Marketing is Your Last Step

It was my first day at a new job and I walked in, quite literally, to phones that were ringing off the hook. Curious, I approached the area where a pair of receptionists, who, as pleasant as could be, were fighting a losing game of whack-a-mole with the blinking red lights on their consoles. When I asked why today had such a high call volume, they told me “It’s always like this.”

If job security had a ringtone, I had a lot of it.

However, as awesome as that was, this company wasn’t ready to handle the results of their marketing. Their team had executed a focused strategy to get their name out and it worked.

Focus on Operations First

But little attention had been paid to the infrastructure and operations necessary to handle things like call volume or adequate parking. Even more broadly, no one had considered how mundane things like poorly-designed forms or long phone wait times can undo months — and in this case years — of strategic marketing. 

When your prospective customer finally picks up the phone or fills out the contact form on your website, you must be ready to follow through on your promises. Jimmy John’s couldn’t promise “Freaky Fast Delivery” without putting in place everything possible to guarantee that delivery is, in fact, freaky fast. 

Marketing Comes Last

In other words, what many people don’t realize is that operations is the first step to effective marketing. At MJM, we take that even further. To us, operations is marketing and well-designed operations lead to a stellar patient experience that, in turn, leads to word-of-mouth referrals. Only once those things are in place should full-scale marketing efforts be launched. 

That was a welcome mindset for the receptionists whack-a-moling their way through phone call after phone call. I paused the company’s marketing that very day so we could focus on operations for a time. When we restarted our marketing plan a few months later, the phones were still ringing with one notable exception: we’d gotten better at handling our call volume.

And just about everything else we did. 

Your Five-Minute Communication Workshop 

During college, I always knew the school year was winding down thanks to the gaggle of seniors lined up outside my dorm room door. A dazzling resume was the first step to them landing choice jobs after graduation and rumor had it I could help.

One after another, they’d shuffle in and ask me to improve the drafts they’d printed on linen paper. All of them echoed the same refrain: “I’m horrible at this!”

Truth was, some of them truly were horrible at it, but it took years to dawn on me that communicating well is a vital life skill — one that I should have taught to my collegiate colleagues instead of letting them lounge in my bean bag chair while I worked.

Decades later, I still hear, “I’m horrible at this!” Twice just this morning, in fact. The reality is, being a poor communicator was less of a problem in 2001 than it is today. On top of resumes, we build social media profiles and compose posts, send dozens of emails, text at all hours, and coordinate our professional lives through Slack. Competent communication has morphed from nice-but-not-necessary into an expected part of daily life.

So, in the spirit of graduation season and better communication, here’s what I should have told those college seniors all those years ago:

Start with the Musts

Before you begin fleshing out full sentences or dream up a catchy line, type the details you can’t afford to leave out. A date, a time, the location, a project description, an attachment — this is the required information you’ll look silly for forgetting, so get it down first. Basic and simple will do here.

Get to the Point

Story arcs that build toward a climax and descend into a happy resolution work well in books and on the big screen; however, professionals can simply state their point and follow it with vital details as needed. Giving your readers what they’re skimming for as quickly as possible increases your communication’s effectiveness.

Don’t Over-Explain

Your client doesn’t need to know every type of card stock on the market or the minutiae of your rigorous seven-point testing process; they just need to know about the two most relevant to their project. Don’t make your reader wade through an abundance of details to find the most relevant information. You’ll do it for them when you only include what’s most pertinent.

Reread

We know it’s tempting to skip a reread; however, a second pass is always worth it. While scouring for obvious errors, also be attuned to missing words. In the digital age, we’re master skim readers to the point that our minds automatically fill in blanks.

Challenge Yourself

Hunt for phrases or sentences that clutter up your writing and cut them. “Here are the proofs you requested” is cleaner than “Per our discussion on Thursday afternoon, I’m sending along the proofs you asked me to update for you.” Cutting back can become a fun and addicting game. (Yes, really.) For an even better challenge, add contrast to your writing.

Tread Lightly on Humor

Levity is always welcome. However, without eye contact and body language to play off of, be cautious about using humor in written communications. That said, do let your personality shine through. Just make sure it’s appropriate to your audience.

Communicating well is worth the effort. You’ll rarely post or email a masterpiece, but you can always be clear, concise, and easily understood.

Need help with your communication? Contact the expert team at Matt Jensen Marketing!

5 Tips to Being Master of (Virtual) Ceremonies

Virtual events have been a staple this year. There’s no need to rehash why, but now that we’ve grown comfortable with them, they’re here to stay in some form or another. They can’t replicate the connection of in-person gatherings; however, a virtual event can be an affordable, easy-to-execute bridge between the larger events your organization invests in. Especially when done well. Here are our 5 best tips for making yours a success:

1. Pre-record most, if not all, of your presentation

Since you can’t out-plan a technical glitch, pre-recording is your best bet for limiting how much can go awry. Bonus: there are a lot of ways to present your pre-recorded message so that it seems live. If you must present live, consider using a professional production team to troubleshoot technical issues as they arise.

2. Keep your presentation to 30 minutes or less

We know. That’s not a lot of time. We’ve found that people are often curious enough to tune in, but are quick to tune out. The short timeframe ensures that you stay focused and on message, which is always a good idea anyway.

3. Stick to the schedule

Make sure speakers (pre-recorded or live) are brief and to-the-point. To accomplish this, assign topics and time limits beforehand and consider a dry-run to suss out any potential problems. Limit the amount of giveaways, speakers, and other transitions so that the presentation doesn’t feel rushed and chaotic.

4. Anticipate and extend the experience

Build out your event with a series of social media posts and emails prior to the date and follow-up with a similar series afterward. This gathers anticipation beforehand and keeps the “after glow” going once it ends. It also expands your communication window beyond the 30 minutes of your event. Additional ways to build out your event would be to send a postcard invite or, once the event concludes, create a new Facebook group of attendees to keep the conversation going.

5. Choose your date strategically

If it’s a social or fundraising event, experts agree that Saturday evening is the ideal time to host your event, virtual or otherwise. Attendees will be more relaxed, their kids aren’t likely to have competing extracurricular activities, and people’s moods are better than during the work week. Thursday evening is the second best option. There’s general agreement that Friday evening is the worst time to host an event as people would rather unwind on their own after a full week. For educational or instructional events, consider lunch time on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Scripting: The Security Blanket Your Business Needs

“Hello, thank you for calling ABC Office. How may I help you?”

“Hi, I need to check the activity on account #4145.”

“Your name?”

The caller gives his name and as the receptionist pulls the account up on her computer, he explains that it actually belongs to his dad. “It’s okay though. He asked me to check on it,” the caller says confidently.

But the receptionist can’t find the caller listed as an authorized user anywhere. Now what?

The receptionist needs help with her next steps. She needs to know what her employer’s policy is in these cases and ways to represent that position, all while expressing respect to the customer. In other words, she needs a script.

What is scripting?

Scripting, at its most basic, is a pre-written set of lines used to guide interactions with your customers. Answering the phone is a very practical example of how scripts work. However, a true scripting  process ensures that all your team members are equipped with the  confidence and security they need  to deliver the right message at the right time. From greeting the people who walk through your doors to answering questions on social media to taking calls from upset customers, a well thought out script allows your team to respond in a way that best represents your company’s values and builds trust.

Scripting benefits your customers, too. They’ll receive consistent, on-brand communication that guides them toward making an appointment, placing an order, or signing up for your email list.  Ideally, there should be a script for every aspect of your customer’s experience, from the very beginning to the very end.

The best scripts are the ones that work for your business. They can be as detailed or as minimal as needed. Their main goal is to give simple guardrails and ideas your team can work with so that everyone starts from the same place. Scripts provide  your customers and your team members security and consistency,  even when staff, protocol, climate, or technology change.

Want to try scripting, but not sure where to begin? Follow MJM on social where we’ll share our pro tips for getting started. We promise to break it down into small tasks that build toward big payoffs.

Want to take it one step further? Contact us for a consultation. Our experts can assess your scripting needs, help craft your messaging, and even train your staff.

How to (Actually!) Deliver an Outstanding Customer Experience

I used to dread calling the doctor’s office. It wasn’t that it led to stepping on the scale (though that also wasn’t always pleasant) or the occasional shot or two.

It was that it led to music. Invariably, I’d be put on hold while the scheduler took another call, and for a few torturous minutes, I’d be accosted with a screechy, tinny distortion of The Four Seasons.

Vivaldi and I were not impressed.

My doctor’s office needed more than just higher quality on-hold music; they needed to examine their customers’ experience. Sure, they’d covered all the expected bases, but with a little insight and attention to detail, that office could have — in keeping with today’s analogy — gone from passable high school band to South Dakota Symphony Orchestra in no time.

What are your customers really buying?

Business leaders all agree that making customers and clients feel taken care of is paramount and worth the investment. But what they sometimes overlook is that customer care extends far beyond an aesthetically pleasing website and timely delivery of goods and services.

That’s not as far-reaching as it sounds, and even better, can usually be done gradually with a few simple changes. Whether you’re designing the experience at a coffee shop or a healthcare center, here are a few strategies to get your customers raving about their time with you:

  1. Experience your customer’s point of view. Start back at a Google search and move to filling out your website’s contact form. Call your business for directions, park in the customer section of your lot and sit in your waiting room or public area. Walk through the entire experience, being mindful of ways to improve. And don’t just do this once; do it on a regular basis.
  2. Take every sense into account. What do customers smell when they visit your location? Is the space too dark or too light? If there’s seating, is it comfortable? Consider the noise level and background music. Are they pleasing or distracting? Look at accessibility. Are counters too high for someone in a powerchair to see over?
  3. Train your staff. Customer care goes beyond being friendly and helpful and doesn’t always come as naturally as we assume. Be intentional about training your staff to show empathy toward customers, clients, or patients. These changes can often be simple to implement. Instead of calling patient names across the waiting room, staff at Vance Thompson Vision in Sioux Falls make a point of walking to patients before greeting them. It gets the interaction off on a personal note and puts patients at ease. Another business realized that handing its clients off from one professional to another, while efficient for them, was disorienting for their clients. They adjusted their workflow so that clients worked with the same representative from the beginning to the end of their experience.

Making your customers feel valued and cared for is crucial to your business. The kind of marketing a loyal ambassador provides is priceless, but with some mindful changes you can tap into its benefits. (And this time Vivaldi *will* be impressed.)

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Designing Experiences in the New Normal

In the era of social distancing and quarantining, it can be easy to believe that designing personal experiences for your customers is an impossible task. Since some of the key principles of experience design rely on using of the five senses to create the largest impact possible at each touch point, it would seem that those efforts would be rendered useless in these times of social distancing and virtual meetings. But we believe that these principles have never been more important.

With COVID-19, people are experiencing physical and even mental isolation. They miss even the most mundane aspects of what used to be normal, from reading a book at the coffee shop, to visiting their parents, and even making spontaneous trips to a big city. We believe that experiences with customers and patients can be redesigned to help create a new, healthy normal for these customers looking so hard for what used to be just another day.

What's Different? What's the Same? What can we do?

To design compelling experiences in “the new normal” one must first consider

  1. What is different
  2. What is the same, and
  3. What can we do to adjust and create personal experiences for our customers in these circumstances.

What Is Different

What Is Different?
Designing virtual experiences is more important than ever

What Can We Do?
Enhance your virtual presence

People are far less likely to make the first point of contact with you in-person these days. This mean that it is time to modernize your phone systems, social media, and web elements to create a more intimate and personalized journey for the customer or patient.


What is Different?
Safety is a primary concern in any interaction

What Can We Do?
Create and message your safe in-person environments

Make it clear how you have taken every consideration possible to make a visitor’s experience a safe one. Post pleasant reminders to maintain safe distances and wear face coverings.


What Is Different?
Financial struggles have been exacerbated for both businesses and families

What Can We Do?
Avoid pushy messaging and ensure you are building relationships with your audience

The hard sell is (and always was) a bad approach. Instead of pushing sales and discounts, it is more important than ever to build a relationship with your customers and patients through social media, advertising, and other channels. If they feel that empathy and understanding is genuine, they will be far more likely to return to you when financial burdens have minimized.


What Is Different?
People are yearning for elements of normalcy and socialization

What Can We Do?
Make the visitor the star

With fewer people visiting in-person locations, you have an opportunity to spend extra time tending to those visitors and making them feel heard and appreciated. The benefit of this is two-fold: visitors will feel even more important AND potentially feel like the entire experience is more tailored to them than would have been possible in the old normal.

What Is the Same

What Is the Same?
The experience is the marketing

What Can We Do?
Reexamine every point of contact with your business or practice as part of your marketing

The experience of calling to plan an appointment should be considered as important as the actual experience of visiting or any ad campaign you have running. Creating memorable interactions throughout the customer or patient’s journey will always be the highest priority, no matter the circumstances.


What Is the Same?
Mass customization is still a key to personalized experiences

What Can We Do?
Skillfully tailoring offerings and journeys to an individual’s needs and wants will build a relationship

Think of the experience as more than just a transaction. During that customer or patient’s experience, look for elements that can be personalized just for them with little effort or cost to you. Do this well, and you’ll be well on your way to sustainably establishing a relationship with that audience member.


What Is the Same?
In-person interactions are still largely impacted by considering the five senses

What Can We Do?
Highlight the senses that we still can use to their fullest extent: Sight and Sound

Although masks and extra sanitation requirements limit our ability to appeal to all 5 senses, we still have plenty of room to use them. Warm cookies and coffee may not work right now, but you can still curate the visual and auditory experience of your interactions to make them unforgettable. Now is the time to consider how to make the visual appeal of your facilities match the tone of your brand and determine if there are any ways to personalize the audio experience of a visit to the smaller groups of customers and patients at your physical locations.


While this pandemic has found its ways to separate us, it’s our task to find new ways that experience design principles can connect you with your customers and patients. Though some of the approaches may be outside of our usual tendencies, we think that this shows how agile these principles can truly be for making real, personal connections with your audience.

Reflecting on Recent Experiences

It’s been said that to craft an excellent experience for your customers, you should think of a specific person and craft the experience with them in mind. The exercise helps identify the sort of things that solve pain points or create delight for real people. As a team, we often recount experiences we’ve had with brands that have been remarkable. The end of the year is a great time to reflect on those good experiences. And learn from them for the year ahead. Below, find a few reflections on experiences that provided value to our team this year.

Kirstie

Terra Shepherd

I have always loved fashion, but the actual experience of clothes shopping? Not so much. For the past 15 years, I’ve been shopping almost exclusively online for all of my clothes. But I decided to brave the IRL shopping experience when I heard about one of Downtown’s Sioux Falls’ latest boutiques: Terra Shepherd. Like me, they have a commitment to sustainable fashion and conscious consumerism, so I thought it was worth a shot. I was the only person in the store, which normally fills me with dread because of hovering salespeople, but the staff was so warm and welcoming and made me feel like I was just trying on clothes with friends. They suggested things I would like and, much to my surprise, I actually did like them! That combined with the shared values make this an experience I will be returning to.

Brady

Wirecutter

Before becoming a father of two young children, I had much more time to thoughtfully research gift ideas for family and friends. As those margins of time have vanished, I’ve appreciated the methodology that Wirecutter applies to their product reviews. And that they explain their process with each roundup of reviews. Christmas shopping this year would have been much more stressful and incomplete without referencing their Holiday Gift Guide. When I don’t have the time to do the level of research I typically would, it gives me greater confidence to give something as a gift knowing a little about the people who are reviewing the products and what makes them uniquely qualified to do so. And as it turns out, they are usually far more qualified to do the research than I!

Cindy

Amazon Prime Online Shopping

Like many working adults, my time is at a premium. I value being able to shop online from home and not have to get into my car, find a parking place, go into a store, make a selection and then wait in line to check out. However, I think there is a price to pay for this convenience.

I have to confess I do love going onto Amazon Prime, pressing a few buttons, and having an item shipped to me for free (yes, I did pay for the membership so it’s not really free). However, I am cautious about the future of big data, protection of personal information, and changes we can anticipate as a direct result of limited competition. Is it too good to be true?

Courtney

Earthscapes Landscaping

My husband and I decided this would be the year we invested into landscaping for our backyard. We received Earthscapes name as a recommendation from another friend that had used them, and after our awesome experience, I can see why. Shane, our landscape designer, was awesome from the start and put up with all of my questions along the way.

But the one point in the process that really stood out was when we were nearing completion of our project. We had an existing retaining wall, that wasn’t a part of the project scope (other than making small repairs to the existing wall), but it didn’t look amazing. One morning, he called and told me they had some left over materials from the rest of the project and he would like to put those towards replacing the existing wall. He felt it would enhance the look of the backyard, and while it might be a few more hours of labor, it would be something they would like to do for us within our current scope. Of course I said “Heck yeah!” and now we have an even more amazing backyard and I am willing to tell all my family, friends, and co-workers about this awesome company. Such a small gesture made a huge impact on the experience we had with Earthscapes and now I can’t stop bragging about them and their work!

Client Celebration: Staging a ZEISS Formula 1 Racing Event Experience

At MJM, our team wears many hats while completing the diverse client projects; we fulfill the roles of designers, writers, storytellers, experience makers, account managers, videographers, carpenters, and many more. But last October, our team members took on a hat never worn before: Formula One Race Car Drivers.

Working with our partners at ZEISS, Logan, Abby, and Courtney took the lead for planning and executing an event celebrating the FDA approval of the SMILE astigmatism treatment indication in the United States at the American Academy of Ophthalmologists (AAO). Using a Formula One theme, the MJM team was able to create a wonderful evening of education, conversation, and enjoyment on a beautiful rooftop in Chicago.

In addition to the overall success of the event, here are a couple lessons our team took away from the event:

Logistics are very, very important!

This event celebrated the approval of the SMILE laser in the US for astigmatism treatment, which makes it a more useful technology for practices and more accessible to patients. SMILE is one of the first major innovations in refractive eye surgery in the past 5-10 years, which has brought energy and life to the doctors who are deciding to offer it.

Our partnership with ZEISS started when we helped create the first practice launch kit for SMILE, and the partnership continued as we helped curate and design this event. After moodboards, strategic goal discussions, MJM team brainstorming sessions, and dozens of calls, the event landed on a theme: Formula One Racing.

Perspective chalk racing car

Courtney poses as a driver. The account team found a Chicago chalk artist who created a massive perspective drawing that put attendees behind the wheel of a F1 racing car.

Our team developed all the graphics and layouts based on the theme and curated a three-floor immersive event experience, which included specialty cocktails and an interactive art installation. At the event, doctors attended six “pit stops”, where they interacted with a short presentation from an expert on SMILE, and were eventually lead to Dr. Dan Reinstein, a doctor and professor who wrote the first and preeminent textbook on how to perform SMILE for patients. Attendees who completed all the education pit stops had the opportunity to receive a signed copy of Dr. Reinstein’s textbook to take home to their practice.

The valuable takeaway is this: when your event marketing team is able to be a part of the planning, mockups, mood board, and event execution, it’s more efficient to facilitate coordination with the vendors. It took a full team to perfectly produce the event, which illustrates the importance of coordinated effort, time, and planning.

Experiences are met with experiments

Of course, we admit this event didn’t go off without a hitch (or three). From a change of speaker the night before, all the way to Logan putting his Exacto-knife skills to the test due to a mishap with program printing, the team encountered a number of unplanned hurdles that needed to be overcome.

The event was spread between three floors of the venue. Custom elevator signage helped theme each step of the way and direct event attendees to food, entertainment and education.

We also know there are peak experiences that are remembered far beyond any mishaps. As the attendees started arriving and moving from experience to experience at the event, they began to discover, enjoy, and be captivated by all of the small details created by our team. Meeting new people, interacting with the art, enjoying the signature cocktails, and learning new things achieved success beyond what our team had planned. These signature moments, and the culmination of all the moments into a signature experience, will be a lasting memory and takeaway for both the ZEISS and MJM teams.Beyond the night of the event, the work our team did to pull off the theme and overall event was extensive. The theming, attention to detail, venue, and overall event flow, and outcome were executed carefully and with high attention to detail. Members from our team also traveled to Chicago before the event to meet with vendors face-to-face because we understand how important it is to create those relationships in case we do need to call on them to overcome challenges on the night of the event. Each experience we curated was met with an experiment on how to accomplish it.

Time spent for each event is worth it

When you work with clients that are excited about their company, it makes throwing an event that much more successful. The time that went into planning with ZEISS was met with excitement and enthusiasm that their product had been approved.

ZEISS challenged us to immerse their audience in something more than just a traditional AAO event or brochure handout, so we designed a custom experience for their guests, including hiring a local street artist to create a race car photo opportunity right in the middle of the building. We wanted to share our love for experiences and make the ophthalmologists feel welcome and feel comfortable learning about the revolutionary procedure in a simple and organized way. It wasn’t just about the centerpieces and the lighting—it was about the guests that left and remembered why they were there and knew there was something worth celebrating that night.

It’s important to celebrate major innovations and milestones in product development. It’s good for the industry and good for patients. Events like this are one of the only times ZEISS can bring doctors together and immerse them in a brand experience. So much of their sales cycle involves going out to the doctor’s office, where they have no real control of the time, space, and environment. This event was a major opportunity to bring doctors together and shape the ZEISS brand experience, with full control of most of the details. MJM was proud to be a lead partner in building the experience.

ZEISS blue racing stripe

A ZEISS blue racing stripe runs through the venue helping to direct traffic and pull the theme together.

As we reflect on our experience through this event, we learned there is a major difference between just hosting an event and designing an event. We design and theme at MJM to use our knowledge of experience design and customer/client psychology. This event reminded us that every company, every product, and every type of customer deserves and loves to be delighted and surprised by a well-executed event. That’s why we love what we do at MJM.

MJM and ZEISS will continue partnering on projects in 2019 and beyond.

How to Give Experiences Instead of Things

The holiday season has arrived, bringing with it a strong reason for joy, celebration, and gift-giving. While some may curse the cold and snow, we revel in the abundance of the year and what the holiday season means to each of us at Matt Jensen Marketing. For our CEO in particular, Christmas time is about taking gift giving to a whole other level by creating experiences far beyond spending money on an object, and celebrating how these experiences shape how we remember this time of year.

Q: How is giving experiences instead of things more than just a trend?

Matt Jensen (MJ): Inanimate objects tend to lose their luster over time. This time of year, we are always reminded of what it’s like to be a kid wanting a new Atari Video Game System, a shiny new bike, or that illustrious Red Ryder Lever Action BB Gun. If we think back to wanting those gifts as a child, the most prominent memory about the season isn’t the thing itself. It was all of the tension, anxiety, prayer, begging,and reasoning that went into our asking for it. Anticipation in and of itself is an experience.

That’s why, this holiday season, we should imagine how much more meaningful gifts can be. It isn’t just the anticipation of each holiday season but also the emotions. The fear, adrenaline, suspense, surprise, and resolution all coming together to make these different emotions hinge to an experience. Which creates a greater memory: a set of baking sheets, or lessons from a local dessert maker? The beginner guitar, or a one-on-one session with the concert guitar player? Listening to Beethoven’s 5th on a CD, or being able to walk into a theater with a tuxedo and Chuck Taylor converse and raising the baton to lead the symphony as a 16-year-old? These are the things that memories are made of and memories last far longer.

Q: Can you create an experience for everyone in your life?

MJ: The premium we pay for experience is our own time, so you create these peaks for people if you’re willing to invest your time in them. I’m a believer that you can design an experience around anybody if you stop and get to know them well enough.

My wife’s 40th birthday, for example: I took her on a trip to wine country and though we both enjoyed the good food and wine, it was the fact that I had coordinated with all of her friends that flew in and surprised her one night that made the trip so memorable. How much can that bottle of wine really be worth when you’re enjoying the night away with the people that mean the most to you?

Q: Where do you find experiences that you can give as a gift? What counts as an experience?

MJ: The most creative business owners and best entrepreneurs create an experience around their product. Wouldn’t we all rather take a tour of the factory of the chocolates that we just bought and smell the caramel being melted, watch the chocolatiers designing the marshmallow top, and see each one of your treats being packaged with care? That’s a chocolate-making experience, not just a sale.

Q: How do you wrap up an experience?

MJ: To make every experience spectacular, you have to extend it past the natural beginning and end. Imagine this: A concert where they put electronic wristbands under each seat which lights up different colors when the band is playing their set. The next morning, that bracelet calculates which song danced to the hardest the night before measured on the activity from the and starts blasting that song to wake us up in the morning. Now that bracelet carried on that amazing experience from the night before, and also leaves concertgoers telling the story of how they woke up that morning over, and over, and over again. We would leave on a peak, and that’s what is to be remembered years down the road instead of all the traffic to the concert or money spent.

Q: So, how do you go about creating an experience for someone?

MJ: Look into their favorite things, their interests, their bucket list, and peg an experience where those all intersect. Sometimes an experience is easier to generate than originally thought.

So as we dive into the holiday season, let us take the time to create these experiences and marinate in those moments. We at Matt Jensen Marketing know it’ll be worth it.

8 Things a Jazz Quartet Can Teach Us About Team Culture

My wife and I recently had the privilege of attending an intimate performance by a world-renowned jazz quartet. As we enjoyed the music, the environment, and the experience, I realized how the same factors create a powerful jazz performance and a powerful team business culture. Let’s look at eight ways jazz can teach us about team culture.

1. Purpose

We entered the small jazz club—the lights were low, the tables scattered throughout the small venue, the instruments waiting expectantly on the stage. As I reviewed the program for the evening, I marveled at the clarity of purpose of each of the musicians; their education, their passion, their blood, sweat, and tears all coming together in that moment with the sole purpose of creating beautiful music together. Businesses that discuss and emphasize their team purpose and the purposes of each of their staff create a powerful identity that can power their culture.

2. Preparation

As I reviewed the program, two of the musicians walked on stage and began preparing for the show. One at the piano, the other on upright bass, they began to methodically tune the instruments to create the perfect sound. How many times had they done this simple preparation? What seems like a mundane task is actually essential preparation for their performance that night. Team culture that focuses on proper preparation enables the entire team to produce their best work.

3. Inter-Connectedness

After tuning their instruments, the rest of the musicians came on stage and the group began to play. Slowly at first, the group eventually found their rhythm and worked their way into the first song. The most important part of this first song was the inter-connectedness of the quartet — the piano player intently watching the rhythm of the drummer; the bass player watching the energy and flow of the piano; the saxophone player watching all three instruments to join the pace of the music. Without awareness, without this inter-connectedness, the music cannot reach its pinnacle. Team culture built on inter-connectedness is vital to getting projects and great work off the ground and accomplished.

4. Harmony

As the music quickly ramped up, it became apparent immediately how years of preparation and dedication helped create this harmonious, synergized sound. Each of the instruments blending together with the others created perfectly timed, perfectly matched sound. How does your team culture create harmony between the players? Does your preparation and connectedness create the best possible synergy of work?

5. Space to Shine

The beauty of jazz music is not only its synergy, but also its space for improvisation. The tenor saxophone player sits down, eyes closed, soaking in the music. The drummer brings the rhythm down to a steady, subtle backdrop. The bass player joins him, creating a repeating baseline, which allows the piano player to roam. His fingers fly over the keys, exploring new spaces, taking years of training and the support of his fellow players and finding new music. As he concludes his exploration, the bass player tries a new riff, playing faster, then slower, then with more energy. Finally, the drummer has his chance to shine as a solo player, raising the energy of the audience to new heights. There is space in jazz for individuals to shine and to grow. Does your team culture offer individuals a chance to shine and grow?

6. Communication

Suddenly, with barely a noticeable look of the eyes and nod of the head, the drummer brings the entire quartet back into the original song. Over the course of the entire performance, I was in awe of the way a look, a nod, a turn of the head, or a simple hand gesture could communicate in depth the next move of the performance. How does your team communicate? Does each member of your team understand the cues, the signals that you share to move on and produce the next great work?

7. Trust

Within these levels of inter-connectedness and communication, I was struck by yet another core value of the performance—trust. Every member of the quartet must trust their fellow players to keep the rhythm, to stay within the song, to stay on pitch. If one player loses the rhythm, the entire synergy is lost. Likewise, if your team fails to execute consistently, projects will be incomplete and deadlines missed. Your team culture must be one of trust. If your team members do not trust each other to do their jobs, you will not be successful as a business. So, do you have trust within your team?

8. Energy

Finally, my experience of this jazz performance reminded me of the importance of energy and response in our team cultures. The players feed off of the energy of each other, the audience, and the songs themselves. You can see the players getting lost in the power of the moment and In the emotion of the song. The energy we give each other on our team, along with the energy of the work itself, is vital to doing our best work. Are you responding to the energy of your team? Is the work that you do getting your team the energy it needs to create a powerful, vital culture?

When these team culture conditions exist, jazz shows us that it’s possible to create consistent performance, dynamic improvisation and new innovation. If these are your goals as a company, then take these ideas to heart and invest in your team culture.