Evelyn Rodriguez, writing on her excellent Crossroads Dispatches site, cites the marketing wisdom of chiropractor Jeff Greenfield, who built a multi-million dollar business on word-of-mouth, as told in the book BuzzMarketing by Mark Hughes. With so many parallels to things I've learned over the years as DJ, I'm motivated to post about some lessons learned from behind the decks (but will have to leave out the "multi-million" dollar part!).
Jeff Greenfield grew up in a small Florida suburb. He took a liking to magic and began performing his first magic tricks at age five. By age ten, he was regularly performing at parties and events, and making more money than his mother, a registered nurse.
His specialty was close-up magic. When Uri Geller became famous for his spoon-bending trick in the 1970s, Jeff Greenfield began performing the same trick, though still a teen, and was written up in the preeminent trade publication Magical Arts Journal...
Great magicians are often great marketers. And why is that? One guess could be that magicians have well-developed skills in sleight of hand, manipulation, and misdirection - just like a lot of today's marketing. Good guess, but that's not the reason. Great magicians have two keen abilities: They understand consumer behavior - how to influence people to look in one direction, and how to communicate with people one-on-one in setting up a trick and explaining what's about to happen.
Understanding consumer behavior and communicating extremely well one-on-one are two valuable skills in business. Most marketing gets discombobulated right here, because most marketers think in terms of their messages going out to thousands. That's the stage they are given: a mass-market stage.
The traditional marketing model sends each message out to people via a one-way vehicle (even when sending one message to those watching VH1 and another one to those watching Comedy Central). The marketing industry has grown up taking one-way communication for granted since the 1940s.
Magicians, however, start with a two-way communication model. If people don't gasp in wonder at their trick, it's like a stand-up comedian not getting a laugh. Magicians live for interaction and two-way communication, and have to be able to understand consumer expectations, exceed them, and communicate well to get the applause. And when the audience members reward a magician with that applause, what happens? They come back from their evening [and spread the word to all their friends.]