Marketing. It’s a vague, distant word for many dancers, something that companies and corporations do, right? Not any more.
So many businesses and dance companies fail every year (the statistics are pretty depressing so we won’t go there). I have a hunch that often this has to do with more energy and resources allocated to producing, only leaving the left overs to marketing. I have first-hand experience with this.
I came to New York City ten years ago with $5,000 dollars in my pocket, without contacts, family, or even a job. I thought, like everyone else, that if I just worked really hard and put my best work out there, that I would succeed, that somehow, people would find me and want to work with me. If I just kept getting better, somehow just putting that energy out there would get me jobs and allow me to pay my rent. Yeah… no.
I got smart after my kids were born. I got a business coach. I started working the marketing. I hustled like I never thought possible (yes, while being sleep deprived and changing diapers, too!). I learned as much as I could about business. I got help. I read and I talk to other business owners about marketing strategies. And slowly, over time I built a business.
Dancers and dance companies are not any different.
I have come away after the last many years of being a pro photographer, appalled at the lack of business classes offered when I was in college. There were certainly none offered to me as a dancer and dance student.
But today is different. We are living in the world of social media.
Let’s face it, dancers don’t make a ton of money. I’ve been there. I know what your world is. So I’m committed to dancers and dance companies who need to maximize the hard work, time and investment you have spent getting to where you are.
Developing Your Brand as a Dancer
There are many elements of good marketing. Most companies think about their print, social media, Google ads and product placement, just to name a few. How does all of this translate to dancers?
Does it feel a little overwhelming?
Let’s begin by defining the question of how marketing relates to dancers in a different way.
For good marketing all the gurus out there talk about having in-depth knowledge of your product (in the case of a dancer, that’s you) and who your target audience or ‘ideal customer’ is.
Today, let’s take some time to explore the first part of the equation: knowing who you are. As dancers we often live in a world of negative comments, ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘she’s so much better than I am’ – the constant stream of daily corrections and judgment.
Please take that hat off now. Right now. Sure, those can be productive conversations to have, within context, to drive you forward and achieve your goals. However, those kinds of conversations do not serve you 100% of the time and now is one of those times. Put that little man on your shoulder to rest right now, you do not need his whisperings here.
Sit down and write a list of your strengths, all of them. Personality traits, dancing strengths, cool things you are interested in, quirky or unique characteristics, why your friends love you, why you are in love with beetle bugs… whatever it is, put it all down.
Now, sit with this for a day or so.
Come back again with fresh eyes and really see who you are on paper.
What are the areas that light you up?
What do you love?
What are the types of pictures, comments, articles, hangout places, cookies, performances, companies, that interest you and motivate you?
These help your audience get to know you.
Through your dance marketing, you will set up your ‘locker wall’ – your presence.
Think about the right time to start marketing yourself as a dancer. There are some schools of thought that it’s better for young dancers to focus on their craft, to have life experiences and wait until they are older and really have something to say before making themselves heard and putting themselves out there.
There are other thoughts that run the exact opposite, that one should start super early. Indeed we have all seen the Instagram accounts run by ‘mom’, with run-of-the-mill posts that don’t
have the voice of the dancer.
I don’t have all the answers here. I do know that dancers on a pre-professional tract need to start their personal marketing when they are a couple of years away from getting a job. I’m also a mom of two young girls and I cringe at seeing kids under twelve on social media, particularly with questionable pictures of backbends and crotch shots.
But I certainly don’t think, in the world we are living in, that you want to wait until you are a soloist in a company before you start sharing your voice, and your value.
Do you want to distract from your training and life by becoming obsessed with your marketing?
Certainly not. Please do not take these marketing tips as an excuse to take foot selfies between classes.
Do what feels right, a little bit at a time. And do consider the added value to your company when you are hired if you have a following that will buy tickets to come see you.
Do think about the workshops or classes that might add to your income in your off-season if you have a number of followers. We are here to disband the myth of the starving dancer, right?
Making Social Media Work for Your Brand
Social Media is a key part of today’s world on a personal AND professional level. You want to make sure you are developing your voice, your brand, and your presence on the different platforms out there. This will help you curate a sort of ongoing resume designed to self-promote and to help you reach your goals. When it comes to building your social media presence, there are a lot of steps to take including post strategy, engagement, creativity, and curation.
A while back, we had Elizabeth Eames, contributor for Businessing Magazine, hop on the blog as a guest writer, and she broke down 3 ways to make social media work for your brand. Here’s what she had to say:
1) Share Images
As Rachel explains so well on this blog, creating and sharing images that communicate who you are and the unique value you bring is critical to articulating and sharing your brand in a way that is clear, relevant and actionable.
Make sharing your professional images on social media a priority. Do so consistently and across social media channels. Use your images to help tell your story, promote your brand and engage with the people that matter most to you.
2) Share Your Experience, Insight and Ideas
As you have seen on this blog, your images are a great way to telegraph your personality to artistic directors, choreographers, funders and prospective clients. Your unique voice is another way to demonstrate who you are and what kind of value you bring to those with whom you work.
Create and link to your own unique content, including blog posts, observations, and conversations that you want to start. Use social media to connect your audience to your work across platforms, both online and off. If you are a dancer, talk about your performances and your classes and share ticket and event information to help engage your audience directly with you and your work. If you are a trainer or fitness professional, talk about the classes you teach, your training plans and successes you have shared with your clients.
Let your work and the brand you build around your work be the central point of conversation, always bringing your audience back to you as someone who provides real value – someone with whom they want to work.
3) Share Content that Matters to You
Sharing third party content, images, articles and blogs created by someone other than you, shows your social media audience that you are plugged in to your field and that you are engaged with new performances, emerging styles, new technologies and relevant art, fitness and wellness news.
Using your social media platforms to share third party content lets your audience know that engaging with you provides value for them. It also allows you to share content created by your audience, colleagues and prospective partners. All of this enables you to participate in the collaborative and mutually supportive opportunities that social media creates.
Sharing third party content, posting and sharing your own unique content and sharing your images all help you to leverage social media to build your brand, create and maintain productive relationships and communicate in ways that demonstrate your unique value by engaging your audience and motivating your audience to act.
Keys to Good Networking
Social media is not only useful for marketing yourself but also for opening the doors to networking. That being said, networking does not just mean growing followers or commenting on others’ content. Networking is much more. It’s about intent, sincerity, and using your resources and your ability to hustle to the best of your ability. The dance world is small enough that establishing connections, big and small, can really help pave the way for your career no matter what stage you are at in it. Here are some of the keys to good networking I have observed and encourage to all of you.
- Make eye contact
Do not waiver, indicate enough interest and intensity to be sure you will not be forgotten. This can be applied to an audition, an interview, even a casual conversation.
- Express appreciation
When the opportunity arises to mingle, make everyone feel like they were necessary and you are glad they were all there.
- Work the room
Make sure to connect and engage and take advantage of opportunities to get to educate yourself on your connections.
- Make a genuine connection
Show that you are interested in staying in touch with people and use your social media as a way to do so.
- Ask questions
Don’t be afraid of questions. Even if you don’t know what to say, find a way to ask a question and remain engaged in conversation whether that’s through social media, an in-person event, or over the phone/email.
Download Our 2018 Leotard Guide
I know you all are in the thick of auditions right now. Years of training, months of research and preparation, tons of money in travel (not to mention extra coaching and pointe shoes), an investment of time and emotional energy.
Piece of cake, right? But then, on top of it all, you also have to think about what you’re wearing. So let’s make sure you are wearing a leotard that you feel comfortable and confident in, balancing your body and showing it off in its best light.
Remember that the more you are distracted by your leotard, whether you notice how a seam breaks your line or you find yourself fidgeting with a strap, the less you will be focused on what is going on in the audition. Your energy should be used for performing, connecting with the directors and ballet masters, and being present and engaged.
Well here is our updated guide to help you find the leotard that will make you feel and look your best for auditions, shoots, in studio and out!
Resources to help put your best self forward…
BRANDS TO KNOW
Tanya Trombly (@bulletproof_ballerina) – professional dancer, personal trainer
The Whole Dancer
Jess Spinner (@thewholedancer) – former dancer, health and lifestyle coach for dancers
Dr. Linda Hamilton
Dr. Hamilton is a former New York City Ballet Dancer, a psychologist in private practice, and a contributor for Dance Magazine.
She has also written and contributed to a number of resources all about health and the dancer’s body.
Social Media Social Hour
Tyler has several podcasts that are interesting, have a look at his list before downloading to find the best marketing tips for you.
Social Media Marketing Podcast by Michael Stelzner, Social Media Examiner
Michael Stelzner is the man!
This American Life
This feed is about storytelling, not so much marketing. It’s a crucial tool used in marketing.
The Premier Dance Network
Professionals at every stage of their careers host a series of podcasts hosted on the Premier Dance Network. Topics range from dance history to health to career advice, and episodes tend to be pretty short.
One of my biggest missions in this industry is to help you as dancers find your place and achieve your full potential through how you market yourselves, what resources are at your disposal, and working together to get you the jobs you want!
For questions or comments, follow us and reach out on IG @rachelnevillephoto and on Facebook!
And for inquiries about booking your shoot, contact our studio manager, Frank, at firstname.lastname@example.org.