(Webmaster Note: Due to a mistake on my part, “Ask the Pro” was postponed until today. Next week it will return to Friday. My apologies for those expecting it yesterday and especially to Bob Abdou. Steve Hurst, Webmaster)
Here’s another edition of “Ask the Pro” with Bob Abdou:
Should I start by sending out a promotional flier to each day care, call them to set up an interview, offer a free show first, or just show up with a puppet and request an audience? Barb P – Canada
Yes, no, absolutely not, I would never.
1. Fliers –
Promotional Fliers are a must in letting daycare schools know about our puppet business. Whether a postcard, brochure or flyer, any printed material is vital for the client to acknowledge us. My suggestion for a flier is keep it simple, not too wordy, and have excellent photos. Printing a flier on both sides is a good thing but not necessary (If one side of the sheet is blank why not put more information about ourselves on it?)
I have spoken to many successful daycare performers and they tell me that it is not unusual for them to spend $500 on stamps. That is a lot of money, but the return will worth it. Mailing to 500 daycares does not mean you will be booked for all of them. Be prepared to have only 1% of the daycares call back wanting information. This is the reality of mailings. It might not seem immediately effective, but even if they don’t call right away they know about you and they might keep the flier on file (hopefully not the circular file – that means the garbage can!)
I don’t do interviews or auditions for daycares, those clients that demand them I find to be more trouble than they’re worth. Leave the audition for America’s Got Talent. And cold calling daycares work against us, in my opinion. Daycares are sometimes understaffed, they always have crying babies to worry about and the staff members that answer the phone are not the ones with the authority to hire us. Without seeing a picture from a flier, a client may have trouble understanding what we do, what our puppets look like and who we are. The best way to get information about our puppet business is a web site. This is the 21st century. If you find yourself without a website, you will likely find yourself without a lot of gigs. And if you find yourself not having a web site, contact Steve Hurst the webmaster of Ventriloquist Central! Steve creates websites for professionals and is very good at it. (That’s a shameless Plug for Steve.)
3. Free shows –
I say never do a free daycare show unless it’s a favor, I know the owners, or are doing it for charity. Doing free shows can make us look unprofessional too. If we perform for free at daycares, why would we expect them to pay us for a show? I am not saying we shouldn’t ever do free shows, but save the free shows for hospitals and charitable organizations. A performer has to make a conscience decision whether they want to work for free or for pay. If you want to get paid, don’t do a bunch of free shows. One last comment on free shows, most daycares do have some money, not a lot but some. Some ventriloquist friends of mine have given away a free show to a day care only to find that a magician got paid for a show the next month!
4. Surprise performances-
Going to a daycare with a puppet and showing them what we do might sound like a good idea, but if the client doesn’t know we’re coming it could be a disaster! Daycare staff members are always busy and have a huge responsibility for children’s safety. If you show up unannounced, be prepared to hear the client yell out “security”! (And don’t expect to be hired there ever again!)
I feel the best way to get daycare shows is to send out repeated fliers that direct clients to your web site. Constant mailings show the client that we are in business, we have variety, and we can offer shows year round.
And if daycare facilities are not calling back for repeat shows, I have found a few common reasons:
1) the daycare is financially strapped
2) the staff member who hired us is gone
3) the daycare just didn’t like us
Repeated mailings will give daycares repeated opportunities to hire you again.
As for reason 3, always go to a paying client prepared, professional and perform a great show because the best customer is a “REPEAT CUSTOMER”
Please send in your questions and make comments below.
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger
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I agree with everything Bob said, especially about free shows!