.

Sure the concept is sound, and needs to be applied to every artist, product, and service out there today. In the Inbound Marketing circles that manifest in giving people a sample by creating a blog, crafting an infographic, or having an ebook they can download. This entire series is actually putting that theory to test. Answering the questions that are asked of us repeatedly by artists, entrepreneurs, and writers daily. Several of whom are friends, many clients, and others in this industry. None of whom have it figured out.

We are all just trying to do the best we can at any given moment, in a vast reorganization of resources, exposure, and an ever-decreasing attention span. Should you then simply reduce yourself to sending out only 140 characters? You are not Hemingway in search of the one true sentence, no matter how noble that approach seems. His real art was in his persistence and dedication to his craft, despite all of his other challenges. Today we’d have him creating 6-word stories & getting paid nothing because he just started. See this theory at work if you open Twitter,  watch as millions of writers are doing just that, filed under #amwriting.

Visual artists these days seem to have a degree in superfluous shock from Andy Warhol University. Each now chasing their 15 seconds of fame. Last year we had those fifteen seconds to get their attention, this year it has dwindled to a scant five.

Wait, I wasn’t finished!

So what does any of this have to do with your worth? Well if you are constantly making your brand or personal narrative about chasing that attention, you are going to lose every time. Lost support, shares, influence and buying power. Advertising models, of what now seem prehistoric variety, yet are always invoked, traditionally involve repeating the same thing over and over. Ad infinitum. Think of how many advertisements go completely unseen everyday. Yet someone paid a tremendous amount of money, creative teams spent tons of energy, and ad teams pitched endless hours to create something that went into an enormous black hole of constant bombardment that is life in the 21st Century. You don’t have the money or the resources to compete, and never will. You also don’t have to in today’s epoch.

With online advertisements, or even branding, you can measure it. Unlike relying on Nielsen to tell you what their sampling of households sees or watches. Almost every internet property allows you access to this free information. For most it is utterly depressing to review, because these dashboards quantify, they never qualify.

Before you get their attention you have to think like them. You must assuage the scenario you are familiar with, and replace it with what is most common. Sitting there crafting your message on a desktop, or on the fly with your mobile, even on the couch with a tablet doesn’t put you in the same place as the recipient. Thinking about them, requires a lot of time wondering what you are really offering.

What is your value [proposition]?

Your value is not what the market is willing to pay. It is also not determined by what others are doing. These are merely factors, in a complex set of determinants. Obviously your widget can’t be sold for a million dollars if an identical one is only 5 bucks at the nearest big box store. Yet the fashion industry thrives with knockoffs being a routine cost of business. Then enter the unicorn startup in Silicon Valley myth.

You are a creative, and as such we’re going to assume that there isn’t anyone out there making what you are offering. Also without invalidating that previous notion we are going to do market research of brands & people that are to many in the audience, doing exactly what you are doing. Both things can be true without making the other false.

If you pick anywhere from 3-5 brands/artists, from aspirational to not even in your league, and laid them out side-by-side reviewing their commonalities and their differences to your product, you’ll be well on your way. The key is to identify what sets yours apart. Choosing them because the average eye might think they are similar, not because you feel personally that they are. One might be what you hope to become, another hopelessly lost being what you’d never want to be.

That in marketing parlance is your value proposition. Comparison can be the thief of joy, and no one is more acutely affected by this than creatives. If your work is reductive, merely emulating another’s success, then you will need to refine. If you’ve not created it because you saw a need and a niche, then you are probably going to fail. Many do.

In today’s app economy this needn’t be the end. You are told to, not start again, but cycle-up in this lean strategy age which will then have you targeting better and delivering results. We’ll be damned if the entire whole of the tech world isn’t emulating a starving artist at this moment. With very deep pockets.

You still have the upperhand!

These dangerous bootstrapping myths, unqualified exceptionalism, and other folktale narratives have us chasing the wrong things and always end at the same point. In today’s paradigm your eyes and attention, and those that follow and are influence you are the real product. Which means that if you are to start earning from what you offer you have to treat that the same way the successful do.

Core principles for determining what you are worth are going to be clouded by whatever biases you already have. Branding exercises are ones in which you think expansively, not reduce it to what you already know. Otherwise they are a waste of your time and energy. You must do your research, but even by today’s standard it seems many people are honestly doing the Wiki researching, consulting their friends or followers, and not really eliminating their ego. If your research can’t inspire a crisis of your faith, then you might not be doing it right.

Today’s economy places the users or personal involvement center stage, businesses rise and fall on their ability to capture attention. Nothing else, not their ability to deliver you a well timed ad, or even create a lasting business model. They succeed purely on keeping an audience captivated. Know this and act accordingly.

Breaking Bad News To Yourself

It sucks. There are already so many out there. Yeah, but people don’t want that! Obviously these are just a few of the things we’ve heard. But take heart, all is not lost. Usually our advice to people feeling that is not to reflexively console their bruised ego, it is to issue the challenge: What can you do to set it apart? For each time you see  that comparison, you must also be able to critically see what is missing. Otherwise you aren’t going to make any progress.

We all can do better, and your fiercest competition included. Seeing these things in a discerning light will help you better understand your true value. As an example — GLEAMsocial’s mission statement, business plan, and value proposition intersect in one area. Being able to dispel the harmful notions, the self-help ideologies, and industry fictions that are rampant in the age of social media. We are not life coaches, nor are we business managers, although our clients might disagree. Soup to nuts approach to all the things that go into being a single entity trying to take on multi-national conglomerates is a very tiring thing and people need guidance.

Over 200+ Complex Equations

If you are calculating your worth solely by looking at what the market demands are, what the current forces will allow, and your cost-benefit analysis is only calculating costs today, then hire someone. If you are thinking about your customers and you don’t have at least 5 profiles of the common interactions and persons you will encounter, then you aren’t doing your homework. If your marketing plan includes Facebook or Twitter and you aren’t benchmarking results through analytics on a monthly basis at the minimum, or simply exist relying on what your email newsletter offers you in the dashboard, then you don’t really want to succeed. If you have a website and you occasionally use analytics but are completely unable to do anything other than quote the most commonly fetched statistics and not do some math in the process, or even better drill-down to find real inspiration-inducing comprehension. Then close up shop. Shut down your website, and deactivate all of those things.

You can become a success without those or our advice, but you are just as likely to trip over such success when you do hit it big. Happening most when you get noticed and someone you’ve been courting exerts their influence to connect you to your lifelong dream. That is the time when your lack of preparation or crystallized sense of worth will have you sell all your hard won dreams short. That is not the time to fall flat on your face. It is also no time to have go in search of the previous analytics.

If you think all the people who are internet famous aren’t also going broke, then you haven’t been paying attention. If all those millionaire YouTube stars have you down in the dumps then you haven’t visited their website. Research is priceless, but also the cost of doing business. One you cannot measure in how much time it took, but in how much you were able to learn. It is money you might not ever earn back, but it will clearly decide your worth going forward.

Write what you know is good advice, but in order to sell it you have to know what your readers want. That is an awful paradox, and this entire series has a few people in mind, clients both past, present, and future. It is modeled off of the advice given to mentees over the past few years, and honed by listening very strategically to their honest struggles, self-conscious pains, and life-long aspirations. Helping them see the biggest hurdle is changing your thinking about what your success looks like, how long it takes, and the energy you need to expend to get there. While not minimizing that it is ultimately an organic creation, that has life cycles, and useful but creative long-term strategies.

Part Four of this ongoing series is going to be a case-study in success. The never-remarked upon hurdles that face today’s creatives as they reach for a piece of this entrepreneurial pie.

Part Four →