My first lessons in marketing came as the result of playing in a band. I was fortunate enough to play while I was still in high school and continued after I entered the Army in 1967. I played for about a year in a country band with my first experience playing at the Crystal Palace in Tombstone, Arizona. After that, I gravitated into a horn band made of members of the 36th Army band stationed with me, at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. We played quite a bit, usually on the weekends, and were very popular at the NCO, Enlisted Men’s, and Officer’s clubs. We also ventured out into the civilian community and played in Sierra Vista, Tucson, Bisbee, and other small venues throughout the area.
When I got out of the Army and went back to school, I started my own band. We practiced almost every day and played at our share of local venues in Concord, California. This is where I really got my first lesson in marketing. Some of my bandmates were focused on creating original material. They wanted to write their own songs, get discovered, and sign a recording contract because that was their picture of “making it” in the music business. Having already enjoyed some small success, I just wanted to get opportunities to play and earn a little extra money. Since I was the leader of the band, I had to “market” the band whose name was Parts and Labor and find those opportunities to play for pay.
And the first lesson is this: “you can play what you want, or play what the people want, but if you want to get paid, you have to play what the people want.”
A couple of the younger band members were not happy with this, but they didn’t want to write off playing for pay, so we compromised a bit and did some original material also. That was my lesson in band management, making sure everybody got some satisfaction out of the results and bought into being a member of the group.
At every place we played, I was sensitive to what the owner and the crowd wanted to hear and did not want to hear. This sensitivity carried over to my own consulting business. You can generate the best darn marketing program in the world, but if your customer doesn’t like it, you lose. That is one of the reasons I always got charged up and excited when I presented the results to clients because I knew I had to “sell” them on the plan and the results would sell them on how effective it was.