Earlier this month I attended the Laurence A. Baiada Center for Entrepreneurship’s conference, “Building a Fan Base: Lifting Your Business to Stardom.” The conference was held at World Cafe Live so I assumed it would be a different kind of party.
And it was. The mash-up of music and a panel discussion made me want to shout.
The moderator, Mark Loschiavo, executive director of the Baiada Center, posited “jazz as a metaphor for entrepreneurship.” He drew parallels between musicians and entrepreneurs. To grow a business worth shouting about, entrepreneurs must move beyond customers to a fan base. Fan is broadly defined to include partners, investors, suppliers, mentors and advisers.
Between playing classics like Elton John’s “Your Song” and Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” the band members panelists, Stephen M. Goodman, Bruce Kaminsky and Bob Wilson, shared their insights about the rhythms of business and the performance aspect of a successful pitch.
The panelists said an entrepreneur needs more than a good product or service offering. They underscored the importance of repetition, accessibility, entertainment and emotion.
Repetition: A key component of composition, melody and rhythm is repeatability. It’s the thing that makes music work. In marketing, it’s about consistency. Successful businesses create a repeatable experience around the brand or business that consumers grow to trust. Think FedEx, eBay and McDonald’s. But it’s not about having a huge advertising budget. Instead, it’s about establishing a message and repeating it.
Accessibility: Successful musicians and businesses like the Grateful Dead and Apple create a sense of community. It’s about openness, accountability and communication.
Entertainment: As technology and the culture changed, there has been a shift from the music to the show. Think Steve Jobs. If you have your stuff together, you don’t have to, say, wear a caveman outfit to be entertaining. If you’re on top of your game and have an achievable business plan, that’s entertaining to early investors.
Emotion: Create the emotion and then tie the emotion back to the brand or entrepreneur. Think Folger’s Coffee.
The message in the music resonated as I read this pitch advice from Business Insider:
Know the people you’re pitching. Rothrock said that entrepreneurs should know everything about the VCs they’re pitching to -- where they live (“as long as you don’t drop by”), their dog’s name, their hot button issues. Senkut agreed -- do your research and try to make personal connections.
Entrepreneurs should also know what music the VCs like. When a white male is on the stage, a VC sees himself, his son, brother, Best Man, etc. But there is no instant connection with minority and women entrepreneurs. It bears repeating that people like doing business with people they know.
With limited time to make their pitch, minority entrepreneurs should use music to overcome conscious and unconscious biases and stereotypes, and make an emotional connection.
The bottom line: Your pitch doesn’t mean a thing, if it doesn’t swing investors to your fan base. If you want investors to get jazzed about your startup, add a little music.