I made up a promo package for schools, daycares and libraries within a 2 hour drive from my home, and visited them all one at a time, pitching my themed shows to principals, librarians, guidance counselors, PTA/PTO moms, etc. I also sent mailers to every potential client, explaining the benefits of my programs for their students. My wife also made countless cold calls to solicit bookings.
To get birthday party bookings, I advertised in a local parents’ magazine … which didn’t have good results. I also put up colorful flyers and posters in coffee shops, gyms, pastry shops, party stores, etc. You have to get permission from the business owners/managers to do that, and sometimes you have to bargain and make a deal, but most of them are happy to comply.
During every performance, I used “in-show marketing” to subtly inform the audience that I’m available for other kinds of shows.
Once you’re established and making a name for yourself, word of mouth advertising works wonders.
However, I personally had another secret ingredient: My own original, custom theme song, featuring my name in the chorus, which I played at the start of every show, and again (a longer version) at the end. It had such a catchy melody that parents and kids would drive home singing the song, and therefore repeating my name to themselves! Whenever we did repeat bookings, the kids would be waiting and singing the song to me as I arrived!