Marketing Magic

I was sick at home yesterday and I was flipping the remote, trying to find something decent to watch on tv during the day.  I stumbled onto a show on the History Channel about Harry Houdini.  Everyone knows that Houdini was one of the most amazing magicians in the history of show business.  His escapes were legendary and even today, magicians study his work, trying to understand how he did some of his amazing tricks. 

During his heyday, around the turn of the twentieth century, he was the most famous, and the highest paid magician in the world.  He wasn’t just the best magician, he was also the best marketer of his time.  He attracted huge crowds to his paid performances by performing spectacular escapes in public places at no charge.  He gave free samples.  And, of course, he always made sure that the local press was informed, well in advance, of what he planned to do and where he planned to do it.  Very few people, before or since, had his flair for using the news media to spread the word about his performances (his product).

It was said that he also had an amazing ability to read his crowds (customers).  He performed his stage act so many times that he knew exactly what would happen and how long it would take.  But, he would work the crowd, prolonging his magical effects until his assistants and the musicians had worked the crowd into a fever pitch.

Because he played a new town every night and traveled all over the world, there was no great need for him to constantly come up with new tricks.  There was no television.  He could go for years before he would have to play the same city twice, yet he constantly worked on new illusions, perfecting his craft so he would continue to be the "world’s best magician".

So, what’s this have to do with your business?  Everything.  It goes without saying that you’re good at what you do, that is your core business.  You have the skill and you have the products to take care of your customer’s needs.  But you also need to use publicity, especially word-of-mouth, to build up your business.  And, you need to know your "audience".  What’s their hot-button?  What turns them on?  What can you do for them that will leave them wanting more?  And, what can you do to constantly improve, to get better?  It’s not magic.  It’s just good business.

3 Responses

  1. Interesting post, I love analogies between real life and the business world.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I guess it just shows that whatever we do for a living, we’re all salesmen (and women). Without his talent for self-promotion Houdini might have just been another guy in a straitjacket.

  3. Five marketing/business lessons from Harry Houdini

    Harry Houdini was more than just an escape artist. He was also a master of self-promotion. I caught […]

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