Q: Melanie, did you realize when you became a voiceover talent that your charisma, your type a personality, just you being you would help you so much in business on a day to day basis?
A: I never gave it a thought. Not that anyway. I think I just looked at voiceover as a good melding of my experiences in my personality and those kinds of things and hoped it would be fun. Fun in that I'd get to encounter people and I'd have new experiences and I don't think I thought about my charisma being an asset or anything else. I just thought it would be, fun. Let's do it.
Q: And do you think that your charisma is an asset and do you think that's why people keep wanting to work with you over and over again? I mean, besides your beautiful, silky smooth voice?
A: When I meet them, yes, that's how we get to work together, but of course I have clients I've never gotten to meet. I do try to focus on connecting business locally because I love working with people face to face, but relationships.
Q: I know that you work with Go Daddy, YMCA, Keller Williams, a ton of local and national companies and I've always wondered about when someone is as friendly and outgoing as you, if they see it and try to promote it or if it's just part of what they do on a day to day basis? To me it's just you being, you know, it's like Debbie Mrazek is Debbie Mrazek, whether it's nine in the morning, not at night. I've worked with you on a movie set a movie set last year and you arrived and you're just so gracious and friendly and you knew what to do immediately. How do you do that?
A: I think when you touched on it, just be yourself. I made a conscious decision after my first year of business of trying what everybody says, industry professional standard and what you're supposed to do that I'm just going to be me and if I flub it, I might laugh. I might say I'm sorry, which I don't know about you, but it will be me, it will be reflection to meet and then after I made a decision to be me, just learn, continue to learn, ask the questions when you miss it, say I'm guessing there's a better, please school me. But stay humble, be you and ask the questions.
Q: How long have you been a voiceover talent?
A: For over 15 years. I started in radio. It was hosting the syndicated talk show daily and I just had jobs coming in that would you be willing to voice x? And I recognized pretty quick that that's fine. It's a lot less pressure than being correct all the time on news and within the timeframe you had to be that specific and then I realized that's a paying gig. People actually do that. So I landed there.
Q: You're the first voiceover artists that I've met, full time, I know a couple of others that do, like you said, they do radio commercials and radio shows. They kind of dabble in it, but I have not met anybody who does it full time. Twenty four, seven. Do you think that being a voice talent is the woman in the man's world?
A: It's starting to flip. I'd love to say I get to be part of that, but it is still a man's world for the most part. It depending on which aspect, but yes, we're seeing female voices in car commercials, which auto has been a very male dominated world. So we are, we're seeing women take roles that men have typically been handed.
Q: And you're happy about that?
A: Heck yeah. I want that business baby.
Q: I know we both do a lot of networking and I see you out in Dallas all the time. Tell me about how you find your business.
A: Networking is a big part of it because I want to build those relationships. Relationship building business helps more than anything else. And I do get to work with national brands and I do have people I've never met. I have clients that I've never even had a phone conversation with. It's all done through email and that's fine, but what I really want is to build my business on relationship based business.
Q: I know that also you do a lot of Linkedin. Linkedin is another big piece. When someone, and I'm leading up to the first step, when you first meet a potential client, How do you make first contact with them?
A: I think it depends on where I meet them? We network a little differently depending on where we are, so if I just meet them at a General Dallas business networking type thing, a lot of times when I say what I do, I'm a voice actor. They say, Oh, what's that, then I explained a little bit about that. You know, if you're here commercial and you hear the voice where you don't see a talent on the screen, then you've got a voice actor and play or everybody loves to listen in on that training, that government compliance training, voice actor, unless it's bad, and then probably not a voice actor, but I try to explain it, but if I'm at an industry type group and I'm, and I'm introducing myself, I don't have to usually give the background of who I am, so I guess it just depends on where I am, but then how do I initiate that usually I'm myself and say I'm Melanie and I'm a voice actor and if they know what it is or like a fun job and if they don't, then they ask a little bit about it and it gives me an opportunity to quickly flip it to them. Be like, my job is fun, but everybody's is sometimes. What's your, is it fine? I'll just shift it to them pretty quickly.
Q: You have a little quip or have a little fun communication immediately and that puts them at ease?
A: I hope so. You'll meet people in networking or in real life and there is no putting them at ease and then you have to figure out how you're going to navigate that.
Q: Or even If you want to work with them at all. If somebody is not friendly and wants to be creative and we all know stuffed shirts in the world, it's like please, I don't want to say use somebody else but use somebody else.
A: Exactly. By all means, if I'm not available, please just keep looking.
Q:We're normally, always available, but always busy too. So let's say once you meet someone at a networking event, Success North Dallas, how do you follow up with them? Do you send them an email, Linkedin, make a phone call? How do you take it to the next conversation?
A: I think my first step is if we exchanged business cards or we did it for whatever reason, but I had a good feeling about it and I'm a quick note about it and I keep a list of every networking event that I go to. I always take a note about that event, like what stood out or who I visited with. If I met somebody, write it down and then I go connect with them on Linkedin and I initiate with a personal message, you can just click "I'd like to be in your network", that's not personal, I want them to remember we met, so I shoot them a personal invitation and then hopefully they click yes right away and then I try to respond again with a great to meet you or something to that effect. So that's my first step.
Q: Well, I know with Linkedin you can just hit connect, connect, connect and that's generic. But if you have some of your personality to come out in your message, again, it shows them who you are.
A: Yes, and hopefully as a reminder, they remember me from that event.
Q: Right? She's that crazy redhead I met.
Q: We know being in business so long that it's a long game. Occasionally you'll have somebody that you'll connect with and it's like, oh yeah, I have of job next week. Do you want to do it? That's few and far between. Most of the time it's building the relationship, just staying in touch with them. So when they have a need, you're top of mind and that's so hard to do, especially in today's bombardment with email and Linkedin and twitter and facebook society.
A: I think one of the things I've found to be the easiest way to do that is join associations, joining organizations that hire whatever your industry is. So in my case, they hire voice talent already. I don't have to familiarize them with what I do or convinced them they have a need of it or anything else. Eventually they're going to have a need, so my first goal is to build a relationship with them. Stay that top of mind like you're saying, and then I also try to connect with their colleagues because most corporations or larger companies have lots of hands and a lot of departments and they don't always work together, so if I can say, hey, I met Winn at such and such, a great guy and love what y'all are doing over there. If you ever have need a voice talent, I'd love to be a resource for you, but it's not the same person that I initiated with, so saying that those organizations I can meet people and continue to expand my network. I can stay top of mind with the people that I've already met and connected with on Linkedin and then I can use it as opportunities to expand their network, which is the whole point of Linkedin is.
Q: It's networking in a different way. Instead of being in a room, you're online. That's more of a professional level.
A: My personality is fun, so my communication, sometimes a little quirky, is always professional.
Q: Melanie tell me a little about your plans for 2018. This is the very beginning of the year. and I know you always have lists. I know you are a BIG list maker. Tell me about what you're wanting to do and what you have planned for 2018?
A: I saw a meme the other day that said "in 2018 I want to do what I planned to do in 2017", which was my list from 2016. So we always are looking to continue to improve but also always looking to reflect. So, reflecting on my 2017 list which had many 2016 items on it I want to continue to do some video marketing, which I've found effective in old school thinking of voice talent. They said don't put your face out there. It could definitely pigeonhole you in some way or another. They said don't put your face out there because it's hard for somebody to see me and realize I can do a 60 year old voice. No, we're not gonna hire her. She's not 60 or put myself out there looking like this and be able to do children's voices. I feel that is not true for me. I felt like I am supposed to put it out there because my personality is when I get hired on so much at the time and so continuing to do video marketing, but you did a great job of helping me kickoff last year and then continue to stay relevant with what's going on by interacting media wise and spinning it back to what voice over is going to be. I think that's going to be a key component of what I'm doing this year because it's a natural offset of what I'm already doing it.
Q: Getting back to making first contact with some of your customers and clients. How do you know what industry to target? Because like I said before, you've worked with go Daddy, YMCA, Keller Williams? I looked at your website and you've got 60 major companies there. How do you know or realize which direction to go? This year you want to focus on the auto industry or we want to focus on x?
A: For me, I really could focus on anything. That makes it so big and so last year I limited myself to focusing on Dallas Fortune 100 companies, so they had to be big, they already had to be hiring voice talent. They already had to have budgets for it. I just needed to find them and build a relationship. So that was my goal and that's going to continue this year. I'm going to continue to branch out with that because it works and I know it works because I've already seen it pay off from what I started companies I literally targeted, met those people and then realized OK, I guess I have a little bit of a process and it's working so I just need to continue to duplicate that process. You mentioned the long game, you can't do anything as a one pop and expected to go the distance. So that's what I'm realizing as well. Last year I targeted those companies, they stay on. I continue to focus on them because I didn't change my mind this year and wanting to work with them. So why would I just let go and start in a different direction.
Q: I know last year you introduced me to the league of list builders and Jonathan Tilly. A very out of the box kind of guy, totally out of the box and I did the program. I didn't stay with the program unfortunately, and I may do that again this year. Tell us in a nutshell about just how the league of list builders helped you? Again, it goes back to first contact and that's what he talks about.
A: I think we've probably all received an email, whether it's just somebody you met at networking and you got added to their list or it's just somebody out of the blue but you look at it and immediately delete it because it's not personal. It was just a blanket email or spam. So League of lists builders teaches you how to not only reach out to the people that you want to work with, but in a way that it's personal and it's very targeted. So it gives you the skills and the tools to be able to reach out to a specific contact. Having already researched what's going to be of interest to them relating to their industry, their specific pain points, so you become the solution.
Q:The league of list builders is a six week course?
A: Oh Man. I've been doing it for years now. Kind of on recycle, so I think it's a month. You go through a month and it gives you a daily task. You complete it and it's one step towards having what they call a big gift. Creating the specific people you want to target with specific personalized letters for each of those people on your list. It's the long game, and a lot of work but it's definitely worth it because they become the people that you continue to want to stay top of mind with.
Q: OK. That's something that I need to do in 2018 is get back with the league of list builders and start that program again.
A: I need to continue to follow up with that list. I need to be targeted. Not just hoping I stay top of mind.
Q: How important is it to be likable in today's business climate?
A: It's pretty important. I think we figured out by like third grade is pretty important to be likable, right? Nobody wants to be the kid on the playground, nobody plays with or play with the kid who is a jerk. That's a good business lesson. Right? Definitely. Being likable is important. I think I'm pretty likable, so that's helpful.
Q: If you say so yourself. I think your very likable Melanie. Definitely from my perspective you are. Do you think you can teach someone the skills to be personable, to be engaging?
A: I think almost everything is teachable if you want to be. If you have an outward facing business and you're the marketing arm, which if you're an entrepreneur or solopreneur, if it's you baby, you're the marketing arm so you better be likable. I think there's tips and tricks that we learned along the way that help us and we witness it from other people. We're engaged by them and felt we feel so seen and heard by that, that we can incorporate it and you have that Winn, you have that in just your everyday life when you meet people and it's easy to reflect like when you see it in other people.
Q: Yes it definitely is. I think it's a trait that you either have or you don't, but you can definitely hone it to be better. Even if you've got it you can still learn to be more engaging or to listen better or to communicate with your employees or your boss in a new way and that's being more engage able and more relevant to what you're doing.
A: I think even if it isn't a trait you have, maybe you're really introverted, but for whatever reason you have a job that faces outward, then you're going to need to learn it and so many times you can. You can learn that. I have a brother that is very introverted, but there are so many of us in the family who would know. We're all loud and obnoxious and so he could hold his own. But he's a salesman and he's very good at his job because he's learned those skills.
Q: I think Toastmasters really helps with that aspect that helps you get out of your comfort zone and you don't have to be speaking to a whole crowd, just one on one communication and I know you're like me a lot and you'll talk to anybody even in the elevator. I talked to people in the line at Wendy's and Starbucks and I want to find out about what they do. I think it is important today, especially if you're out facing, if you're the boss of the company, if you're a solopreneur your sales. I never realized until about seven years into my photography career that I had a be salesman and we both do something that a lot of people don't do. We sell an intangible product.
A: Yes, that's true. And that's Kinda hard to. You have to already know you have the need and value it before anybody's really willing to pony up the bucks.
Q:That's exactly right. Then we have to convince them that we're the right person, we have the right skill, we communicate well and we can get their message across for whatever we want to charge. And sometimes that's kind of hard.
A: Where are those people that just want to pay for it right?
Q:Well, once they work with you they know they want to pay for it. They know the value that you bring into the project and then it's easy.
A: It has to be more than your personality that goes the distance. You have to have a character that can deliver and the product and the skill and everything else. But having the ability to relate and communicate is super helpful.
Q: Definitely. Now in high school did you take a course in drama or theater or were you in the opera or anything like that?
A: In high school theater, a little bit. No big starring roles or anything. But I think that I was the in between of all the different kinds of social groups, like it never occurred to me that I was the most popular or the most whatever. But I remember my senior year in high school I was voted class funniest and I'm like, well that won't get you a scholarship anywhere. But turns out it can open doors sometimes and today it helps. I have that trophy proudly displayed in my home to this day, but not really.
Q: You just wear it on your sleeve all the time?
A: I did learn that it is not just being funny, but the reason you ever get voted for anything like that is you have to be friendly. Like you had already said. You have to be willing to initiate and that's a skill right there. Learning to initiate, learning to start a conversation even in networking can really go the distance sometimes.
Q: Definitely. I know that when I'm out networking you can tell the people that are fine with starting a conversation, did great with engaging and talking because their the people in the middle of the room. Then that's where the conversations are the loudest and the other people that aren't sure why they're there or they're shy or they haven't gone to toastmasters are on the outside of the room looking in and they're not talking to anybody.
A: So what does it mean if I look for that person on the outside?
Q: That means you have a kind heart or you feel like no one's talking to them, they needed to being included in the conversation.
A: I think I want to crack them. That's what I see and I do. I am a fan of anybody and welcome to the party. So let's engage them and get them in for whatever reason, they haven't seen where the fun is yet.
Q: Well, I want to find out why they are and let them know that hey, if you're here you need to be talking to somebody. Your not going to get any business just by putting your hands in your pockets and hanging out on against the wall. It's like one to the dance in junior high and not having any girls to dance with. When I was in junior high, my mom put me in star dust, star dust was a dance class and I learned how to dance. It was a little after school program and I was the only boy there, so I was very popular. Then when I went to high school dances I was dancing with all my girl friends and I knew the Charleston and how to ballroom dance. And I really enjoyed it. I wasn't one of the kids on the out looking in at school dances. I was in the middle dancing with everybody. It's just what I did but I wasn't a big flirt and I didn't know how to talk to girls at the time, but I did know how to dance.
A: I can't talk, but I can dance. I feel like if we could move these chairs out of the way, you could probably show me something. So no, it's not your thing anymore.
Q: I can do the funky chicken, but it's pretty funky. I think we both go to networking meetings for the same thing, to meet people, to engage, to connect with old friends. Sometimes it's to see new people and just to be seen.
A: And it's fun if you do it right.
Q: You've got to show up, show up to the dance.
A: Yes, and I think maybe adding to that list, depending on where you're networking, sometimes it's figuring out are these my people because there's always a first time you attend a group, you aren't really sure somebody mentioned it to you, so you show up, you test the waters and there's times when I leave thinking - them aren't my folks. These are not my people.
Q: Wasted two hours of my life. I'm gone. And you can network morning, noon and night and not get any business out of it.
A: It's exhausting. Being discerning on where I network is one of the things that I've laid some stakes down. There's groups that are great and people tell me they get business out of them and did you see so and so and it was so good. I'm like, is that the one that meets at 7:00am? I stopped going there and I did not get any business. Being discerning on where it is that you're networking is important.
Q: You bet because this time is valuable for all of us. Thank you for sitting down with me today. I learn so much every time I meet with you and visit with you and have coffee and lunch. I learned so much.
A: Well thanks. You inspire a lot of people. I'm glad to be on your list of people inspired.
Q: I look forward to our next conversation. Thank you for being a GREAT guest.