MB 027: Smart Marketing


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Smart Marketing For Magicians

Are You Squeezing The Most From Your Bookings?

In this episode we talk about:

We’re seeing 2 common themes emerging:

  1. People only spend an hour a week doing marketing so  they don’t get work so they lower their prices then it is a big chase to the bottom.
  2. They are spending lots of time doing the wrong stuff, year in/year out.

We like to say are you spending time on the hamster wheel going round and round in circles or are you digging an oil well for yourself.

So if you only spend a small amount of time, what can you do to make that time more productive for yourself?

If you are doing the same old stuff and you are wondering why things aren’t improving. And it’s not good enough to stay steady, you need to be growing, to stay ahead of inflation at least.

You know what they say about the past?

The only usefulness for the past is to mine it for raw material to build the future

Don’t walk into the future looking backwards telling everyone how much better it was in days gone by.

So lets do some digging. One of the best places to start is with what you already know. How can you squeeze the most out of what you have before you go chasing the next thing.

We use the example of www.BalloonWorkshopBluprint.com  This is a hands on balloon twisting experience that Julian Mather created to try and fill the empty calendar dates he experienced during school holidays. Julian took what he already knew – some very limited balloon twisting skills – and turned them into a profitable business. This experience is discussed as way to explore the greater idea of getting more income from each booking you get.


Links and resources discussed in this episode:

The War of Art – Stephen Pressfield is a must read book if you find it hard to apply yourself to improving your magic business.

Barry Friedman is a man Julian and Ken know can open your mind to understanding you can achieve a lot more in your magic business. We featured him in Episode 14 of the Magician Business Podcast
Our 30,000 foot view video we talked about. Ken and Julian made this in the USA when they were speaking at a conference. It seemed like a good idea at the time …





These are the photos that the organisations love sending home to parents.



Julian Mather ready to load up for another Balloon Twisting Workshop






Thank you for listening

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Please help by leaving a review on iTunes, they are really helpful and we appreciate you taking the time. Reviews help our podcast get noticed by entertainers, magicians and performing artists all over the world which grows our community.

A larger community means more experience to share with each other so please feel free to share your comments below.

Thanks again, Ken and Julian

Meet the Author

Julian Mather

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Love this episode and can’t wait for the Balloon Workshop Blueprint!

    One of the ideas we are currently working on involves our families passion for Superheroes. We are planning and beginning to market special events for movie theaters, comic shops and geek conventions. We will be twisting life-size Superhero costumes, small versions of superheros and more for attendees. We will also be offering photo ops with a comic background and the opportunity to wear the full size costumes. With the all the new superhero movies about to hit the screens and the interest in “Cosplay” costumes this promises to be wildly popular.

    Thanks for all you guys do!
    Looking up,

    • Kieth, I have worked professionally in comics for the last 15 years (writer, letterer, and logo designer). If you want to bounce any ideas around, reach out to me on Facebook, I’d love to see what you’re up to!

    • I like this a lot Keith. Cinemas are where you get people standing in queues. Just something for them to watch and see. Big give away prizes after the movie. Cinemas are chains, so one good marketing pitch to head office might give many bookings.

      • Yes, here in the states every Superhero opening has become an event. Standing in line for midnight openings with my boys is where this idea originated. I’m in the midst of working on the “pitch” to take to the theaters.

  • Randy Cornwell

    one idea going to local sports clubs YMCA or others after school teaching kids balloons or magic not at the same time the largest that the class would be is around 30 kids because this is the most they have I could also go to daycares and do the same class after school. Another area I am working on is senior centers doing a short balloon show or magic show and then teaching balloons or magic

    • I like the seniors idea with balloons Randy. Most people never ever get to twist a balloon dog but they are intrigued. Colour and fun and i think a natural fit at a seniors centre. They will LOVE the photos they get and will all want to make one for the grandchild. You might be able to get the centres to have a family day and you of course will provide the entertainment for a price.

      • Randy Cornwell

        The seniors love the balloons they say that they are looking forward o showing them to there family members. I have not taught balloons to them yet but am working on doing it and have some interest from them about doing this, I will keep you informed how this works

  • Really looking forward to this! I have some questions, but feel it’s a bit early to ask since I think they will be answered once this is actually released.

    At 19:05 you started mentioning the difference between a queue for free balloons vs. even charging a dollar, but then didn’t really follow up on that. I’m just curious what your thoughts are, other than when you’re hired to do balloons. I’ve never done it, but I know people who feel that they make a lot more just putting a tip jar out than they do if they try to actually get even a couple of dollars to make something.

    In terms of ideas, these aren’t great and I’m sure not revolutionary, but thinking about the following:

    1) Marketing a magic class as an upsell to a birthday show. So you get your fee for the show, and then offer a magic class for an additional fee.

    2) Back of room sales, which is another whole class unto itself. There are some people who have made some DVDs which are non-specific that you can label yourself which have generic tricks and only show a set of hands. That seems like the easiest way to go. But, I know people that have started actually having products and keep an inventory, which can be a hassle, but it could be worth it.

    • Some people swear by the generic set of hands DVDs. I have no experience with these. Balloon twisting and charging per balloon I have never done. You might want to get onto a balloon forum for that one. Magic lessons, well, yes, you know I am 100% behind you on that.

  • Joe Coover

    The first thing I thought when I saw the topic was, “oh, I hate balloons, this one might not have anything to do with me”. Boy was I wrong.

    I’ve taught magic at a summer camp for 9 years when I was just out of college. I was forced to also teach a balloon twisting class because the camp director thinks all magicians can do this. It was a huge class, lots of kid wrangling and after listening to the podcast I think I felt like Julian felt when he said he’d created a monster.

    I have never done balloons after that because I felt there was no way it could be anything but chaos. I have however taken the ideas from that and in my own way created a value added workshop add on. Two words: Svengali decks! I took all the fun of the Svengali pitch and do it without the pressure to buy, they are built in “free” give aways for each child. This is still a fairly new concept and I think I will learn quite a bit from the workshop blueprint.

    I also think I can look at balloons again after my traumatic experience with new eyes toward creating fun, creative, and engaging workshops the client will love.

    Great podcast guys. I share it with ALL my serious performer friends, not just magicians.


    • Hi Joe, Svengali workshops .. yes .. interesting. What price point can you get them for? You could definitely use the teaching techniques in BWB and transfer them. What other performer type friends do you mean Joe? We are really interested to know who gets value from these.

      • Joe Coover

        Hey Julian, I just got caught up in the podcasts and this is the first time I’ve been able to comment between shows!

        I get the Svengali decks at Loftus.com

        They have a few options, I get the ones that come pre-collated, individually wrapped with instructions and trick ideas. They are about $1 including shipping when I order 144 units (12 dozen, or a gross). They have a cheaper option without the instructions, wrapping, trick ideas, or collated for 75 cents but I think it’s worth it to get a ready to go product.

        I have several busking type shows that I do where I “Pass the Hat”. When I have the decks available I make about $120-$240 more each show than if I didn’t have them. I did a kinda split test on accident when I sold out of them unexpectedly.

        The kids parties and even corporate gigs LOVE learning magic after they see my show. This deck is one of the few tricks without a huge letdown when you find out how it’s done. It’s still interesting and fun to play with after you know how the deck works. Plus most magicians don’t really use a Svengali heavily in their act so it’s a great one to teach in my opinion.

        I can pre-sell a deck for each audience member as an add-on to the show. This is where the balloon workshop will really come in handy to help clean up my handling of that part after I give out the decks and before I leave.

        When I sell it as an add on to a show depending on how many people there are I don’t always sell them for $10 per person. Sometimes I do $5 because it seems more in line with the party’s budget. Still a good profit and if they don’t scoff at the price you can always follow up with “Great then, so that’s the price of the decks sorted and my extra time is _____” or reverse it if they aren’t receptive “This of course would include my extra Svengali routine, very funny and instructional. And the parents also get a free deck of cards because after seeing the show they’ll likely wanna steal their kids deck!”

        I’d love to see a professional Busker or two on the show to see that side of the business. Love what you’re doing guys.

        • Joe Coover

          I have recommended your podcast to jugglers, comedians, a harpist, and next time I see him a professional Santa who I think should do Zombie Santa events around this time of year.

          Anybody who gets paid to entertain no matter the art should get something out of this podcast.

          It’s hard to sell yourself. Just getting the ego up to say “I’m worth a $1000 for an hour show.” That takes a lot but once you get that you need to find people who are looking and that’s where most of us can gain so much.

      • Joe Coover

        Just booked another show with the “Magic Workshop” add-on. At $5 per person this adds about $100 on top of my show rate. I’m already there so no fuel cost, no driving time, and all instructions have my branding on them.

        • Is this from the KaChing ebook I have available? Just interested. Good move.

          • Joe Coover

            I don’t currently have any of you guys’ ebooks but since discovering your podcast at the same time I’ve re-delved into being a real working professional I’ve ear-marked several ebooks for my business development continued education. I’m still young at 29 so I feel like the more I work to set up things well now I’ll have returns for years.

          • The Kaching ebook is how to teach a magic class. It may be of use to you http://magictricksforkids.org/magic-class-kaching/

            Great to hear you are focusing on the ‘professional’ side of things.

  • Haha, I like the 30000ft view video 😉

    I’m in the process of putting together an anti-bullying school show. To value add I am going to also develop a series of followup lessons and worksheets teachers can use. Having followup lessons is vital for what is learned in the show to become embedded in a school’s culture. I’ve been a teacher for 15 years so I know how to write a lesson plan that uses the right lingo to make it relevant and link into the national curriculum frameworks (using what I know!). I am going to make 3 different series of lessons, one for the younger kids, one for middle primary, and one for upper primary. Once these are made they can be easily distributed, won’t require any more time, but will give a lot more value to the school. I also have plans to develop some further interactive lessons through a “members only” section of my website. There will be videos of the characters from the show facing different social problems, and there will be multiple choice answers for the class to discuss and vote on. The correct answer will gain access to the next video etc, until the class earns a “Friendly Class” certificate they can print out and put up on their wall (with my branding on it of course). Another bonus is teachers always share resources, and if they give these lesson plans to their other teacher friends in a different school it is free marketing for me 🙂

    Pre-made lessons and resources represent amazing value to the teachers as it saves them a lot of time writing their own and referencing them against the national curriculum.

    Another further option I’d like to explore is to stay after a show to run a workshop with the student leaders (older classes or student council members) to help them identify ways they can make a difference in their school. Another idea I’ve thought about is then doing workshops with the teachers to feed back the students thoughts and create a “road map” to a whole school approach to the issues they raised. This again “uses what I know” as I’ve done similar things in school leadership. It would not be a difficult task for me, and would bring extra value to the school.

    On a completely different tack, I had a wild idea driving home tonight. As well as a magician I am a ventriloquist. How’s this for an idea for corporate clients? I know a guy who makes amazing custom puppets and can make one that looks like a real person, based on photos you send him. How cool would it be to MC a corporate evening with a puppet who looks like the CEO or some other important person? If the CEO has a sense of humour and gets into it this could be something really unique, and they could keep the puppet afterwards. OR I could keep the puppet and offer to make videos with it for internal staff communications or other similar reasons. If the budget was enough and I had some lead time this would be very do-able.

    • Teacher resources area great idea. Make them exceptionally high value and they will grow legs and walk from school to school for you.

      The CEO puppet is something Jay Johnson ( I think) has done. He speaks about great success with this but cautions about NEVER doing it with female CEOs. That is a minefield. Chase up Tom Crowl at Maher Studios and he will point you to some resources to get you going on that idea Andrew.

      • Thanks for the tips, Julian. I’m also flattered to think I had an idea in the same league as the very talented and creative Jay Johnson! Will have to poke around the net and see if there is any more info on what he did. I know Tom Crowl has just released a min course on finding different voices for ventriloquism which could be a great help to try and match the CEO’s voice if possible.

  • Thanks again Julian and Ken, I’ve been on catchup until now and today is the first podcast I’ve listened to live – as in, in the week published! So yes, I’m excited that I can participate and contribute to the current thread (and maybe win a workshop blueprint…).

    I do close-up in store magic for a ‘fairly large’ hardware store in Australia and recently upgraded to offering School Holiday Magic Workshops. The timing of this episode is great, as I was looking at ways to re-vamp the current workshop for a new experience. Balloons sounds an excellent idea. My twisting skill is probably 2 out of 100 so I’m encouraged that I may already be overqualified 🙂

    I’d like to bring up that one mistake I made in the past was trying to run workshops in places where there is little funding so parents are expected to pay per child. This doesn’t really work. Firstly because there is so much FREE entertainment in School Holidays and secondly, even if they do pay it is a low fee. So now I run workshops sponsored by a company – in this case this ‘fairly large’ hardware store. They see this as a service above my normal performance so I’m actually paid a higher rate that my standard close-up magic. So I agree with you that having the organisers pay up front is much better (than parents paying their way).

    One thing I do at the workshop which others may find useful is to build in follow-up business to the workshop itself. So I offer additional follow-up teaching via online videos after the workshop. In fact, they really need the videos to even use some of the props we build in the workshop.

    To access the videos is an opt-in and then on they go to automated newsletters and other useful tips. So this builds a sort of third tier level marketing from the workshops which were an add-on themselves.

    So in the context of balloon twisting, you could have additional training videos that they can access via your website after the workshop.

    Finally, I find that having scheduled workshops is a great way to answer the question at actual shows “Can you teach me a trick?!” So again, a simple referral off to the website and they can opt-in for updates on the next workshop.

    I hope a few people find this useful. I’d love to hear any comments on how others are finding and marketing the workshop idea.

    • Some good ideas in here Matt. That you are using an opt in is smart. With a large chain like this, can you present them some sort of package that could be scheduled over 6 months? Can you get the stores some free publicity in local papers? Build it into the plan you present. Every week you provide the papers a photo of a great balloon creation by a kid. Create a reader competition. get the store to give a $100 voucher as a prize. Think big with this Matt. They can only say no.

      • Thanks Julian, yes I like your idea here. I’ll let you know how the new workshop development goes, as well as a broader engagement (instead of dealing with several individual stores).

  • Brett Bolich

    I love this podcast. Especially episode 1 on charging $1,000 for a show and the episode on branding for Kids-Show Entertainers.

    The idea I am about to share is not my idea (Full credit goes to Flower Clown on Youtube), but I believe it is worth sharing since it involves the Balloon Workshop Blueprint. In his balloon class, the last half of the workshop is a hat building contest. Flower clown lets the kids build a crazy hat and at the end of the competition gives out balloon twisting related prizes or any prize that seems fit to the audience that he is teaching. He doesn’t go into detail on the prizes, but you can create your own (with some branding of your show). The video on youtube was a promo for his local area on teaching the class.

    Some ideas i have been working on involves polishing old tricks that I have and adding balloons into the effects. One would be using balloons in the load chamber of a crystal silk cylinder. It will allow you to use the different colors of balloons as well as the many prints that are on the market. The current one I have won’t work so I would need to upgrade to a larger size, but in time I will upgrade. This also allows us to save space of large final load items that are only used seasonally and not year round. When you are done with the trick, you can just give the balloons away. If you can handle the extra expense, you can even brand the balloons with a custom print of a company logo and produce those out of the cylinder for a corporate event.

    Another Idea I have been working on involves the Polka Dot Gag that Buster Balloon does in his kids balloon show. When you perform this effect, you need two hands to hold the balloon. I am working on a way to operate the gag one handed. This will allow me to have the other hand for a steal or if I am holding another object, the gag can go off smoothly.

    Those are just some Ideas I have been working on. Keep up the good work!


    • Yes Brett, Andrew Smith is going from strength to strength with his balloon show. He was a magician and quickly realised the marketing power balloons can have. Some people will never touch balloons and rightly so, they are not for everyone, but they are worth investigating and trialing like you are doing. Let us know how they go?

      • Brett Bolich

        I will keep you posted Julian. I also love the quote “profit is the applause you get for running a decent business”. It is something positive I will keep with me and spread to other business people alike (especially if they are feeling down).

  • Hey Guys! You know I’ve been waiting for this balloon “secret” for a long time! I’m going to do my best to “win” the blueprint…. maybe with my video contribution that I’m working on right now…

    Here’s what I do that I believe adds value to my shows and makes me stand out among the other entertainers in my area. My clients are informed that my “magic” shows last about 35 to 45 minutes but I “give” them crazy balloon fun afterwards… free, no extra charge – a $50 value

    I bring in a minimum of 3 balloons per child and I tell the kids that they will learn to do crazy balloon hats after the magic portion – if they pay attention! The baskets of balloons are by my side and I can see how excited the kids are about what is to follow.

    All things considered, this extra 30 minutes and 100 balloons costs me very little but makes great publicity.

    Also, I always ask the client if there is a theme or if the child has a preferred hero or princess. I will bring, nicely wrapped in clear cellophane a beautiful design that I have made ahead of time.

    The new thing that I have started is to make a balloon bouquet for my client (almost always a lady) and present it to her at the end of my show and make sure she gets a round of applause for inviting us all. This is a huge hit and again, costs me a few dollars and about 20 minutes.

    I know that I’m “giving” a lot of “free” stuff/time but I’m entering a territory that has a load of very well established kids entertainers and it’s important for me to create impressions. The extra expense will pay off long term.

    Finally, I’d like to recommend “The War of Art” to anyone that suffers from procrastination of any degree. This little book that came recommended to me by Julian has really changed my life. Seriously. Thank you Julian!

    • You are adding massive value to your clients here Christine. So what that you are giving it away free. The return you will get will be many fold the small amount of time. I agree, balloons are smart marketing, as are large puppets. Why? Because people WANT to be photographed with them, they want to post them on FB. I like the clear cellophane idea. Adds an extra level of ‘special’ to it. I’d never considered that.

    • I forgot about the puppets! Yes, the kids absolutely love them but to my greatest surprise, the most popular is an old (very old) Axtell buzzard I’ve named Conrad. Kids prefer him over my brand new Oscar the turtle! Wonderful photo ops!

  • N Jay Jaybo Holtz

    I have found a great way to bring happiness to the business off thru my balloons models. I also make a flower basket to give to the birthday child to give to mom to thank her for a wonderful birthday party. I like the idea of taking the balloon show to the Y and teach the children how to make their own balloon models. Looking forward to winning your balloon workshop blueprints. Great day N J

  • I’ve “done” balloons before…but after listening to the podcast and reading the replies in this thread, I can confidently say I am a rank amateur barely worth my poodle twist! WOW! Suddenly, I want to play too! But, on adding value…that I know something about.

    I work a few different markets, so I’ll attack each on turn….

    Birthdays: For the birthday shows, now and for the 30 years I’ve been doing them, I have a special routine at the end of my set that I can bring up the birthday child and have the magic words be “HAPPY BIRTHDAY XXXXXX” screamed by everyone in the audience. This routine is simple (20th Century Silks is the the core of it), but it’s a 10 minute routine that the kids and parents alike really love and it drives home the focus of the day: the child.

    Additionally, I used to float the birthday child, for an upcharge, of course. This has been an interesting journey on whether to upcharge, or raise my rates. In my current price structure I have chosen to raise my rates and include the levitation in all kids’ shows…but I charge MORE than I did for my upcharge. This has been wildly successful as people are more than willing to pay a higher rate…but NOT a lesser amount for for an extra effect.

    Another thing I used to do, but discontinued several years ago, was a magic workshop for the birthday party where I would provide all the children with magic kits and teach them how to do the effects. I didn’t do this long as it was a long (loooonnnngggg) show, the kids and the parents enjoyed it, but in the end, they really were more than ready for cake. However, the idea of the experiential birthday party appeals to me to this days, so I will be revisiting this…or converting it to a balloon workshop as Julian has developed.

    In my corporate work, by contrast, I like to include at least one effect customized for the client. Recently, for example, I was working for a game company, and developed a close-up routine using Magic the Gathering playing cards and gaming dice. This was a mentalism bit based on the combined works of Mark Strivings and Docc Hilford (I called the effect Six-And-a-Half Fuzzy Dice…which no one but the most die-hard mental folsk will get, but it makes me happy). the point here, however, is the client (and their clients) REALLY glommed on to this effect, and in a two hour contract I performed in for an hour-and-a-half…on demand. The client was very happy, the guests were very happy, and I was paid very well…all for taking a little extra time to modify an effect just for them. Now THAT is adding value!

  • Robert

    A similar idea (if you’re not into balloons) would be to do a magic workshop which teaches some basic trick(s) of some kind – whatever would be good for the audience. One of the tricks would include a prop for all to take home.

    I know this has been done, though I haven’t heard anyone mention doing it at birthday parties.

    • Hi Robert, James Munton had a DVD out on this a number of years back. The reason i never did it at parties is you have to go into ‘school mode’ for it to work. parties are all about letting your hair down. Have you seen the Teaching magic ebook I put out called Magic Class KaChing? Take a look ..http://magictricksforkids.org/magic-class-kaching/

      • Robert

        Good point about that.

        No, I hadn’t seen that ebook of yours. Looks interesting (and a very low cost!) I wonder if my son would be interested in that too. He’s been asking about what he could do during vacations to earn some money, though he’s on and off when it comes to magic – as I was at that age. Thanks!

  • Robert

    Another idea to squeeze more from a booking is to resell or refer other services. For example, if you’re dong birthday parties they might want a bounce house or tent rental or something. Be careful you don’t end up being a party planner (unless that’s where you want to end up) but you could offer a brochure of party add-ons that you have learned people usually want from companies you trust. You get a little kick-back with just about no additional work on your end.

    I would only consider going this direction if you can present it in a purely helpful way. And, in my opinion, only if it *is* actually helpful. They should see it as you trying to help out by giving them some other good and useful ideas.

    • I thought about this and made some calls. It never seemed to be worthwhile for me. It seems that I would need to be the party provider and provide all the forms of entertainment. It sounded too ‘joy-less’ for me.

      • Robert

        Yeah, I didn’t think it was a great idea 😀 but wanted to throw it out to possibly trigger a thought for someone else.

        Though, I do think it would be a good idea to build some relationships with other providers like that. Send some business their way, they’ll get to like you for that, and perhaps do the same back to you.

        • Just because I couldn’t make it work doesn’t mean it’s not a god idea. Someone some where can make this fly. I have a magician in my area who has his own bouncy castles and snow cone machines. He upsells these on top of his shows on a regular basis.

  • Mike Dobias

    Great discussion! For birthday parties, I have a Deluxe upsell that 75% of my clients take me up on. It’s only$75 more than my “Classic” show, and it nets me $55 ($20 of cost built in). I add the following4 things: I bring an illusion where I make the birthday child “float” or “levitate” (chair suspension), I bring goodie bags for up to 15 kids (10 items in each, my cost $1.01 each, everything bought in bulk, I sell additional for ), birthday child gets a magic kit (my cost $3.90), and I do a “mini magic workshop” where I teach the kids a magic trick. With both shows the kids also get my custom full color “giant magic dollar bill” that teaches 4 tricks (and happens to have my contact info on the front, which I point out to the kids by saying “and if you have your Mom or Dad go to my website or call my phone number, I might magically show up at YOUR birthday party!”
    On a related note, the fortune teller fish that’s included is my own re-packaged fortune teller fish, in a small plastic Ziploc bag that holds the fish and a business card that on the flip side has my own fortunes. The magic trick included in the bag is also my own, again in it’s own packaging with my business card and the trick instructions on the flip side–costs about 6 cents per trick, I make them up while watching a show. Much better and cheaper than the coin slides or other tricks that I used to include, and it raises my celebrity status by having my own branded tricks.

    • You’ve thought this through Mike. Lots of solid practices.

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