What a Violin Performance Teaches Us About Marketing

Street performers are nothing new.  Rather than simply ask for money or hold up a “will work for food” sign, they try to entertain the public so that passersby might pause for a minute and give them a tip.  Some imitate a statue.  Others perform as mimes.  Still, others do acrobatics.  The most common performance is music.  On a cold January day, a street performer played music for 43 minutes and revealed one of the great truths about marketing.

The street performer’s instrument of choice was the violin.  Winter weather is not conducive to the life of a woodwind.  Thus the performer picked out a spot just inside a subway station.  The performer looked a little like everyman.  He wore jeans, a dark, long-sleeve t-shirt, and topped his mop of brown hair with a ball cap.

He positioned himself in front of a wall, near a garbage bin a few minutes before 8:00 a.m.  He took out his violin and opened the case to face the pedestrian traffic, hoping for a little monetary renumeration.

It was a busy morning.  People were hustling to and fro on their way to work or school or errands.  While he warmed up, people ignored him.

The street performer was born with an ear for music.  When he was four years old, his mother observed him stretching and picking at rubber bands to try and match the notes she was playing on the piano.  He felt born to play the violin.

Warm-ups complete, he started to play.  The violin is an unforgiving instrument.  Played poorly, the violin makes people cringe.  Played well, it can be an earthly version of the Heavenly Host.  This is especially true when playing compositions written by the great composers.

The street performer knew the great composers and led with them.  He played Bach’s violin solo from Chaconne (Violin Partita No. 2 in D Minor).  Shubert’s Ave Maria followed.  He played Jules Massenet, then the modern composer, Manuel Ponce.

The street performer played well.  He played masterfully.  Yet, out of 1,097 people who passed by, only seven stopped to listen.  Twenty-six dropped a total of $32.17 into his case.

Granted, people were in a hurry.  Many, if not most, may have had little interest in, or appreciation for classical violin.  Some likely never realized anyone was playing music because they were listening to their own music, played through earbuds.  Still, almost no one paused.  In a nearby line for lottery tickets, no one even turned to watch.

When the street performer concluded his play, one woman was standing in awe.  She gave him $20 and told him, “I saw you at the Library of Congress.  It was fantastic.”

The street performer was Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest, if not the greatest violinist.  He was playing in a Washington Metro station.  He was playing with a $3.5 million Stradivarius violin that’s origin predates the founding of the United States by 60 years.

A few days before playing in the Metro station, Bell had played to a sold-out Boston Symphony Hall.  Tickets started at more than $100 per seat and went up from there.  Commenting on the street performance, Bell said, “It was a strange feeling that people were actually ignoring me.”

A writer for the Washington Post organized the street performance as a “social experiment.”  His write-up earned him a Pulitzer.  Many thoughtful people have drawn an array of conclusions about the experiment and what it says about the state of our citizenry.  They missed the obvious.

People passed by Joshua Bell, playing world-class music on a multi-million dollar instrument because nothing about him looked world-class.  The appearance conflicted with the performance, which most people were ill-equipped to recognize on its merits.  In short, the appearance set the expectation, and 99.4% of the people passing by never got past the expectation.

Take a close look at your business.  What expectation is set by your appearance?  Look at your logo, your business cards, and your letterhead.  Look at company vehicles, your employees, and their grooming and attire.  Look at your brick and mortar location, your website, your social media pages, and your advertising.

Your appearance sets people’s expectation of your performance.  More than 99% of the public will likely never get past their expectations to judge your performance objectively.  If like Joshua Bell in a subway station, you find that people are ignoring you, it just might be your appearance.

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Matt is the 35th and youngest person to be inducted into the Contracting Business Hall of Fame.  The Air Conditioning Heating & Refrigeration NEWS presented Matt with the 2018 “Legends of HVACR” Award.  Contracting Business Magazine named Matt one of the 22 most influential people in the history of the residential HVAC/R industry.  Contractor Magazine named him one of the 18 most influential people in the history of the plumbing/hydronics industries (Matt is the only person to appear on both the Contracting Business and Contractor lists).  The Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration NEWS named Matt one of the top five business advisors in the HVAC industry.  He can be reached at mmichel@servicenation.com or by mobile at 214.995.8889.

When Disaster Strikes

A Prussian Field Marshal, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder is the first person credited with saying that no plan survives contact with the enemy.  It applies in war.  It applies in business.  I saw it applied firsthand at a recent trade show and personally, the next day.

Planning is important in war and business.  Those who act without planning often fail.  Yet those who cannot act and adjust after plans go awry, are almost certain to fail.

Molke was given credit for the phrase by British historian, Correlli Barnett.  In his 1961 book, “The Desert Generals,” Barnett wrote that “Rommel took Moltke’s view that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy.’  If his plan got him into battle, it was enough.  After that, Rommel would fight by ear and eye and tactical sense, like a duelist.”

This came to life a couple of weeks ago at the Southeast Michigan Air Conditioning Contractors Association (SEMIACCA) Trade Show.  I had one of the first speaking slots at SEMIACCA, so we arrived a good 45 minutes before the conference part of the show began.  When we arrived, we were greeted by chaos.

The event center hosted a serious party the night before.  The morning clean-up and set-up crew failed to show.  Trash littered the floors.  The tables and chairs for the conference set-up were out, but neatly stacked.

Members of SEMIACCA who arrived early were scrambling to get tables and chairs in place.  They were joined by exhibitors and speakers who had arrived early.  People were draping cloths across the seminar tables.

The people who arrived early had been promised breakfast in every room.  No one had showed up to prepare it.  Worse, at least from my jet-lagged perspective, there was no coffee.

Colleen Keyworth from Online Access was in charge.  Anyone who knows Colleen knows that even if she was not formally in charge, she would have taken charge.  She did it with a smile and good humor that I found rather miraculous under the circumstances.  She seemed resigned to the fact that she could only control what she could control.  She did her best with what she had.

Colleen was following Rommel’s example.  She was recruiting people to help.  As a testament to the character of the people in the service trades, no one said it wasn’t his or her job.  Everyone pitched in.

I focused on getting the AV set-up for my presentation, the screen placed, and the chairs and tables in order.  In the room where I was speaking, a large, raised dais extended into the center of the room.  It looked like the spot where a band had played the night before.  We simply placed the tables and chairs around it.

Meanwhile, someone made a donut and bagel run in lieu of breakfast.  Mercifully, someone from the event center had arrived and managed to produce coffee.

The first session started.  We made do and it all turned out okay.  The people who arrived after the first session had no idea a disaster was averted.

Disasters are averted every day in business.  While it is preferable to avoid them, it is not always possible.  Stuff happens.  When it does, it is the response that matters.  When you face a disaster, can you act “by ear and eye and tactical sense, like a duelist,” like Rommel?  I got my own chance the next morning.

My arriving flight landed after midnight before the event.  When I got to the hotel, I stayed up adjusting my presentation to update the statistics used.  Because tax examples were involved, I had to make adjustments for Michigan’s state taxes.  As a result, I didn’t get a lot of sleep.  Since speaking involves an adrenalin kick, I was fine when presenting.  The price gets paid afterwards.  The trade show ended at 8:00 p.m. and a group dinner followed.  When I got to the hotel, I was wiped.

I checked email, then used the same charger for my laptop to charge my phone.  I remember setting the closed, black laptop on a navy-blue chair next to the bed.  If you’re thinking, uh oh, you’re on track.

The next morning the alarm went off at 5:00 a.m.  The light home departed at 7:30 a.m.  Sleep deprived, I stumbled through the morning routine, packed, and headed off to the airport.  When I boarded the plane, I pulled out a book, computer charger, and… no laptop.

Oh… crap.  Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap!  I had left the black laptop on the navy-blue chair and hadn’t noticed the missing weight in my backpack because of all of the books I carry.

Awesome.  Can you spell idiot?  How about disaster?

My initial thought was to get home and get the hotel to ship the laptop.  The better thought was to go get it.  Sure, there was a risk of getting stuck in Detroit or being assigned to a middle seat between two sweating 400-pound men.  I rationalized that the pain to get another flight was less than the pain of recovering the laptop.  As I thought about it, the pain of renting a car and driving to Dallas was less than the pain of recovering the laptop.  So, I got off the plane.

Fortunate smiled on me.  I was able to rebook in a similar seat on the 1:30 p.m. flight.

Now I had to get to the hotel.  It was the Delta, a Marriott property.  I asked a Marriott shuttle driver if he dropped off there.  He said to look for a white and blue van.  Voila, a white and blue van was parked next to a sign that read, Westin and Delta.  I hopped on, told the driver I wanted to get off at the Delta.  He dropped me off at Delta Airlines.  Oops.

At the shuttle pick-up location near Delta Airlines, I kept waiting for a van from the Delta Hotel.  After 15 eternally loooooong minutes, no van.  But there was one for the hotel next door to it, so I took it.  When I finally got to the hotel, I still had my room keycard.  It worked.  Inside the room was my laptop.  And… there was the bed.  With a flight boarding five hours later, a nap beckoned.

It’s said we should expect the unexpected.  Okay, but it’s hard to expect what you cannot expect.  The best you can do is can prepare yourself to adjust if something unexpected comes up.  Then, don’t be surprised when something does come up.

No plan survives contact with the enemy… marketplace… competition… weather… circumstances… your own stupidity.  Like Rommel, make adjustments with your eyes, with your ears, with your tactical sense.  Be like a duelist.  Be like a Comanche.

© 2022 Comanche Marketing

They arose from the northern plains and migrated south.  They were masters of the horse.  And they were masters of war.  As they swept down from the north, none could stand before them.  They drove the Apaches out of Texas.  They beat back the Spanish.  They carved a territory across the plains where they were the undisputed rulers.  The Utes called them “the ones who fight me all of the time.”  The Utes called them Comanches.

 The Comanche Warrior is one who fought all the time.  The Comanche Marketer is one who markets all the time.

The Comanche Story – Take a journey with me

Written by Matt Michel

Around a quarter century ago, I started Comanche Marketing.  Just saying that makes me feel old.  Of course, compared to 25 years ago I am old.  In a world where everyone is focused on “What’s in it for me,” Comanche Marketing is an example of giving before receiving.  Take a journey with me and I’ll share how Luke 6:38 (look it up) describes the world.  If the Bible’s not your thing, Michelangelo said almost the same thing.  So did Zig Ziglar.  So did thousands.  It’s an eternal truth.  If you expect to receive, you must first give of yourself.

Comanche goes way back to the defunct HVAC industry trade show, Comfortech.  Starting in 1992, I had begun writing for Contracting Business magazine, which operated Comfortech.  I was given a speaking slot and asked for a title.  I had a vague idea about what I wanted to speak about, which was small business marketing tactics.

I thought it might be cool to frame them around an American Indian nation.  After all, Native Americans were great tacticians.  This led me to begin researching various Indian tribes/nations.  After a lot of research, it seemed to me that two of them were kick- uh, butt.  These were the Seminoles and the Comanches.

Having grown up in Tallahassee, Florida, I had a natural affinity to the Seminoles.  It turns out the Seminoles are the only Indian nation that is technically still at war with the United States.  Rather than give up, a contingent of the Seminoles faded back into the Everglades and other Florida swamps where the U.S. troops either couldn’t find them or didn’t want to try.

Since I currently live in the middle of Comanche country in Texas, I had to admire them as well.  Man for man, the Comanches were some of the fiercest warriors in the history of the world.  However, despite their battlefield success, disease and slaughter of the buffalo made moving to the Comanche reservation in Oklahoma a better choice so the great Comanche chief Quanah Parker finally accepted a place in Oklahoma for his people.

Seminoles or Comanches?  What should I choose?  Okay, what sounds better, Seminole Marketing or Comanche Marketing.  Boom.  The Comanches had better alliteration.  Comanche Marketing was the title I submitted for my presentation at Comfortech.

About the same time, I went to a Homeowners Association meeting.  The meeting started with the HOA’s secretary announcing that the president and vice president had both quit.  In short, the HOA was in disarray.  I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I offered to write a newsletter for the HOA and ended up as president.

This was the 1990s.  Email was far from ubiquitous, but I suspected most of the people in our affluent neighborhood had an email address.  I thought email would be a great way to keep the people in the neighborhood informed about the challenges and opportunities we faced.

I wanted to use an email list, but these were brand new.  I didn’t want to look like an idiot (it’s bad enough being one without looking like one).  I decided to practice.  I created an email list using the now vanished, Listbot.  I needed a friendly audience to test the email list.

Without a lot of thought, I decided to write about small business marketing and other tips.  I called it Comanche Marketing and invited three people to subscribe.  During those days, I popped out one tip a day.  They were short, usually less than 200 words.

It seemed to be working.  My three subscribers all emailed me that they received the email I sent.  Beyond that, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention.  One day I checked the stats.  What started with three subscribers grew to more than 50.  A few months later, there were a hundred.

Comanche was growing by word-of-mouth.  My full-time job was as a marketing consultant with a big marketing firm.  When I got too busy, I didn’t post.  When the list server changed from free to pay, I found another but did a poor job communicating the change.  Nevertheless, subscribers found me and resubscribed.  This happened three or four times.

I wrote without pretention.  I spoke with a human voice, my voice.  I often shared what was happening in my life and turned it into marketing or other business lessons

I would go to a conference and strangers would come up to me and ask about my wife’s struggle with Parkinson’s.  At first it confused me and kind of creeped me out.  How could these people know all of this?  The answer was I wrote about it in Comanche.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was sort of building a personal relationship with more than a thousand people.

With Comanche I shared my insight, my ideas, my counsel, and my experience generously, without any expectation of a return.  I gave.  I gave without expectation of any return.

The return came.  It came in the form of speaking engagements.  It came in the form of job offers.  It came in the form of people buying “Never Lose a Customer”, a book I wrote.  It came in the form of people willing to invest in a radical (at the time) business concept called the Service Roundtable.  Without the investments of people subscribing to Comanche, the Service Roundtable would never have been launched.  Comanche was also the springboard for most of the early members of the Service Roundtable.

The principle of giving before receiving applied with Comanche.  It’s applied every day.  No one, for example, is “given” a promotion and pay raise.  People earn it before receiving it.  If their current bosses do not give it to them, other bosses will.

As ye give, so shall ye receive.

Cheers!

Matt Michel

mmichel@servicenation.com

© 2022 Comanche Marketing

The Mason Jar of Life

Written by Steve Mores

There are two sons of an alcoholic father. One struggles through life as a drunk. The other becomes a successful, ambitious businessman. When asked, “Why are you the way you are?” Both responded, “My father was an alcoholic.” It’s all about the decisions we make! How we deal with our past can either create constant depression or create wisdom through learning from it. It’s a choice!

In the animated movie The Lion King, although he may be completely crazy, Rafiki, the wise baboon, has many life lessons to teach Simba. In one scene where Rafiki is mentoring the adult Simba about how to deal with his past, Rafiki smacks Simba over the head with his cane. Simba reacts with “Ow! geez, what was that for?” and Rafiki replies, “It doesn’t matter, it’s in the past!” Comical, yes, and words to live by, absolutely! Rafiki continues: “The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”

Lion King: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF39O_OQm6M

How we deal with the past in the present will profoundly affect how we run our businesses and the culture we create at work and home. It’s a choice!

We can get very distracted these days with social media, politics, the pandemic, gossip, and just all the minutiae around us. This may cause our priorities to get skewed.  

In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, the lead character Forrest Gump (played by Tom Hanks) said, “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”… If life is a box of chocolates, would it always be sweet? The past will prove differently, and maybe it’s not what we take out of the box rather what we put into our life’s jar.  

 

To that point, here is what I believe is the perfect analogy:  

This is a very important life lesson that a philosophy teacher taught his students. He entered the class, cleared off his desk, and placed an empty mason jar on top of the desk. He proceeded to fill up the jar with golf balls until he could fit no more. He looked at the classroom and asked his students if they agreed that the jar was full. Every student agreed that the jar was full.

The teacher then picked up a box of small pebbles and poured them into the jar with the golf balls. The pebbles filled the space between the golf balls. He asked a second time if the jar was full. Once again, they agreed that it was full.

Now the teacher picked up a bag of sand and poured it into the mason jar. The sand filled all the empty space between the golf balls and pebbles. He asked a third time if the jar was full. The students agreed it was technically full.

Finally, the teacher pulled out two beer bottles from under his desk and poured one into the jar filling the space between the sand. Now the students began to laugh, wondering how far this was going.

The teacher waited until the laughter stopped. “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life,” he started. “The golf balls represent the important things. Your family, children, health, friends, and passions. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles represent the other things in life that matter, such as your job, house, and car. The sand is everything else—the small stuff. If you put the sand in first, there is no room for pebbles or golf balls.

The same goes for life. If you spend all of your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the most important things. Pay attention to the important things in your life. Enjoy time with family. Go to dinner with your spouse. Play games with your kids. There will ALWAYS be time to clean the house or take yourself shopping.

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. The rest is just sand. You are dismissed.”

Before the students left, one shouted out. “You never mentioned what the beer represents!”

The professor smiled and said, “Well, I’m glad you asked. The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room to have a couple of beers with a friend.”

Teacher’s analogy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqGRnlXplx0

To expand upon this analogy, the golf balls represent the things that should be a top priority in life: Faith, Family, Friends, Health, and Freedom. The pebbles represent important things, like our business, careers, and possessions, which all support the top priorities in one way or another. And the sand represents all the other small stuff that occupies our time: social media, politics, gossip, divisiveness, and the like. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be informed or have an opinion, as long as we respect others. Filling our jar with sand first will not leave any room for the most important things in life.  

Dwelling on the mistakes of the past can lead to depression. Learning lessons from the past creates wisdom. How we deal with the past and prioritize our present will either create anxiety or hope for the future. It’s a choice!

 

Steve Mores is the Divisional President at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area.

Rock & Roll Analogies

Written by Steve Mores

OK, let’s have some fun! After each song title, say the words “in my business,” and we can analogize from there. Sing along if you like!

Come Together (Beatles) in my business: Having a total team effort with everyone on the same page, working for the same cause, towards SMART goals that have been communicated and are understood by all.

Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd) in my business: Albeit spinning the meaning, build your business brick by brick with a solid foundation to build upon. Each step of the way follows a plan with clearly stated processes and procedures that can be followed and duplicated.

You Can’t Always Get What You Want (Rolling Stones) in my business: Things will not always go your way or as expected. Stuff happens, obstacles get in the way, but we must adjust, adapt, and keep moving forward.

Born to Run (Bruce Springsteen) in my business: Standing still or just keeping pace with the competition is not a recipe for success. Being strategic, innovative, and creative with your products and services will pay dividends in the race for new business.

Take it Easy (Eagles) in my business: Although keeping a fast pace is good for business, you also need to take time for yourself and your family. That is our top priority and the main reason we are building our businesses in the first place. Take time away from business to relax and enjoy some family time and time for yourself.

Imagine (John Lennon) in my business: Dream big and imagine the amazing possibilities that a well-run business has to offer. Don’t let the naysayers get in your way. If you think you can, you can. Dream big.

Living in the Past (Jethro Tull) in my business: Humbly remembering your past successes is a good thing that will keep you motivated. Yet dwelling on the past mistakes without learning from them can be depressing. Celebrate your successes and become wise from your mistakes.

I Can See for Miles (The Who) in my business: Having an annual plan with goals, along with a 5, 10, 15, and 20-year plans, will give you a road map to success. Seek mentors, learn from other successes and failures, read business-related books, and apply the knowledge. Implement and execute daily with your focus on the future.

Turn it on Again (Genesis) in my business: As the saying goes, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Failure should never overtake you when your determination to succeed is stronger. Keep it turned on!

Don’t Bring me Down (ELO) in my business: Don’t let others bring you down by telling you it can’t be done or that the risk is too high. Calculated risks are good for business and are needed to grow. “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.”  – John F. Kennedy 

Dirty Deeds (AC/DC) in my business: There is no room in any business for unethical or shady behavior. There is plenty of room to always keep the best interest of our clients in mind while offering valid solutions to discovered challenges.  

I Want You to Want Me (Cheap Trick) in my business: This is what I like to call the “I gotta guy” syndrome. 

Your service should be so extraordinary that your clients want to refer you to family and friends without being prompted or compensated. “You need someone in the trades? Well, I gotta guy!”  

Thank You (Led Zeppelin) in my business: There is always time to be grateful for what our businesses have afforded us, our families, and our team members. Sincerely show gratitude and thanks to your clients for trusting you to service them and to your team members when they go above and beyond expectations. 

Into the Great Wide Open (Tom Petty) in my business: There are many opportunities out there, and you must seize the moments. Make it happen and have fun in the process. 

Taking Care of Business (BTO) in my business: I had to throw this one in here since it is so obvious. It addresses all the above!

Don’t Stop Believing (Journey) and Dream On (Aerosmith) in my business: No analogy needed. ROCK ON! 

 

Steve Mores is the Divisional President at Dynamic Air Quality Solutions.

Service Roundtable is dedicated to growing your bottom line and helping your business maximize its full potential. These groups of contractors work together to assist you with marketing, sales, business, and so much more. Twice a month, seminars around the United States and Canada are held to network and further assist your business. Visit Service Roundtable.com to see if there are Success Days in your area.