The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

First, Get Their Attention; Then, Play Your Strong Suit

As we wind down the year 2007, there are many holiday videos proliferating the Web. The one I found most interesting was being passed around on Facebook and had a comment attached. The comment said something to the effect that had classical music been presented to him in this manner, he would have taken a much more avid interest in it.

Many genres of music have their roots in what we term classical styling. For example, did you know that classical music and jazz are nearly first cousins? And that a person well versed on jazz will be in the know about classical? However, music per se is not what I want to talk to you about today. Today's topic has more to do with marketing your consulting service. And that is to get the potential customer's attention. In the past, I've likened job search and interviewing to dating; each party has to wait their turn for the appropriate overture before they can take the next step. So it goes with marketing your service. You want to make it appealing. You want to get the potential customer's attention and interested in learning more. Once their interest is whetted, they'll be more likely to stay for whatever lucid explanation or sample you provide and be more receptive to asking for more.

So I watched the classical video and saw the analogies to marketing. The video was full of wonderful stagings with rich colors. There were some dancers (of ballet). But the predominant fabric was the music of a four-piece string ensemble made up of four young, lithe women with flowing hair of all colors. All of them had faces quite easy to look upon. All of them wore black lace -- and not too much else under their costumes -- as they stood and played their instruments.

The piece they played consisted of approximately 16 bars that were repeated. It was like hearing that section of "Carmina Barona" where the horseman bears down on the scene vowing to overtake and plunder. But here, the women played the bars to the single phrase as they slowly stepped their way closer to the bib of the stage, their bows being drawn across the strings to produce fortissimo volume and periodically bounced off the bridge of the strings to produce an emphasized percussive in the music. The progression from the back of the stage to the front is slow. One step at a time as the bars are played repeatedly.

Something struck me as the musicians progressed to mid-stage. When we finally gained a view of them at the beginning of the piece, we had a full view of them and full appreciation of their costumes. It is not lost upon us that the gleaming smiles attest to the fact that these young women love the work they do, playing music, and they will do whatever is necessary (within reason) to make it appealing to a broader audience. The air gusts blown across the stage cause their hair to splay in many directions, causing an even more alluring scene. The dancers at the stage bib progress further up the stairs that the women are descending and we become more aware of the dance that is being performed. Simultaneously, we begin to lose sight of the full view of the musicians.

The initial jolt of the attention is accomplished. To remain focused on the costumes would cause loss of the more important message being conveyed -- the music and the musicianship. But the waist-high shots of the players progressing closer and closer to the audience keep us aware that the women are mastering the playing of the music as they also physically move the cello and bass fiddle forward and down the stairs. They are their own stage hands as they are the hands that play the most important thing of the reason for the attention -- the music.

The musicians are essentially steps away from the border of the stage. The dancers are fully engaged in their performance. Since they are background, we are not as aware of their performance. And, again, it is the marketing of the women musicians that is paramount and where our attention should be focused. And that is exactly where the focus ends. By the last four to five repetitions of the theme, we no longer see a full view of the musicians in their lacy costumes. Instead, we are fully focused on the musicianship. Why? Because the camera shot is a bust shot of each musician and then the quartet.

I'm certain had the women had chairs put beneath them in that very instant, they could have sat and played a full gothic piece and no one in the audience would have objected. In fact, it's a certainty that the musicians had not only by then caught the attention of their audience but also convinced them that whatever notes flowed from the isntruments was worth their time and attention. They played their strong suit in order to induce the potential market to ask for more. Does it always have to be fortissimo? No. Just as effective is starting in pianissimo, allowing the piece to gradually crescendo, interplay various colors and tones, and then fade away in pianissimo. This will leave a haunting effect that will tend to linger for even longer than a more forceful piece. But it all depends on the ultimate message you want to leave with the customer.