Artist Marketing Management by Simon Elam

For my last in-person semester at BYU-Idaho, I decided to stretch my marketing capabilities by expanding my freelance work to new clients and improving my effectiveness with current clients. I will tell you some of the challenges and successes I had in growing my marketing business over the past few months.

My goal starting out was to work with seven clients this semester, but I ended up working with just six:

Natalie Dixon – Dancer, choreographer, singer, composer, and actor in Buena Vista, Virginia

The Collars – Three-piece indie rock band with members based out of Virginia

Pine Cove Townhomes – Four-plex apartment complex in Buena Vista, Virginia

IROCK – Upcoming music label/venue in Rexburg, Idaho

Damon MacLeod – Country singer songwriter from Peoria, AZ, studying in Rexburg, Idaho

Mission 20:35 – Charitable organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, doing work in Kenya as well as Georgia

Working with these clients each came with different struggles and victories. Here are some of the main challenges I experienced:

  1. Developing a good workflow
  2. Analyzing which types of content works best
  3. Communicating effectively
  4. Collaborating effectively with a marketing team
  5. Identifying which channels work best
  6. Getting paid enough for the work

The first major struggle I had was simply managing my time.

Having just two clients back in April overwhelmed me to the point that I could barely keep up. My rough workflow at the time looked something like this:

  1. Meet with client to discuss goals and plans
  2. Film/create content for the client off and on for the rest of the month
  3. Meet with them again next month to evaluate and make more plans

Doing this for more than one client had me playing tag all the time, trying to stay current with very time-sensitive work, as it goes in the marketing field. In addition, I was getting paid weeks later than the due date.

I overcame this by implementing a staggered workflow schedule for myself with all of my clients:

  • WX: Meet with client to define goals
  • WXX: Craft plan, create content, and send to client for approval
  • W1: Implement plan, and send client the bill
  • W2: Monitor and update plan as needed
  • W3: Meet with client to revisit goals
  • W4/5: Craft plan, create content, and send to client for approval
  • Repeat starting with W1

The workload on weeks xx, 1, and 4/5 was heavy, and on weeks 2 and 3 was much lighter allowing me to alternate which clients I focused on for different time periods.

The next challenge I had to overcome was creating more effective content for my clients.

Originally, I started with each client by filming hour-long interviews and splitting that content into smaller video clips and picture quotes for social media, but I discovered after a couple months that those interview clips didn’t perform as well as I thought they would.

IG post analytics for Natalie Dixon

By reviewing the analytics, I was able to determine the type of posts that reached the most people and led to the most engagement with each of my clients. Surprisingly, oftentimes these would be the posts that didn’t look as well designed as some of the lower performing posts.

Natalie Dixon IG demographics
IROCK IG demographics

I then made target audience personas and created content more focused on reaching them based on what had worked in the past.

Another hurdle to work through was the sometimes very poor communication between myself and my clients, particularly those that included several band or team members.

Typically, I would send out content for approval, billing statements, and analytics reports both through email and through a Facebook messenger group, but not everyone would see it and reply in a timely manner.

I also attempted to use the content approval process with social media scheduling software Loomly, but too many people had trouble getting on board with it. In addition, some of my clients were hesitant to give me the content I needed to help them in fear of it getting used in an unapproved way.

It became clear to me that I needed to reset definite expectations for myself and my clients, what each of us needed to do to successfully market their product. I did this by 1) making a content/activities calendar template, and 2) writing an agreement to be signed by myself and each client.

I used this calendar format, filling out events, scheduled content, meetings, and more and sending to each client for approval before the billing cycle each month. This helped outline clearly how the upcoming month would look as far as all events and supporting marketing activities.

After consulting my media law professor Andra Hansen, I wrote out this simple contract laying out the guidelines for use of my clients’ content, milestones for planning, billing, and approval, and expectations for communication.

These two actions helped me organize myself more systematically and established clearer guidelines for communication with my clients. My clients could get a fuller picture of our plans and better work together with each other and with me.

Another challenge this semester occurred with some of the projects I worked on with other marketing team members, such as with IROCK, Pine Cove Townhomes, and Mission 20:35.

Always doing most or all of the work alone in the past, I struggled a bit to integrate my efforts with other marketers effectively.

In IROCK for example, we had a team of four and we frequently found ourselves doing redundant or inconsistent work for the social media channels. Sometimes we would work for a week and realize we had all been working on the same thing. Other times we would all post different things, making the Instagram page look junky and inconsistent.

This occurred to a lesser degree with Pine Cove Townhomes as my team member and I worked together to make several social media posts to promote the apartments and approve them with the owner.

The solution came after I attended a free Eventbrite Zoom conference about digital marketing. The speaker taught about the different roles in a marketing team, such as content marketer, visual designer, data analyst, SEO expert, and PR specialist.

I suggested to the IROCK team that we specialize our roles, myself taking on the logistics/scheduling role, another choosing visual designer, and another choosing social media specialist. Doing this helped us increase our effectiveness significantly and immediately.

My team member with Pine Cove Townhomes and I divided responsibilities; I focused on the social media images and copy and she made a video tour of the apartments. Together we made just a few posts that filled all the open spots at Pine Cove Townhomes.

Another learning experience I had this past semester was identifying the best channels for my clients’ needs.

With IROCK for example, we spent a lot of time trying to promote using only social media with limited results.

After monitoring this for a month or two, we decided to try other methods like passing out flyers and having acoustic “pop-up” performances around town. I then made an event entrance survey for one of our recent events to track where our attendees came from.

Doing this showed that most people came after a personal invitation from someone in the band or in the company. Also, from 63 flyers passed out, 3 people came.

With Pine Cove Townhomes, we found Facebook posts to “svuwhere”- a group dedicated to local Buena Vista questions- much more effective than posts to personal timelines.

The last challenge I faced in growing my marketing business was getting paid enough for the extensive work and long hours.

Since I started tracking hours on April 19th, I have worked 150 hours (as of June 19th). While not saying exactly how much I charged my clients, I offered a huge deal in order to get experience, averaging out to much less than $10 an hour.

This can be solved by raising the price and by working more efficiently. This is evident in the work I did for Pine Cove Townhomes. They paid the most and working with one teammate enhanced each of our marketing abilities. My work with Pine Cove Townhomes was by far the most time efficient, making more than double what I made with my other clients for each hour spent.

I will follow this pattern in the future by raising my prices and enlisting the help of other marketing experts to do the work needed.

I encourage any marketing, communications, or graphic design students who read this to connect with me on LinkedIn and share some of your work with me. Let’s help each other out.

In conclusion, my final in-person semester at BYU-Idaho has presented me with several unexpected challenges and successes in growing my marketing business. From developing an efficient workflow and analyzing content effectiveness to communicating and collaborating effectively, I have learned invaluable lessons that will propel my career forward. Identifying the most effective channels and ensuring fair compensation have also been essential aspects of my growth. Armed with these experiences, I look forward to joining the marketing field after graduation and delivering exceptional results for my clients.