Marketing Band-aid

Performing in a band might be fun if one didn’t have to work with musicians.

Bands provide a serviceable metaphor for marketing, which is all too often viewed as one or another marketing function and not the tightly coordinated combination of each function/instrument and performer. Take any piece out of a band or marketing department, and you no longer have a professional outfit. I was recently reminded of a time long ago when I was young (during the Taft administration) and the bass player in my garage band quit, yet our front man wanted to do a signed gig without any bass.

The audience was not impressed.

Let’s stretch this metaphor some more and match aspects of running a marketing department with assembling a group of musicians into a working band. Start by depriving the members of each group of alcohol, then begin.

gaga_marketingMapping: A band has several instruments, and each instrument requires a player that is proficient. In modern marketing operations you need PR, social, direct, branding, PPC and other functions depending on your go-to-market strategy. Odds are against finding a guitarist who can double on tuba, so it is equally unwise to look for a social media maven that can handle your Google Adwords campaign. Hire who you must, outsource what you can, but don’t stretch your talent as thin as I am stretching this metaphor.

Focus: Bands pick a genre mainly out of musical preference, but doing so is also like picking a market segment. If you are a blues band, you know the local blues clubs, how to promote to blues enthusiasts, and not to play Madonna tunes. Every company segments and surviving companies focus on one or a small number of segments. A country band can lapse into blues, and a rock band can add some crunchy rap overtones. But they stick mainly to their primary genre/segment.

Integrating: The bass player who abandoned my garage band didn’t have the best rhythm … especially after a couple of dozen beers. But when the band hit its groove, all the different instruments added to one another, which turned on the audience and got girls dancing. Marketing has to do the same. All parts need to harmonize so buyers have a consistent perspective of your company and products. If your PPC team is pitching discounts to techies and your direct mail squad is pimping top-shelf features and prices to CxOs, then nobody understands you, your brand or your value. The VP of marketing needs to be a conductor as well as a strategist.

Delivering: It hurts to hit bum notes, forget lyrics or cancel gigs. A professional band is a business, which is why local hobby bands start and stay in that condition — because they don’t conduct themselves as a business. In bands or businesses you have to deliver, which means delivering what the market needs and doing so consistently. Marketing must strive for consistency in terms of the frequency, reliability, focus and repeatability of their outbound communications. The audience are prospects and existing customers. Keeping them engaged using the mood and modes they prefer and to which they respond always hits the right note.

There is a reason pop stars lip sync their concerts and travel with backup tape machines. They deliver consistent performances.  Your VP of marketing doesn’t have to dress like Lady Gaga, he just has to deliver like her.


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