Marketing has perhaps never been more important than at this moment. We enlist one of the foremost experts, Scott Robertson, who has worked with many top brands, as well as NAMM, to provide several tips and tricks.

Math … clear and finite — and the horrific nemesis to many musicians (and music store owners). One thing I always hated about math was the strict rules, which dictated the exact order you had to do things in order to reach the correct answer. Kinda harsh.

Math’s order of operations tells you to handle the parentheses and exponents first, then perform the multiplication and division, working from left to right, before doing the addition and subtraction. We all remember that handy mnemonic: PEMDAS. (Or the way most of us learned it: “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.”) In math, order matters, and you cannot be successful if you don’t do things in the correct order.

Did you know marketing also has an order of operations? And while there are many paths that can lead to success in marketing, the best chance for success comes from following the right order, which goes like this: MDC, or Messaging, Design, Collateral Creation. (It’s not as fun as Dear Aunt “Mustang” Sally, but useful nonetheless.) So, let’s take a closer look at these steps.


I don’t want to shock you, but consumers don’t always buy the best products and services. They buy the products and services that are communicated to them clearly and memorably. In other words, we buy things when we encounter the right combination of words that trigger us to buy. When a company’s marketing is broken and they’re trying to figure out what’s wrong, here’s what’s almost always wrong: the message. It’s usually too much about the company, and it’s not clear about what problem they’re solving for their customer. It sounds easy, and yet this critically important step is violated more than the federal tax code.

You always want to spend time on the message first. It’s like building a house. You pour the foundation before you start putting up the walls and the floors and creating that incredible sun deck. It’s a bad idea to skip steps when building a house, and an even worse one to skip the message step in marketing.

Make sure your message is about the customer, their needs (material and psychological) and how your store meets those needs. Be clear, not clever. And make sure your message is very simple. You can’t go wrong with simple and clear. As Donald Miller, one of my mentors and author of the best-selling book “Building a StoryBrand” always says, “If you confuse, you will lose.”


This step is comfortable for most store managers/owners. You hire a designer, and they design good-looking stuff. They ask you questions, come back with a few options, you pick your favorite, and you’re done.

But, designers, no matter how good, just aren’t “word people,” so they aren’t always the best resource to figure out what to say. This is why Design is Step 2 and not Step 1. It’s also why there is so much God-awful marketing in the world, so many websites that you visit and say, “Wait, what is this? Why is this here?” I’ve seen hundreds of good-looking websites that completely missed the boat regarding the message and thus, lose business.

Collateral Creation

Our final step is again comfortable to most business owners. This is where we’re creating marketing collateral, the tactics of our marketing plan, including websites, social media pages, flyers, advertisements, press releases and videos. But if you don’t have your foundational work done or done well, it’s very difficult (next to impossible) to keep all of these different marketing materials pointed in the same direction. That’s why you focus on this step after you’ve completed the other two.

So, now that we know marketing’s order of operations, what do we do with this information? My advice would be to start at the beginning and really look at your store’s message. Don’t do any “What is our why?” soul searching or mission statement creation because the customer does not care about you or your business. They only care about themsleves and the solutoon to their current problems. And that applies to all of us, by the way. Once you understand what people are looking for, you can use it to create an effective message. Start following marketing’s order of operations, and you will see what marketing can really do for your business!

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