Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Search for Silver Bullets

"In folklore, a bullet cast from silver is often the only weapon that is effective against a werewolf, witch, or other monsters." ~ Wikipedia

This past week when I interviewed artist Robin Maria Pedrero I wanted to comment on something she said that I thought especially noteworthy. This blog post is an attempt to underline it and add some thoughts of my own. I had asked about her influences and she stated, "I studied both Salvador Dali and Picasso, interested in the expanse of their creativity and skills and their incredible business sense."

Abraham Lincoln once said, "If we would first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it." I doubt Lincoln was thinking about artists or writers when he said this, but the advice still holds.

Too often we simply blunder forward without a plan. Many people have found early success simply on the sheer force of their personalities. Eventually, without a plan they will come up against a wall or end up in a corner.

Lincoln observed that we need to have a clear understanding of where we are first, before we act. A lot of energy is wasted because we do not take the time to figure out what is really happening. By this I mean, what is our situation? Why are we doing what we do? Who are our customers? What is their opinion, if any, of our products and services? 

In short, if we want to make a living and be artists, writers or musicians, we need to recognize that our "business" exists within a context.

In my three decades of experience thinking about marketing related problems -- in business, not as an artist -- a number of observations have impressed themselves upon me so that they have now become personal marketing principles. Among these I include the well-worn maxim, "There are no silver bullets."
I know that a lot of business people wish there were indeed a silver bullet, a top secret marketing tip that they might be privy to. This would help them find relief from having to do any further homework, any further study or thinking or work.

When you stop and think about it, virtuosity in any endeavor is the result of a hours of practice, preparation and sweat equity. Some people have natural abilities, but unless sharpened and honed the most gifted musician, athlete or sales professional will falter. Applying oneself to think from a marketing point of view is not natural to many of us. It is a skill, however, that we can learn.

Unfortunately, most books on marketing are an attempt to chronicle universal truths that apply to all businesses. They do not and can not necessarily address all the particulars of our specific situations, especially for artists. Each of us exists within a different set of circumstances. Thus we must each do our own homework to think through how this principle applies to where we're at individually.

Then again, maybe you make art or write or make music for reasons other than money... like, because you love it. I certainly do. And as soon as I think that what I'm doing as a commercial venture it puts me in a very different space, which I'm not sure I really like.

It would be nice if we could solve all our problems with a silver bullet. Then again, silver bullets only seem to work in fairy tales.

Be sure to say "Happy Father's Day" to dad.... or give him a hug if you can. We really like that kind of stuff.

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