Features Sales and Marketing

Trouble in River City! – Simply Sales with Scott

Trouble in River City

Written By: Scott Koepf, Vice President of Strategic Development – Cruise Planners 


In this article- “Trouble in River City! – Simply Sales with Scot”, I will continue to reference the world of musical theater to make a point about how to be successful in this wonderful and currently challenging industry.  If you share my passion as the Singing Salesman for Broadway musicals, then you know the title of this article comes from one of the greatest sales pitches in all of theater.  


Harold Hill, known simply as ‘The Music Man’ by his competitors, provides a fabulous example of both marketing and sales.  If you know the musical you might find it incredulous that I would use a scam artist as a positive role model!  I could defend this choice by pointing out that the story has a happy ending and he changes his devious ways (remember this is musical theater so he also gets the girl, but I digress).  The fact is that ‘Professor’ Hill had crooked intentions at the time of his presentation but one cannot argue that his ability to create a buzz and close a sale provides a great lesson for us.  


The first thing Mr. Hill does when he gets to town is survey his market.  He looks for what is the major Trouble in River City and how he can create an emotional response to it.  In River City the buzz was a new pool table which created an extraordinary marketing campaign based on the fear of the future influence on the boys in the town.  It was fortunate that it was a pool table in town as trouble starts with ‘T’ and that rhymes with ‘P’ and that stands for pool but again I digress.  Where the Professor had to create some fear and emotion around the pool table coming to town, you have determined what may be keeping your clients from making a decision to book with you.  Learning from our professor, first acknowledge the situation then don’t sell anything.  Yes, that’s right he didn’t sell something, he simply painted a picture.  The best marketing paints a picture that the target audience wants to be in! 


Escaping to places where the most difficult decision of the day is which lounge chair to relax in is a marketers dream.  It is not easy but once again look at what Harold did – Review the situation; point out the problem, paint the big picture of the solution on a big scale then personalize that picture for each customer. Quite simply, you need to know and acknowledge the problem before you can present the solution! 

Trouble in River City!

Harold Hill’s products are musical instruments and uniforms but he was brilliant enough to never sell those!  Instead he painted a picture to all who would listen of a ‘River City Boys Band’.  In every pitch he found the emotional need of his clients first, then painted a picture of how that band will fulfill that emotional need.  As we have such amazing products in our business we forget that people don’t buy tours, cruises, resorts or destinations.  Instead they buy a solution for whatever emotional need they have, be it romance, adventure, ego or escape.  Professor Hill did not talk about the details of the instruments or how they would sound, instead he focused on the feeling the boys (and parents) would have by just being in the band.  In other words, as magnificent as our products are, it is not about the product, it is about the emotional need that product fulfills!  


I suggest you follow the Professor’s model.  First spend some time reviewing your business and your market by finding the pool table, which right now may be easier than ever as the need to get away is a burning desire for almost everyone.  Second create the vision which is a solution for the emotional needs your clients have (your boys band may be a new branding of your agency, a unique group offer or some other differentiator).  And finally present that picture to your clients so they can see themselves in it.  


Next month I will look at a few other lessons from The Music Man as we can learn some exceptional selling techniques in addition to marketing techniques from the Professor.  In the meantime remember we do have trouble in Travel City, my friends but that trouble of our current environment can be the catalyst to you becoming the leader of the band!