What’s the Gift?

by David duChemin, from The Audience Academy, a bi-weekly email for artists, creatives and makers. 

I think the reason so many creative people get hung up on marketing is because while art-making is usually a gift, efforts to put our work into the world and promote it—most especially to sell it—feel not like giving but taking.

What if everything you did was a gift to your audience.

What if your social posts were less about you than about them? What if those social posts contained a gift—something that made the intended audience feel good, made them laugh, taught them something, or inspired them? What if you knew that audience came to you and your work to feel a certain way and everything you did in your marketing was aimed at doing that?

What if you asked, “What’s the gift?” before you sent every email or wrote every blog post? What if you didn’t offer your work in any form unless you could first answer a resounding “Yes!” to the question, “Will this make my audience’s life better?”

Wouldn’t that make it easier to say, “I made this for you; here’s how to get it”? Would it make it easier to more frequently send your audience an email? And wouldn’t those emails be so much more than yet another newsletter?

The big missed opportunity (among many, I suppose) is that so much communication to audiences (aka marketing) is not a gift. So when yours is, it stands out.

How many times do I go to the website of an artist and see a chance to sign up for a “newsletter”? Newsletters are not a gift. Newsletters are about you, not them. Your news, not theirs. No one needs more of that, and very few people want it. But offer me a chance to get more of what I come to you for—the experience of your art, the feelings, the thing that you really offer, in some way—that’s a gift.

It’s a gift when, instead of a “newsletter,” you offer me one of your songs or a desktop wallpaper.

It’s a gift when you show me your process or share a BTS video.

It’s a gift when you offer me first dibs on new work or give me a sample.

It’s a gift when you reveal something of yourself to me because if I love your work, I probably love you, too.

It’s a gift when you offer me something I can’t get elsewhere—some exclusive thing or exclusive pricing, or even access to you.

Making everything you send, write, make, or post a gift connects your audience to you. It makes them feel loved and understood. Appreciated. It makes it easier to feel like you don’t keep those of us in your audience around only to separate us from our money.

A gift, by the way, is not always free. If you make something I really love, it’s a gift when you let me take it home for $1,000. It’s a gift when you release your new album and let your most loyal fans get it before others. If I love what you teach and you offer me a book or lecture or course that will change the way I think or make my life better in some way, that’s a gift. But if you can make that offer in a way that is also a gift, maybe with some samples or a generous refund policy that minimizes my feelings of risk, or perhaps it’s that you don’t make me click on 12 buttons and create yet another damn account with a password just to buy your thing, that’s also a gift, and I’ll love you forever.

And here’s the magic part. When everything you do is a gift to your audience (and here I can only speak from my own experience), it makes the so-called marketing something I enjoy. Or at least something I’m much less reluctant about. So I do it more. And better. I put my heart into it. It becomes more effective. It connects my audience and me a little tighter. And practically speaking, it leads to stronger open rates on emails, more engagement with calls to action or invitations to buy what I make, and more enthusiastic word of mouth.

Make every offer, every post, every email a gift. Make my life a little better because of it. Make it clear and easy to accept. Do that, and I’ll remain in your audience forever and tell my friends. Do that, and you’ll be signal in all the noise that’s out there, and I’ll keep listening.