Channel Maven’s newest addition, McNall Mason joined us in August. Here’s her take on some marketing lessons learned on the streets:
I used to live in Asheville, NC. It’s a cool place. I highly recommend it as a travel destination but don’t move there unless you’re bringing your job. In Asheville, good paying jobs are hard to find. Aside from being smack-dab in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, what makes Asheville so cool is the focus on the arts, music, crafts, galleries, culinary arts and local goodies like homegrown beer and Lusty Monk Mustard.
Asheville has a lot of street performers. A 10 yr. old saxophonists, a lady who covers herself in silver paint and robotically plays the snare drum every time someone puts a dollar in her bucket, mimes, hoola-hoopers, a guy who rides a 44 foot tall bike, you name it they’re in Asheville and they’re fun to watch.
I don’t live in Asheville anymore, I live in the Seattle area now. Equally cool, artsy, foodie and flush with street performers, especially near Pike Place Market. I recently had the pleasure of meeting a street musician named Jack who plays the bongos. We were standing in line at Starbucks and started chatting. He mentioned that he’d just bought a new car… with the proceeds from his drumming business. It wasn’t just “a” car, it was a $40,000-ish car. I was impressed for sure but mostly it struck me as odd.
The idea that Jack could make a living as a bongo drummer on the streets of Seattle never dawned on me. Starving artist? Yep. Barely making enough to buy a pack of gum? Sure. But making a living, buying a car, treating it as a J.O.B?! Dreams like that are staples of childhood, not a career. (Just ask my mom!)
I left Starbucks, Americano in hand, and began wondering: what, if anything, can I learn about marketing from street performers? That’s where I embarked on the journey that introduced me to Max.
“My relationship to groceries is directly related to how much I earn as a street musician.” - Max Judelson, Street Cellist, Boston.
No big surprise, being a successful street musician is more involved than just pulling up a piece of cement and attracting the masses. In fact, it’s a lot like the rest of life and most jobs. If you want the pay and accolades, you have to be good at it. Just getting by doesn’t earn you a nice car. This epiphany was brought to you by 10-rules for Street Musicians an article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s the story of Boston Street Musician Max Judelson who plays cello in the subway.
Most of the article is marketing basics. Day and time of day factor in and if you’re in front of customers, it matters what you wear. Who frequents your corner, where your corner is (location, location, location) and looking people in the eye all matter as does consistency in performance style and showing up regularly. Sound advice for sure and all worthy of consideration.
In the end this disruptive concept is the nugget of knowledge I set out to find:
Boston street cellist, Max, listens to Marketplace Morning Report on NPR before he heads out to play. He doesn’t personally care about the stock market, he does it because the ups and downs of the market impact his income.
Over time, he noticed that market flux impacts the mood of the passers-by and so does music. When the market is down, the mood is down. Upbeat music can lighten the mood. Upbeat folks give more money and linger longer to listen. Wha-lah!
That’s subtle and brilliant. It speaks to noticing cause and effect in non-typical ways, comprehending your customer at a level they might not even be aware of and using those conclusions to your benefit. And in case that’s not enough goodness, it also demonstrates a desire to intentionally prepare for the best day possible. We need more of all that.
(Understanding + Empathy) + Observation = Success
We’re not street performers, at least not for a living. We’re in the channel but still we can reengineer and repurpose Max’s philosophy and use it to our advantage. Let’s start by dissecting the important components.
1. Understanding: Know the type of person seeking your products or services. Who is your buyer? Where do they go to find you? In B2B, think about the role a person holds in a company. Who are they and what are their functions? Answer that and you will begin to understand their personality, how their days unfold and what their priorities are.
2. Empathy: Now you have a good idea of who they are but, how do they feel? What’s their pain point, what information do they need in order to make an informed decision? If you were in their shoes, what key words would you search for, where would you find the information you need? Often websites talk about how great their product/service is and how much the buyer needs it. If that website was a person, would you be excited to start a conversation with them? Answer those questions and you begin to see how to build an online presence that speaks directly to your buyer’s needs instead of your needs.
3. Observation: Understanding and empathizing inform the observation process. When a buyer finds you online, your ability to make a personal impact suffers. You don’t have the chance to ask why they came to your site and left immediately or where they went. Analytics and other demographics can highlight the patterns in visitor’s behavior. Once you see to the patterns you can “play to your audience” like Max does.
Max is dependent on relationships and the channel, no matter your role, is also dependent on relationships.
If understanding, empathy and observation are keys to making relationships better then we can all benefit from paying attention to the needs of those we serve. It makes no difference if you’re a vendor looking to onboard partners, a partner looking to sell more or a marketing consultant looking to help, you simply can’t go wrong when you think like your customer.