What you can learn about marketing from a busking child

Not a picture of the actual busker in question.

Not a picture of the actual busker in question.


Marketing lessons from a busking child
(alternative title: middle-aged woman uses an innocent child to make a point about marketing)

Last year I watched a girl who was about 9 years old busking as the shops opened on a Saturday morning.

She was playing in the middle of a pedestrian area with her beaming, proud mother hovering nearby and an empty hat at her feet, a "thank you" note dotted with a few pink love hearts propped against it.

So far it all sounds quite sweet, doesn't it?

So why, despite there being plenty of people around, do you think her hat was empty?

It could have been that people just didn't have change to give. (But I don't think that was the case).

It might have been that her mother didn't think to seed the hat with some $2 coins to encourage people to throw in gold coins rather than silver ones. (But that probably wouldn't have helped).

The real reason that the girl hadn't made any money…was that she was playing the recorder.

If you're honest, I suspect you'll acknowledge that very few people want to encourage more public recorder performances in our communities. Even a good recorder performance is really only endurable to people who love the performer, primary-school teachers, or people who are actually being paid to listen.

You know there's a lesson in here about marketing, don't you? (And please can we set aside the obvious unfairness of a grown woman who only plays air guitar - lamely - critiquing a 9 year old who is at least making an effort, because I have a lesson to share!)

The recorder-playing girl got lots of things right:

  • location: she was in a busy part of town with lots of foot traffic

  • awareness: she made sure people knew she was there (recorders will do that)

  • strong message: her sign was easy to read and was cute

  • a call to action: her collection hat was clearly visible and easy to use

But just one small detail derailed her: her target audience apparently didn't appreciate recorder music.

And not understanding your target audience in business will cost you.

So I want you to ask yourself: do you really know your target audience?

Do they need what you are selling? Does what you offer solve a problem for them? Are you sure?

Can you tell me more about them than just their basic demographics (gender, geographical location, income level, family situation?)

Do you know what motivates them, what kind of thing they like to do in their spare time, what experiences they cherish?

If you don't know, the easiest way to find out is to talk to them.

Ask them to complete a short survey, run an Instagram poll, pick up the phone or meet them in person.

Find the common threads that tie them together.

When you really know your target audience and can describe them in these kind of terms, then your marketing messages have so much more impact.

You can craft your message so it seems like you really know exactly how to help them; you can give them exactly what they need.


This post’s lesson?

Don't be the person playing the recorder to a bunch of recorder-averse people. Find the people who love recorder music and make them truly glad they found you.

Full disclosure: this article was send to email newsletter subscribers in May 2018.

Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for my Marketing Matters newsletter here.