Happy September. Gosh, can you believe it. September is kind of a renewal for me - getting back to the task at hand after the summer break. The only summer break I took was time from my standing tutor students. Yes, I tutor. My favorite subjects to tutor are Math, English, biosciences (like Biology and Chemistry), History, Advanced Placement (AP) courses and prepping students for their ACT and SAT tests. My life as a tutor in the summer is similar to that of a teacher - when there is no school, there is relatively little teaching or tutoring. I say relatively little because I still managed to have two new students during the summer - the ones that wanted to get a head start on tricky topics or refresh before they start classes. I love to tutor - my fulfillment is helping a student to learn and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they are learning. This week I will start working with my standing tutor students again. The new school year starts - it's time to renew dedication to learning. I'm also looking forward to the new tutoring opportunities I will have.
That was the only summer break I took.
As Susyn, the actor, I didn't take a break. As actors, we constantly are working our actor craft and actor business. We are entrepreneurs - we are the ones that make it happen so we have to work hard - learn and practice what we learn; AND be present. My daily goal is do at least one thing for my actor craft and at least one thing for my actor business. In addition, I try to follow Coach Jim Valvano's very poignant advice - to laugh, think and cry and do it daily.
As an actor, being present also helps me see the many opportunities that I might miss if I wasn't present. An actor also must focus on their actor business. I am an actor because I love being an actor and getting paid for what I love to do - act. To be paid, I have to search out opportunities and before I can be paid, I must develop and cultivate relationships. Cultivating relationships is the only way to sustain your business - and this applies to any business. This is especially true in the entertainment industry, which is a very project-intensive and entrepreneurial industry.
In my opinion, the guru of relationship-building is Keith Ferrazzi. I have been following him for a long time. Read his blog. Once there, check out his new book, "Who's Got Your Back". In one of his recent blog posts, Keith says that following up is the way to stand out from the crowd, it is the key to success in any field. There is a lot of clutter in any industry. To stand out, we have to be unique to get noticed. So, follow up.
Ideas for following up? When you meet someone at an event, do you send them a note 24-48 hours after meeting them? Do you send thank-you notes to casting directors or agents you meet to thank them for meeting you? Do you follow up submissions to industry peeps (agent, CD, producer, director, fellow actor, etc.)? Social media is a great follow up tool - do you forward info or show praise or gratitude for an interesting comment to individuals you met through Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc.? Email, Internet, phone, face-to-face are all great follow-up touch points. The keys to follow-up are timeliness, consistency and brevity.
So, does following up work? My answer is one word - absolutely. Here's a recent story for you. I have been lucky so far in my acting career to have had multiple agents. The majority of my agents have come from my following up on submissions that I have sent. There is a set of rules in the entertainment industry - started by who, noone knows - one of which is to not call to follow up. Rules? My stance is to break the rules - you have to be unique, while being professional, to stand out from the crowd. Anyway, this summer I wanted to switch agents so I did my research of agents I wanted to target, sent my headshot and resume along with a "to-the-point" cover letter. I paced myself - I sent my submission packages in a 3-week span. As a result, I was called in from the cover letter but my plan was to follow-up with every agent I didn't hear from. I made those calls, again I paced myself so I didn't overwhelm me! I actually secured more agent meetings and I ultimately signed with a great agent who I wanted to be with and who gets me (actors remember two things about agents - (1) they are a business partner, not a be-all-end-all solution -- you still have to run your business, success is in your hands, and (2) sign with an agent who gets you and you get them -- the relationship must be win-win). So, did I do anything special in the agent meetings? You bet. I researched everything I could find about the agent prior to the meeting and I again referred to Keith Ferrazzi - make the meeting about them and find out what's important to them and what's going on in their business. The meetings were good. The meeting that I had with the agent I chose was great - the connection we immediately had was great. The connection is the key to a great meeting.
It has been proven that we get ahead faster and more effectively by following up. But, we have to be strategic about following up. I have a plan on who I want to meet and I target those individuals. Otherwise, I would not have a focus, get overwhelmed and be ineffective. Start small. And, remember the rule of 7: it takes at least 7 times to "touch" your contact (or buyer) to gain trust and ultimately be in a position to sell. This is where the follow up comes in. And, remember that snail-mail, email, Internet, social media, telephone, face-to-face are all great channels you can use to follow up with someone. Be unique. Mix it up. Remember to be professional, and not a pest.
As a tutor, I'm also an entrepreneur - I have to generate business all the time and I am not able to do that without following up. So, again, it's all in developing and cultivating relationships.
The follow up is first about gaining trust, not getting what you want. Getting what you want happens after you make it about them.
So, remember, ultimately it's all about who knows you, not who you know.