Music Store Idol

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					                        THE CUSTOMER WHISPERER I BY GREG BILLINGS




                        Music Store Idol
                          don’t like “American Idol.” It aggravates me when people talk about it




                       I
                                                                                                        GETTING OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY
                          as if it were something important or significant. I’ll confess that I’ve              ur first task was to select
                          never watched more than three minutes of it. I’ll also confess that the
                          reason I don’t like “American Idol” is because I’m a snob. I’m not even
                                                                                                        O       t h e r i g h t c h a r i t y. We
                                                                                                        wanted to benefit our own
                          that good a musician, but I’ve been playing and listening long enough to      S t e i nway P i a n o S o c i e t y
                        know when it’s real and when it’s not.                                          Scholarship Fund, but we also
                           That said, I love what “American Idol” has done for our culture.             needed something the docs
                        Fascination with this musical melodrama has brought about a democrati-          could identify with on a gut
                                   zation of how we view talent. Now, everybody believes anybody        l eve l . We s e l e c t e d t h e
                                   can be a star, and they believe they can be stars, too. America is   Neighborhood Health Clinic
                                   not only willing to watch amateurs, but we’ll forgive their flaws    (NHC) because hundreds of
                                   — even root for them.                                                physician volunteers work
                                      The “American Idol” phenomenon presents a wonderful               there. The hospital was happy
                                   opportunity for music dealers. No one is more susceptible to the     to support the NHC because it
                                   allure of spotlights and applause than our customers, so talent      keeps uninsured people out of
                                   shows are a perfect vehicle for community-oriented dealers who       the ER. Plus, NHC is easy to
                                   want to build their local reputation and strengthen their customer   work with and grateful for
                                   relationships. We can put our customers and prospects onstage        support.
                                   and make them “music store idols.” Best of all, we can generate          Community involvement
                                   valuable PR, the kind you can’t buy.                                 eventually comes down to
                                                                                                        money. There are only two
                                   THE TALENT SHOW FORMAT                                               kinds of philanthropy: the
                                       lmost five years ago, we stumbled into our first talent show,    kind where you are giving
                                   A   mostly by accident. We were at a Steinway dealer meeting
                                                                  and saw a short presentation
                                                                                                        away your own money and
                                                                                                        the kind where you are giving
                                                                  about an innovative way Schmitt       away other people’s money
         Talent shows are a                                       Music was cultivating doctors —       (or OPM, as I call it). As
                                                                  an important but elusive demo-        music dealers, we can’t do
         perfect vehicle for                                      graphic to piano and high-end         much good with the amount
         dealers who want to                                      guitar dealers — with a physi-        of our own money we can
                                                                  cians’ piano recital. My wife is a    afford to give away. The key
         build their local                                        nurse, and through her job at the     to getting OPM is partnership.
         reputation, strengthen                                   hospital, she’s acquainted with           By partnering with NHC, a
                                                                  most of the doctors in town. She      door opened to partner with the
         their customer                                           told me that she could recruit        local physicians’ association and
         relationships                                            doctors to perform if we sup-         gain access to its well-guarded
                                                                  ported the right charity, and she     list of doctors’ home addresses.
                                                                  started putting out feelers.          That relationship opened a door
                           One of the docs said, “That sounds boring. Why don’t you do a talent         to bring the hospital on as a
                        show instead?” In that moment, the Physicians’ Talent Show was born. (I         principal sponsor ($5,000 of
                        later found out that Schmitt Music’s piano recital also evolved into a talent   OPM), which opened the door
                        show.) What followed had a dramatic effect on our presence in the com-          to get additional sponsors (even
                        munity; our relationships with clients, vendors and prospects; and our          more OPM).
                        advertising budget.                                                                 Partnership can be very use-


44 I MUSIC INC. I SEPTEMBER 2009
ful for a dealer without a          disappointment, the talent
501(c)(3) charter because the       applicants represented a broad
dealer can take tax-deductible      s p e c t r u m . We h e a rd f ro m
contributions and sell tickets      many guitarists and singers
under the partner’s charter. If     but only a few pianists. We
you pick the right partner, it      also heard from horn players,            Schmitt Music’s
                                                                             physicians’ talent
may be willing to do the book-      comedians and dancers. We                show
keeping, provide volunteers and     even had a magician and a
conduct a silent auction. Not-      dentist who played the musi-
for-profit organizations pay less   cal saw. It quickly became             b TALENT SHOW
for everything, from theater rent   apparent that this was going
to advertising. Not to mention
the press loves not-for-profits.
                                    to be a variety show. I would-
                                    n’t have been surprised to see
                                                                           CHECKLIST
                                                                           9 Pick a date four to six months in advance when your business is off-cycle.
   Using the physicians’ asso-      a juggler or a dog act.
                                                                             You’ll need to devote time to the event.
ciation list, we mailed a post-         We found physicians who
                                                                           9 Select a venue big enough to accommodate the show but small enough
card to all the local physicians    had bands, some who had put
                                                                             that you can fill it, where your talent will be proud to perform.
inviting them to perform. This      themselves through medical
                                                                           9 Find    the right charity to benefit. (Ask your talent for suggestions.)
also promoted the event. We         school playing in saloons and
approached the local newspa-        many who hadn’t played for             9 Identify   a principal sponsor, and go after the big bucks.
per, city magazine and public       years. Soon, we realized the           9 Identify   other sponsors, and start pitching.
radio station and offered them      small number of pianists was-          9 Set   up a Web site to post rehearsal schedules and other information.
the opportunity to become in-       n’t a problem, after all. Greater
                                                                           9 Startrecruiting talent. When in doubt, schedule informal auditions. Mail post-
kind (non-cash) sponsors for        variety made the show more
                                                                             cards to doctors on your mailing list, and find appropriate partners with lists.
our “charity” event. The PR         entertaining and the entire
                                                                           9 Get free recruitment and show ads from local media by making them in-
machine was in motion.              event more festive.
                                                                             kind sponsors.
   In addition to free advertis-        Once we had a talent roster
                                                                           9 Make  personalized posters your talent can display in their offices, and give
ing, we’ve had newspaper sto-       finalized, we began rehearsing
                                                                             them tickets to sell. (Keep careful track. No free tickets for anyone until 24
ries before and after the shows,    in our recital hall. When peo-
                                                                             hours before the show and only if you need to fill the house.)
magazine articles, society page     ple visit your store three times,
                                                                           9 Every  time you send an e-mail, thank people for their support and
pictures, and full-hour National    they begin to identify with it
                                                                             participation.
Public Radio affiliate inter-       and are much less likely to
                                                                           9 Put together a backup band, and appoint a music director. Use your
views. Last year, the local PBS     visit a competitor — ever.
                                                                             employees and customers. Worship bands are a great place to find
TV station produced an 18-          They are also much more likely           volunteer musicians.
minute segment about our            to recommend your store to
                                                                           9 Encourage  the talent to do material they can do well and that
show for its video magazine,        others. And docs are likely to
                                                                             translates well live.
Connect. It filmed physicians in    seek referrals from other docs.
                                                                           9 Recruit volunteers: sound people, stagehands, ticket sellers, servers, silent
our Gallery talking about the           We needed about four weeks
                                                                             auction staff and PR people. There are many college students who need
importance of music in their        of rehearsal since physicians’           community-service hours, and some of them are probably your customers.
lives and about our commit-         schedules are so erratic.
                                                                           9 Selecta venue for the dress rehearsal. Churches are good because they
ment to the community. The          Rehearsing here is broadly
                                                                             have sound and are happy to help.
program ran more than 20            defined. Some acts, such as the
                                                                           9 Host a cast party after dress rehearsal, hopefully at your house. Let your
times. It’s hard to put mone-       magician and the Klezmer band,
                                                                             charity provide volunteers to do the work.
tary value on that kind of PR.      were self-contained and required
                                                                           9 Start rehearsals four weeks out. Record rehearsals on a simple recorder,
                                    no work at all. A few hadn’t
TALENT SEARCH                                                                such as an Edirol R-09, and e-mail talent their tracks. This is remarkably
                                    played for years and needed the          effective and also helps time the acts.
       e had four business objec-   band to carry them. Many
W      tives in producing the
Physicians’ Talent Show: raise
                                    needed help selecting appropri-
                                    ate material. Almost all of them
                                                                           9 Write a script, and time the show. Keep it under 90 minutes. A rule of thumb
                                                                             is the show will run double the sum of the time of the individual acts.
                                                                           9 Make    sure the emcee knows he has to stick to the script, and drill it in that
awareness about our Gallery         required encouragement and
                                                                             it’s his responsibility to keep the show moving.
among the medical community;        cheerleading. Clearly, the doc-
                                                                           9 Record the dress rehearsal rather than the show, and post the tracks
raise our stature among the         tors had ventured beyond their
                                                                             where your talent can get them.
medical community; generate         comfort zones, and we were able
                                                                           9 Take    lots of pictures, and post them, too. Send thank-you notes.
favorable, free press; and bene-    to use our calm, assertive leader-
fit the NHC and our Steinway        ship to guide them.                    9 Recognize from the beginning that you are the show’s producer. Lead with
Piano Society.                          We promised each physician           calm assertiveness. Be firm, friendly and fair, but most of all, be decisive.
    To our surprise, and initial    that we would make them look           9 Err   on the side of simplicity.


                                                                                                                      SEPTEMBER 2009 I MUSIC INC. I 45
and sound great. Often, this            two weeks surrounding the ture stores, restaurants, and                         McDonald House.
meant suggesting the song that          event, we were the No. 1 topic wine merchants are good candi-                       “It brings together teachers,
he or she wanted to do wouldn’t         at water coolers all over town. dates for sponsorship.                          students and professional musi-
work in a live setting and that                                            It is a lot easier than you                  cians to a common cause: rais-
executing something simple              RAISING FUNDS                   think to sell sponsorships.                     ing awareness for the benefits
well is preferable to executing             und raising also benefitted Sponsors get a one-page ad in                   of piano study,” Foster said.
something complicated poorly.
(It’s vital to gain their trust.)
                                        F   our image. Even at $75 per the program, four preferred
                                        ticket, we could only raise so seating tickets and an acknowl-
                                                                                                                            Ellen McDonald of Hartland
                                                                                                                        Music Center in Wisconsin has
More important, we promised                                                                                             been conducting a Hartland
                                                                                             Steinway Piano Society’s
them that they would have fun!                                                                   Pastors’ Talent Show   Idol talent contest for high
                                                                                                                        school kids, complete with
FINDING VOLUNTEERS                                                                                                      local celebrity judges, for the
       s we accepted talent appli-                                                                                      last two years. Other dealers
A      cations and narrowed the
material, a few things became
                                                                                                                        have hosted open mic nights.
                                                                                                                            We recently presented our
clear. If I was going to keep that                                                                                      second Pastors’ Talent Show.
promise, I was going to need a                                                                                          It has drawn a much bigger
pretty good band. And that                                                                                              audience (at a lower ticket
band would have to be able to                                                                                           price and with a different
play everything from country to                                                                                         group of sponsors), and we’re
jazz to broadway to gospel. We                                                                                          seeing a similar benefit to our
were also going to need a vocal                                                                                         reputation among the church
coach, accompanists, an emcee                                                                                           community. Of course, the
and many other volunteers.                                                                                              local Christian radio station
      The great thing about being       much money in a 300-seat the-          edgment from the stage. More             was happy to partner with us.
in a music store is that you can        ater, and a certain number of          important, they get to schmooze              What caught us by surprise,
f in d a ll t he help yo u ne e d       tickets got gobbled up by the          with the medical community’s             though it shouldn’t have, was
among your employees and                cast. (We give two free tickets        elite before and after the show.         the profound effect being in
customers. This has the added           to each performer, and they                                                     the show had on the perform-
benefit of getting prospects and        almost always bought more.)            ALTERNATE FORMATS                        ers. For many, their love of
customers involved with your            The best ways to increase rev-              alent shows aren’t the only         music was reawakened. For
staff. And when you ask your
friends to contribute their tal-
                                        enue are selling sponsorships
                                        and holding a silent auction in
                                                                               T    way to get your customers
                                                                               onstage. Schmitt Music has
                                                                                                                        some, standing onstage in front
                                                                                                                        of their friends, families and
ents to a worthy charity, it’s          the lobby before the show.             done a great job with its                peers was the fulfillment of a
hard for them to say “no.”              This is community outreach-            Physicians’ Piano Recital, and           d re a m . A n d f o r m o s t , t h e
      To keep things manageable         ing at a grass-roots level.            R. Scott Schoppert, keyboard             camaraderie of preparing the
and to encourage camaraderie,               You may recoil at the idea of      manager of its Sioux Falls, S.D.,        show forged strong bonds with
we asked the more talented              asking others for money, but           location, found a way to escape          their fellow performers and
physicians to help back up the          when you ask someone to pur-           local medical politics. By bene-         with us. I’d be surprised if any
other acts. We also arranged            chase a $1,000 sponsorship —           fiting the Children’s Care               of the physicians, pastors or
duets and ensembles. By show            or, if that’s not possible, to con-    Hospital, he was able to sell            volunteers in any of our shows
time, we had a large group of           tribute a gift item to a silent auc-   $5,000 sponsorships to both of           ever patronized one of my
committed people working                tion — you’ve taken your stature       the big competing hospitals in           competitors. We have become
toward a common goal — and              up several notches. You’ve tran-       town. More than 800 people               friends — trusted friends.
doing so in our store and look-         scended being a businessperson         attended his fifth show this                 Dealers that want to do more
ing to us for leadership. They          and become a philanthropist in         year. “Originally, we leveraged          than just talk about community
started getting their associates,       everyone’s eyes.                       it into a selling event, but now I       involvement will find present-
friends and family to buy tick-             There are many businesses          get residual sales from physi-           ing a talent show a natural vehi-
ets, and they started buying            thankful for the opportunity to        cians almost every month with            cle. It’s a great way to embrace
strings, cables, wireless kits          take their messages directly to        no overt marketing,” he said.            and motivate your staff, your
and wardrobes.                          an elite medical audience: phar-           And physicians aren’t the            customers and your prospects.
      Soon, the show took on a          maceutical companies, assisted         only group worth featuring.              Most of all, it’s fun. MI
l i f e o f i t s ow n . B y d re s s   living facilities and home health      Jim Foster at Foster Family
rehearsal, friendships had              service providers. Also, banks,        Music in Davenport, Iowa, has            Greg Billings whispers to customers at the
                                                                                                                        Steinway Piano Gallery in Bonita Springs,
formed, and the perception of           financial service providers,           created Piano Celebration, an            Fla. He welcomes questions and comments
our Gallery was enhanced. For           high-end designers and furni-          annual fundraiser for Ronald             at greg@steinwaynaples.com.


46 I MUSIC INC. I SEPTEMBER 2009