As a marketer in "real life" and a marketer of a cosplay brand, I spend a lot of time thinking about marketing. But for many cosplayers trying to make a name for themselves, marketing can seem like total guesswork. That's why I run the Facebook group Cosplay Marketing, and write blogs about cosplay marketing to try and help cosplayers grow their audience.
Although I've gotten a lot of good feedback from people who are seeing success with these methods, I also hear people swearing up and down that they've followed all these instructions and nothing is working.
If marketing methods that work for other people aren't working for you, there's probably a reason! These, in my experience, are the four main ways that people end up sabotaging their own marketing efforts.
Are you cutting corners?
That is to say, are you performing marketing efforts as recommended, or are you potentially ignoring certain guidelines out of laziness or forgetfulness?
For example, if you submit photos to be featured by a website or Facebook page, are you making sure to read their rules of submission? Are you contacting the right person, through the right platform? Are you writing a professional-sounding query and providing all the important information?
When you share to Facebook groups, are you just blindly sharing the same photo to ten different groups, or are you writing thoughtful captions that are relevant to each group's interests and followers? Are you really trying to connect with those people, or are you just going through the motions?
How to fix it: Do a little re-education! Ask friends and peers for advice on the marketing techniques that aren't working, or find some resources online to study. Take notes on the places you think you're falling short, and double-check that you're correcting for those mistakes in future posts.
Are you turning people off?
Marketing is fiddly business. Usually when someone can tell that you're trying to market to them, they have a strong adverse reaction. This is why it's important that you make your marketing subtle, entertaining, or informative. Basically, what are you doing for them? If it sounds like you're just asking them for something, people won't bite.
For example, "Please check out my new photoshoot and like my page!" tells people that you're just there to try and get their like — they're a number to you.
How to fix it: Before you share something or post something, think about what you're doing for them. Sharing photos you think they'll like, bringing one of their favorite characters to life, etc. Always remember that you're trying to connect with other human beings, and try to be personable! Asking questions is a great way to engage people and make them feel like you're having a dialogue, not just marketing at them.
How many people are you reaching?
A lot of marketing tips are discussed in a broad, general sense, like "get featured on a website" or "share to a group." Techniques like that have one, singular goal: Reach more people. That means that there are some websites, Facebook pages, and groups that will have little to no impact on your audience.
For example, getting featured on a Facebook page that only has 3 likes won't bring an influx of traffic. Sharing photos to an inactive group with 15 members isn't going to help you.
How to fix it: Rather than just blindly following suggestions, think about why those suggestions are being given. Look at what methods you're using to spread your work around, and try to estimate how many people you're actually reaching. In general, you're only going to engage a small percentage of the people you reach, so the more you can reach, the better your chances.
Is your work the best it can be?
This is something we all need to be continually asking ourselves as marketers, because you can apply the best, most effective marketing to crappy work and you won't see results. I think it's absolutely imperative, if you want to grow and succeed in this industry, to be willing to step back and take an objective look at your work. We need to be asking ourselves, "is this the best I can do? What can be improved?"
Great cosplays showcased with poor photography won't succeed. Great photos of weak cosplays won't succeed. A great cosplay with bad hair and makeup won't succeed. Usually I don't advocate comparing your work to others', but if you find yourself saying "why is So-and-so getting this thing that I'm not getting?" it can be helpful to try and objectively look for where the differences are.
How to fix it: Take a long, critical look at your work and think to yourself, "If I came across this photo online, would I feel compelled to seek this cosplayer out and become a fan?" If the answer is no, why not?
(Also, this is important — this is not the place for self-loathing. If you want to grow as a cosplayer and a marketer, you have to be able to objectively critique your own work without it turning into a pity party. Remember, nobody starts out as an expert. You learn by doing, and everyone you look up to has embarrassingly terrible work in their past. Thinking everything you create is terrible won't help you any more than )
Of course, don't take this as gospel! There could be any number of reasons that your marketing isn't effective — these are just common ones. And of course, you have to make sure your expectations are reasonable. Sharing to a group isn't going to double your page likes overnight, and if that's what you're expecting, then you'll generally be disappointed!
As always, the best way to gauge how effectively your own marketing is working is to keep a close eye on your peers, and keep good track of your own data. Use logic, and always work to improve however you can.