In this issue of W. Tyler Allen's GROWTH column, he explores essential growth strategies for artists and the concept of growth marketing as it applies to advancing your career goals in the music industry.
Guest post by W. Tyler Allen of the TuneCore Blog
[Editors Note: We’re kicking off a recurring column, titled GROWTH, written by W. Tyler Allen, a music and tech marketing consultant and contributor to the TuneCore Blog. This column will offer practical tips on how independent artists can and should be focusing their efforts not just around professional and personal growth, but specific tactics like growth marketing, sales funnels, ad retargeting and more. We look forward to sharing regular content that will help artists measure success and find ways to manage their time and stay organized.]
The issue with ‘do-it-yourself marketing’ is that, quite often, we aren’t doing it ourselves at all.
We are heavily influenced by others, and sometimes we get caught up in a ‘monkey see – monkey do’ mindset without even noticing. But note – this is natural!
We have a tendency to move like others around us, because we think that’s how we’re supposed to be moving. However, this goes for industry professionals, too. This inadvertent echo chamber has us discussing the same issues, and giving the same advice year after year. And if we’re just repeating the same few pieces of advice and strategies, it creates a toxic environment for artist development.
This recently reached a boiling point for me when I was tagged in a Twitter conversation on the ethics of pay-to-play shows. I appreciated being looped in, but – good God, over the last decade I’ve spoken on six panels about pay-for-play, written 30+ guest posts for numerous industry outlets, and discussed this in hundreds of consultations. I… I just don’t want to talk about it anymore.
There’s actually a lot of things I don’t want to talk about anymore. This may seem counterproductive, maybe even dangerous, “If we don’t speak on the right way, how will they know they’re wrong?”.
I get it. I do. But, it’s also time to cohesively move forward as an industry. I’m done talking about common sense, and ready to get more technical.
Let’s adapt and pick up new methods of marketing, without hammering out the same tired advice. Let’s grow together.
And that’s what this article is about – growth – particularly, growth marketing.
Alongside working in the music industry, I work heavily in the startup space. Some of these startups are music-tech, but most are general technology. While “startup culture” has a way of over-complicating a lot of things – there’s one piece of startup culture that I always take back to artists and labels, and that’s their growth marketing tactics.
These growth tactics are simple, but potent – and are better advice than the same tired lines that run through music industry circles annually.
So, what is ‘Growth Marketing’?
Growth marketing is more of a philosophy than a singular tactic. Growth marketing is best described as a set of experiments within your marketing that uncovers the best methods of growing your audience.
Growth marketing takes into account that everyone’s path is going to look different. Every company, artist,or individual is going to have a unique way of growing their brands. Therefore, instead of approaching marketing with “one size fits all” methods, growth marketing uses experiments and tests to gauge growth and hammer out a unique plan.
It’s going to take a few articles to unpack the entire depth of growth marketing. But for now – let’s talk about basic growth strategies and how they can help you grow your fanbase, as well as monetize it.
1. Break Down Primary Goals Into Smaller, Accessible Ones
I already mentioned that growth marketing is more of a “philosophy”, right? This next piece of advice may seem straightforward, but it’s important in today’s “I want everything NOW” mindset found in many artists, labels and just .. humans today.
A large piece of growth marketing is planning steps and procedures to tactfully meet your goal. Therefore, it’s suggested that you take your primary objective and break it down into smaller actionable steps.
So, as an example, instead of your goal being to make $25K in sales before Q3 of 2018, unpack it a little bit. You know that you’ll need to better engage your fanbase first. So, your first set of actionable goals may look like this:
- Increase email list subscriptions by 10% by March 30th
- Create the email and social media copy intended to boost subscriptions
- Increase social media engagement by 25% by April 1st
- Research tools that can follow/unfollow and more easily manage social media discussions.
- Create calendar of events to live tweet.
- Increase social media posting frequency on all channels by 2 posts
- Generate new content calendar for all channels
Once you finish those smaller actionable goals, you then take a step back, see what worked well, what didn’t – and then adjust. Which takes me to my second tip.
2. Measure, Measure, Measure!
This is the heartbeat of growth marketing. One of the largest issues I see in music industry marketing – and this goes for both large indies and the DIY-ers, is that they have a tendency to throw out a campaign, and just … see what happens. They might tweak for the next release, or next campaign, but all-in-all most of the time it’s just tweeting about it, an ad spend and maybe some PR. If it worked, cool, if it didn’t, try again next time.
There’s rarely a measurable log of items such as:
- Which subject lines worked best?
- Which ad creative got the most engagement?
- Which tweets or Instagram posts garnered the most shares and comments?
We can get even deeper:
- Which times of the day worked best for organic social media content?
- If the email did get open – which links were the most clicked?
- When users went to the website, where did they go next?
The idea here is to have data to help you increasingly better your approach and marketing. Remember those sample goals above? You’ll notice that most have specific number included – increase by 20%, 10%, and so forth.
Setting tangible numeric goals helps you see where to make changes, while also helping better define future goals.
Maybe 20% was too optimistic? Maybe 10% isn’t enough to move the needle. I’m not a huge math guy – at all. However, I am a big “proof is in the numbers” guy. You can’t argue with success metrics. By measuring growth percentages, while also simply measuring down which _____ worked best, you have an idea of how to move.
3. Define Your Sales Funnels
A sales funnel is a pathway for your users to become introduced to your product and eventually make a purchase. Odds are, you have one – it’s just not mapped out. For instance, an easy one would be tweeting a link to purchase your new merchandise.
The sales funnel to that is: Tweet → Merch Page → Sale.
The steps you take in the funnel are called a user-journey, and it’s important to map them out. That way, you can make your actionable items we talked about in #1 more targeted. I’ve mapped these out in very elaborate flowcharts or simply outlining or writing them out with arrows for emphasis.
However, keep in mind that your “sales funnel” doesn’t have to be sales oriented, it can be a process used to gain followers, grow an email list as well as other non-direct sales objectives.
Here is another simple example with more steps. Let’s say use merchandise as an example again, solely because it’s a physical product so it’s easier to grasp.
Instagram Video Ad → Website Landing Page → Direct Merch Purchase (end) OR → Pop Up for Newsletter Subscriber → Start 3 Email Drop Campaign Sequence (simultaneously) → Begin various online retargeting ads (Facebook, Google).
So the “top” or beginning of your funnel, would be having a quality ad and landing page to attract, and then the “bottom” would be a captivating email sequence.
What will fit for your needs? That’s the fun part. Enjoy this! Experiment with different routes and creative to see what fits best for you. I’m also giving you a paragraph or two explanation on a pivotal part of every brand’s marketing cycle. Be sure to do your own reading outside of this article, and keep your eyes open for future ones, too.
4. Reflect, Rinse and Repeat.
Growth marketers test everything. That way they can ensure the best route for their projects. Now, I hopefully don’t need to explain the importance of testing stuff – and we kind of already covered it above, however, I want to drive home the point of how this can shape everything from your
budgeting to your messaging.When testing, you may learn that some channels work best – or that certain tactics work best, which allows you to best distribute ad spends as well as energy. The best way to test is by simple A/B maybe even C testing. Which headlines worked? Which didn’t? Which images worked? Which didn’t?
Growth marketing certainly isn’t a “growth quick” scheme, instead it’s a moderate-paced and logical system that ensures you the opportunity to become more familiar with your audiences, brand and even yourself.
Action Items + Tips:
- Focus on garnering quality leads, rather than views or clicks. This may differ from you, but I like making my clients money. So, 100 new paying fans, is better than 1,000 inactive Twitter followers.
- Focus on proving rather than adoption. We have a nasty habit in our industry to just go off of hunches. Make a document that has your hypothesis, then experiment until it’s proven or disproven – then you adopt or move on.
- Test periods are fine. It’s tough in the music industry where you may not be releasing new products as often as a ecommerce company or an app that’s always looking for new downloads. However, each marketing tactic – even introductory emails and daily posting, can be put through growth tests for accuracy.
These are just a few growth-oriented tips, and stay tuned for more! If you’d like to dig in deeper in growth marketing for your work or label, give me a shout here.
W. Tyler Allen is a digital marketing strategist with a specialty in growth, monetization, and branding. Tyler began his career with Sony Music in their artist development division, before beginning his own practice working with majors, indies, distributors and more. Tyler believes in giving artists tools they need to take control of their career that allows them to continue to evolve and adapt to the ever-changing music industry. You can learn more about his work by visiting wtylerconsulting.com