I first heard this idiom was when I was 10 years old. I overheard my older sister talking with my Mum as she said; “But Mum, he’s so stupid, it’s like playing the lute to a cow.”
At the time I laughed and asked my sister she actually did play a lute to a cow. “Go away” she said.
“What’s wrong with big sister?” I asked Mum, “is she okay? And what did she mean by playing the lute to a cow?”
Mum smiled at me. “My dear little one, it’s an old expression. Let me tell you the story…”
This tale was written by a Buddhist Master, Mou Rong Lihuolun, back in the Eastern Han Dynasty (202 B.C-9 A.D).
Back in the olden time in the Eastern Han Dynasty there was a musician named Gong Mingyi. He was a grand master of the Zheng (lute), a chinese plucked string musical instrument. He was well known for playing his lute but because of his reckless and bold behaviour he often got sidetracked, and from time to time most people did not understand his character. People found him a bit eccentric.
Zheng a Chinese Lute
One beautiful day, Gong Mingyi was inspired with the view of the green fields. While he was admiring the scenery he came across a cow grazing in a field nearby and he decided to bring his lute to the grass and play the lute to entertain the cow. As he was playing he became deeply captivated by his own music. But the cow on the other hand did not pay any attention to his music and kept grazing on the grass like there was nothing happening.
Gong Mingyi was disappointed to find that the cow did not appreciate his music, so to get the cow’s attention he started to mimic the sound of fly and mosquito with his lute. And guess what! the old cow stopped chewing the grass and started to shake its tail as if to drive away the flying insects.
Then Gong get more curious and this time he imitated the sound of a calf with the instrument. Hearing the sound, the old cow lifted its head and looked around as if looking for its own calf. Then the cow pricked up its ears and moved toward Gong Mingyi and the sound he was creating.
In the Chinese community you would often hear people using this idiom to describe someone who is not on the same page as you. Someone who you are wasting your valuable time reasoning with. Somebody who will not understand you. Sometimes this expression can also be used when you’ve pitched or talked to the totally wrong audience and they don”t get what you try to tell them.
So how how does this relate to your business?
I keep this tale in mind whenever I do a marketing or promotional campaign, and I always ask myself these following questions:
What method of marketing would I use to target the audience?
Where are they?
Where do I find them?
What do I do to get their attention?
The simple truth is that if you try to be all things to all people, then you’re likely to be nothing to everyone. And you may end up with no customers because of it!
Getting very clear about your ideal audience , and who you appeal to, is probably the most critical step in your business practice.
If you are not bothered to do a bit research about your ideal clients then you might end up playing your lute to a herd of disinterested cows.
In this tale Gong’‘s music was so captivating that he thought he could captivate the cow too. It turned out not to be not the case.
Business is similar. For you to capture your clients attention you need to speak their language and act a certain way. You need to know where to find them, where they are like to hang out, and what they like to do. The more you understand your clients the easier it is for you to do business with them.
As coaches, one of the biggest issues we’ve faced with clients is that they want to have the widest market as possible in the belief that if they appeal to the widest possible market then that will generate the greatest interest in their product or service.
We don’t disagree that this strategy has a valid place, it’s just that we’re yet to see it work with clients like you in the context that you live and work in…
What we do see with clients who follow this strategy are people who are constantly flipping their focus, trying to be something they’re not, for people they don’t like, creating work they don’t love, and most sadly; creating work that they feel has compromised their own personal integrity.
We don’t know about you, but that’s not how we want to live and work… What’s important to you?
Being very clear about who you are, what you do, who specifically you appeal to, and who specifically you desire to attract means that you’re only taking action that brings you those things. And you’re not wasting time and energy to bring yourself the people that you don’t really want to work with and serve.
The advantages of further narrowing and re-defining your “Niche”
Narrowing your market and building genuine expertise in a narrow field means that you can become an expert in what you do, instead of being a “Jack of all trades; Master of none”.
Deeply researching your particular niche group in order to learn more about what they want and need means that you can also test-market your products or services.
It makes it easier to communicate with potential clients and customers because you can appeal specifically to this narrow group instead of to everyone. Your target market will be attracted to you instead of pass you by. Your marketing materials can now be targeted and now add very real value to your audience, instead of being “generalised”, and just a little bit useful to everyone.
Using this “Attraction marketing” method you can set up marketing campaigns purely to target this specific group and communicate directly to them. This means you will attract the right customers and referrals.
Because your target market is aligned to you, and who you are, you’ll find yourself enjoying networking and ‘hang out’ with them. Your interests are their interests. And it’s a more natural fit.
You can achieve more credibility than your competitor who appears to handle everything.
You can create specific products and services that appeal to your niche group.
Want to learn more about about attraction marketing the ArtSHINE way?