5 invaluable Piano Industry lessons we learned in 2017

I wanted to reach out to you all and share some of the most critical things we’ve learned this past year, our third year of serving the piano industry with lead generation. It has been an exciting and enlightening journey. Even as I draft this review, we have over 80 active programs serving over 50 markets globally. The need for leads in the industry was as strong as we expected and being this busy has allowed us to learn so much this past year. We are grateful for those who have been our digital partners in 2017. They serve as affirmation that learning is an interesting, fun and ongoing process. We must admit that some of the best learning experiences were the ones with those few clients who did not end up being good ongoing digital partners. The greatest value, in retrospect, of these attempted relationships was the confirmation that we must continue moving forward with our thinking. Lack of forward thinking sabotaged the success of a couple of relationships that I wish would have worked out but… man, we learned so much from them despite the outcomes, so no regrets on our end!

As the nerve center for an impressive consortium of piano sales organizations globally, we feel obligated to share some of our most important lessons.

1) The most impressive lesson was that when we went in search of online piano interest, we actually found it! This industry has often, the past decade and a half, been described as a “shrinking one.” In wake of our success, we realized that the industry has fallen prey to an immutable fact: if it is shrinking it’s not because it is impossible to find or create piano interest. It’s because the industry has been unwilling to keep up with, much less embrace the technological marketing advances which could keep its sales force in touch with the new market share.

I have a brilliant, aggressive young partner. As direct response wandered away from the mailbox and onto the internet, my smartest business decision in the twilight of my (to God be the Glory) successful marketing career was to not to shy away from, but outright embrace the new tools of technology and find a business partner willing to help me marry fundamentals with the current marketing landscape.

2) The second most important lesson of 2017 was that you can’t force or predict open-mindedness. After being catapulted into forward thinking by my partner (willingly as I was), I found myself interacting with a hodge-podge of success stories which lead me to believe that youth and growing up with the new technology is an advantage, but that advantage never trumps the value of a disciplined follow-up protocol. This past month I have witnessed a 60+ year old client, during her first EventFlow experience, achieve a 14% sell through (a phenomenal first conversion rate), and a twenty-something- year-old reluctant as hell to move from an Excel spreadsheet to a CRM, such as our PianoLeads CRM. The lesson? Attitude trumps age and regardless of your age, if you are willing to learn no one can hold you back! Wow! That reminds me of an e-mail my 34-year-old partner sent me less than thirty days ago. It was a quote from Zig Ziglar who passed in 2012, but whose contributions to the sales arena will be treasured forever. The quote was: “If you are not willing to learn no one can help you. If you are determined to learn no one can stop you!” This is what we learned about, and from, our clients in 2017 – that those willing to join us in this journey of learning about how to get good at turning online leads into sales will NOT be stopped. The average conversion rate of a PI client after 12 months on the LeadFlow program is now over 7% and climbing. We cannot be stopped because together we are dedicated to learning!

3) The number one, largest lesson of 2017, as we grew to serve over 50 markets, was that piano interest is alive and well, and findable online in extremely profitable numbers!

4) Another valuable lesson Joey and I learned in 2017 was to communicate better about the service we provide. In 2017 we began an automated monthly protocol of sending all the leads of the month and the analytics to all our clients for their review. This transparency provided two key ingredients needed to serve our clients best – the knowledge of how every ad dollar was spent, and the security of knowing how good a lead generation investment with Prospects International is.

The purpose of this article is to view the year from 30,000 feet; not get into minute details, but extract the larger takeaways from it so I will limit the rest of this writing to just a few more critical lessons. This one I alluded to in the beginning of the article and want to address in detail now: We must admit that some of the best learning experiences were the ones with those few clients who did not end up being good ongoing digital partners. We have attempted many times to serve some closed-minded business persons who were not good digital partners and didn’t view online lead generation as the new landscape for their sales future. They viewed it as a new method of delivering the same old worn-out message, kinda like a new age newspaper ad or billboard – BAD mistake! Online viewers should be viewed as the current version of what in the good ol’ days was adequate “floor traffic”. There were many qualified and unqualified visitors (people) who needed to be categorized and worked. The old “floor traffic” flow exposed tire kickers, ready-to-buy buyers and everything in between (just like LeadFlow leads). It hasn’t changed. The serious prospects and the lookey-lou’s are all still there, just “online.” Everyone goes online before they make a decision these days. People online are at varying stages of the sales process (who’s gestation period for luxury items has doubled since 2008). They need to be revered not only as a harvesting opportunity but also as a future sales opportunity. Future sales opportunities – that thing without which we have no future sales! Treating everyone the same and qualifying or disqualifying them solely based upon whether or not they are ready to buy today is short sighted and cannibalistic. If we care only about today, we have no tomorrow… leads are our tomorrow.

5) The last HUGE lesson from 2017 was that you can’t underestimate the value of bridge building. So, let’s raise a glass to us “old schoolers” not afraid to work on our deficiencies and share our experiences. Let’s raise a glass to the millennials patient enough to share their technological skills with us and admit that we can help them with their people skills. I guess the lucky ones in the industry today are the “Gen-X’ers”; those old enough to have learned the people skills of the past and young enough to not be intimidated by the new technology. They are the potential struts of the bridges being built. The lesson succinctly is this: Those of us passionately committed to placing music in the lives of as many people as possible must work together, using every advantage we can to keep the arts relevant and ongoing. If we focus on that goal we will sell more than if we focus on how many units we move. As regional sales manager at Cox Communications, as a salesman in the corporate world and for my own companies, and as a national sales trainer I have validated this fact time and again: selling is not a verb, it is a byproduct of the phrase “quality activity.” If you care enough about what you are doing to do it with passion and noble intentions, you will end up where you want to be. The way to do that best is by being willing to be the Capt. Kirk or Spock of your marketplace – go where no piano sale persons have been and join us on our journey to revolutionize the way we place pianos in the lives of more and more humans. Be a great person to work with at your gallery; be a generous teacher of the benefits, and the units will magically move. Trust me. If you have a servant’s heart, know your product, and are excited about helping the prospects placed in your life, you will “live long and prosper” in this business.

We did come face to face with some limitations in 2017. We are, after all, just marketing people. Though we continue to refine our targeting and programs, we can’t take all the challenging work out of qualifying and disqualifying. We can’t make those wealthy folks who act cheap change their behavior and we still haven’t found a way to build an “idiot radar” to take all the miserable, rude people out of the market. What we can do is try our best to innovate and continue improving to be the very best resource and digital partners we can be.

We owe our record setting 2017 to all of you who had faith in us to solve problems as they arose, and create better ways to find new prospects on the internet. In summary, this 2017 year-end-review article ends with a great big THANK YOU! We couldn’t have done it, and would not have had a reason to, without you. You are the ones out there in the trenches making it happen and helping people have more music in their lives. For you, the PI nation and the clients to be, we are unbelievably grateful. This seems to be the perfect time to end with another nugget from the master: “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” -Zig Ziglar

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