Tips for Start-Up Businesses: What We Can Learn from Andy Dwyer of ‘Parks and Recreation’
We bloggers here at QLP seemed to be rather preoccupied with NBC programming, and Parks and Recreation is no exception. In between storylines about the Parks and Recreation Department of Pawnee, Indiana, the audience has watched shoe-shiner (and newly-appointed campaign assistant to Leslie Knope) Andy Dwyer attempt to promote his band, Mouse Rat. While Andy is not the sharpest crayon in the box, he’s done a few smart things to make his band’s presence known. Keeping Andy in mind, here are a few tips for anyone trying to start up and spread the word about a small business:
Surround yourself with people who support you. Both of Andy’s serious girlfriends, Ann and April, have been supportive of his band; they have attended his local gigs, spoken highly of his band to friends, and helped him come up with song ideas. April, now his wife, also recently became his manager in an effort to help him make more money. A support group will motivate you to keep chasing your goals and praise you when you need the ego boost.
While praise is important, find people who will offer you constructive feedback as well. No matter what the type of business, you need someone whose opinion you value, and who’s willing to tell you if an idea still needs work or if that event is worth your time and money. Andy doesn’t really have someone like this, and even when his friends try to offer constructive criticism, he rebuffs it. In addition to asking for feedback, you need to genuinely listen to it, too. Not all the criticism you hear will be useful, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it completely.
Use creative ways to reach a wide audience as you market your brand. Andy, for example, sells copies of his CD at the shoe-shine stand where he works in City Hall. What established networks are you already part of that you could market to? For many people, this includes a network of family, friends, and colleagues on Facebook and other social media outlets. If you have an established blog already, reach out to your followers. If you’re a student, post flyers around campus and contact extracurricular clubs. Also consider community organizations you may be involved in, such as a book club or volunteer group. Remember: no one will know to buy your product unless you tell people about it!
Maintain a consistent brand image. Andy changes the name of his band constantly, making it incredibly difficult for fans to follow his work. No matter the business, your brand should maintain a distinct identity so that consumers know who you are. Always plan carefully if you decide to change a logo or other design element, as this can dramatically affect how consumers recognize and perceive you.
Be willing to give away your product for free. When building brand awareness, free stuff can be a powerful tool for expanding your brand’s reach and drawing in new customers. In Parks and Rec, Andy’s band takes advantage of this strategy by playing for free when the Parks Department needs live music at an event. However, it’s also important to remember not to give everything away for nothing. Allow the freebie to be a teaser or one-time event that will attract customers willing to pay for more, and make it easy for people to buy your product if they like what they’ve sampled. For instance, when Andy does these free concerts, he should also bring his CDs and merchandise to sell.
Expect to work hard. Success won’t just fall into your lap. If Andy truly wants his band to become successful and profitable, he needs to do more than just the occasional local gig and free concerts for the Parks Department. Spending more effort on the tips described above—combined with a strong work ethic, ambition, and a positive attitude—would be a huge step in the right direction toward fulfilling his music dreams.
If you’ve ever watched Parks and Recreation, it’s pretty clear that Andy’s a talented musician. And though he’s made some smart choices when promoting his band, just being talented and doing the bare minimum of work isn’t enough. If you’re a small business owner yourself, hopefully these lessons from Andy Dwyer will remind you that you need a good product and a strong marketing strategy to run a successful business. So to all the small business owners out there: good luck!
Can we extract any more lessons from Andy on Parks and Rec? What are some other tips for small businesses?
Image credit to NBC’s downloads page for Scarecrow Boat and Parks and Recreation on Facebook.
When not writing for the blog, Rachel is a data entry specialist at QLP. She spends most of her free time consuming a variety of geeky TV shows, movies, and books, as well as funny cat videos and other Internet oddities. Otherwise, she moonlights as an editor for a literary magazine and tries to spend as much quality time as she can with friends and family. You can also connect with Rachel on Google+.