Honor Your Market

April 13, 2009

March 27, 2009

By Simone Blum

Did you ever hear of Joshua Bell? He is an internationally acclaimed violinist. He was a child prodigy, and his performances are usually standing-room only. Seats to his performances generally sell for at least $100.

In January 2007, Joshua Bell decided to perform an experiment. He donned jeans and a t-shirt, leaned up against a trash basket in a DC Metro station, took out his $3.5 million dollar violin, casually flipped open the case for donations and began playing. He played 6 classical pieces in 43 minutes.

The man who easily fills theaters and concert halls with premium ticket-holders was all-but ignored. Of the 1104 people that passed by, only 7 people stopped to listen for at least a minute. Twenty-seven people who were mostly running past gave money (for a total donation of approximately $32). That is a total of 1070 who ran by without taking notice. With the exception of a preschooler who was craning to listen, but was blocked by his mother because they were running late.

Three days before he performed this experiment, he had filled the house with premium ticket prices at Boston Symphony Hall. Two weeks after his performance in the DC Metro Station, he played to standing-room only at the Music Center at Strathmore, MD.

So, you might ask… what’s this have to do with my business? Although I found the story (and the video) of this event interesting, it it not just an  anecdote.  It really illustrates some very important things about the psychology of perceived value:

1) Location, location, location does not only apply to Real Estate. An artist will be perceived as more talented when performing on a stage than in a station. A piece of art will be considered more valuable when in a gallery than a home or a coffee shop. A business will seem more established if they advertise on the internet or in glossy print than with a piece of paper taped to a telephone pole or a bathroom stall. Where and how are you displaying your business? Is this the best way to highlight your products or services?

2) Appearance is everything. How are you branding yourself? What are you doing to separate your business from the rest? Are your business card or handouts the equivalent of wearing jeans and a t-shirt and leaning against a trash can, or do you come out in your concert finest, looking sharp and distinct? Do you stand out from the crowd? Are you memorable?

3) Target your market. Define your market and cater to their needs. Are you selling your concert tickets to music-lovers or to subway-token-buyers? Are you targeting the best demographic to ensure the highest conversion rate?

4) Time and Place. You could have the best message in the world, but if you are spending your time and energy on marketing to the wrong demographic at the wrong time, your efforts are simply for the sheer satisfaction of working hard. What is the point of playing fine music that slows the senses, and is to be savored and enjoyed to a crowd rushing to make the next train.

I preach “work smart, not hard” often and all the time. If you are not taking heed of the elements above, you might be working yourself to the bone with little or no result. Be mindful of when, where and how you go to market and approach your customers. It is easier to have success find you than it is to chase it down wildly without a sensible plan.


2 Responses to “Honor Your Market”

  1. Maria Keiser Says:

    Jeff you are right on. Sometimes we feel as though our product will speak for itself. Proper marketing will give you the platform to let your product speak for itself. It is the difference between a $32 donation and charging a premium fee in a well-known concert hall.

  2. Jarom Says:

    Awesome post Jeff. I like the story and your application of it’s principles is right on.


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