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Marketing from the footlights Featured

6:45am EDT July 19, 2002

My son, Eric, has been an entertainer since he was 8 years old.

Since then, I've watched him carefully craft his career. Now that he is a polished musician and singer, I realize he taught me to think about marketing in new and creative ways. If the world is a stage, don't you want the best lighting possible?

Here are some ways to get it

* Play to the balcony. Project to the back row and everyone will hear you. Broaden your market reach. Don't just focus on companies with the largest budgets. Look to new markets. Business often comes from unusual places, so play to the balcony and see what happens. You may draw a larger audience than you expect.

* Learn your lines. Create a message that clearly and concisely explains how you meet the needs of customers. Turn that message into a tag line of eight words or less. Use it on business cards, stationery and when people ask what you do.

* Enter smiling. Make your marketing materials user-friendly. Avoid confusing gimmicks and display your name and address prominently. Maintain a friendly tone in both written and spoken communications. People do business with people they know, like and trust to solve their problems.

* Put your best foot forward. The last thing you want to do is trip when walking out on the stage. It's immaterial whether you start with the left or right foot, but it is important to step out with confidence. Make sure everything you say and do reinforces your image and creates a positive impression that lasts beyond the sales call.

* Become a quick study. Auditions allow only a few minutes to showcase an entertainer's talents. You don't have much more time, so do your homework before your first meeting. Learn as much as possible about your customer's company, its competitive advantage and the part you could play in solving its problems. Your preparation will help your credibility.

* Be a triple threat. In theater, a triple threat is someone who can dance, sing and act. In business, a triple threat delivers quality, service and price. It was once said that customers had to pick two, but in today's competitive world, it's imperative to provide all three.

* Always leave 'em wanting more. Once you've finished a project, suggest another one. Customer will appreciate that you are proactive and take their needs in earnest.

* Work with a good director. A good director makes talented performers great. Some people think they can direct their own marketing, collateral materials and public relations as well as a seasoned professional, but that generally isn't the case. Just as a director sees the whole picture and manipulates the scenery, music and actors to a desired effect, marketing professionals bring a worldview to the process.

* Get top billing. Constantly look for new ways to shine the spotlight on your company, even when you are busy and don't need additional work.

* Most important, remember: If you don't audition, you'll never get the part. Jeanne Bluffstone (jbluff@aol.com) is president of Bluffstone Public Relations, a 15-year-old firm specializing in publicity, business-to-business communications and market positioning. Reach her at (216) 831-1941.