Since starting Car Window Poetry nine months ago, I’ve seen more success than I could’ve ever imagined:
- Features on NBC Nightly News and HLN
- People sharing encouraging poems in all 50 U.S. states, as well as words being shared in over 50 countries worldwide
- Over 30 chapter leaders on three continents inspiring kindness
I never expected Car Window Poetry to resonate with people in the way that it has; however, in a capitalistic society, success is often defined by profit.
As a global poetry movement that has reached thousands of people while giving away our main product — Car Window Poetry cards — for free, I often get asked, “Why don’t you charge for Car Window Poetry?”
I don’t believe this is a bad question, nor does it come from a negative, greedy place. People who ask this question are typically people who want what’s best for me, but here’s what I’ve recently realized:
You have to create demand before you demand it. Not the other way around.
I’ll be honest with you. Car Window Poetry isn’t as popular as it seems. That’s a tough thing to say as someone who has seen significant success in leading this movement over the past nine months, but you have to be brave enough to be real with yourself.
Back in April, I decided it would be cool to offer free Skype workshops to third through eighth grade teachers for National Poetry Month. On the application, I wrote, “We’ll be sorting through to pick 20 classrooms to Skype with during the month of April.”
Three signed up.
In that moment, I realized I still have a lot of work to do in building an audience for Car Window Poetry. We’re not even a year in. This movement is still a baby in the context of other social good movements.
For that reason, I need Car Window Poetry to be as accessible as possible. That’s why you don’t have to buy Car Window Poetry cards. I tried selling Car Window Poetry kits when the NBC Nightly News feature aired last November. While I made a significant amount of money on the kits, this approach excluded teachers who didn’t have the money to buy enough kits for all their students.
Rather than waiting until they could afford the kits, teachers made their own Car Window Poetry cards and got their students involved that way. While it was heartwarming to see teachers go to great lengths to participate in Car Window Poetry, I was losing a key aspect of the mission, which was empowering people to share their poems on Instagram using the hashtag and social media information featured on the cards.
Seeking to build an audience for Car Window Poetry is also why I currently don’t charge for school visits or in-class workshops. I need good stories to tell, so that I can inspire others to follow along and join the movement. Not every teacher is in a position to pay for guest speakers.
Part of creating demand is adding value to those you’re serving. As I continue providing valuable experiences for teachers and students through Car Window Poetry workshops, I believe word-of-mouth between teachers will increase. As the demand rises and I have less time to give, I’ll be able to request payment. But until then, I’m giving freely. I’m creating demand.
Outside of Car Window Poetry, I believe someone who exemplifies this idea to a T is Chance the Rapper. Obviously, you know him as the Grammy Award-winning rapper who has never sold a physical copy of his music, but I believe giving away his music for free is one of the biggest keys to Chance’s success.
In various interviews, Chance the Rapper has shared how he makes money from touring and selling merchandise, but imagine if Chance tried to make those things his main source of profit after his Good Enough mixtape released in 2011. You’ve probably never even heard it, and there’s a reason for that.
Chance was nowhere near as popular then. He wasn’t touring or selling merchandise at the scale he is now because he didn’t have the audience he does now. However, by giving away his music for free over the past six years, Chance has been able to grow a fanbase that will do whatever it takes to support him.
In Gary Vaynerchuk’s fourth book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, he describes it this way: “Marketers are on social media to sell stuff. Consumers, however, are not. They are there for value.”
You create demand among your consumers by adding value to them and consistently telling good, authentic stories. Ultimately, you want people to believe they couldn’t not support whatever you’re doing because of the incredible value they receive from you.
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I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on giving freely and creating demand. I understand it’s not as easy to give away products when you’re depending on those products to pay your bills, but how do you still seek to add value?
Tweet at us with your answer!