For several years in my 20s, I was a DJ. I never made it big and went on tour or anything; mostly I gigged at local bars with the occasional wedding thrown in. I learned a lot, like how to appease a drunk uncle who is demanding to hear “Hotel California” without actually having to play “Hotel California.”
Now that I’m retired from the DJ game, I often reflect on all those nights spent behind the turntables. Some nights were more trying than others, like when your PA system stops working and the bar owner is fuming. Some nights, when you totally connect with an audience, were amazing. But in the end, the job boiled down to one task: keep those people dancing.
And really, that’s all we’re doing as marketers, right? We develop a strategy (create a playlist), get people on the dancefloor (get them to your website), and keep them dancing (execute on the call to action). Ideally, if we’re doing it right, we keep them dancing all night, song after song (repeat customer).
Here are the Top 4 things DJ’ing taught me about great marketing.
- By far the biggest lesson is to know your audience. Before the gig, think hard about who will be in the crowd and tailor the playlist specifically for them. You wouldn’t play an uncensored version of Biggie’s “Hypnotize” after the cake cutting at a country club wedding, even if a few people in the audience would love it. However, 1am in a packed bar with people in their 30s… that’s the right audience for “Hypnotize.” MARKETING TRANSLATION: Identify your target demographic and then research who they are: what they like, how they use the internet, where they are, etc. Design your strategy and execution with them in mind.
- Now that you know your audience, you need to constantly monitor them to make sure your strategy is working. Even if your mixing is perfect and the bass levels feel just right, if only 25% of the crowd is dancing, you need to adjust. Change up the playlist and scan the crowd constantly to get it juuuuust right. MARKETING TRANSLATION: Your marketing strategy is a working document, not a steadfast guide. If your tracking indicates that it’s not working, adjust. Then keep monitoring the data and keep adjusting until goals are met.
- Play what they want to hear, not what you think is cool. You may be absolutely in love with the new Chance the Rapper single, but odds are the crowd is not. It’s tempting to “teach” your audience about good taste, but if they’re not into it, no one’s going to dance. MARKETING TRANSLATION: Leave your creative ego at the door and design ads and write copy that converts.
- Respect the audience. Yes, it’s your responsibility to play what they want to hear. But you can’t play all the cliche wedding dance songs in a row (“YMCA,” “Electric Slide,” “Chicken Dance”) and expect to keep people interested. Surprise them with songs they forgot they loved (“Like a Virgin” by Madonna always kills it.) MARKETING TRANSLATION: Just because sex sells, that doesn’t mean every one of your ads should feature cleavage; your audience will see through the cheap ploys and it will diminish your brand. The real art is creating content that subtly surprises an audience.
DJ’ing, like marketing, isn’t easy. You’ll never get every single person on the dance floor at the same time. People simply have different tastes in music, and that’s okay. In the same way, your marketing can’t be everything to everyone, so pick your ideal audience and play what they want to hear.
Keep ‘em dancing.