What’s Jazz Got to Do with It? #INBOUND15

By Jenifer Kern, Vice President, Marketing on Sep. 3, 2015 View Comments

Who would have guessed that jazz had anything to do with marketing & sales alignment? Or INBOUND15?

When I submitted my topic to speak at the INBOUND conference, “How to Get your Sales Teams Jazzed About Inbound Marketing,” I had no idea that jazz would end up serving as the perfect metaphor for describing the modern day relationship between marketing and sales.

As fate would have it, a few serendipitous events led me to fall in love with the idea of sales and marketing alignment ("SMarketing") being perfectly analogous to jazz music…right in the midst of preparing for INBOUND15.

It all started when a colleague sent me this video of an interview with Columbia University Professor of Music and jazz trombonist Chris Washburne, speaking at the World Economic Forum in 2013. In the clip, he beautifully describes the unique process through which jazz music comes together, saying, “We create spontaneously and adapt immediately to the situation and context.”

He goes on to talk about the “fluidity of leadership” that occurs during a jazz performance. There’s a “flatted space where everyone contributes…where you allow team members to take risks, innovate, and create.” Embracing failure is a prerequisite for success, according to Chris, because it leads to greater opportunities for even better music and performances.

"Wow! That's exactly how well-aligned marketing and sales teams operate," I thought.

After all, if digital marketers are embracing an agile and transparent model and engaging with sales in the same way, aren’t we actually performing like a jazz band? Here’s why I believe marketing and sales (and business leaders overall) should aspire to work together like jazz musicians:

  • Improvisation is a key part of jazz, and is with SMarketing as well. We see customer/prospect data in real-time, adapt and adjust on the fly, while working with sales to get the same timely feedback from customers on our content, messaging, and brand.

  • Rhythm & Harmony is integral, and finding the right tempo and cadence with your sales team will help you come together to work in harmony. This requires an understanding of each others’ daily responsibilities, priorities, and work styles.

  • The Art of Listening sums up how jazz musicians communicate with each other while performing. Playing jazz is as much about listening as it is being able to play your instrument. A player isn't thinking about what he should play next, but rather what he can provide that the music is missing at that point in time. When was the last time you intently listened to your sales colleague and then provided a complementary strategy?

  • Embrace Failure because just like Agile development methodologies tell us, jazz is also routed in taking risks and embracing failure as a means to bigger, better successes [or harmonies]. This is the digital marketer’s credo, which goes hand in hand with lovable imperfection.

  • The Band consists of people that add something to the performance. Think of marketing and sales coming together in a band. Each band member serves a vital role and has something valuable to contribute. Are you honoring and listening to each team member?


Don't forget to watch the Smarketing session video from the INBOUND15 stage in Boston!

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