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Marketing Your Business the Rock & Roll Way - Part II
By: Andrew Chapman

In part one of this article last month, we looked at the first three (of five) “musts” for marketing your business the rock & roll way, as well as rock bands that exemplified them:

1. You must have worthwhile product or service. (The Beatles)
2. You must truly believe in what you’re doing. (KISS)
3. You must put in time and persist. (Scorpions)

Now, we’ll take a look at the fourth and fifth — know your audience and put your product or service where your audience will discover it.

4. You must know your audience

Very few rock stars don’t have an intimate knowledge of their fans. (No, I’m not referring to the groupie scene.) The typical rock star was raised on the type of music he or she is playing, having been thoroughly indoctrinated in that culture from the age of 12 or even younger. Most grew up experiencing the same sense of rebellion, teen angst, and frustrations their fans experience.

There is an authenticity to rock music for this very reason. Whether Bruce Springsteen (New Jersey blue-collar rock), Metallica (San Francisco heavy metal), Pearl Jam (Seattle grunge), Sex Pistols (British punk rock) or most any other act, rockers usually stay with what they know best — and stay true to their roots.

In a perfect world in business, as with rock stars, we’d have grown up in it and would have a very personal experience that matches our customers’ and clients’ experience. At one time, this was more common. Think of the young tailor in New York City a hundred years ago, who grew up in an immigrant family, was an apprentice to his father (who inherited the business from his father), and had a client base in his neighborhood who were also largely immigrants. Now, however, many of us take on or start businesses we have no family experience with, and often our current business is nothing like the first we started (since “serial entrepreneurs” are becoming more common).

This being the case, it’s imperative we do everything we can to become thoroughly knowledgeable about our own audiences and fans. We must know everything we can about them — where they live, where they work, what they read, what they watch on TV, what websites they visit, their age range, their education level, what they do for recreation, and so on. We need to mix and mingle with them (either in person, such as at conferences, or online, such as in discussion rooms). We need to feel their pain and know what motivates them to buy. We need to know their problems.

Have you ever participated in one of those telephone marketing surveys? Did you notice the detail of the questions they asked? This is the level of information that major companies seek from their customer bases. They know that the more they know about their customers, the better they can serve them.

When I’ve discussed this point with clients or business people attending my seminars, the most common question is, “Okay, how do I get this information?” Interestingly, they overlook the obvious — you ask for it. I never cease to be amazed at how infrequently business people survey their customers. I recall a number of seminars I’ve done where, out of a room of 50 or 60 people, only three or four raised their hands when asked if they’d surveyed their customer base.

So ask. And find clever ways to do so. Don’t just stick a stack of comment cards out on the counter and hope to get anything good out of them. Whereas most restaurants do that, one restauranteur I know of went several steps further and invited some of his best customers (and several random ones) to a series of special meals during which he would ask them for suggestions about the business. He received numerous great ideas he was able to implement over the next few months.

If anonymity is still more your style, however, check out SurveyMonkey.com and WuFoo.com. Both of these online tools allow you to easily build excellent questionnaires and collect all the answers in comprehensive reports.

However you do it, just stay in constant touch with your client base and potential customers. Rocker Tom Waits credits his authenticity with “keeping one foot in the streets.” And we can all learn from veteran rock star Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath, Dio), who frequently stays for hours after his concerts to meet and talk with fans and sign autographs.

5. You must put your product or service where your audience will find it

How do your potential customers know about you or what you have to offer? It may seem obvious, but you need to put your wares out there where the right people (your audience) will discover them. Recently, U2 performed each night for an entire week on The David Letterman Show to promote their new album. Aside from cementing sales among their regular  followers, you can be sure these appearances gained them some new fans. And for over 30 years, rock stars of all styles have performed on Saturday Night Live, knowing the exposure reaps the double reward of generating sales and establishing them as a premiere act.

One reason it’s so important to know your audience is because you’ll then know how to get in front of them. But whether it’s U2 on a TV show or your article in a magazine, it’s only useful if the eyeballs in front of that particular medium belong to people likely interested in your products or services.

As you gather information about where your customers and clients hang out (whether in real life or online), pay attention to those places where you could get your business mentioned — because this is where your potential new customers hang out as well. Some examples are e-zines, newsletters, websites, physical retail establishments, associations, conferences, Facebook, YouTube, and blogs. Once you have a good list of these places, think about the ways you can get your business, products, or services mentioned. In some cases, it may be a contributed article (like the one you’re reading). In other cases, it may be a co-op coupon. Or it could be customer reviews.

A key thing to keep in mind is, your customers are the customers of some other business. This is an often-overlooked way to get the word out, because the other business is perceived as competition. Instead, look at how you and that other business (or businesses) can work together to increase your customer bases and better serve your customers. You could offer cooperative package deals, a cross-referral discount program, a regular column in each other’s newsletters, hosting demonstrations at each other’s businesses, or just about anything you can imagine. In many cases, together you could offer a value to your mutual customers that’s better than what you could offer alone. This fundamental element of cooperation has been the basis of many rock stars’ rise to success — through being opening acts for other bigger ones or being part of a festival, such as the famed ‘90s Lilith Fair.

* * * * *

As I mentioned in the first part of this article, marketing is not an adjunct function of your business — it’s a core function. When you examine business successes, whether they’re rock bands or tech companies or other kinds, you’ll discover they all have in common a strong dedication to promotion. Unfortunately, when the economy gets bad — and especially as bad as it is at the moment — too many self-employed people and businesses look to cut costs in the wrong places, and marketing is one of them. The reality is, when the economy is down, you should invest even more in your promotions.

It may be, however, that you’ll need to invest time instead of money, or creativity instead of money, but increase your investment nonetheless. The good news is, as entrepreneurs, we are inherently creative. So, instead of looking at marketing and promotion as something you have to do (yes, you have to), look at it as a chance to be creative. In the earliest days of just about any rock star, you’ll find a healthy dose of creative marketing. It’s time for all of us to put a little rock attitude into our marketing and promotion.

About the Author:

Andrew Chapman is the co-author of Rock to Riches: Build Your Business the Rock & Roll Way, which features business lessons learned from savvy rock stars. Andrew is an admitted entrepreneurial addict, having started and run five businesses throughout most of his adult life, in addition to several ventures from the time he was 10 to 18. He’s an award-winning writer, the author of seven books, an unaccomplished drummer, and a professional speaker who has rocked thousands of people in over 300 gigs throughout the United States and overseas. Andrew lives in the peaceful art town of Idyllwild, a mile high in the mountains of Southern California. For more info on Rock to Riches — www.RockToRichesBook.com; for more on Andrew — www.achapman.com.