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!