What’s the big deal about marketing? You put your name out there, and customers will beat a path to your door. Easy, right?
That would be a good guess, but incorrect.
Marketing is a necessary evil. Done right, it involves research, planning, time, and effort, and will build your business. If done wrong, you might as well lock the doors and put a for-lease sign in the window.
The good thing about marketing, though, is that you can start small, and as you get better at the little things, the big things become much more manageable. You don’t start the violin by playing Paganini’s “God Save the King.” You start with individual notes and work up to scales, simple songs, more advanced music, and so forth. Same with marketing.
Marketing is like that. Don’t worry about things like a geotargeted backlink campaign after revising your metatags following an SEO audit. That’s for later.
Right now, stick with the basics, and the most basic thing in all of the marketing—from what you’re doing right now all the way up to evaluating the metrics of an A/B split to test HTML vs plain text email body copy—is … wait for it …
You’re already doing it. Reading this article is marketing research, and nothing in good marketing starts without it.
Before entering any music-related business, you have to know if there is a market for what you want to do. What are the alternatives for determining that and how will you choose the right tactic? Who is your competition? How are they marketing? You have questions and marketing research provides many of the answers.
If you’ve found a place in the market for what you want to do, you’re almost ready to put together and roll out a basic marketing plan. There’s still one thing to do, though.
Settle on a name.
What are you going to call your business? It seems like a no-brainer, but don’t take it lightly. It’s easier to get it right the first time than try to change it later.
If you’re a solo performer, you’ll probably go by your name. Maybe. Performers change their names to increase their marketability. Who’s going to spend hundreds of dollars for a ticket to a Reginald Kenneth Dwight concert? Right. So Reg changed his name to Elton John. And now, he sells out arenas with cheap-seat tickets starting at hundreds of dollars.
The same principle applies to music stores and related businesses. The name should be easy to remember, easy to pronounce (don’t underestimate this one), and on-brand (in other words, it reflects your business’ qualities and characteristics.
It’s okay to try and establish your brand upfront but it’s not always easy to control others’ perception of your business, which fuels the development of your brand. When you think of Guitar Center, its brand expands beyond the identity of guitars. Why is that? Their name after all is “Guitar” Center, which could be perceived as misleading. However, their brand has evolved to encompass other instruments, instruction, repairs, equipment, etc.
Is your logo attractive and does it differentiate you in the market? Does it have staying power? Starbucks, Target, Nike are iconic and stand-alone. Those companies spent a bazillion dollars on research, design, and testing of their logos. You don’t have to do that; websites like Fiverr and Upwork provide tons of designers that can design a logo for you at a very reasonable cost.
Extend your visuals into the store. Make it welcoming and inspiring. Some of that will include product placement but the overall aesthetic of your business will have a positive impact on the customer experience. The same goes for website development. Make sure it functions well but definitely invest in making it look great to enhance the user experience and reinforce your brand.
Word of mouth
Talk about your business. When a friend recommends a great new café in town, it stands a pretty good chance of getting your business. As a business person, you want word-of-mouth marketing—starting with you. Tell people about your business. Share with family and friends. When we meet strangers, what do we share about ourselves? We don’t usually lead off with our philosophy of political unrest or how we were hurt when our dads missed our 13th birthday party because of a business trip. Within the first three to four facts, we share about what we do for a living.
Nobody wants to hear anybody yammer on forever about their business, so add by subtracting. Good real estate agents know how to work that. They talk passionately about the market, their role in it, deals they are working on, and ones they’ve closed. They create a memorable impression that could put her top-of-mind when you’re ready to buy or sell. When you talk about your business, think of the long game. Nobody wants to listen to anybody yammer on or try the hard sell. Contrary to the business equation, ABC, you don’t always have to be closing.
Talk about a necessary evil. You’ve got Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and a new flavor every month. So where do you start? Research. Everything starts with research! Look at other music business websites and their social media presence. In general, when you visit a business’s website, it provides links to its social media channels. Pick out a handful of businesses that do the same thing you do, preferably ones you wouldn’t mind emulating to some extent, and check out what they’re doing on social media.
If you visit other websites and then suddenly come across an advertisement for one of the music businesses you previously viewed, you’ve just been exposed to retargeting. Don’t worry about that for now. It’s a complicated strategy in which a business follows you around the web because you visited their site previously. In online marketing, you are the product that businesses sell to one another. (See what you can learn through basic research?)
Marketing builds on itself. Like most endeavors, it’s better to do a few things well than a lot of things half-baked. With marketing, the better you are with the basics, the easier and more effective you’ll be in cultivating more advanced strategies to develop your business and increase sales in the future. No new business owner starts off as a virtuoso in marketing. But note by note, beautiful marketing music will be made!