Online Brand

The Yo-Yo Ma Guide To Building a Brand Name Online

I’m pretty snobby when it comes to music. You’d think I love all classical music with that statement, but it’s actually the opposite. I was pretty much convinced that classical music wasn’t for me, until my last ditch effort to go to a Yo-Yo Ma concert turned things around for me.

I had heard great things about Yo-Yo Ma and this concert was priced to match his reputation. That’s the benefit of building a premium brand. Oh, and you can sell out a concert hall in any city. That’s cool, too.

Sitting in the first few rows, I had my skeptic but open minded face on, you know the one where you’re smiling but you’ve got gum in your purse to make sure you don’t fall asleep. The accompanying musicians were on stage, Yo-Yo Ma walked in, followed by the conductor.

Here’s where everything shifted for me, and how you can apply Yo-Yo Ma’s genius to your own online brand.

1. Yo-Yo Ma Is Not Just a Great Cellist, He Knows How to Talk About What He Does

The conductor asked Yo-Yo Ma to speak about the piece he was going to play for us. I hung on his every word.

He was gracious, spoke in a very direct and understandable way for all of us classical music newbies, and he talked about the meaning behind the music.

Do you ever talk about the meaning behind your work? Even if you aren’t making music, there is a reason why you do what you do, and how it makes an impact in the world.

I believe that Yo-Yo Ma stands out from other musicians because he is able to articulate what it is that he does, and communicate the value to his audience.

After he got up to speak, I was absolutely riveted by every note of music, because I knew where it was coming from and what result the music was meant to evoke.

2. When You’re a Master, You Don’t Need Sheet Music

The next thing I noticed about Yo-Yo Ma was that he didn’t use any sheet music when he played. That went for all of the songs he played for us, even when they included a full orchestra.

As a master, he has practiced and is really at one with the music to such a degree that he can just close his eyes and play.

Yo-Yo Ma Playing

Obviously, as business owners creating a brand online we might not be able to close our eyes to design websites or write blog posts. But the point here is that we should hone our craft to such a level that we can do it like a pro.

If that means practicing your writing daily, increasing the consistency of your speaking gigs, or rewording your brand’s story until you know it backward and forward… then that’s what you have to do to become a true master.

I also believe that no matter what you choose to master in your business, it should be something that you can develop a true passion for. If you’re not a fan of sales, how can you turn the practice of selling into something that you want to close your eyes and give yourself to as if it were your very artwork?

3. Be In It For The Long Term, And Watch Your Popularity Grow Over Time

We all want instant results, and to become a household name overnight. Yo-Yo Ma’s been around forever! Okay, since 1955 but he started playing at the age of 4.

He has been persistent, using the slow but steady approach to growing his audience and brand. Every concert, every CD, every appearance was like a brick in the foundation to his success.

The longer Yo-Yo Ma is “in business”, the more opportunities come his way. He meets more collaborators, more friends, and more fans that will help him go further. The fact that he is still around and becoming more of a master only increases his desirability.

Now when someone asks what concerts I might recommend, I’m going to think of Yo-Yo Ma and recommend him. As an online brand, the longer and more consistently you can be in business and publishing content, the more people will think of you when someone asks for a recommendation for your services.

4. Yo-Yo Ma Over-Delivers, And So Should You

If you ever feel like you’re giving away the farm and want to save some of your best tips and tricks for later when it comes to your free content or even your products… then listen up.

At the end of the concert Yo-Yo Ma was gracious, and when he got a standing ovation, he gave us an encore.

He could have said “I’ve had a long day, catch you at the next concert” but instead he gave more than we paid for.

Again he put his heart and soul into a performance and we truly felt taken care of and in the presence of a musical genius.

How can you offer more than your customers pay for? Is there a way for you to over-deliver, whether it’s with unadvertised bonuses, extra time with you, or a token of your gratitude? Do it, it goes a long way to building your brand for the long term.

5. Yo-Yo Ma’s Online Presence Rocks a Website That Converts

Not to be outdone, Yo-Yo Ma takes his ability to communicate beautifully about his work into the online world. His website is professional, inviting, and features his work prominently.

More importantly, each page on his web site is designed to illicit a specific action, whether that’s to listen to a piece of music, share your experience on Facebook, or order a new album… Yo-Yo Ma and his website guide you through the customer experience that they’ve honed on the stage, and brings it online.

How can you create the type of experience that your clients and customers will have from working with you through your web pages?

If Yo-Yo Ma can do it using words, images, and music so can you. Especially if you leverage your strengths and really hone in on what will connect with your audience the most. Not sure where to start amping up your website? Take the Website Checkup… it’s free!

What Specific Concept Are You Going to Apply To Your Brand?

I’d love to hear which one of these Yo-Yo Ma-isms you’re going to apply in your business to increase your online brand recognition. Leave a comment below and let me know!

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Nathalie Lussier is an online business triple threat, serving up digital strategy with empathy and do-it-yourself training programs to turn your website into the asset you know it should be. She’s the creator of The Website Checkup Tool, and she loves getting techy


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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Faissal Alhaithami July 12, 2012, 7:22 am

    I just had a quick look at Yo-Yo Ma’s website. I’ll soon explore why this website is so special, as the tips that you’ve shared in this article are extremely engaging. Building a brand definitely requires deep commitment. And that’s what Yo-Yo Ma has best!

    Thanks for this nice article!

  • Janet July 11, 2012, 10:30 am

    I love Yo Yo Ma! I was fortunate enough to see him in concert. I was still just a kid (teenager) at the time and the lady next to me was crying. I didn’t really understand then how you can be moved to tears by a piece of music.. but now that I’m older, I can.

    Being engaging and talking about the process of what you do allows people to get into the story of your work, and that’s what makes it that much more compelling.

    Soloists in the classical world are expected to memorize their pieces and do encores.. But that doesn’t make it less amazing. Loved your article!

  • Nathalie Lussier July 11, 2012, 10:20 am

    Yes, I think practice is absolutely key to Yo-Yo Ma’s success… and being in it for the long term. He definitely put in more than his share of 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book Outliers.

  • Ryan Biddulph July 11, 2012, 8:22 am

    Hi Nathalie,

    Yo Yo Ma became a rousing success because he built his skills and brand up over time. We as online entrepreneurs should do the same, if we intend to become successful. Clever analogy here.

    Over deliver each time you write a blog post. Pen a comment. Interact with a friend, or fan. Offer service. Whatever you do, over deliver, and you will become memorable over time. Few people over deliver so you stick out like a sore thumb by going the extra mile.

    Yo Yo Ma became Yo You Ma because he thought himself a genius, and he became a genius. All the great ones work to develop their skills, and even with some natural ability, every talent is taxed. I have seen pros from all walks of life he became outstanding with very little natural talent, really. Sheer determine, will, and an unshakable belief in self, this is what makes champions, not statistics. Adopt these qualities as an online entrepreneur and you too can become great.

    Thanks Nathalie!


  • Dave Lucas July 11, 2012, 6:04 am

    Nathalie! You left out one thing: becoming a master like YYM takes years of patience and practice. And did I mention talent?
    Don’t take this the wrong way:
    Just like you or I could not pick up an instrument and be a virtuoso in a year or two or even ten, most bloggers and website “designers” couldn’t write or “design” their way out of a 5th grade English examination.
    Your most important advice in your article “leverage your strengths” applies here!
    Honest self-assessment and a REASONABLE EXPECTATION of what you are capable of accomplishing based on your God-given talent.
    Every cellist CANNOT be a YoYo Ma.
    Every blogger cannot be a Nathalie Lussier.

    Blog On and Prosper!

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