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Business Lessons from The Stones, U2, Billy Joel and The Grateful Dead

By JW Dicks, Esq.

Following our Nashville MasterMind, Linda, Lindsay, Eric and I headed off to New York to see U2 at Madison Square Garden. We saw Billy Joel earlier this year as he has set up permanent residence there, packing in the fans. We just missed the Rolling Stones in Orlando, because I was away on a work trip, but maybe I will make one of the five shows the Grateful Dead are putting on.

What does my entertainment have to do with business marketing and branding you ask? A lot.

Promoting aging rockers is just good business. The Grateful Dead, for example, are expecting to make more than $8,000,000 each night for a cool $40,000,000 farewell tour, or should I say retirement fund.

Why are these groups all making the big bucks these days? (And yes, I know that Katy Perry made $130,000,000 this year- we saw her too)

The reason these groups are all doing well is that, at some point, they mastered the art of building a fan base. Something we encourage you to do as a business expert, writer or speaker. The money is in your loyal customer (fan) base, and that is whether you are a restaurant owner, fitness guru, doctor, lawyer, or Indian chief. You must have a lead generation system, a conversion to fan process and a long-term fan nurturing system.

The Grateful Dead strategically focused on performing live and building a community for most of its career. Their fans are now grown up, well off and willing to spend money, not just on tickets but for t-shirts and VIP concert packages (that run as high as $5,000 for access to an open bar, tie-dyed paraphernalia, and other perks). (Business Week’s June 29- July 5, 2015 edition)

There have been numerous articles written about this methodology of building a business. WIRED Magazine’s Editor at Large, Kevin Kelly, wrote one of my favorite articles in 2008. Kevin calculated that a musician, or other creative, could live quite well on $100,000 a year if he just concentrated on 1,000 “True Fans” instead of always trying to get more new fans. (Google 1000 True Fans).  I see it happen in all other types of business, yours included, and the number scales. By that I mean you can leverage 1,000 to 2,000 fans and you can double your income.

Personal experience has also taught me that when you get to the 3,000 to 5,000 true fan range the returns break out even better.

Let me hasten to add, “true” fans are people that buy your products and services and talk positively to others about you. It is something you have to work at, and many do not, but that is what can separate you from the others in your field.

How do you get true fans?  You have to court them over time. Get them to know you, like you and trust you. As well as be authentic with your products and services. This is both easier and harder than ever before. It is easier, because you have so many ways you can communicate and connect with your fans online and off, plus social media. Harder, because there is more competition and you have to continue to stay at the top of your game.

When we first started the Celebrity Branding Agency there was little competition in our specific field. Today, we see others encroaching, even though fortunately they are not committed to spend the time or money to make the client experience that we do. Cutting corners today will cost you in many ways.

If you want to follow this business building formula the good news is that it does work. But, understand it does require a commitment to deliver what you say you will. You also absolutely must stay in touch with your fan base to stave off the encroachment. This means, newsletters, post cards, emails, flyers, websites, social media presence and other forms of communication directed to your fans are an absolute necessity to your success. It is hard work, but it is also a lot of fun and very rewarding on many levels.

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