How To Build A Fan Base From Niche Markets - Part 3 Of 3
The goal of this series is to give indie artists some practical strategies on how to develop an effective niche-marketing plan for their music

By Anne Freeman, The Aspiring Songwriter® [03-07-2011]

Welcome back to the "How to Build a Fan Base from Niche Markets" series of articles. The goal of this series is to give indie artists some practical strategies on how to develop an effective niche-marketing plan for their music. In the previous two articles, we discussed the concept of marketing and niche markets, and how independent artists can enter and begin building a potential audience for their music within that niche market.

We've been using what I call "linear progressions" to visualize niche marketing steps. There are links to Parts 1 and 2 at the bottom of this article. This article is by no means the only way to develop a niche market, but it is a practical strategy that any skilled songwriter could attempt.

We ended Part 2 with the following linear progression based upon the definition of marketing found in Part 1:

* Join Niche Market
* Develop Niche Market based upon Shared Interests
* Build Strong Relationships with Niche Market
* Create Value for Niche Market
* Create Fans within my Niche Market
* Migrate Members of Niche Market to My Other Music
* Grow Fan Base through Friends and Family of Niche Market Members
* Continue to Market Aggressively to Broaden my Niche Market
* Ring Up Sales
* Have Fun and Sell Music Being an Independent Artist

Previously, we selected a niche market using an interest of mine as an example, which is reading clouds to determine upcoming weather. I'm interested in learning this skill because I like to sail. In our example, we joined a club of amateur meteorologists (weather geeks) to learn more about weather to enhance my sailing experience (develop niche market based upon shared interests).

In the example, we joined and participated in a local weather club events (building strong relationships with niche market) and used our songwriting skills to write a weather-related theme song for our weather club to enhance members' experience of their club (creating value for the niche market), and introducing our niche market colleagues to our songwriting in a natural and unobtrusive way.

We are now ready to engage in some advanced marketing. Considering the typical statistical curve of many human endeavors, most of our original niche marketing class has dropped out because they discovered that niche marketing, like marketing of any kind, involves real effort on the part of the marketer. Niche marketing is not a substitute for effort; it is, instead, a more strategic effort. We may lose a few more of you in this article, but our niche marketing program completers will end with some real-life tools and strategies to employ when designing your own niche market plan.

As a reminder, the purpose of niche marketing is to find an organized group of people with whom you share a common interest, passion or lifestyle that you can turn into an audience for your music. Ready to go? In our advanced studies, we'll work on developing fans in a niche market; migrating niche market fans to our core music; and expanding our niche marketing efforts.

I. Create Fans Within My Niche Market

We've written one or more potential theme songs for our personal weather station club using specialized words and knowledge about weather to create personalities and emotions in our songs. In other words, we substituted cloud types to represent people types. There a many ways that songwriters can use their craft to write songs for a niche market. This is just one example.

If we write more than one potential theme song for the club (a good idea), we could employ a strategy to notify many club members that you are a songwriter: hold a theme song contest. We'll ask the club to post the songs on their club website and send out a request to the membership to vote on their favorite song. If the club cannot or won't host the songs on their website, we'll host them on our website and ask the club to provide the link and contest information to the members.

There are pros and cons for both strategies. If you post the songs on the club website, we'll have a much broader exposure to both members and visitors to the club website. If we post them on our website, some members will visit our website, but many won't. Also, we may end up with non-members voting on the songs. The best strategy is to post them on the club's website. We're after broad exposure to club members and other weather geeks, and the club website is the best approach.

Once the songs are posted, the club can set up a simple survey tool on their website using free online survey and poll tools. Ask the club to include the contest in their newsletters or other announcements. Once the winning song is selected, give written permission to the club to post the theme song on their website for free. We'll ask the club that in return for providing the theme song for free that the club include our names as the songwriter / performer with a link to our websites. If the club won't provide a live link, ask them to include the web address without a live link.

If we accomplish this objective, we now have a legitimate reason to bring our songwriting and performance skills into the conversation with our niche market members: We've used those skills to enhance their experience of their niche market interests, and we didn't impose our own music on them. We'll bring them to our music, not impose our music on them.

Our goal is to expose not impose - our music to niche market members in a non-intrusive manner. We are not, as we discussed in earlier articles, a new member who shows up with CDs in hand and starts pressing our music on people who don't know us and don't care, or even worse, resent our imposition on them. Instead, we are now valued members of the club who are using our unique skills to help everyone better enjoy their interests. In other words, we are one of them. And, if we are effective and smart about it, we will become their songwriter/artist.

This is hugely important: becoming their songwriter/artist, being "one of them." That's what makes fans a connection, something that we share. Once a connection has been made with our niche market colleagues, they are emotionally poised to become our fans. Our niche market of fellow weather geeks is an audience that is now predisposed to be interested in us as artists because we have connected with them in a meaningful way. They now care about us as a person.

But, we can't stop at writing a theme song. Instead, the theme song should be part of a multi-prong marketing plan, which we'll explore, below.

Multi-Step Marketing Plan

As I stated at in the first article, one key to any marketing strategy is taking an active role in your marketing strategy. Don't wait for other people to do the work for you. While we were writing the theme songs for the club, we did some groundwork in preparation for the theme song being a success. Here are some ideas to include in our multi-prong plan:

* Write several theme songs for consideration.
* Hold a contest/post a poll to select the theme song.
* Create CDs, EPs and/or MP3s with the losing songs and other weather-related songs we've already written to market to our niche market.
* Offer copies of these songs to the club to raffle off at events.
* Offer to sell songs to members at a discount.
* Offer to perform songs at club events (for free).
* Offer to cross-link our website to the club website.
* Offer free tickets/cover charge or other discounts to club members who attend our gigs.
* Offer niche market members free fan club membership and other special discounts or promotions.
* Write a little article about how we came up with the theme song idea to be published on the club's website blog and/or e-newsletter (and to be published on our websites, too).
* Invite club members to submit their favorite weather photos to be selected for the cover of the theme song's CD (which will be populated with other songs that we're going to write). Post the submitted photos on our website and invite members to our site to vote for their favorite photo.
* Begin integrating some of our other music into our performances for the club.
* Add a few of our other songs to our weather CDs and EPs.
* Use our imagination.

All of these activities will broaden our audience within our niche market and develop potential fans amongst club members. Notice that we've begun integrating some of our non-weather music to our niche market audience. That's OK. We're beginning to migrate niche market members over to our life as an artist. The offer of discount tickets and such for club members to attend our gigs gives us a chance to encourage club members to discover our music in a natural way.

We are not, at this point, imposing upon club members; we are inviting our colleagues to participate in an activity they already know about, because at this point, our club members know that we are songwriters/performers. In fact, we didn't have to wait to invite members to our gigs because some of them already asked about our music career once they learned we were songwriters from the theme song contest.

Let's take a moment to do a compare/contrast. Early on in this series of articles, I mentioned how some indie artists approach niche marketing, to their demise: join a niche market, show up with CDs in hand and start hawking your wares. That is not niche marketing; that is taking advantage of people. Which, by and large, most people really resent. Compare that strategy to the one we developed above. Big difference.

II. Broaden My Niche Market Audience

Now that we've established ourselves with our immediate niche market (our weather geek club), it's time to expand our efforts. We don't want to limit ourselves to the members of the local club. The power of a niche market is its access to members, wherever they might be. We know from our initial research that this niche market has access to members worldwide. It's time to reach out to other market groups to inform them about our weather songs. Remember that resource file that we developed when we were researching our potential niche market? Open that up and start working it:

* Reach out to other weather geek clubs and groups within the club's network.
* Offer similar discounts to weather club members for weather-related CDs/EPs/Downloads.
* Set up a special section on our music websites for weather geeks, where they can explore our weather-related music and other music.
* Offer to do performances at other club events.
* Use our weather credentials to offer to do performances at weather-related conferences and seminars.
* Buy adds in weather-related newsletters/websites/etc.
* Seek out weather-related companies and business to sell our weather-related CDs/EPs, etc.

There is a world of opportunity within our niche market once we're ready to broaden our reach. Being "ready" means that we've established ourselves as a niche market member that others can verify, such as having established our niche market credentials through our club membership and club-related activities. Our theme song posted on the club's website is free advertising for us. Of course, everyone we contact in the larger niche market will be directed to our club website to hear our weather them song. Theses are the types of credentials that will help us broaden our reach within the niche market.

III. Migrate My Niche Market Members to My Music

We have taken that all-important step of making a connection with our niche market colleagues through our songwriting skills and we are ready to migrate them to our "other music," the music that is the heart of soul of who we are as artists. How can we accomplish this?

There are a number of strategies that we can employ. Of course, some of our niche colleagues will make the transition on their own, simply out of curiosity, with no prompting on our part. If they like our style of music, we'll gain some fans. They became fans as soon as they found out that we are songwriters. They are the type of people who will seek out new music, and will investigate ours. That is what we call "low hanging fruit," the easy pickins', so to speak. But we'll probably have to do some work for the rest of them. Here are a few strategies to consider:

* Use our fan club to provide special promotions to niche market members and their friends, such as discounts on our other CDs/EPs/MP3s/Videos, etc.
* Create videos of our weather and other songs. Run a contest to include club members in our videos. Post them on our music websites and video websites. Every person you include in the videos will let everyone they know about the videos to see them, bringing them to our music and us.
* Offer to perform house concerts at weather club member's homes. Offer a few free weather-related CDs and other CDs to the host to raffle off at the house concert.
* Have special "weather nights" at your regular gigs, where weather geeks who bring a friend or two get a free t-shirt, CD, a song dedicated during the performance, etc.
* Use your imagination
* And don't forget; plug our weather club on our music sites and at gigs.

Remember that no matter how great a job you do, some of our niche market colleagues won't like your style of music, no matter how much they appreciate us. Don't push it. We want to keep our good relationship with our club and niche market.

IV. Broaden My Niche Market

If we are successful and consistent in our marketing efforts, our profile within out niche market with increase over time. Make ourselves known. Moving up into a regional or national market takes planning, patience, and money. We have to learn the ropes of the more professional side of the business prior to trying to break into it. Strategies may include attending regional and national conferences, meetings, and events.

Once we are familiar with these events, we can plan strategies for booking ourselves to perform at these events, or rent a vendor booth at one. Better yet, offer free performances in exchange for a booth, which can be costly.

We can learn more about niche market companies, events, products, media companies and products, etc. For example, when we researched our niche market in Part 1, we learned that there were several companies that made personal weather station gear. A strategy would be to seek sponsorships from those companies in exchange for promoting their gear to your niche market fans.

If there are media companies or professional organizations that publish niche market-related newsletters, websites, magazines, professional journals, we can look into buying advertisements, or send in a story about ourselves, our theme song and weather-themed music for publication.

These examples of advanced marketing strategies that we can consider employing once we've established ourselves and our following within our niche market, especially once we've moved beyond our local club.

I shouldn't have to mention this, but I will. We have been keeping track of everyone who buys our niche market-related music, right? Creating a strong database of fans within our niche market would make a market-related company (such as the weather station companies) more likely to do an endorsement deal because you can inform them of the breadth and depth of your market audience.

V. Final Exam

We've done it we made it through Niche Marketing 101-401. Now for the final exam. Let's see how we measure up against the Niche Marketing Linear Progression:

Join Niche Market: We researched and joined a weather-related club.
Develop Niche Market based upon Shared Interests: We became active members of the club, enhancing our interest in weather.
Build Strong Relationships with Niche Market: We participated in club activities, volunteering for various events, etc, and developed recognition within our niche market.
Create Value for Niche Market: We used our songwriting skills to enhance our niche market's experience of their interest of passion by creating a theme song. Create Fans within my Niche Market_ We created fans within through songwriting efforts by writing additional theme-related songs for sale, donation, contests, etc.
Migrate Members of Niche Market to My Other Music: We created opportunities for niche market members to discover our music.
Grow Fan Base through Friends and Family of Niche Market Members: We implemented strategies to encourage niche market members to become fans and bring their family and friends along with them.
Continue to Market Aggressively to Broaden my Niche Market: We planned additional marketing activities that broadened our reach within our niche market.
Ring Up Sales: We developed an audience that is likely to buy our themed music as well as our regular music.
Have Fun and Sell Music Being an Independent Artist: We actually developed a fan base and are having fun working it!

VI. In Summary

We covered a lot of ground during these three articles. As you have discovered, marketing is not a passive activity. Effective niche marketing, and effective marketing in general, requires strategic planning as well as real goods and services. In all of this, I'm assuming that you all have the goods that you've polished your songwriting and performance skills. And that you can and will create the services enhancing niche market members' experience of their interest or passion through your songwriting and performing skills.

You can join the two together in a way that will enhance your career by implement a thoughtful and strategic plan. And, you can enjoy the process because you've chosen a niche market that interests you, too. Realize that this is not the only way to develop a niche market but it is one approach that can work for independent artists.

Will all of this result in sales? In this article, one point that I made is this: Niche market members are naturally predisposed to be your fan because you are one of them; you share a common interest a connection. And connections are what make a fan. Do it well, and you are bound to sell more songs than you ever could by simply posting your songs on a website and hoping that people will find you, love you, and buy your music. Go out and make it happen, and you may at last get out of the 90% camp of artists who sell 10% of songs and cross over to the 10% camp of artists who sell 90% of songs.

Where's My Niche Market?

Some of you may still be wondering about finding niche market. Here are a few ideas of activities where there are organized groups of people to get you started:

Woof! Dogs, cats, and pets of all kinds
Shhhh!: Library-based book clubs and other book clubs
Throb!: Romance book clubs and other genre-based book clubs
Fore!: Sports-related groups
Zoom!: Groups about cars, ATVs, trucks and all things four-wheeled
Swat!: People interested in bugs of all kinds
Tweet!: People interested in birds of all kinds
Green!: People interested in saving our environment
Rah!: Cheerleaders
Amen!: Religious organizations and groups
Say Ahhhh!: Organizations about health, including non-traditional health practices
Batter Up!: People who love to bake and cook
Snap!: People who love photography, digital and otherwise
Spin!: People who love bowling, pool, and other non-prime time sports
Sniff!: People who love roses and other cultivated flowers
Achoo!: People who love wildflowers
Splash!: People who love aquariums
Kerplunk!: People who love snorkeling and diving
Buzzz!: People who love fly fishing and other kinds of fishing
Woosh!: People who love sailing, windsurfing, kite flying, and other kinds of wind sports
Bob: People who are named Bob
Kum ba yah!: Camping groups
On The Road Again: RV groups
Mars!: Men's groups
Venus!: Women's groups
Ga Ga!: Babies (and moms and dads)
Twang!: People who love guitars and other instruments
Tock!: People who collect clocks and other antiques
Tac!: People who love tic-tac-toe, crosswords, cards, and other related games
Swoosh!: People who love to ski, snow board, water ski, and other board sports
Eeek!: People who are scared of things
Oh Deere!: People who love farm equipment
Mai Oui!: People who love French cultuer and language, or other world languages and culture
All Aboard!: People who love to travel
May I Help?: Service clubs of all kinds
And, professional organizations of all kinds

Use your imagination.

End Note
There are always those few people who aren't joiners. What to do? Create your own niche market!


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