This is not an article about the music industry in Trinidad and Tobago although music will be mentioned a number of times.
It’s not about the song by James Ingram either but I will make reference to the lyrics.
It is, though, about you and me, our talents, our strengths, the promotion of the two — and how we stay relevant to our customers in a business world that is chaotic, unpredictable and by most accounts these days — tough!
James could have very well been talking about business in this romantic ballad. In the opening lines — “How do you keep the music playing? How do you make it last? How do you keep the song from fading too fast?” Isn’t that how we feel about our businesses sometimes? What can we do next so we remain at the top of our game and how do we sustain the present attention that we’re getting for our products and services?
And, of course, we stress over promoting our wares. Sometimes we feel we have to give so much as business owners with dwindling returns.
The things we find ourselves doing just to get that customer.
And just like the song says, we ask the same questions, “How do you lose yourself to someone (our customers) and never lose your way?”
And with a low or no marketing budget, “How do you not run out of new things to say?” — especially when things are changing and nothing stays the same — not for very long anyway?
Technology and the advent of the social media have created platforms that make connecting with our customers easier and faster. This is a good thing except it does not mean a corresponding increase in immediate business despite our frequent tweets, regularly updated blogs and Facebook posts.
Although technology has sped everything up, relationships are nurtured at a much slower pace.
In an effort to increase business, everyone is now focused on using these channels to promote, promote, promote.
We are constantly checking not just e-mails but who “liked” what we said or commented on our insight.
We gauge our success by the number of fans, dream of ways to get more and are constantly upgrading our phones to leverage new technology and become more efficient.
The question is — are we lost? Have we lost sight of why we are in business — our purpose?
Although the industry has changed with the advent of the social media, creating a successful business requires the same discipline it always has, if not more discipline to combat the added distraction of online promotion.
Referring to the allure of having an instant, albeit often shallow and fleeting, online audience, celebrity and Grammy Award-winning album, John Mayer cautions against seeking out “joy in little, tiny statements — little, tiny applause hits.”
Just like musicians, many business owners fear if they slowed down too much they might lose out on opportunities vooshing by.
So they get sound bites of the business basics and rush out there to sell.
If you don’t practice your scales in music you WILL eventually lose your way, although some self-taught musicians will tell you they skip a lot of the fundamentals because they’re afraid it will affect and cramp their personal style. What cacophony!
If you have a business right now and no one knows who you are, perhaps they shouldn’t! The answer to this is not to promote your business more.
The answer may be to go back to the drawing board and revise every “what” and every “how”. This is the time to “practise” your “scales”:
•Do you have a clear mission and vision?
•Is your business model scaleable?
•Do you have streamline systems and set standards?
•Are you energised and effective?
•Do you really know your customer and are you selling to them in the way they want to buy?
There is a very thin line which you easily cross over between promotion and self absorbed expression.
If your ego is driving things then it’s the latter. This also means your creativity is being stifled and you’re not performing at your optimal best.
Pouring your creativity into smaller, less promotional outlets distracts you from critical thinking and narrows your mental capacity for real innovation and authentic expression — the ONLY thing that will differentiate you — and let those who NEED you FIND you.
Only when you truly know and understand yourself can you begin to promote, build visibility and awareness. If you don’t, then your “music” will not be popular and it will surely end.