Today is the birthday of Bob Ross, the soft-spoken man with the ‘fro who taught millions how to paint trees on The Joy of Painting, which ran on PBS from 1983 to 1994. Mr. Ross passed away of lymphoma in 1995 but he is remembered by millions as the kind man with the gentle voice, even by those who didn’t watch his program regularly.
There are some things that not many people know about Mr. Ross, some of which I just learned today. For example, he was a Non-commissioned Officer in the United States Air Force, retiring after 20 years of service at the rank of Master Sergeant. The most striking thing about his career as an artist and business man, however, was how much money he made doing The Joy of Painting. Guess how much money he made?
Nothing. He made no money from PBS for a program that ran for nearly twelve years!
How can this be, you ask? Why would he work for free? Because he was a very smart man who understood success. You see, he made his income from Bob Ross, Inc., his company through which he sold art supplies, instructional videotapes, taught classes, “and even had a troupe of traveling art instructors who roamed the world teaching painting.” The television program was merely a vehicle for building his brand — namely his name and face (and hair)!
Ross, it turns out, recorded those programs nearly as quickly as he created his artwork. According to mentalfloss.com, “Ross could bang out an entire 13-episode season of The Joy of Painting in just over two days, which freed him up to get back to teaching lessons.”
In short, he gave to his audience before they became his customers. Ross contributed to the art community in the best (and most rewarding) way possible — by attracting people to it. His instruction, his personality, and his soft voice attracted people to him and, ultimately, to his business.
This “attraction marketing” can work for you and I, as well. By providing something of value to others for free, by giving to others, others come to know us and (hopefully) trust us. That, in turn, will attract them to us and do business with us. By giving to others you will no doubt receive. It’s important to note, however, that in giving you cannot expect anything in return. That’s how trust is gained.
Update (7/13/16): I found this fun remix “autotuned” song made by PBS using clips from Bob’s TV show. Give it a watch in memory of Bob Ross.
Originally published on JoinMeForSuccess.com October 29, 2012.