Stan Kramien: The Show Begins When the Posters Go Up

This week Stan Kramien passed away. A magician who performed for over 70 years, and he spent 30 of those years touring with one of the largest magic shows of it’s time.


I’m too young to have ever seen his show live but I did have a chance to attend the Magic Jamboree which was hosted by the Kramien family. During those conventions we got to hear stories from life on the road as well as see some of his performance footage.

My favorite parts though were when he would talk about business. Anyone who can make such a long career out of performing magic obviously has it figured out.

One thing that Stan said that will always stick with me was: “The show begins when the posters go up.”

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Mail bag question: What’s the best way to book more shows?

This week I’ve got a question from the mailbag. Billy asks…

I’m trying to get more shows but nothing seems to be working. What’s the best way to go about booking more shows?

My reply:

I imagine that whenever I get this question it’s because they’re looking at their calendar and thinking “I wish I had more shows, this month is kinda slow.” But whenever I hear that I always imagine the same quote:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb

What does that have to do with booking shows? Well, the best time to book a show is 6 months ago. The second best time to book shows is today.

That isn’t the full answer though. There isn’t really a technique that I know of for getting more bookings today. It’s all about planting the seeds so that the bookings come in tomorrow.

How to get more bookings tomorrow

  1. I believe that the easiest and most effective way to get bookings is to perform as often as possible. When people see you at an event, they’ll imagine events for which they could book you. They’ll have that “Ah-ha!” moment when they imagine you performing at their kid’s birthday party, their upcoming fundraiser, or corporate event. These people are great to sell your services to because they’ve seen what your persona and your magic is like.
  2. Perform magic in your day-to-day life. Perform magic for your waitress, or the store clerk. At the end of your performance hand out a business card.
  3. Considering donating your services to charity events if you’re just getting started. I wrote about that in an article titled Why You Should Work For Free, but really it should be called When You Should Work For Free.
  4. Attend business networking events. I wrote an entire article on it previously. Make sure you follow up with the contacts you make.
  5. Attend showcases and conferences. I haven’t done much of this but others have used it to great success. In certain markets this is the major way of getting bookings.
  6. If you have zero bookings, no business, and nobody knows who you are; work for tips in a restaurant. There’s a lot of differing opinion on what you ‘should’ do regarding tips or getting paid. I say, do whatever you think is fair. I worked tables when I was younger for tips and a free meal and I got tons of paid work out of it. I hope you have a birthday party show ready – because you’ll get asked to perform at a lot of birthdays.
  7. Another way to get more clients is to mine your customer database. Follow-up with previous clients. Look back in your calendar and find out who you performed for around this time of year in previous years. You can go back several years and send out a quick email or make a phone call to see if they are organizing their event again this year.
  8. Send out a newsletter letting people know that you have dates available. This information keeps you “top of mind”. This is a great approach because these people know what your services are like. And more importantly you know that they are ready, willing, and able to spend the money to hire you.
  9. Have a better show. Improve your act by performing as often as possible. Hire a director or script writer to help you. Work with a video camera and make changes to your show.
  10. This is a long term strategy, but one way of keeping your calendar full is by working annual markets. This could include summer festivals, school shows, or theater tours. With these types of bookings it’s people that are going to hire you year after year. It takes a long time to develop, but if you can “get into” these markets you can develop a lasting career. Create a marketing calender and stick to it.
  11. Are you offering a show that people want or need? Try offering other types of show options such as fundraisers if you don’t already. If you only have a close-up show, you’re going to be more limited than someone who does close-up, platform, or stage. There’s a good reason that most people start off by doing birthday party shows – It’s because there’s a huge market for birthday parties! Depending on your business plan (you have one of those, right?) you can either broaden your services, or niche your services down. You don’t need to be able to perform at all kinds of events, but if you don’t you should be specializing in one specific type of magic and find people that can hire that act. Generally you’ll need to do more traveling the more specific you get.
  12. Get more aggressive with your marketing. If you need more bookings, start asking people! Pick up the phone and make calls to potential clients. Scour the interwebs and find emails of people organizing events and send them a personalized email message. Make sure that you aren’t sending spam to potential clients though.
  13. Provide a better service to your customers. Reply to their emails and phone calls faster. Include free giveaways with your show. Be easy to work with. Send thank you cards.

As you get new bookings it should be because of the groundwork you laid in the past. New bookings won’t just magically appear out of the ether. Consciously setup your business and implement strategies for getting more work in the future. As you implement these ideas always tweak and adjust as you move forward. Eventually there will be a point where it becomes automatic that you generate new bookings.

I hope that helps Billy.

If anyone has any other tips, please leave a comment below. As always, don’t forget to ‘like’ and ‘share’ this post with others.

Different Types of Giveaways To Use In Your Show

In my last article I discussed the benefits to using giveaways in your show. In this article I’ll discuss the various types of giveaways that I’ve used before. This isn’t just theory on things that I’ve seen or heard about. All of these items I’ve used in my performances. For each item I’ll discuss the context in which I used it, along with sources and examples.

Balloon Animals

A giveaway could be as simple as giving away a balloon dog. In the case of balloon animals there’s lots of ‘bits of business’ that you can include to make it entertaining. There’s the old gag of ‘accidentally’ snapping the balloon into your face while attempting to blow it up, or accidentally letting go of the balloon before tying the end off so that it flies away. These old gags have stood the test of time for a reason. On Gary Dunn’s DVD “Keep them Laughing” he does about 10 minutes worth of material just by making two balloons animals for a couple volunteers on stage. It’s a great way to get lots of entertainment out of a minimal amount of props. Watching Gary work is a masterclass in children’s entertainment. I highly recommend it!

IMG_1628For small shows you can make balloon animals for everyone at the party, and for larger shows just make balloons for volunteers on stage. Be aware though, that if you’re at a birthday party and you start making balloon animals – you’re probably going to get suckered into making one for each child. So, plan accordingly. 😉

There’s also the option of charging extra for making balloons animals for everyone at the party. Personally I’m better at magic than balloons so I stick to simple balloon sculptures like the dogs, swords, flowers, and hats. I find that by doing simple balloons I can make each one in under a minute. Making them quickly is important if you have another show to attend that same day.

Balloons are a great giveaway but they don’t carry any brand information and they don’t last very long. Let’s look at some other options…

Ball and Vase Trick

ball and vaseMy goal was to use the Ball and Vase as a general giveaway and then pitch them as an inexpensive back of room sales item for $2. They didn’t sell very well though. People were more interested in purchasing my Magic Wand and DVD so eventually I stopped selling the Ball and Vase.

I found that it was too difficult for kids to learn on their own from the instructions. I think that this trick is better suited to be part of a magic class or workshop.

Even though I don’t offer any magic classes I’ve still found a way to make use of the Ball and Vase trick. I’ll use it as a  special giveaway in a 1-on-1 situation for a child that’s interested in learning the secrets of magic. It’s a great trick for that 9-12 year old range where they can execute the basic handling and presentation. The magic of the ball and vase is quite deceptive, the secret is clever, and it can be taught in just a few minutes. I’ve found that using them in this way can create a very special moment that goes beyond just a normal giveaway and can be very rewarding on a personal level. For the right person in the right setting, it’s absolutely perfect!

The Ball and Vase sets are a bit more expensive than other giveaways plus they aren’t branded so I only use them in those 1-on-1 situations.

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Benefits to Using Giveaways In Your Show

For children and family performers using giveaways for audience volunteers is quite common, and for good reason too. They make a great souvenir to remember the show long after it’s over. But these innocent looking giveaways can be an important tool in your branding and marketing strategy. They can be used to build your brand, generate future leads, and promote back of room sales.

There are lots of different types of giveaways you could use in your business include colouring sheets, bookmarks, fortune telling fish, ball and vase, and coin slides. For many of these giveaways the actual cost is far less than their perceived value. Giveaway items aren’t going to give you an instant return on investment like a direct mail campaign would. However, they do help establish you in the marketplace and are a long term investment in building your business.

Personalized Branding

clippedcardIf you decided to use a printed giveaway such as a colouring sheet, bookmark, or a printable magic trick such as the Clipped Card or the Two Card Monte there’s a huge opportunity to match them to your existing brand.

Normally there would be no way to get a child to take a business card home from the show to their parents, but with a personalized item that’s exactly what they’ll be doing. You can include extra information such as your name, logo, photo, website, and phone number.

It’s a great technique because while you’re creating added value for your clients, you’re simultaneously marketing your services to generate future business at the same time. Getting your name and contact information into the homes of potential customers is key to getting more bookings in the future.

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The Early Bird Books the Gig

birdThe key to making more money may be as simple as getting better at answering your phone. 

Have you ever missed a call from a client and returned their call later on only to hear “Sorry… We already booked someone else for our event”? Just by missing their initial call you missed out on a booking! Hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars lost… vanished.

It’s something that has happened to all of us. But, how can we try and prevent this from happening?

Be The Early Bird and Reply Faster

The first step is to think about what’s going on inside the minds of the client. Once we understand what they’re thinking and feeling we can implement a strategy to try and capture these leads.

We would like to think that customers are trying to book us because they specifically want us for their event. But the reality is they may just be contacting you because you were the first search result in Google or you were the first guy to answer their phone. This may sound like a bad thing, but if you’re able to be that first guy listed on Google, and you’re good at answering the phone, that’s actually good news!

Do you always answer your phone when it rings? The best way to prevent these lost bookings is by always answering your phone. Do whatever it is you need to do to make sure you’re answering your phone. Get in the habit of having your phone near you, having the ringer on, and whatever else you need to have prepared in order to take the booking.

Depending on your personality and schedule, replying to messages promptly might actually be quite difficult. If you find it especially dreadful or time consuming to reply to show inquires, it’s probably because your system for booking shows is too cumbersome. Create a booking process for your business that’s easier so it isn’t as much work to followup. I’ve found that the best way to keep me motivated to respond to show inquiries is by being accountable to my clients. I do that by promising my customers that I’ll return their inquiry within 24 hours. 

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Lessons Learned from Poor Customer Service

This article is inspired by a recent negative customer experience I had.

For Christmas my sister wanted an item that’s sold by a home based business. I was able to contact the seller through Facebook. I placed my order and was told she didn’t have the item in stock anymore and needed a couple of weeks to get another. She also informed me that she was too busy to keep track of orders so I would have to send her a reminder in a couple weeks.

A couple weeks later I messaged her again and she still didn’t have it in stock. One week later I messaged her again, this time she had the item. Great! I tried to arrange a time to meet with her but we couldn’t seem to find a time that worked. I found out that she lives close to my home so I thought it wouldn’t be an issue to pick up my order. Unfortunately, I ended up getting sick and wasn’t able to contact her for a week. When I did message her, she told me that she sold my item and had no more in inventory… Now, here’s the kicker – that item is no longer manufactured!

So, my sister selected another item from her store. Once again we struggled to coordinate pick up. Since she doesn’t live far away I suggested she drop it off to my home at her convenience, to which she replied ” I don’t offer home deliveries.” What?!?!… I am literally her neighbour.

After that I gave up. In the end I didn’t get the product, my sister doesn’t get the gift she wanted and the owner didn’t make a sale. Truly a lose-lose-lose situation.

Hidden within this story of poor customer service are a few valuable business lessons:  

  1. As a business owner it’s your responsibility to keep track of and follow up with potential customers. There is no such thing as being “too busy” when it comes to keeping track of your customers. If you’re too busy to run your business properly you’re going to fail. Instead there should be a system in place to make the job easier or hire help.
  2. It’s the job of the business to deliver on the promises that you make. She decided to sell an item that I thought was on hold for me. Whatever you promise to your customer,  it’s your job to deliver that without excuses. If you promise to email the client show photo’s, make sure you do it. If you promise to email that contact from the network event, do it. If you promise to include some close-up magic, do it. Doing this makes you a man of your word – which is a good personality trait to develop regardless of your occupation.
  3. Be clear in your communication. It turns out that the item wasn’t actually on hold for me like I had thought. This could have easily been resolved by her simply communicating that. In our business that translates to communicating the important details to the client. What type of show you’ll be doing, what your requirements are, what time you’ll be arriving to setup, etc. All of these things are so important that they should be repeated to your clients multiple times throughout the booking process.
  4. Make small concessions and deliver service that is above and beyond. Making an exception to deliver the item would have been a minimal amount of work and would have dramatically changed the course of the customer experience. They call it “work” for reason. That mean’s sometimes you’re going to have to do things that you don’t want to do. I wrote another article on this topic called: That’s Not a Problem – Dealing with Problems at Shows.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own work and forget what customer is experiencing. But as business owners, you should always be thinking “How can I create a positive customer experience?” If you perform at 300 events in a year, you’ll have 300 opportunities to create raving fans. In our business the best way to market our services is by creating happy customers.

See into the Future By Creating A Marketing Calendar

SmallCalendarStockA marketing calendar is basically a series of goals for completing a marketing task by a certain date. Having one allows you to stay on top of your marketing efforts throughout the year. There’s nothing worse than discovering it’s already December and you forgot to do any marketing for your Christmas party shows!

It may be a pain to think about these things in advance, but it will save you stress in the long run. If you just finished a busy summer, the last thing you probably want to think about is that you need to design your Christmas postcard and get them printed so that you can have them sent out before October.

Example marketing plan for Christmas shows:

  • Send out Christmas Party Postcard to past clients by October 14th.
  • That means that you’ll want to have all the postcards addressed before October 10th assuming it will take a few days to address them all by hand.
  • Which means you’ll want to have the postcards ordered from the printer before October 1st assuming it will take a week to get them in the mail.
  • Which means you’ll want to hire someone to design your postcards before September 15th assuming it will take them a couple weeks to complete the project.

As you can see in this example, something as simple as sending a postcard to past clients means that you need to be thinking about that project at least a month in advance. You don’t need to necessarily use specific dates like I had in my example, often in our business you’ll just want to have a task completed before a certain week or month.

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Mail bag question: Promotional Offer Tracking

This week I’ve got a question from the mailbag. Craig asks…

I’m working on a call to action on my email newsletter and was wondering about your thoughts regarding a ‘qualifier’ Ex: “Email today to save 948% off you next show!” vs.”Email today with the code ‘savetoomuch’ to save 948% off your next show!” I’m split on the merits of this, would love to hear your thoughts!

Leif’s Reply:

Well, the difference between the two is that with the second option you have the option of tracking the results from the offer.

Tracking codes are helpful if you’re looking to see where your marketing results are coming from: For example, on your facebook you could give people a coupon of ‘FBfriendsSave’ and in your newsleter it would be ‘Save2Much” and so you could see that you got 0 bookings through FB, and 2 from your newsletter, that you could focus your efforts on your newsletter marketing.

You’ll need to make sure that your offer is strong enough that people will use it, and remember to give you the correct ‘tracking code’. Simply offering someone 5% off or something probably isn’t going to be enough. They will or won’t book regardless of the offer. Whereas, if you offer someone 50% off– they’re much more likely to book (even when they weren’t going to before) and they will also give you the tracking code. I’m not saying you should offer 50% off, it’s just an example.

In my own business, I seldom offer discounts. I feel my price is already as affordable and fair as possible for the client and myself. Instead I will make offers that include free bonuses, such as close-up magic, balloon animals, goodie bags, or DVD’s. That way I can still offer my loyal customers an offer without the need to reduce my fee. I’m not looking to build my customer funnel with people who are looking for the cheapest priced entertainment. Instead I want customers that are looking for the best entertainment that fits into their entertainment budget. I find that these type of customers lead to better events, better audiences, better shows, better word of mouth, and in the end a better business and life for myself.


Reusable QR Codes in Your Marketing

This week I’ve got a guest post from David Ranalli. David is a professional magician based out of Indianapolis. In the post below he shares some great tips on how to implement QR codes into your marketing mix.

qr2What is a QR Code? A QR (Quick Response) code looks like the image to the right. People can use an app on their phone to scan the code and it will either show them some information, or direct them to a website page.

DR - Mediterra - 69“QR Codes are a great way to get fans or prospective clients to engage and go to a video, coupon, or other special offer. However, QR codes are often used very poorly, even by large companies with huge marketing teams. I’ve scanned a code and been sent to a 404 page, or on a hunt to find whatever the original code was meant to provide to me. If you are going to try using a QR code, it is important to do some research and look at proven strategies.

When you do take the plunge to trying one out as I did recently, you run into a problem; you may want to change the place your original QR code led to.

For example, you decide to include a QR code on your business card that links to your newest promo video on Youtube (not the most creative example, but stay with me). When you decide to update your promo video, your old business cards cannot link to the new video, only the old one. Meaning, people you have met in the past cannot link to your new video by scanning the code. Your new business cards would need an entirely new QR code on it. This is a waste of print materials, and doesn’t help keep your clients up to date on your current offerings.  Read More…

Save Time And Be More Productive With This One Tool

If you know anything about me then you know that I love technology that can save me time and energy. Hey, I’m lazy, or at least I’d like to think I have better things to do than reply to emails… like checking Facebook…

Anyway… As you know it can be very very time consuming to reply to customer emails. You want to make sure that they’re getting all the information they need and at the same time you want to reply as quickly as possible. These email reply’s are often quite repetitive with the same blocks of text over and over again.

My magic friend Clinton gave me a heads-up about an amazing little tool that’s totally changed the way I spend my time replying to emails.

Phrase Express is a tool that you can use to quickly paste repetitive text when replying to emails. Some of the features include:

  • Organize frequently used text snippets
  • Expand abbreviations in any program
  • Automate repetitive tasks
  • Auto-complete repetitive phrases
  • Correct spelling mistakes. (Kind of like how Microsoft Office does it, but it works in any application)
  • Solve math calculations as you type
  • Microsoft Outlook Plugin Integration
  • Plus a bunch of other cool features that I haven’t had a chance to fully take advantage of yet

So how does it work? Well, after you install the application it sits quietly in your task tray. Then you can setup a “shortcut” for a chunk of text and it will automatically insert that pre-defined text.

For example you could set it up so that whenever you type *signature it will automatically insert your email footer signature.

Or, in a more practical example for magicians, you can set it up so that after someone asks about information on your kids birthday party show you just type *birthdayparty and it will automatically insert all of your show information. Whereas before you would have had to manually type it out, or copy-paste it from another document, now it’s all automatic.

Before I would have delayed replying to an email until I had more time to do it, but now I’m able to compose emails quicker because the process is streamlined. Great customer service for any business includes being as prompt as possible with replies and PhraseExpress will help you do that.

Plus, the great thing about Phrase Express is that its free to test out and for personal use. And if you’d like to upgrade to the professional version. Give it a shot and let me know what you think in the comments!

Update: I’m not sure if Phrase Express works for Mac or not. However I have found another program called TextExpander which has some similar features that does work for Mac’s.

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