The American Idol Effect

My wife and I have been hooked on American Idol for several years. It’s a fun program and, by the end, it has us rooting for our favorites.

The formula still works and it’s fun.

There are really two American Idol shows. The fist one is where the judges are screening the contestants in various cities around the country, and then the real singing contest that starts a few weeks later.

It’s this first part that contains the most important marketing lessons.

If you’ve watched, there are three categories of contestants. First are the real contenders who have decent voices and presence and have a shot at winning. Then there are the ones who are OK, but real longshots.

And then there is category three, the “nut cases.”

These are the people who often come across like escapees from a mental institution with voices that would shatter glass. They tend to be dressed a “little out there” and have eccentric personalities.

The other thing about category three contestants is that they believe very sincerely that they are the best singers on planet earth and that the judges will swoon over their performances.

In fact, often the worse they are, the better they think they are. It’s kind of funny but also a little sad. They have no real idea of their talent or lack thereof. And they have no clue how bad they are at connecting with their audience.

Now how does all of this relate to marketing your services?

Over the years I’ve noticed something very interesting. Those who are the worst marketers of their services act as if they really know what they are doing while they continue to do the things that haven’t worked, don’t work now, and will never work.

In fact, they often do the complete opposite of what works. Let me give you a few examples:

To generate attention and interest for their services, they need to talk about their prospects’ needs, interests and goals. Instead, people talk about their service, what it does, how it works, etc.

On their websites they need to speak the language of outcomes, solutions and results. But most speak about features and processes, with very little impact.

In order to move the marketing game forward, they need to develop and implement follow-up strategies where it’s always their move. What is more common is to avoid follow-up completely, hoping the prospect will get back to them.

In selling conversations they’d get a lot further if they spent more time determining the visions, goals, and needs of their prospects. But it is much more common for them to spend most of the time explaining and pitching the services they offer.

Do you see the connection?

In singing, for the majority of contestants, it’s all about them. It’s about how good and wonderful they are, with little objective awareness of the impact of their singing. They are, in fact, deaf to their own voices.

In marketing, it’s really the same issue. Many people are focused almost totally on themselves, their services, their benefits, and how great they are. But this is a futile exercise, as it connects with virtually no one. Ever hear this quote?

“Enough about me, why don’t you tell me what you think of me.”

I know this is a little brutal, but it’s what I’ve seen over and over again over the past 25 years. Not everyone, of course, but a whole lot of people. And just like the judges on American Idol, who reject singers who cannot connect with them, your prospects will reject you if you don’t make that connection.

Turn things around.

Focus solely on your audience and the messages and activities that speak their language. Heck, you don’t even have to have a great voice! You just have to be obsessed with getting across a message that they can hear and resonate with.

And that message could be summarized as:

“I’m interested in you; I’ll listen to you; I want to find out more about you and your needs; I’ll relate stories about those like you, and I’ll present services and program that will meet your needs and deliver the results you want.”

And that is a song they will happily respond to.

The More Clients Bottom Line: You need to become very aware of the song you are singing in your marketing. You may notice that they are all focused on you, not on your prospects. Then you need to change your tune and communicate in the language of the prospect: “I can help you produce the results you want.”

By Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. Please visit Robert’s web site at for additional marketing articles and resources on marketing for professional service businesses.