I had never met Ben, and I may never actually meet Ben.. he found me online. Yet we talked on the phone for a good 2 hours about life, our careers, what’s worked and what hasn’t. It was nice to connect with another performer who shares similar interests– he’s also interviewing passionate people on his blog to find out what makes them tick, and he’s even written an e-book called “How To Find Your Passion.” What a great person for me to connect with! This just in– the internet is awesome.
Excerpts and adaptations from the interview:
Ben: “I see you’ve created targeted marketing materials for the two main markets you work– corporate and college. Have you noticed the payoff yet?”
Jeff: “Yes, I’ve definitely seen a big increase in my bookings from tailoring and targeting my promotional materials. Corporate event planners and producers want to see someone who’s clean cut, wears a shirt and tie, and speaks articulately. College kids want to see someone in jeans and t-shirt that looks and talks like them. Same material pretty much, but a different style. It makes sense when you think about it – people want to connect with the person they see on stage.
Ben: “You’ve published articles in differently themed magazines (online and print) that focus on parenting, business, and technology. Have you noticed a response from that?”
Jeff: “I really don’t believe in “one for one” thinking. I think too many entertainers are looking for payoffs from specific actions like doing one showcase, going to one conference, reading one book, etc. That’s not how it works. I’m a big fan of the Johnny Carson philosophy. When people asked him how he became so successful, he said “My success just evolved from working hard at the business at hand each day.”
Back to the articles…so yea, I’ve never had someone call me up and say, ‘Hey I just read your article on planning a memorable event—I’d like to pay you 5k to perform for our company!’ That’s not what I’m attempting to achieve by writing articles. It’s about positioning yourself as an authority. And I believe being published in any form helps establish that presence in the market. It all contributes to who you are, your brand, your development as a performer and a business person. It’s consistent work over time.”
Ben: “What do you think about posting videos of your show online?”
Jeff: “I understand why some entertainers don’t put any of their work online, but that’s just not my philosophy. I’m an open guy. Sure you’re gonna get burned sometimes when somebody swipes some a line or a bit, but I feel if you’re always charging forward creating new content, people will always be playing catchup. That being said, I wouldn’t post my entire show online… I don’t really see the point in that. I post teasers just to get bookers to bite, and then I send them more info directly.
There’s also the idea that as an entertainer, you are the brand. If you’re creating your content, it’s naturally going to be done with your style, energy, and voice. That can’t be duplicated.”
Ben: “How do you think digital tools will change comedy?”
Jeff: “It’ll change comedy just like it’s changing all of entertainment, and every other industry. The gatekeepers are pretty much gone now. You can do it yourself, and people now expect you to do it yourself. You don’t need a film or production company to buy into who you are and give you the tools to make videos. Video editing is user-friendly now. So is web design. Social media is free. Blogging is free. It’s cheesy to say, but you honestly can let the world know who you are pretty easily now. If people like what they see, they will “follow” you, spread your stuff around, and almost do your marketing for you.
It takes time and energy of course, so the lazy guys aren’t gonna do very well as the mediums continue to grow and change. You gotta keep up or you’re going to become irrelevant. Every so often I hear guys saying, “I’m not an internet guy… or I’m not an email guy. That means you’re gonna be a ‘not working’ guy! You don’t have to be a tech guru (I’m certainly not)… but you need to recognize the importance of it in growing your performing business. If internet marketing is not your thing, outsource it. As an entertainer, you can outsource everything that is not you in the moment on stage, i.e. your core competency. Travel? Outsource it. Contract processing? Outsource it. Internet marketing? Outsource it!
Ben: “How much information do you tend to share on the social networks?”
Jeff: “I always post my performances, where I’ll be, new stuff I’m doing, newsletters and announcements. I try to keep really personal stuff off there. I like to maintain a level of privacy with my inner circle of close friends and fam.
I think you have to be careful. A lot of performers don’t realize when they post online, they are posting it to the world. I know guys who have lost gigs for cruise lines and for companies because of posting ridiculously stupid things on their profiles. As everybody knows, gossip spreads like wildfire online.”
Ben: “What’s your weirdest online experience involving your comedy career?”
Jeff: “I’ve had weirdos and creepers who write some pretty inappropriate or just bizarre comments on my wall. I’ve had to unfriend some people because of that. I try to keep a professional reputation and some people just don’t understand that. They don’t realize that I’m friends with past and future clients, speakers bureaus and other performers, etc. I don’t know if there’s one particularly crazy experience, but this idea comes up on a regular basis.”
Ben: “Any other thoughts?”
Jeff: “I guess regarding the use of technology with comedy you just have to find the balance that you are comfortable with—both creatively and on the business side as well. If you don’t put yourself out there at all, nobody will know who you are or what you do. That’s not good. If you are constantly tweeting and blogging about your clips and travels, you’re not developing yourself as a performer… and that’s not good.
Find the right balance, develop your philosophy, and stick to it.”