In roughly four short years, Lady Gaga, the eccentric pop star phenom has become a household name by building an iconic brand that has resulted in earnings of nearly one hundred million dollars last year. Although she came from a fairly well off family residing in New York, as a teen she throw it all away despite her parents’ wishes and decided to pursue her passion of music and singing.
A young Gaga, (born Stefani Germanotta) moved out of her parents’ house, promised herself she would not ask for any financial support from her parents, and spent her teenage years singing, waitressing, hustling and grinding in cabaret clubs trying to find her niche. She eventually signed a record deal with Def Jam Records, but was later dropped. She finally obtained a deal with Interscope Records, who released her best-selling album, The Fame in 2008, and the rest is music history.
What can small business owners learn from Lady Gaga’s business journey? We can learn that your brand is not just about your logo, products and services, it’s the personality of your business. Think of your business as a person and how it would think, feel and interact with customers.
Here are the Lady Gaga lessons that small business owners can use to build a powerful brand and spark gigantic growth:
Be Touchable Your business must not only be online, but you must now have a mobile presence as well. Bill Gates said “by the end of 2002, there will be only two kinds of businesses: those with an Internet presence, and those with no business at all.” Even if you’re already online, you must not make the mistake of only communicating about your products and services, you must also be connecting with existing and potential customers. Lady Gaga posts to facebook and tweets to her fans about five times daily. She interacts with fans by not just announcing her products, but sharing her personality, photos, inspiring them to support causes, and most of all thanking her fans who she calls her “little monsters” for their continued support. It is no surprise that she has more twitter followers (over 20 million) than anyone on twitter.
Stand for Something Small businesses should focus not only on selling their products or services, but story-selling. Story-selling is when a business shares in a compelling way its purpose, vision, and reasons for being in business. You must touch your customer’s hearts before you touch their pockets. Think of companies who built their businesses around powerful causes like TOM’s Shoes (shoes for needy children), Ben & Jerry’s (promoting philanthropy with profits) Kenneth Cole (AIDS Awareness). When your business stands for something, customers will feel good about supporting your business because it touches their hearts.
Gaga has been a vocal supporter of bullying, gay rights, particularly she was a huge advocate for the end of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy regarding gay recruits. Gaga has successfully created a cult-like following from her fans because they feel like she is one of them. Fans (her customers) can identify with her story of having been bullied as a youth, kids called her ugly and made fun of her big nose. Gaga constantly sings to her fans believe in yourself, be who you are, and they embrace it with every song purchase.
Create a Community Small business owners must replace the word “marketing” with “engaging.” Engaging is what a business does before, during and after the sale. Effective engaging means staying on your customer’s mind in a way that’s not annoying. Use social media tools (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin) to offer customers tips, videos and articles that are helpful. Online shoe retailer, Zappos.com, who was recently bought by Amazon for $1.2 billion, increased shoe sales by 10% simply using online videos to showcase and describe their shoes. Lady Gaga interacts with her “little monsters” daily by announcing new songs, videos, products and social causes she supports. Her fans view her actions not as marketing or selling, but engaging or helping them believe in themselves and stand up for social issues.
Be Authentic Small businesses need not rely on product gimmicks, or short term sales tactics, but instead should focus on long term brand authenticity. Customers at times may fall for gimmicks and purchase products, but eventually gimmicks become stale and the business who relies on them will not have a loyal following once the hype burns out. One of the reasons Gaga has a consistent loyal following is because fans know she is real and authentic. Fans believe she does not go home and take off her costume and become a totally different person. Gaga in her own words stated, “Gaga’s always been who I am. Me and my hair bow, we go to bed together. She sleeps where I sleep.”
Small businesses must be touchable, stand for something, create a community, be authentic, but most of all Grind for Greatness!
6. They focus on fixing their weaknesses. Forget your weaknesses and focus on enhancing and blowing up your strengths so your weaknesses become irrelevant. Put in the hours of “Grind Time” honing your strengths, business expertise and building your brand. Your brand is simply the personality of your product. Allow people on social media and other mediums to get to know your brand and build a relationship with your target market first, before asking them to buy from you. Why not give them something FREE, intriguing and of value first! If your product is really that good, prove it and give away some samples and if really is that good people will talk about it and demand for it will increase.
5. They don’t understand and/or underestimate the power of marketing. Most entrepreneurs think their product/service is so much better than their competitors. But what they do not understand is that their product does not have to be the best to be successful. As long as their potential customers “perceive,” or think and believe that their product is the best, it will sell. Marketing is not about who has the best product, it’s about who is perceived to be the best or one of the best. There are so many people that I am sure can make a better sandwich than Subway or better burger than Mc Donald’s, but the rest of the world will never know or buy their product because of their failure to market effectively. You may be good, your product may be spectacular, but you will stay broke and your product won’t sell unless you have a ridiculous and relentless marketing plan.
4. They immediately seek grants, investors or substantial loans,without testing and proving their basic business model (or how they will make money) actually works. Every business can be started on a small scale for about $1,000. Apple, Dell, Subway and myself all started with about $1,000. Start small, perfect it, then you deserve to expand.
3. They don’t have enough come-up capital. I have seen many beginning entrepreneurs open up lavish spectacular storefronts, but nine months later they are closed down. Why? They ran out of come-up capital to keep it going. They assumed that customers would just run to their doors dying to buy their products. You must test your business idea first on a small scale. Build your brand and customers base. When I started selling from the trunk of my car, I knew it worked but I also built a huge customer database list so that once my new store front opened, I could announce it to a constantly growing customer database list to make sure cash flow kept coming. I also did not stop selling from the trunk of my car (don’t you dare get comfortable) to keep cash flow consistent and I saved thousands for a cash cushion.
2. They don’t develop the essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs: discipline, perseverance, vision, creativity, a “Grind mentality.” If you currently have a 9 to 5, start operating your personal life like a business. Focus on making ”You Inc.” profitable by trying to increase your income or reduce expenses to free up extra money that you can use as capital for your part-time hustle or full-time business. If you cannot make You Inc. (yourself) profitable, how do you expect to make another business profitable? This will also prove if you have developed discipline.
1. They start a business for the wrong reasons. They do it because they are excited about the opportunity of making lots of money, instead of starting a business based on who they are and aligning the business with their passion.
Keep Grinding for Greatness!