Marketing lessons from the green room

Marketing Lessons From the Green Room

When my son played the role of Jack in Into the Woods, his high school’s musical, I volunteered to be the back-up parent in the Green Room one night. (The Green Room is the off-stage room in a theater in which actors can change costume or rest while they’re waiting for their cues.) As the back-up parent, I had to be ready with duct tape for a ripped costume, bobby pins for a fallen hairdo-whatever. But all went smoothly that night, so I just sat back and observed.

It was amazing watching those teens!

Alive there in the Green Room-as well as on the stage-were principles that breed success not just in our personal lives but in our businesses and private practices, as well. I couldn’t sleep that night until I wrote them down. Now I’m happy to share them with you.

Never give up. One girl cried after the opening night performance, feeling she’d really flubbed her very challenging role as the witch and especially her singing. The next show, she came back utterly determined to succeed and kept up a laser-like intensity all the way through the evening. As fellow students congratulated her on one number or another, she’d say, “Thanks, but I’m not done yet,” and sharpen her focus. She nailed it that night! Imagine taking that intensity, that gritty determination to succeed, into your efforts to get new clients or grow your business!

Gather a good support team about you. A show doesn’t go on without a good support team. The student stage crew for Into the Woods was so good that when one of the actors missed her cue as the booming off-stage voice of the giantess, the stage manager bellowed the lines herself. Likewise, as a self-employed therapist or coach, or a small business owner, it is essential to have a team that supports you and can pinch hit when you’re out.

Prepare. More than that, don’t stop preparing. I was moved to see even well-rehearsed students care so much about their performances in the musical that they read over their lines and hummed their songs before every scene. This speaks to a desire for excellence, for continuous improvement. What steps can you take-and keep taking-to prepare your business, your practice, for the kind of growth you want?

Visualize success. Before his outlandish scene as the wolf trying to entice Little Red Riding Hood off her path, one student would sit in the Green Room, close his eyes and visualize himself as the canine bad guy. He never failed to wow the audiences with his larger-than-life performance. I think visualization is an underappreciated and underutilized business skill.

Pay attention and improvise. When the set change dragged on before one scene, it became clear that there was trouble behind the curtain. The quick-thinking student playing the narrator ad-libbed for more than three minutes while the problem was fixed. This crucial theater skill is a great motto for business and for life.

Recognize your role in the bigger picture. In a play or musical, one character can’t zig unless the other zags. In other words, others depend on you to do your part. So if you stop yourself from stepping boldly into your own success, it doesn’t affect just you, but also everyone else.

Dress the part and you will become it. This is why costuming is such an important part of theater. In business, “dressing the part” is more about the attitudes you wear than the clothing you have on. Let’s say, for example, that you’re negotiating your first contract with a corporation for mental health services or executive coaching. Rather than fret about your inexperience, you’ll be more likely to get the gig if you adopt an attitude like “So what if it’s my first negotiation. I know what I want, what my services are worth and where I’m willing to bend.”

When you lose your way, pause for a second. We all lose our way from time to time. As an actor, someone is likely to feed you your line from off stage. If the path you need to take in your business isn’t clear, it may mean you need to take a break from it all to replenish yourself.

Play one role at a time. Even in those slapstick-y plays in which two actors play 24 roles, the roles still have to be played one at a time. As a self-employed or small-business person in charge of a dozen different “hats,” it’s helpful to remember to wear one hat at a time. Be the CFO, then be the marketing officer, then the technician. When they’re all “speaking” at once, the result is chaos, not clarity.

Celebrate your successes. I loved watching all the students celebrate each other and themselves each night after a great show. It’s easy to forget about celebrating when there are so many other tasks awaiting your attention. But when you start celebrating your completions, your accomplishments, you’ll notice a difference in how you feel about your business and yourself.

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