A valuable lesson from the Comedy School of Marketing

You’ve got to hand it to them.

Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton outdid even their own high standards with the latest series of Inside No.9 on BBC Two.

If you’ve not seen it, each episode is 30 minutes of deliciously dark tragi-comedy in the mould of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.


The last one of the series had a surprise cameo by comedian Peter Kay - only a brief appearance ‘cos he got bumped off in the first minute of the show.

Yet, even in that single minute, Kay’s part was full of his trademark down-to-earth, ordinary-everyday-bloke personality. It’s a well-rehearsed character and he plays it to perfection.

His stand-up routines are the same: ordinary, everyday bloke open-mouthed at the rank stupidity of the world around him.

And whilst Peter Kay genuinely is - in public at least - an easy-going, down-to-earth bloke, I can tell you that his stage persona and the material he uses in his shows really are carefully rehearsed.

I know this because I once staged a 'secret' gig of his for a couple of hundred people at a small theatre I used to run. At the time he was preparing for one of his arena tours - can’t remember which one - and he wanted to try out some new material with a live audience before fine-tuning it for the big tour.

Thing is, he was constantly testing. Testing his jokes, testing his presentation, testing, testing, testing. Getting feedback. Testing some more.

Not taking anything for granted. Not trusting his own opinions. Or those of the people close to him.

The only opinion that really counted was that of his audience - the people who’d be paying to see the show and buy the DVD.

And so it should be for you and your business too.

Marketing is a constant process of testing to see what works.

In truth, most of the things we try as marketers don’t work, despite our best efforts. That’s just a fact of life. Even though us humans like to think everything we try will work first time - ‘cos it’s a hefty blow to your ego when it doesn’t.

What matters is how you use the experience to get better.

So when you find something that does work - a particular method of marketing, a specific campaign, even a single headline on an advert - you can build it into your marketing system to be used again and again, and tested against other ideas until you find something even better.

Much like telling jokes on stage, marketing your business is a craft to be practised and honed in the real world with your actual audience.

Don’t wait for it to be ‘finished’ - it never will be. Don’t wait ‘til you feel ‘ready’ - never gonna happen.

Get out there, take action, test your ideas, make mistakes.

Find out what works. Rinse and repeat.