Tuesday, November 16, 2010

5 Lessons Tap Dancing Teaches About B-to-B Marketing

A few years back a friend encouraged me to join an adult tap dancing class.   The program is sponsored by the local Recreation Department. 

And before this goes any further, note that we students in Beginning/Intermediate Adult Tap aren’t the Rockettes by any means. We’re just eager learners taught by a skilled instructor who has a sense of humor (thankfully), as she gamely leads us through shuffle ball changes, heel/toe combinations, stamps & stomps.

We assemble most Monday nights to learn steps with such intriguing names as “Falling Off the Log”, “Back to Cincinnati”, “Paddle Turns” and many more. In the spring, we zip ourselves up in sparkly costumes and perform in a recital right along with all the kids and teens.  We make quite the spectacle!

Tap dancing offers specific lessons related to my day job: marketing communications,  planning marketing programs & campaigns, and working with clients.  The way I see it, tap dancing class offers the following five lessons.

1)    Take each step as it happens.   This is another variation of the sage advice “fully concentrate on each present moment.”   In tap class, one can’t master the step one is doing while worrying about the next step to come.  That’s the same in marketing. 
As an example, when planning for a big project like a product launch, a web launch, a newsletter redesign, or a major email campaign, focus on what one action to take now to prep for the next step. Do you need to arrange a team planning session? Draft a key message document? Write a case study? Small steps lead to larger success.
2)    Go about your routines with gusto.  Even a novice tap dancer can perform a routine “with gusto” ...  The key is to make the routine effective. 
In business-to-business marketing programs, there are “routine tasks” to implement each month:  customer newsletters; prospect eNewsleters; website updates; press releases; monthly campaigns; marketing metric reporting.  One must tackle each project systematically and with gusto to maximize effectiveness.
3)    Practice and know your stuff, but improvise if needed  I’m a big believer in practicing.  In fact, I host emergency tap dance practices with the entire class in my garage right before each recital. (It's fun to see the neighbors doing double-takes when they walk by!)

It’s wise to be “well practiced” in terms of marketing.  That means attending webinars, participating with professional groups like IABC Detroit, or attending conferences such as Usability Week conferences by Norman Nielsen Group to keep skills fresh.  Marketers should keep abreast of current thought about social media marketing, SEO and online marketing.  Practice makes perfect!

4)    Hang onto something solid if you need to regain your balance. At our last tap class, our wonderful instructor tried once again to teach us a gravity-defying “Jump shuffle” step.  Thankfully we could grip the bar while doing it to keep our balance. 

There’s a lesson here for business communications. Many projects get off balance quickly – whether because of time deadlines, the personalities involved, or internal challenges. The key here is to hang onto a process, a task, or a plan to regain balance and keep the project moving along.

5)    If all else fails be sure to show flair & enthusiasm  Despite the best planning, practicing and preparation, sometimes things don’t work out as planned.  In tap dancing, as in business-to-business marketing, the best strategy is to proceed with as much style as one can muster.

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