The 4 Essential Steps of Marketing & Branding

How does one move forward? By taking one step at a time. This reigns true in every endeavor, no matter how seemingly complex. If marketing and branding has ever confused you, then this should help. The approach that we will take together today will tackle this beast know as marketing and branding. With these four steps, you will be able to conquer this Goliath sized concept, and grow increasingly confident in your ability to market and brand yourself as a musician.

Before we get started, I would like to share something with you dear reader. I am an avid reader, and have come across many great resources over the years. After years of research, I have come across a set of books that I absolutely swear by; so much so that I have developed an actual curriculum around those books that I teach to my artist development students. I share that same knowledge with you within these blogs. My book of choice for marketing and branding is called “The Vibe,” and will be my reference book for many of the blogs involving marketing and branding. It is the book my students purchase for their one on one marketing and branding class, and if you would like to follow along you can get your copy right here at amazon (just shop for a new or used copy by looking under the fine print of the suggested price).

Now Let’s Talk Steps!

The business model for marketing and branding as it is laid out in the book “The Vibe,” focuses on four key words accompanied by a question. Answering these questions will help you better understand the direction you want to go in and better articulate what you stand for. Know this; as a musician, it is very important to know what it is you stand for and communicate that to your audience. So you are going to want to make sure you are solid on this before you begin putting your message out there. Let’s take a look at step 1:

Target: “Who are you aiming for?”

If you have ever been to the range, then you know just how important it is to line up your shot before you start blasting away. Randomly shooting does not require any skill, but good aim does. It takes away getting the desired result by chance, and instead utilizes your resource (which in this case is a bullet) to it’s fullest potential by guaranteeing its effectiveness. This concept can be applied for marketing and branding as well; so ask yourself…

“Who am I aiming for?”

As you know all music is not for everyone. You may have heard the argument that the top 40 is not suitable music for the ears of our youth. I have made such argument myself, but here’s the thing…

Children are not the target market group for the top 40 on the billboard charts. At this point it is up to you as a parent to govern what your child or children listen to. Adults sing about adult concepts and it is not up to them to tailor everything they make to be appropriate for children. However, I am a strong believer in musicians being what I like to call “a responsible artist,” but we’ll save that conversation for another blog lol.

When trying to figure out your target market, here are a few examples of ways to narrow that down:

* Age
* Gender
* Ethnicity
* Geographical location
* Size
* Special interest/hobbies

Think categories. Your target audience will fall into one or several categories, and it doesn’t end with the list above. These are just a few examples to get your brain going. Another word for it is finding your “niche market.” A niche is a common interest amongst a group of people. There is a niche for virtually anything; if you can think it, then there is probably a niche market for it. Your job is to figure out your specific niche and create a plan to reach that audience.

Product: “What do you do?”

Step two is pretty self explanatory; and if you have found this blog as a result of a google search, then I can safely assume that you are most like a musician, at which point your product is very obvious…it’s your music. Here is where some people may get pigeon holed. Although you are a musician and your product includes the basics such as:

* Cd’s
* Concert tickets
* Posters
* T-shirts
* Insulated coffee mugs (maybe…anyway you get my drift)

Don’t just stop there. Remember, you have the ability not only to be a brand but a mogul. Expand your horizons! If you are an amazing baker, sell your delectables at your show or give them away for free to anyone who buys a poster. If you are an excellent drawer, do a raffle for those who purchase your album and the winner gets a customized portrait of themselves drawn by you! Or you can conduct your very own art gallery where you and your band performs and you can sell your awesome still shot photos of nature. As your brand grows, so should your product offers. Evolve with your brand and never allow yourself to stay doing the same old thing…get creative.

Position: “What should people think of you?”

Ordinarily, obsessing over what others think about you is detrimental to your sanity; but when marketing, there is a very healthy way to approach this concept. You wield the power to positively influence the thoughts of your audience within your niche as it relates to you and your brand. So now ask yourself this…

“When my target market thinks of (enter your stage name here), what do I want them to think about?”

A very powerful question to ask yourself. Your brand should create a “feeling” for your audience. If they are apathetic towards your brand, it means that you are not memorable enough to them. So here are a few brain joggers to help you narrow down your position:

* What feeling do I want my brand to evoke in my fans?
* What do I stand for?
* What movement can I create within my target market that represents what I stand for?
* How would my audience describe my brand if they were asked to do so by a stranger?

Dig deep here. You want to get into the mind of your audience at this point and view yourself the way they see you. Try not to see it from your point of view; you are a legend in your own right according to your eyes, but your target market may not share that same sentiment. Do not rush step three. Take your time and really think about this, because whatever you decide is your position will stick with you throughout the life of your brand. It is strongly not advised to change your position once it is determined and communicated to the masses; doing so will diminish the trust in your brand.

Another reason why knowing your position is so important is because you can’t expect your audience to know something about you and your brand that you yourself don’t even know. People are “sheeple” ; they follow suit with the crowd (also known as mob mentality). Guide them into your world and tell them how to view your brand. This may sound like a mean concept, but this is the soul of branding. It does not mean that your target market is dumb, it means that you are taking control of your image and how you want to be perceived by telling them directly what to think every time you make contact with them.

If you choose not to define your position, you also leave room for others (including record labels) to define who you are. Being clear on your brand before signing with a label is the best thing you can do for yourself as in indie artist. The labels will have a hell of a time trying to bully you into their idea of what you should be, and you will be able to make a clear stance on how you want your image to be perceived. As the saying goes, “Stand for something or you will fall for anything.”

Promotion: “How will you spread the word?”

At this point, we’re talking methods. This is where you get to have fun, because there is virtually no wrong way to get your message out there. I won’t spend too much time talking about promotion because I highlight a variety of creative marketing strategies and examples within my previous blog so feel free to check that out. The most important thing to remember here is think outside the box. Do the unexpected. Cater to the five sense of your audience and try to engage as many of those senses as you can all at once. Create an experience; let them feel and touch your brand if possible. Evoke an emotion. Allow them to attach to a concept or an idea and tether their hearts to it. Thinking this way goes beyond a billboard or a radio ad, you are looking to create a personal experience. Promote in such a way that your audience feels you are talking to only them. Make them feel special because they are, and in doing so your brand will become special to them as well.

With these four essential steps you have all you need to begin drafting a thorough outline of your marketing plan. Need some feedback? Then leave a comment and let me know that you have a draft prepared and you would like my opinion on it. You can send your drafts to I look forward to seeing what you come up with my friend!

Happy Marketing!

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