All That (Marketing) Jazz

Maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing machinery by applying a few practical and proven principles of good musicianship.

July 12, 2016

I'm a musician. After hearing me play, some may argue that claim. But as someone who finds joy, satisfaction, artistic expression and occasional cash through music, I often find myself thinking about making great music as a metaphor for doing great marketing.

Here are a handful of music-to-marketing translation tips you might find useful if you're even just a little musical (or perhaps not musical at all):

1. Broaden ownership without giving up control.

Doing great marketing is never an exercise in consensus building. Every decent band needs a skilled leader and highly qualified "sidemen" or players. Likewise, marketing must be a purposeful, collaborative effort led by a respected champion who studies the craft and solicits expert input from others on the bandstand, giving each player the satisfaction of knowing she is playing an integral role.

2. Listen to the music and watch the audience.

Just as the members of a quartet on stage must hear, watch, and even feel the barrage of messages exchanged during each performance, your marketing team members must be at least as attentive to each other, and to your other internal audiences, as they are to your external ones.

3. Get a jump on critics before they critique.

Acknowledge and involve those on your campus who may not appreciate the "noise" your band of marketers is making, or even undermine your efforts because they don't understand or believe in them. If they're expecting Ellington and you deliver Beyoncé, we all know what will likely happen.

4. It's all in the people.

Hire (and grow) the best marketing people you can afford, and then give them room to do their work. Improvisation can be a magical thing, but only if the players know the rules and have played more than a few gigs together.

5. Tune the piano.

Give your marketing team the tools they need to do their work. And if you can't afford brand-spanking new instruments, invest purposefully in reconditioning and polishing the ones you already have.

Nurture and support your marketing team and they'll make beautiful music together.

Eric Sickler has helped the nation's college and universities clarify and more fully engage their brands for more than three decades. You can reach him at The Thorburn Group, a Stamats company.


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