You may have heard this story before. World-class violinist Joshua Bell normally plays to sellout audiences who pay $100 for a single ticket. He agreed to participate in an experiment arranged by the Washington Post. He set up shop as a subway busker, playing a difficult Bach piece on his multi-million dollar violin. Full story here.
The Post had been concerned about crowd control, but in fact nobody noticed. To the riders hurrying by, he was just another struggling musician, looking for handouts.
So what’s the difference between Bell’s performance at the Symphony Hall and in the subway?
In a word: Marketing.
As I think about it, Bell’s impromptu performance has many similarities with an online presence.
(1) People hurry past and, if they don’t expect great things, they don’t see them.
Consumer psychologists refer to anticipation as an influence on perception. That’s why television ads showcase the product: when you see an item on a crowded shelf, you immediately recognize the package and the product. You were introduced via television, whether you were searching or not.
Similarly, your articles and book reviews establish anticipation before visitors come to your website or blog. You create expectations.
(2) Perception occurs in a context.
I began learning about classical music well into adulthood. I knew Juilliard was a top music conservatory, but if someone graduated from Curtis, I didn’t have a context to say, “Wow…that is truly impressive.”
Imagine if Joshua Bell had a sign: “This music comes from the same program you would have heard at the Center for the Performing Arts last week.”
You can find analogies in all fields: a WNBA player who went to UConn or a finance specialist who went to a premiere tax program.
On the Internet, you have an opportunity to give your reader a context to understand the significance of your background. You can go beyond education to show how your experience qualifies you to deliver a service today.
(3) You can’t be subtle.
This lesson was the hardest for me to learn. Like many people on the Internet, I used to work in an environment where my qualifications were obvious. If I weren’t qualified, I wouldn’t be there. If I didn’t perform well, I’d be gone.
But on the Internet, we’re all a little like Joshua Bell in the subway. Few people will recognize great music or great musicians without a label.
Bell’s take for a Friday morning 43-minute session was a grand $32.17…nothing like what he commands for a similar stint with a major orchestra. It’s a vivid outcome to an experiment demonstrating the value of context.
Learn how to stand out and create your own context in my 21-Point Extreme Copy Makeover – a free download you can claim here. There’s a whole section on how to differentiate yourself from the crowd and become the go-to person in your field.