I bought my first guitar for about $6 at a yard sale, and it played about as well as you might imagine. I could barely hold down the strings, but I kept plucking away at that old, hard-to-tune instrument. By the time I was able to play my first power chord, my world was forever changed. I’ve been playing music ever since.
While my path didn’t lead me to become a professional musician, my love of music did lead me to my profession. I've played in bands and produced music—I previously ran an independent record label—with all four of my business partners. To this day, we all regularly play and record music.
I’m not convinced that I'm an anomaly, though. The marketing world is flush with people who have creative backgrounds, and their experiences as artists, musicians and fiction writers drive their professional success. Robert Rose, chief strategy officer for the Content Marketing Institute, is a great example. The same is true of Jason Miller, global content marketing leader at LinkedIn and a talented rock 'n' roll photographer.
The overlap makes sense. The skills required to learn an instrument or pursue other creative endeavors intermingle with the qualities necessary to succeed as a marketer. Top marketing leaders who are struggling with problem solving or feel like their teams are in a creative rut could learn a thing or two from the music world.
Musicians make marvelous marketers
One of the first skills you develop as a musician is pattern recognition. Although I didn’t make the connection when I first entered marketing, it's easy to see how this practice has helped me and other musically inclined marketers. What is data analytics other than a process for discerning patterns and extrapolating insights?
While patterns are central to music, they're common in all areas of life. I had a small epiphany one night while playing "Cards Against Humanity" with some friends. The strategy for winning the game closely mirrors content personalization strategy: You have to watch for patterns, understand your audience, monitor behaviors and carefully select cards that align with each player’s interests. Patterns are also responsible for the predictive analytics wave we've seen recently.
My passion for music has also helped me work through a number of marketing tech problems. Many of the most beloved groups in music history—Weezer, Boston and Queen—combine technical proficiency with creative genius. A similar combination in the marketing world can help you tackle tricky problems from fresh angles while ensuring all aspects of your company sing in harmony.
Apply this concept when creating a complex behavior-triggered process to nurture leads. Use marketing automation to highlight "connected content marketing experiences." Use technical chops to showcase creative instincts, an approach I first honed as a musician.
In truth, most creative pursuits share a lot with startup culture. The content must come first, but it's important to also spend time promoting that content. Similar to the business world, creatives must address multiple channels and offer a consistent brand story and experience to ensure success.
A storyteller is a storyteller is a storyteller
Whether you’re a musician, a novelist or a marketer, you’re telling stories. Musicians weave narratives through lyrics, tempo, tonality and delivery. Marketers share their brand stories through articles, videos and tweets. The methods are different, but the end result is the same: Band leaders and CMOs must orchestrate their fellow artists—and the many channels they use—to ensure a harmonious performance.
Musicians modify their live performances in small ways to better connect with the crowd, and marketers similarly must adjust their stories depending on the audience and format. We share the same product story with our different audiences, but we tell it differently to marketers than we do to developers. Technologies like marketing automation and content personalization enable us to dynamically adjust those interactions.
The best stories forge emotional connections between storytellers and their audiences. Meaningful connections create fans, and fans become advocates who share their love for what you do.
Marketing is an inherently creative practice. But even the most creative people can sometimes get stuck, especially when they attempt to marry their imaginative instincts with the technical sides of their jobs. Acknowledging that balance and keeping it top of mind as you tackle challenges can help propel your team forward even in the midst of a creative slump.