Posts Tagged ‘sales’

Flea Flicking

April 21, 2014

Sunday April 20th, 2014 – Wilmot, WI/Caledonia, WI

I was up early this morning, but not to look for Easter eggs. The weather was perfect and this is the unofficial start of flea market season. The one I went through yesterday was a small one close to where I live. It was indoors and not that great. Today I ventured farther north to Wisconsin for a run through an outdoor one in Wilmot and then north to Milwaukee for an indoor/outdoor mix.

I have to say, I was sadly disappointed with both but I did learn a lot. I shut my mouth and tried to observe as much as I could on every level. I watched the sellers and the buyers to see how the interaction took place, and I also made a point to see everything that was for sale and how it was presented. Most of it was displayed poorly, and that alone was an important lesson immediately.

I showed up dressed in a pair of jeans and a short sleeve button down shirt with a pocket full of ‘I (heart) Uranus’ book marks to give to anyone who may have noticed my ‘King of Uranus’ ball cap. I’ve worn one in public before, and throughout the day a few people usually laugh and make a comment like “Hey, I love your hat!” I figured this would be a good place to practice my pitch.

Sure enough, I wasn’t in the place more than thirty seconds and one of the vendors laughed out loud and pointed it out to everyone around her. I smiled and gave her a book mark, and I saw her face light up as if she’d just won the lottery. She made a big deal of it, I could tell she meant it.

That made me feel like my day wasn’t wasted, and I kept on walking. It happened a few times more, but not more than ten. Still, I’ll count that as a big win and I’m glad I was prepared with a giveaway item. I don’t have a website up yet, but I did tell everyone about my @UranusTweets Twitter account which is also printed on the book mark. It was a great way to spread the word.

Other than that, I just wanted to see who the winners were that looked like they were actually making a buck. There was a Middle Eastern guy with a turban that had a big display of colognes and perfumes. He looked like a pro, and had a tent set up with sturdy tables holding all his wares.

There was also some family selling produce, and I’d seen them last year. They looked like they were moving some merchandise also. Unfortunately, I don’t want to push produce or perfume if I have anything to say about it. I want to develop a display of Uranus items to sell in character.

It would obviously have to be the right flea market in the right area, but I could see myself with a professional looking display of merchandise doing a well presented slick and funny pitch every half hour to an hour as a crowd gathered. Adding showmanship to the mix would blow the doors off of anyone I saw today. Most of those I saw were desperate looking sorts hawking pure junk.

A few people had some interesting setups, and there were some specialty booths that I thought were well presented as a whole. Other than that, it was a bunch of toothless mooks wasting their time with a mish mash of mostly garbage I couldn’t see anyone paying for. Maybe they do a lot better than I think, but if they do they sure don’t spend their profits on clothing, soap or a dental plan. None of them would be my competitors in the least. I don’t want to do what they’re doing.

I want to SELL, but be entertaining doing it. I didn’t see much entertainment going on at all in Wilmot, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth my trip. I also saw how poorly most booth people treated potential customers, and that blew my mind. Didn’t anybody want to make any money?

One guy had some old slot car racing sets from the ‘70s. I used to love those when I was a kid, and he had some still in the original box. The box was a bit tattered, but it was the original. I was patient far longer than I should have been, but I wanted to find out what he was asking for them.

I had no intention of buying, but I wanted to strike up a conversation and see how much he was able to tell me about what he had. For all he knew, I could have just won the lottery and wanted a price on everything he had. Instead, he kept on blabbing with some other goof, and he never even acknowledged my presence. I hate to say it, but no wonder he’s making a living at a flea market.

Maybe he’s not making a living at all. I should talk, as I’m looking into setting up myself. I am not going to be one of the people I saw today though. If I do it, it’s going to be a SHOW, and it’s going to turn some heads. None of what I saw go on today would happen in what I was doing.

Milwaukee was a lot different than Wilmot. Seven Mile Fair is the largest flea market in all of Wisconsin, or at least that’s what their advertising says. I have been going there most of my life, but it’s really changed over the years. It’s a lot slicker now, and there isn’t as much older stuff.

One thing that really turned me off was a $2 admission charge. Wilmot was $1, as are most of the admissions I’ve ever seen. $2 is a potential deal breaker, and it will be for me because I don’t see myself going back there any time soon. It just wasn’t the place that would fit what I’m doing.

For one thing, very few of either the vendors or shoppers spoke English. That’s fine, but it isn’t the audience that would buy what I would be selling. I’d sell funny Uranus t-shirts at first, along with anything else I could think of that was related. How could I make a sales pitch if they didn’t know what I was talking about? That would be a major problem, but again I just went to observe.

I did see the typical guy selling kitchen knives and wearing the headset microphone, but he was between presentations so I didn’t get to watch him work. He had a pleasing display, and was elevated to make sure he could be seen by a larger crowd. Eventually, I could see myself doing exactly that.

I’m not kidding myself though. Putting together a presentation like that would cost BIG money to get started. I’d need display tables, banners to say who I am, a supply of merchandise ready to be sold, and probably a sound system of some sort eventually. I am not looking to put on the suit and stand in the sun to sell the typical flea market fare. I would want to take it a whole lot higher.

If nothing else, I can’t believe any other comedian is thinking of this. If they are, I doubt if they could pull it off. I think I’ve got it all to myself, but in the right scenario I could see merchandise selling like crazy. Maybe it wouldn’t be a flea market but rather an art fair or something like that. I’m going to keep tweaking this idea, and come up with a line of products to test out sooner than later somewhere. It won’t be where I went today, but it wasn’t a waste. I learned by showing up.

I went to some flea markets today to look for ideas on how and what to market. www.7milefair.com.

I went to some flea markets today to look for ideas on how and what to market. http://www.7milefair.com.

Would you buy a funny bauble or trinket from this man?

Would you purchase a funny bauble, trinket or doodad from this man?

Hat Tricks

January 30, 2014

Tuesday January 28th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

As the first month of 2014 draws to a close, I have to make sure I maintain a steady rotation of change in the hat department. Anyone self employed has to play a number of roles, and there is a hat for each one of them. Some fit better than others, depending on the person wearing each one.

There’s one for sales and another for marketing. There’s one for product development and also one for customer relations. There’s one for taxes and accounting, and that’s one few like to wear. I never have, but it’s a part of the big picture so I want to make sure it stays in a prominent place.

Taxes and record keeping aren’t sexy, but too bad. Even the sexiest supermodels have to shave their pits. It’s much easier to tend to it once a week rather than let it grow wild for an entire year and deal with it then. That’s a pretty gross analogy, but I find it accurate. Taxes are gross to me.

I don’t enjoy doing any of it, and no matter how much I try to fool myself I know I never will. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep improving though. The more proficient I’m able to get, hopefully the less effort I’ll have to put in in the long run. It’s a hat I only wear when I have to.

In contrast, there are others I don’t like to take off. The creative hat that searches for ideas is an especially well fitting one, but I have to make sure I take it off once in a while so others can get a little top of head time. I spent all kinds of time wearing that hat the last few decades, and it was a big mistake. I let a lot of other duties lapse, and that’s why I find myself in my current position.

My sales and marketing hats laid around collecting dust, and I can’t afford to slip back into that old habit. I need to make sure they get some quality time, and plenty of it. It will be a major drain on the ideas and product maintenance hat time, but too bad. I need to produce different results. If I don’t make time to sell what I’ve already got, creating anything new is a futile waste of time.

Getting a newsletter out this month was nice, but that’s only the start. That’s going to be a BIG eater of time and energy, but it’s a must in my opinion. There are still some glitches that we need to work out, and almost half of our starting emails list either bounced back or were no good. That isn’t good, but it is a start. We did manage to have several hundred people open it so that’s a win.

There was quite a bit of positive feedback and that was encouraging, but it came from people I already know. The eventual purpose of the newsletter will be to develop relationships with those I haven’t met. There are more than seven BILLION possible recipients on the planet, so we have our work more than cut out. I’ve only got under 1000 in the fold so there’s big growth potential.

There’s also the hat of teacher. I really do enjoy the teaching and mentoring process, but that’s a lot of time and effort as well. Lining up classes is something I enjoy about as much as keeping tax records, but it’s also a necessary part of the process that needs to be done. I’ll gladly turn that hat over to someone else, but last time I did that guy stole money. For now, I am still wearing it.

And the biggest hat of all is the crown of the King of Uranus. I still believe there’s a gold mine under it, and with proper time, effort and input from business people it will be a home run. I have too many other hats to wear to give it the time it needs, but that’s how self employment works.

Everyone that is self employed has to wear a lot of hats - like it or not.

Everyone who chooses to be self employed has to wear a lot of hats – like it or not.

And then there's the royal crown worn by the King of Uranus.

And then there’s the royal crown worn by the King of Uranus.

“The THING”

January 3, 2014

Wednesday January 1st, 2014 – Tucson, AZ/Roswell, NM

A new year begins with a new attitude and new direction. I couldn’t feel any better about all of it, but I still can’t figure out why it took this long to get in the game. It did, but I’m here now and that’s all that’s important. I have a lot I want to do this year, and sniveling about the past isn’t it.

I’m glad I went to Tucson, but now I have to make the long drive back to Chicago. Apparently there’s going to be a lot of snow for the next several days, so that’s going to be interesting. All I saw in Tucson was sunshine, and that’s what I’m seeing on the inside too. I want to keep that up.

I feel like I’ve been dropped into another person’s body or something, and I’m growing to love it more with each passing day. I’m thinking clearly, and am in a stellar mood. There are still idiot drivers on the road for example, only now I don’t flip out like I used to. I’M the changed entity.

Rather than question, I need to just let it happen. I know I’ll have bad days and make some bad choices, but those will be the exception rather than the rule. I feel like I’ve established a winning vibe, and right now it feels like I can keep it indefinitely. If I have my way, I’ll never get rid of it.

My focus for 2014 is going to be marketing, showmanship and improving everything having to do with business. I plan on keeping immaculate tax records, and making it a weekly maintenance task rather than an annual stress fest trying to untangle it later. I am making rock solid decisions.

I’ve got a list of the first dozen books I want to read this year, and hopefully I’ll get to a whole lot more than that. I am also making time to exercise daily, if nothing else just a 30 minute walk. These are all things I’ve done off and on forever, but this is the year it all needs to become habit.

There’s a Sweet Tomatoes salad buffet restaurant a block from the hotel, so I stopped there for my first meal of 2014. It never hurts to run some roughage through the pipes, and I did just that. I then stopped at a grocery store and bought some water for the trip so I can start drinking more of that as well. It’s something we all should do, but my kidney stone of 2013 converted me for life.

As I drove east on I-10 I saw signs for a tourist gimmick I stopped to see years ago called “The Thing”. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but they advertise it for miles on billboards. The $1 cover charge is never mentioned until one enters the building, but by then curiosity has been aroused.

I had to pay another buck to see it again. I wanted to study how they handled it as marketers to see if I could reallocate any concepts for whatever I might be doing in the future. I thought their display was mediocre at best. If that were my attraction, I’d shine it up a lot more. But that’s me.

Apparently they know what they’re doing, even though I was the only sucker that forked over the buck out of all the people in the gas station. I know it’s a holiday but there were some drivers on the road. None of them had the desire to see “The Thing” except me, but I’m still glad I did.

The most important observation I made was that it’s not really important what the product is if it gets promoted strongly enough. That’s going to be the continuing theme for 2014 and beyond. I made it to Roswell, NM, and got an expensive cheap motel. This is another operation to study.

"The Thing" is an attraction at a tourist trap at Exit 322 on I-10 in Arizona.

“The Thing” is an attraction at a tourist trap at Exit 322 on I-10 in Arizona.

There are signs advertising it for miles in both directions.

There are signs heavily advertising it for miles and miles in both directions.

After all that hype and $1 later - this is what it is. Welcome to the wonderful world of extreme disappointment.

After all that hype and $1 later – this is what it is. Welcome to the wonderful world of extreme disappointment.

No More Toilets

December 7, 2013

Thursday December 5th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I’ve been in a pretty good mindset the last few days, and I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching about the future. I tend to get very down this time of year, but what helps me get through is being booked a lot and performing regularly. I’ve been doing exactly that, and it has kept my spirits up.

I love to be on stage performing standup comedy. There used to be a period after that statement but I’ve amended it over the years. I love to be on stage in a quality venue, performing for people who are there to see me – or at the very least there to see standup comedy. Trying to fight drunks in saloons that have a poor imitation of a comedy night is not nor ever has been my idea of fun.

As I get older, I realize I have spent WAY more time than I should have in places I should not have been working. That’s the only game I knew, but I was too busy scraping together a living to try other avenues. I now realize in this moment of clarity that I have to evolve, and do it quickly.

I have intended to do this before, but I haven’t executed it even close to where I need to. I have made minimal progress, but I see it has fallen far short. I need to completely revamp my method of doing business, and get in front of an almost entirely different audience. I can’t continue as is.

This isn’t good or bad, it’s just a fact. Driving 600 miles for $200 was something I needed to do at one time because I needed experience. Now I have a surplus of that, it’s money where I have a shortage. I have plowed the field and cultivated a time tested product. I have a fully grown crop.

The last place I’m going to get top dollar for it is where I’ve been farming all these years. The comedy club business might make some club owners rich, but comedians – at least those like me that aren’t a legitimate draw – have to struggle to stay booked every week and that’s not right.

It’s also not going to change any time soon, so the one doing all the changing is going to have to be me. I’m fine with it, but unless I throw myself totally into the pool I won’t make enough of a splash to achieve the results I’m looking to get. There won’t be a future without total evolution.

I won’t be able to do it overnight, so I’ll still need to supplement my income with at least a few club dates in 2014. Zanies in Chicago has always been great to me, but they can’t book me every week. The key is to cherry pick the places I really want to work, and not just take any honky tonk hell hole gig that comes along. It goes against my nature to say no to work, but I’ll need to start.

The days of working the toilets need to be OVER, no matter how much I need the money. It’s a big drain on the psyche, and those gigs have never been what I aspire to. I want to build myself a career, and that requires a completely different strategy. I have the necessary skills, now it comes down to how well I can market myself. If I can get in the door, I know I can shine with the best.

My problem has been I have not been knocking on the correct doors. The solution is to change my mindset and go where I need to go to make what I want happen. That may involve moving to another city, and at this juncture I’d be fine with it. I’m not being held in Chicago, and although I really like it here I know I could survive just fine in any number of other places. The number one place I need to survive is in my own head. Once I’m at home there, my base city doesn’t matter.

The Chicago area is a great place to live, but maybe it's time to shake things up and move somewhere else.

The Chicago area is a great place to live, but maybe it’s time to shake things up a bit and move somewhere else for a fresh start.

I've always loved Atlanta. The climate is mild, and the women are gorgeous. It's a fantastic city.

I’ve always loved Atlanta. The climate is mild, and the women are gorgeous. It’s a fantastic city, and I have some great friends there.

Los Angeles has always been a favorite place of mine as well. A lot of people hate it, but that's them. I'd live there in a second if I had even half a reason.

Los Angeles has always been a favorite place of mine as well. A lot of comedians hate it, but that’s them. I would live there again in two seconds if I had even half a reason.

The best choice of all might be Las Vegas. It's close to Los Angeles, and it's an entertainment town. I've always liked it there too - except in the summer. Yikes. "Dry heat" my barbecued buttocks.

The best choice of all might be Las Vegas. It’s very close to Los Angeles, and it’s an entertainment town. I’ve always liked it there too – except in the summer. “A dry heat” my barbecued buttocks. But I’d still move there.

The Sales Hat

July 4, 2013

Monday July 1st, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   Being in the entertainment business means being self employed, and that means one is required to wear a lot of hats. Seldom if ever do all of them fit well, and that’s why people’s talent level is not always in sync with their level of success. Like in any business, there needs to be a system of doing things correctly. All it takes is one part’s failure to keep that entire system from working.

   As a comedian, I admit I’ve been painfully weak in my off stage matters. Everyone who is self employed has to decide what areas to spend time working on, and usually it ends up getting spent on the things we enjoy doing while what we don’t is ignored. That has been my story to the max.

   I love wearing the hats of being a writer and performer, but I wore them so much I didn’t wear several others that are of ultimate importance in regards to the total package. One of those hats is that of a sales person. I assumed – quite wrongly – that if I had a good product people would find it themselves. Some did, but not nearly enough to launch me to the position I originally intended.

   Most of the comedy clubs and bookers I worked for over the years were smart enough to focus on selling the concept of standup comedy itself rather than individuals, and it’s done them well. I wish I would have seen that flaw many years earlier than I did, but I didn’t. Now it’s a problem.

   For decades, comedy clubs would use the model that coming to their club would be fun, even if you didn’t know the names of who was performing – and more often than not customers didn’t. I was interchangeable with a whole roster of performers who were ‘funny enough’, but not a draw.

   That formula is evolving now, and comedy clubs are scraping the barrel to create the illusion of celebrity to attract customers in any way possible. If some gap toothed dingle berry off the street happens to be able to fart Happy Birthday on You Tube and it gets some hits – it’s a headline act.

   I’m exaggerating a little – but not all that much. Name recognition is more important than I’ve ever seen it but unfortunately it’s also my biggest weakness. I have a rock solid act, but I am not able to sell out a single seat Port-o-Potty. Believe me, NOBODY is sadder about that than I am.

   I suppose some of the other hats that I have neglected are those of promoter and publicist, but the sales one is most crucial. I need to sell myself to people who are in charge of buying comedy acts, and that’s before I get to the public. I need to sell the concept of comedy to potential buyers.

   I’ve heard people I know in the sales business complain endlessly about the vicious rejection of going on sales calls, and today I got a taste of it myself. I had a face to face appointment with the General Manager of a rather large venue about the possibility of starting a regular comedy night.

   It doesn’t matter where it is, but I had an inside track that he might be interested in trying out a few shows to test the waters. Well, my source was wrong as I felt his icy stare the whole time my pitch was being made. I felt myself stumbling over my words because I could see all too obvious total disinterest as I went through my points. He wanted no part of it, and asked stupid questions.

   I wanted to verbally slice him to pieces for his condescending attitude – and I could have done it with ease – but that’s not what to do when wearing the sales hat. That’s reserved for the stage when I’m being heckled by a drunken idiot. I gave the guy my card, but I’m sure he tossed it in the garbage seconds after I left. This is a whole new form of rejection I need to learn to handle.

Buddha, Confucius And Me

June 2, 2013

Friday May 31st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   “Out of chaos, one must create order.” – Dobie Maxwell, Low Rent Philosopher – 2013

   That sounds like something Buddha or Confucius might have uttered, and for all I know one or both of them did. Maybe one ad libbed it during an after dinner speech at a golf outing or awards banquet and the other stole and claimed it since they died only four years apart. (I looked it up.)

   I don’t know how either of their financial situations were, but mine is about as solid as Lindsay Lohan’s career future. In a word, that would be shaky. OH, is it shaky. Shaky like an earthquake. If I don’t do something about it in the very near future, I’m going to be sleeping in a state park.

   I have chosen to attempt to fix it in a way I haven’t attempted in a while – by having a plan and actually working it. That sounds like the easy answer, but for me it never is. I’ve managed to find ways to lose money that should have been in the bank like nobody I’ve ever seen. It’s uncanny.

   I’m out several grand in the last year or so for either gigs that fell out at the last minute or cash I am owed for various reasons – most directly connected to my generous nature (read: stupidity) and kind heart. When I’ve had money I’ve always been generous to a fault, and that has to end.

   I always gave until it hurt, and thought it would ‘come back around’. Well, it’s not coming and I’m really missing it. Also, I was able to get bookings without much effort because I have proven myself to be dependable, booze and drug free and a rock solid act. I was never worried about it.

   Things are changing now, and I need to follow suit. I’m not worried yet, but I am concerned as to how I’m going to make it through the summer months. I’m still a quality act, and I’ll get work again – but it goes in cycles. I just finished up several runs, and I am between booking blocks.

   The right thing to do is find more booking blocks, and contact people farther out. Most bookers of comedy clubs and even corporate work don’t just book one event or venue. I need to rattle the cages of everyone I’ve ever worked for that might book me back, and find a few more to acquire.

   In a perfect world – which it never is – one should be booking about six months out. That’s not always the way many bookers have done it lately, and with work falling out left and right there is more of a last minute feel than I’ve ever seen. I’m used to living that way, but I’ve never liked it.

   I’ve made a career on being available for last minute bookings, and there are always fallouts all over the country. I was always willing to drive from Albuquerque to Cincinnati on short notice if that’s what it took, but with gas prices and my time in the business I’m over it. I need to evolve.

   I had lunch today with Jayne Nordstrom from a group called ‘Visit Lake County’. It used to be called The Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I’ve been a member for years now. I get a few gigs a year, and the people there are easy to deal with. My membership includes help with networking other clients, and Jayne gave me some leads to contact for possible future work.

   Now is the time to start throwing out feelers for holiday parties, and in the past I have not made the effort to land any. I just took what came. Some years were better than others, but I’m in show BUSINESS and I have to get that through my thick skull. I have a bunch of leads to follow up on but they’re handpicked fellow members. Someone has to need my services for a holiday party or awards banquet, right? Chaos is not my preference. I have a sales career, and the product is me.