What I Don't Know Can't Hurt Me

As far as I know, I’ve only come close to being pelted with rotten tomatoes once in my professional life.

Many years ago, a colleague asked me to take her place as a speaker, to talk marketing with a group of directors of various arts organizations-dance companies, galleries, theater groups and the like.

So I began my shpiel-talked about market research as a way to determine your target audience and its needs, the importance of examining your competition, figuring out how purchase decisions are made, and how all this leads you to determine what to offer and how to craft an effective marketing message.  I could feel the temperature in the room dropping steadily as I yammered on, the jaws of those in my audience clenching tighter and tighter.  I was getting some pretty ugly stares when one listener finally gave voice to what they were all feeling.  She said something like “The audience doesn’t get to tell us what dances to do.  We’re artists. This is about our self-expression. “

I told them that, while I wasn’t suggesting they have focus group participants choreograph their performances, they had a choice to make.  They could create their art and be satisfied with simply performing it, regardless of whether they had an audience or not.  But if the objective was to fill the seats, like it or not, they were in business.  And once you’re in business, you must consider your audience if you’re going to be effective.

Despite my genuine desire to be helpful, I was a most unwelcome messenger that day, telling that audience things they were in no mood to hear.  And I'm sure they left that day consoling one another about how wrong I was.

In running my own businesses, I, too, have kept myself in various stages of denial at times, shielding myself from finding out that something I was putting a whole lot of effort into, just wasn’t working, or that an idea I thought was brilliant, only seemed that way to me.

Human as it is, looking the other way can waste a lot of time, energy and resources.  So here’s the question:  What is it in your business that needs examination, but that you’re choosing to look away from?

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