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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.

Mouse Rat: The Awesome Album

Andy sells his band’s CD at his shoe-shine stand to reach a wider audience.

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!

Mouse Rat / Scarecrow Boat

Mouse Rat, formerly known as Scarecrow Boat.

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.


Rachel Hamsmith

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+.

Comments

  1. Jill Tooley

    I absolutely love this post, Rachel. Andy is one of the best characters on Parks and Rec (although, I’m not entirely sure I could pick a favorite character…that’s how good the show is). As you said, he’s not the smartest person in the Parks Department but he does try to promote his band a lot — and he’s got the passion to go with it.

    The constant name changes are one of the biggest obstacles in the way of Mouse Rat’s success, unfortunately. It’s a good thing he stuck with that name after all, because multiple changes could really have an impact on fans. And not to mention, it would get expensive to reprint promo items every time the band changes its name! In my opinion, bands can get away with a name change ONCE, and that’s if they’re already established. Small bands (and startup companies) have to be careful with their branding. Think about it: even Prince didn’t have too much success when he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol back in the 1990s…and he was a pop icon! :)

    • Rachel

      You know, I can’t really pick a favorite character either! They’re all awesome. It really is such a great show. :) I’m glad I finally caved in and marathoned the whole thing, haha.

      The name changes are definitely a huge problem for Mouse Rat, agreed! Kind of hard to attract fans when even the band’s website URL refers to an old name … Great point on how expensive that can become, too, when you’re printing promo items. Glad you liked the post, Jill! :)

  2. Mandy Kilinskis

    Great takeaways from the Andy Dwyer “semi-success” model, Rachel!

    You’re definitely right about Andy needing to listen to constructive criticism. If there’s a way to make your band/writing/marketing/sales techniques better, you’re going to have to learn to take and process feedback.

    I can’t remember, but does Mouse Rat have a YouTube channel? If not, they should really start recording some of their songs and putting them on a channel. That would give him another chance to be seen/heard, and they can always link to their homepage from the channel. You never know what you’ll discover on YouTube!

    • Rachel

      Mouse Rat does indeed have a YouTube channel! And you can download MP3s of some of their songs from their website, too. That’s probably more than what a lot of real bands can say, hah! So Andy does have that going for him. :)

      The Andy Dwyer semi-success model–great way to phrase it, lol. :) Thanks for the comment, Mandy!

  3. Cybernetic SAM

    PERSISTENCE!!! He and April are extremely persistent, and I have yet to see him take “no” for an answer (even when he marks up the price of the CD)! This post is awesome, nice work!!!

    • Rachel

      Persistence, absolutely! Another great tip. Thanks, Sam! :)

  4. Alex Brodsky

    One business model you certainly DON’T want to follow is Entertainment 7Twenty’s! As awesome as it would be to play basketball with Detlef Schrempf, it probably wouldn’t do much good.

    So at least Andy has something over Tom.

    • Rachel

      And Andy actually turned down Tom’s invitation to work for Entertainment 720, too! So maybe Andy’s a little more business-savvy than we might think — or else he’s really good at being *accidentally* business-savvy, haha. :)

  5. What start-ups can learn from Andy Dwyer… | People of Pawnee

    [...] Article here. Share this:MoreLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Articles and tagged andy dwyer. Bookmark the permalink. ← Rob Lowe at California Hall of Fame tomorrow [...]

  6. amy

    I love that you included the band’s website in your post. HILARIOUS!!! I was cracking up at the long list of band names that they’ve held over the years. You’re totally spot on though with your suggestion to keep your brand’s name the same. I hate it when companies change their packaging and I’m so used to looking for a blue box in the grocery store, but now it’s red. Eventually I get used to it, but for those first few weeks it’s a pain!!

    Such an awesome post, Rachel! I could watch ‘Parks & Rec’ for days. Literally.

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