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VO Marketing 101: 'Keep In Touch' ...
Innovative Ways To Sell Your Sound
By Alan Sklar
Voice Actor
Click below to hear inspiring six-minute audio version of this article, read by the author
About 15 years ago, a friendly staff producer at the NYC office of Carabiner gave me some advice which is worth thousands of dollars.
He said, “Keep in touch.”
Keep in touch.
That’s good advice for vendors in most industries. And an excellent suggestion for voice actors in our business.
You’ve heard it many times: ”Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind.”
In the “old days” actors would make phone calls to chat with producers or send postcards with a brief recap of what jobs they’d done in the last month or two.
Several of my colleagues still send postcards. It’s worth the 20-cent stamp to have a producer spend three or four seconds perusing your photo and news, and then tossing it in the waste basket.
It’s "keeping in touch.”
But a voice actor is not selling his look, but his sound.
When I started in this work, I used to make calls to corporate clients on Sunday afternoons. I had a list prepared of the names and phone numbers, and I’d roll through the list.
Why a Sunday afternoon? The corporation was closed.
My thinking was that on Monday morning the producer walks into his office with his coffee, sorts through his mail, and then listens to any phone messages that had come in.
My message went:
"Hi Charlie. It’s Alan Sklar. I just wanted to say Hi and gently twist your left arm to think of me the next time you’re shopping for a narrator with a warm, deep, authoritative voice. Please don’t call me back. I know you’re a busy guy."
So I left a voice sample of a warm, deep, authoritative voice, not a printed post card résumé.
While I spoke, I leaned back in my desk chair, and relaxed physically in order to get the best soft, warm sound I could muster.
Also packaged in my spoken message was an unspoken communication: ”Alan is a gentleman, a reliable professional and so easy to work with.”
Did it work? Was that an effective strategy?
I dunno. But my numbers went up every year.
So, like a good enema, it probably didn’t hurt.
About 70% of my work for years was - and still is - non-broadcast narration, serving corporate, medical, financial clientele.
I still feel that’s my strongest skill, and I love the work.
With “Industrials” the voice talent can be a part of the creative team, making script suggestions, which are often accepted.
Not so with commercials. Just keep your trap shut and do what they tell you. I’ve learned to not turn on the charm or the humor or make suggestions during a TV commercial job.
At an on-camera audition many years ago, an actor friend (a grown man over 50 years of age!) said to me:
“I’d never do what you do. I’d never call producers.”
He spoke as if I had a disease.
I thought to myself, ”I love competing with guys like this.”
Another time, a voice actor, on the sidewalk outside Liz Lewis’s facility in NYC, said:
“I hate those medical narrations. Can’t stand all those X#!%&XZ# big words.”
I thought to myself, ”I love competing with guys like this.”
Keep in touch.
Nowadays, with email, it’s easy to keep in touch.
An email is a non-intrusive electronic postcard, hopefully getting the client’s attention for the same three or four seconds.
And a voice actor can attach an audio file to show his/her stuff rather than just describing it.
I know for a fact that producers occasionally listen to the attached sample.
Some actors feel that the agent should do 100% of the marketing. I feel differently.
When a job creates new wealth, the agent gets 10% and the talent gets 90%. That means to me, that the actor should do 90% of the marketing efforts.
So many actors are reluctant to do the selling.
It’s as if the agents and producers are titans of the industry and the actor is “poor little me,” so deferential with hat in hand ....feeling unentitled to even approach such industry giants.
Boy, what a misunderstanding.
Keep in touch. How to do it effectively and not intrusively haunts me.
I know to think:
“Be pleasantly persistent. You are not a pest. You have value to bring to the producer’s work. Pleasantly persistent.“
As a sales person in the paint and hardware industry for 20 years before I got into voice overs, I learned how effective it is to be pleasantly persistent.
One fun story was when Ralph (our northern Manhattan salesman) and I tried to open up a new account, a lumber yard/hardware store on 2nd Avenue in the East 90’s.
We got thrown out 12 times.
The owner said:
“Alan, you seem like a nice guy, but we buy from Montauk Associates, and E.Rabinowe and Gene Flohr, and we really don’t need another wholesaler.”
Ralph and I left and stood on the sidewalk outside the store.
Ralph said: “Alan! Screw this guy!”
And I replied: “No, Ralph. If the New York Times crossword puzzle was easy, it wouldn’t be any fun. We’re gonna open this guy up.”
And sure enough, two weeks later, on our 13th call, the owner yells at us across the store: “Do you guys carry Frost King Weatherstripping?”
I yelled back: ”Sure do!”
The boss yells to his buyer: “Frankie, give ‘em an order!”
And Ralph called on them every week thereafter and wrote an order.
But back to Keep in Touch.
I had a brainstorm last year. I recorded several short stories on CDs, had labels printed with a small headshot, and in big letters at the top:
Reader: Alan Sklar
On the bottom: The author and title and running time.
I sent these “entertainments” to producers with my card, on which I write: “Hope this story enhances your commute.”
The response was and continues to be very positive.
I often get lovely grateful emails thanking me. I’ve mailed hundreds of these CDs. An effective way of staying in touch.
Now ... how else to stay in touch?
Next time we talk, I’ll tell you stories about finding new accounts (production companies.)
And if you are a salesman in your heart, it’s often more fun than the voice jobs.
But you must understand that the definition of a salesman is: A guy who gets other folks to do what he wants! It’s got nothing to do with hawking wares.
Also see and hear:
Alan Sklar has been a freelance voice actor for more than 20 years, voicing radio/TV commercials and VNRs - and narrating everything from audiobooks and documentaries to thousands of corporate and medical video projects. An award-winning narrator of more than 150 audiobooks - including A Civil Action and Black Hawk Down, he is also an on-camera and in-person spokesperson for major corporations.
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Comments (24)
Forris Day Jr.
4/22/2011 at 12:03 PM
Great info, Alan. I like your positive attitude. That is truly the way to get work!
Ed Hawthorne
4/22/2011 at 11:20 AM
I just wanted to thank you for your inspirational articles on Voice Over Xtra. To have a talent of your status helping us is a valuable resource that we can listen to again and again!

Thank You,
Ed Hawthorne
Mary Ellen Dahl
4/16/2011 at 7:44 PM
Alan: Thank you for such a seemingly simple approach to what many feel is a daunting undertaking. I am new to the VO world, having dabbled in it while I was in TV production in the 90s. I'm now ready to start a new venture that will (hopefully) take me into retirement. Articles like yours only aid in comforting the nerves and realizing that we all fear the same things. The difference is how we ACT through the fear, not reACT. Thank you!!!
Angie Farruggia
4/16/2011 at 10:28 AM
Alan, what you have talked of is a huge stumbling block for many of us. Thank you for making it sound so easy. I think I will print your article and pin it to my studio wall.

Dan Hurst
4/15/2011 at 10:37 PM
Alan, I have admired your work for a long time. Its simplicity and elegance are a benchmark for great voice work. And this article is a perfect example of that.

Thank you...and consider every bit of it stolen for my own personal use!


Ron Lisk
4/15/2011 at 10:07 PM
One of the best articles that I have ever read on keeping "in touch" in a non-intrusive mannder.

This is my first post on VoiceOverXtra ... and a very sincere thank you, Alan, for a great article.
Melissa Hearne
4/15/2011 at 5:59 PM
This is great information!
Randye Kaye
4/15/2011 at 5:33 PM
I can tell you that Alan actually does all this stuff - and that it works! He is equally generous - always sharing these tips with other voiceover peeps. Alan is a true gentleman - and a great talent as well.
Chuck Burke
4/15/2011 at 4:29 PM
What a fabulous article. Great information.

Pearl Hewitt
4/15/2011 at 4:24 PM
Absorbed every word, Alan. Thank you so much. Very entertaining, interesting and inspiring all rolled into one! Brilliant!
Roxanne Hernandez
4/15/2011 at 3:14 PM
How inspiring, Alan! Thank you so much for this article.
Rick Lance
4/15/2011 at 3:11 PM

"Like a good enema, it probably wouldn't hurt."
That's a good line to remember. As is the rest of Alan's advice.

I've been doing the VM message thing after hours at corporations. That gives you a chance to leave a good message without interrupting someone's day. And a chance for you to "audition," so to speak, by having your voice recorded on their VM.

And that CD story thing ... now ...that's got me thinkin'!

Thanks, Alan ... Keep in touch!
Maxine Dunn
4/15/2011 at 2:40 PM
Hi Alan,

Handsome AND brilliant! I just love your wonderful article! Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your wisdom. I enjoyed your recording very much, as well.

I’ve been a big fan of the Sunday voice-mail messages for a long time. (I think I might have learned that idea originally from Susan Berkley or Diana Boylston.) It’s such a great way for your clients to hear your voice with no pressure or interruption.

Your idea to record CD’s for clients is fabulous! In fact, would you send one of your short stories to me? I commute all the time and it would be a lovely alternative to what I usually listen to during my drive. :~)

And you’re right - sales can be so much fun! It requires creativity and imaginative thinking and most of all, persistence. (Pleasant persistence.)

Thank you again Alan for your beautifully written article and inspiring ideas. I hope all is wonderfully well with you and that our paths cross again sooner than later.

Barbara Saulnier
4/15/2011 at 2:23 PM
Very interesting, well organized and valuable advice.
Bobbin Beam
4/15/2011 at 12:52 PM
Pure gold, Alan. Thank you for sharing your wise stories.
All The Best,
Bobbin Beam, Voice Actress
Karen Commins
4/15/2011 at 12:46 PM
Early in this millennium, I flew from Atlanta to NYC to take a voiceover marketing class with Alan. He impressed and inspired me that day, and he has continued to do so in every communication we have.

Alan, I am genuflecting in your direction right now! The CD stories are yet another of your brilliant marketing ideas, and I thank you for sharing it with us!

Karen Commins
jennifer dixon
4/15/2011 at 12:41 PM
Love that velvet voice - Excellent ideas!
jill goldman
4/15/2011 at 12:00 PM
fantastic, alan! thanks so much!
Roy Wells
4/15/2011 at 9:59 AM
Loved the advice in the article, but if using USPS to send out material it costs twenty-eight cents for postcards, and $1.22 to send out a CD in 6x9 bubble wrap envelope.
Deb Stamp
4/15/2011 at 9:32 AM
Just the spark I needed. Tks, Alan!
Jane Ingalls
4/15/2011 at 8:56 AM
Alan,your suggestion to call clients and leave a thoughtful voice sample on Sunday afternoon is something I could actually do. I cannot thank you enough for a new approach to "keeping in touch!"
Amy Weis
4/15/2011 at 8:10 AM
Alan - I love this approach! Prior to my voice over career, I worked in radio sales. My style was very similar to yours and quite successful. Now that I'm in this venue I've been trying to find creative, nonintrusive ways to 'keep in touch'. Your suggestions are terrific! Thanks for sharing them!
Daniel Wallace
4/15/2011 at 1:03 AM
That was brilliant! I've always enjoyed Alan Sklar's delivery. Brilliant I say Brilliant.
Keith James
4/14/2011 at 2:01 PM
What a refreshing article! There are so many coaches and 'gurus' seemingly trying to make a buck off the wannabes and newbies in the industry that it is difficult to find relevant information for veteran voice actors. Wise and insightful words from Alan for anyone ... in almost any business! And, he didn't mention Twitter or Facebook once (not that there is anything wrong with that).
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