fanbase

How to grow your audience | Promoting your creative work doesn’t have to feel sleazy

Promote your creative work without feeling sleazy | STOP skipping steps in the audience journey and grow your audience

Ok, so you’ve got a new project out—or maybe the release date is bearing down on you like a freight train.

You need to put a spotlight on it. You need people to know, to get interested, to buy. You need to grow your audience.

So, what do you do?

→ Post a few times on your social channels: “Hey it’s out! Order now!” ?
→ Send an email to your list—or does that feel weird because you haven’t emailed in forever? …And what would you say?

You can’t just throw up your hands and give up.

But it also feels impossible to actually do anything.

You’re not a sleazy marketer, and this all feels so abrupt and out of character!

Here’s why:

Imagine you’re standing on a street corner holding your creative work…a book, a comic, a CD of a podcast or music, a portfolio, a painting, whatever it is.

Grow your audience by letting people get to know you, like you, and trust you. Yelling at them doesn't work!
Oh, look, it’s my book about vampires.

You’re holding it up and yelling, “Hey, buy my thing! It’s about vampires! I spent five years on it! It’s really important to me! I love vampires! Ten dollars!”

The vast majority of passers-by would cross the street rather than have to talk to you. Strangers don’t trust that your thing is worth their time and money. Why should they? They don’t know you, and that makes it impossible to like or trust that what you’re offering will be something work their attention.

How different is that feeling from sitting down at a coffee shop with your best friend and proudly announcing you’ve finished your new thing, that they’ve been hearing about since it was a tiny baby idea?

That’s why you may sell to a few friends and family, but no one else perks up when you post your new release on Twitter.

Before you set out to grow your audience…

Before you start asking anyone to commit money… and for many cultural products, even more important: before you ask them to invest time… you need to have built a bedrock relationship with your audience.

They need to know what they’re going to get from your work. They need to know how it’s relevant to them.

And getting to that point is a process with three distinct stages.

Friends buy from friends

Step one is to understand this key concept:

“All things being equal, friends buy from friends. All things being unequal, friends buy from friends.”

Sales coach Kendrick Shope

What does making “friends” look like in the context of sharing your creative work and growing your audience?

A friend is someone who knows you, likes you, and trusts you

Don’t talk to strangers.

Don’t accept a lollipop.

Definitely don’t get in the car.

You learned these rules when you were five, and, if you’re like most people, you probably still basically follow them.

Even if you’ll talk to strangers, it makes you nervous. What if you get stuck with someone who turns out to be boring or annoying or who you just really don’t like?

You’re not taking that lollipop.

And you’re absolutely not taking a road trip.

Who do you willingly go on a journey with? Someone you know, for sure. Someone you like. Someone you trust.

And how do you know that you know, like, and trust someone enough to take a trip with them?

Because you’ve had many interactions with them over time, and they’ve proven to you that they’re good traveling companions: they’re interesting, thoughtful, helpful.

If you want your future Fans For Life to show up at the destination (i.e. buy your work), you have to help them get to know you a lot earlier on so that they’ll get in the car in the first place.

You still have to ask them to take the road trip with you. If you want to sell to an audience…you have to actually sell to them. You’d be surprised how often people don’t do this and hope it’ll happen “naturally.”

That’s why it’s so crucial to not only grow your audience, but to engage, and actively sell to them.

Going deeper with your audience is just as important as growing your audience.

When they know, like, and trust you, you can ask for the sale with zero qualms, knowing that you’ve presented your authentic self and developed a relationship with your audience to the point where they know what you’re about and what they can expect from you.

How to grow your audience: The 3 stages of the audience journey

The three stages of the audience journey (aka the epic audience road trip!) are:

Awareness > Connection > Conversion

To move through these three stages, it helps to keep front of mind the three prerequisites for growing your audience and making sales mentioned above, that people “know, like, and trust” you.

Why? Because they need to know who you are, what you and your work stand for (and is it aligned with wha they’re interested in), and most importantly that they can believe—they can **trust—**that, when you come out with something new, whether it be a blog post, a new book, art, a course, it will be worth their time.

I didn’t make up that triumvirate of terms. You’ll find it in any marketing course. But what does it look like in action? How do you actually make sure you’re providing opportunities to get to know, like and trust you, regularly, to people who are likely to be interested?

Rely on the three stages of the audience journey to guide you…and make sure you’re taking action in each one!

1. Awareness

Stage 1 is awareness. People have to literally know you exist, and more than that, they need to have a basic sense of what you’re doing with your work.

You have to be “known” to move on to a deeper relationship and build more loyalty in your growing audience.

That doesn’t mean you pop up in someone’s feed once, or table at one festival. Think of the level as: people need to recognize your name or the name of your thing, and associate it with some sense of what you do/what it is. How can you reach that level of awareness?

Ask yourself: Where can you meet likely people?

Sure, social media, and other content, like blogs or YouTube, may drive traffic to the main work you’re looking to promote, but remember that you probably need to show up and attract the same person’s attention multiple times before what you do will stick.

The people who are seeing your work in that context are typically very slightly engaged. They don’t have a deep connection to you or your work, and they have little loyalty. They’ll just as easily jump to whatever pops up next in the algorithm.

As creatives, this is where we typically hang out, churning out content that produces little engagement. This is partly because making stuff is what we do.

But also, it’s because it feels safe.

I know that can sound weird, but think about it, even if posting content on social media and sending email feels incredibly vulnerable, it offers the security blanket of passive engagement and distance.

It’s not uncommon to hide behind these traffic strategies like posting on social—they make us feel like we’re being productive while simultaneously allowing us to distance ourselves from what feels like the even scarier alternative…

Actively talking to people

We’ll discuss ways out of this trap, so that you can do less, and have a bigger impact in my next post (and workshop), but I’ll let you in on the secret in advance: you don’t actually need social media when you:

  1. Show up live and have conversations (like in meetups and festivals)
  2. Show up virtually and have conversations (like in online interest groups)
  3. Get someone else to share what you do with their audience…and have conversations

2. Connection (AKA engagement)

The second stage of the audience journey is when someone decides to connect more expansively with you and your ideas.

Once a possible fan knows who you are, they need to go deeper to learn if you’re someone they want to stick with. They know you. Do they “like” you?

Or, more to the point, do they like and identify with your work and the values, ethics, aesthetics, stories—in short, the world—your work creates?

How can they possibly know?

You have to build a relationship with the audience you’re growing and give them opportunities to connect with you, your work, and your message, so that they’ll be more receptive to what you’re trying to communicate (and if it’s your goal, to convert them into paying customers and clients).

Once they are pretty confident they like you, the next step is trust. This also needs to happen in the Connection stage, and while it’s certainly possible to build trust without any overt signs, the most common signal of trust that precedes a sale is that an audience member signs up or shows up for something: subscribing to your email list, a live event, a free resource.

This is important: Feeling confident about sharing and selling your work hinges on consent. And the Connection phase of the audience-growing process is all about consent. It’s about you inviting your fan to go deeper, and your fan saying yes.

What does this phase of growing your audience look like?

  1. Building bonds via some kind of sharing. Valuable information, entertainment, conversation. Letting people in on the background of who you are and what you do. Live or asynchronous, but strengthening bonds using your authentic voice.
  2. For low cost products, like a comic book, it might be enough to read your about page on your website, or click through to your sales page to see samples of your work.
  3. Joining your email list. Give them the opportunity to get to know you with a regular newsletter or an automated series of emails that showcases your passion and your story, lets them know what they can expect from you (what’s in it for them), and gives them the chance to reply and start a conversation with you. That way, you can build the relationship and be in touch with them again when you have a new thing available!
  4. For all offers, from $3 minis on up to multi-thousand dollar service offers, live interactions are gold. Talks, summits, trainings, meeting people at live events, workshops, and live interviews are great opportunities to get to know your audience (and more importantly, for them to get to know you and your ideas).

They key here is to open up avenues for direct communication with your audience. Communicating your ideas with your audience and learning what they dream of and struggle with (as opposed to running a faceless account) will lead to engagement. Bonus, you’ll be able to use to what you learn about them to deliver more engaging and relevant content in the long run.

Truly listening and connecting—in addition to publishing and sharing your own thoughts and work—is what turns your growing audience into Fans for Life.

3. Conversion: make the ask

The steps to grow your audience

The third stage of the audience journey is to ask for a sale.

Pitch a service, run a campaign, or send a note to members of your audience that have expressed interest in your offers previously.

If you’ve done your job right, and built a strong relationship predicated on the work you’re offering, this should be straightforward.

I know, selling is scary. It opens you up to criticism and makes you feel vulnerable.

But by this point you’ve been clear about who you are and what you do. Your audience knows what you’re about, and they’ve stuck with you because they know what they get out of this relationship with you.

You do have to ask if you expect to get the results you’re hoping for. Followers simply don’t magically turn into buyers.

But it can feel truly easeful if you know who you’re asking is your Fan For Life.

If you haven’t built the know-like-trust factor, you’re likely to be disappointed.

What are you doing to build your audience, and where does it fall in the journey? Can you spot where you have gaps?

One of the biggest problems creatives share is that they feel stuck inside the friends and family bubble, where only their mom and bestie ever seem to see their marketing.

We’re going to talk more concretely about how to break out of your bubble next time!

Video Transcript

Click here to view the video transcript! KLT video

Have you ever had a new project coming out and, um, you’re trying to share it with the world, but everything you do to share, it just feels super random and awkward. And just like you’re imposing on people and it’s falling on deaf ears. If that’s ever happened to you, then you are in the right place.

I am Jessica Abel of Autonomous Creative, and today we’re gonna talk about the secrets of growing your audience without feeling sleazy.

Whether you’re an author, a cartoonist, an artist, a musician, a course creator, really anyone who creates for an audience, you’re gonna wanna see this.

Okay, here’s the scenario. All right. You’ve got a big project coming out and you’re really excited about it. And the launch is just bearing down on you.

Got the jitters? Okay. That is the right mindset for this.

You know you need to do something to get it seen by the right people. Last time, it was just a disaster. But what are you gonna do?

Anything you think of just feels totally off key. What are you gonna do? Go on social and be like, Hey, bye. My thing, you’re gonna email your list that you haven’t emailed in six months or longer. What else is there?

This is totally fixable, but I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is it’s gonna take more than a few scatter shot tweets, but the good news is you do not need to be constantly posting on social and blogs and YouTube and everything else. And this is going to lead to fans for life and actual sales.

Don’t forget about the sales.

What goes wrong with most creators’ promotion

Here’s the thing. When you share messages that go straight for the sale with no prep at all, it’s kind of like you’re standing on the street corner, like waving your thing around, sticking in front of people, going.

Hey, Hey, buy my thing. Uh, it’s about vampires. I, I worked really hard on it for five years and it’s really important to me. I, I love vampires! $10 buy my thing!

If you’re like most people. If you saw that on the street, you’d cringe a little and cross to the other side.

That’s why you may sell to a few friends and family, but very few other people are gonna perk up when you post your new release on Instagram.

Before you ask anyone to commit money and for cultural products, before you ask people to invest their time, you need to have built a bedrock relationship with your audience.

They need to know what they’re gonna get from your work and they need to know how it’s relevant to them. And getting to that point is a three stage process.

All things being equal, friends buy from friends

Step one is to understand this concept as described by sales coach, Kendrick Shope, who said "All things being equal, friends buy from friends. All things being unequal… friends buy from friends."

So what does friends mean in the context of sharing your work and growing your audience?

Let’s contrast friends with stranger danger. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t accept a lollipop. And definitely don’t get in the car. These are concepts we learned when we were five. And if you’re like most people, you probably still basically follow them.

Even if you’ll talk to strangers, it still kind of makes you nervous. I mean, what if you get stuck with someone who’s boring or annoying, or you just basically, don’t like. You’re not taking that lollipop. You’re absolutely not taking a road trip.

But what would keep you from crossing to the other side of the street? Who would you willingly go on a journey with?

The Know, Like, & Trust factor

Someone, you know, for sure. Someone, you like. Someone you trust.

And how do you know that you know, like, and trust someone well enough to go on a long trip with them? Well, because you’ve had many interactions with them over time. And they’ve proven themselves good traveling companions. They’re thoughtful. They’re interesting. They’re helpful.

There are three stages to the audience journey to fan for life.

Stage 1 of the audience journey: Awareness

Stage one is awareness. People have to literally know who you are, but they also have to have a basic sense of what you’re doing with your work.

You have to be known to move on to a deeper level of a relationship.

How can you reach that level of awareness? The first answer is usually social media, but that’s actually kind of a detour. I mean, who sees your post on social media? It’s mostly people who already know you.

We’ll talk in more detail about how to get outside that friends and family bubble in the next video. So subscribe to make sure you see it.

Publishing on social. On blogs, email, uh, YouTube, feels like what we’re supposed to be doing to build awareness.

But just publishing by itself is a build it and they’ll come smoke screen. It’s busyness disguised as action.

Yeah, it can help a tiny bit. And depending on what you’re doing, it can build up over time, but it’s super slow. It’s unreliable, low return, and it takes forever.

The most powerful way to build awareness

So what is the most powerful way to build awareness? It’s actively seeking out individuals and groups of people who are likely to be interested in your work and talking to them.

You can show up live and have conversations like at meetups or festivals.

You can show up virtually and have conversations in online interest groups.

You can get somebody else to share what you do with their audience and have conversations.

I know terrifying, right? Like I said, what I’m teaching you will be way more effective, but it does require effort. And we’re gonna dig deeper into all of these options in the next video. So don’t forget to subscribe.

Stage 2 of the audience journey: Connection

Stage two of the process is connection. And you’re already in that stage. If you’re having conversations.

Once a possible fan knows who you are. They’ve gotta go a little deeper to figure out if you’re someone they wanna stick with. They know you, do they like you?

Or more to the point they like and identify with your work, with the values, the ethics, the aesthetics, the stories in short, the world that your work creates.

How can they possibly know?

You have to give this audience you’re growing opportunities to get to know you and your work and your message to figure out are you really a match?

Because once they’re pretty confident that they like you, the next thing they need is trust.

The importance of consent in the sales process

This is really important for you to feel awesome sharing your work, to feel grounded and authentic when you’re talking about your work with your audience, it hinges on consent. And the connect phase is all about consent.

It’s all about inviting your fan to go deeper with you and the fan saying yes, I want to.

So, what does this look like?

Well, it could be building bonds via some kind of sharing. Using your authentic voice to share your stories, to talk about your work and people are showing up for that over and over again. This can also go down the road of content creation and we wanna make sure we’re not falling into that trap again, but definitely sharing openly with what your work is about is really, really important.

And seeing people take that open your emails, show up at events. Those are all major signs interest and consent that are giving you permission to move forward in the process.

When people join your email list, they’re saying, yes, please. I want more. Send me information about what you’re doing. Uh, send me offers, let me know what’s going on. I want in on this, and that’s a signal to you to not be shy to actually go ahead and share those things with them.

Finally live interactions are gold.

This can synchronous, asynchronous, video, in person, but when people have an opportunity to get to know you and your ideas, and particularly what kind of world you’re creating with your work, it can really speed up the entire process of, uh, know, like, and trust.

And you can move from the awareness phase, through the connect phase, all the way to the conversion phase, all in one go.

Stage 3 of the audience journey: Conversion

Stage three is conversion, which means sales or taking some other action that’s really important to you.

This is where you finally make the ask. And you might be saying to yourself, man, that sounds like a lot of work, but this whole process could take 10 minutes or it could take a year. It all depends on how well you’re communicating what it is that you do and what you’re about, what your work’s about and how quickly an audience member is able to learn about you and reassure themselves that you are the real thing and that you are the right thing for them.

Questions to ask yourself

All three stages are necessary. Awareness, connection, and conversion. So ask yourself as you’re planning promotion for your new project. How am I hitting each of those stages?

How am I creating awareness and how can I do more of that in ways that feel good to me, that are aligned with how I wanna show up and actually get in front of the people who could potentially be interested?

How am I providing opportunities for connection that allow people to build affinity and trust?

How, and when am I pitching my service or selling my thing?

If you’ve done your job right. And built a strong relationship predicated on the work that you’re offering, making the ask should be straightforward.

Publishing on social. On blogs, email, uh, YouTube, feels like what we’re supposed to be doing to build awareness.

But just publishing by itself is a "build it and they’ll come" smoke screen. It’s busyness disguised as action.

Yeah, it can help a tiny bit. And depending on what you’re doing, it can build up over time, but it’s super slow. It’s unreliable, low return, and it takes forever.

The most powerful way to build awareness

So what is the most powerful way to build awareness? It’s actively seeking out individuals and groups of people who are likely to be interested in your work and talking to them.

You can show up live and have conversations like at meetups or festivals.

You can show up virtually and have conversations in online interest groups.

You can get somebody else to share what you do with their audience and have conversations.

I know terrifying, right? Like I said, what I’m teaching you will be way more effective, but it does require effort. And we’re gonna dig deeper into all of these options in the next video. So don’t forget to subscribe..

Recap

So to recap, If you’re feeling icky selling your work, even though you’re so excited about it and even more so if you’re forcing yourself to try and you’re hearing crickets, it may be because you’re jumping into sales without building the underpinning no like trust factor that will help you bring your audience through the three stages of the audience journey, awareness, connection, and conversion.

So where is your promotion falling down and what are your next steps?

We’re putting together a new workshop where you will walk away with a simple, streamlined human scaled plan to grow your audience starting immediately. Sound like something you want more of check the description for more details.

And I’ll see you next time with get outside your friends and family bubble.

Hit subscribe to make sure you see it.

opt in wildly
Your work could be transformational for so many people...
if only they knew about it.
Join me for this FREE training that could be seriously life changing if you’ve been struggling to build an audience and Authentic Visibility for yourself and your creative work.

Plus: Walk away with a brand new social media bio that will turn heads and make fans!

Meet Jessica Abel

Meet Jessica Abel

Author. Cartoonist. Teacher. Coach.

I help people whose imagination and creativity are the ultimate source of everything they do in their professional life stop grinding and start carving out the deep focus needed to finish—and launch—the game-changing work they want to be known for.  Discover my Courses, Join the FREE Creative Engine Workshop or find out more about me.

2 Comments

  1. Chamisa on August 26, 2017 at 12:12 am

    This was incredibly helpful. Thank you for presenting this info in a way creative types can understand! 🙂 I appreciate your human approach to it. Keep it coming!



  2. Jessica Abel on August 26, 2017 at 12:31 am

    So glad you liked it Chasima! More to come!



Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

arrow-marker-curved-down

Other articles you may like...

business model
“Am I a failure if I’m not making enough money with my creative work?”
1000 true fans: Misleading?
1,000 True Fans + 1 Elephant in the Room
make more money with creative business
Why just making more work doesn’t lead to making more money
transparent jessica tools sq
The transformational reframe that will unlock your visibility
talk about it
How to create clear and compelling messaging about your creative work