I can imagine Deadheads being angry at this book before even opening it. And I hear you. Grateful Dead and Inbound Marketing Lessons? Talk about your weird analogies.
But fear not Deadheads, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from The Most Iconic Band in History (that’s one long title) is attempting to bring marketing closer to what the Grateful Dead truly represented. And despite the fact that it was written back in 2010, it is still as relevant, if not more relevant, today. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you do so.
A book for Modern Marketers
Written by David Meerman Scott (bestselling author of New Rules of Marketing & PR) and HubSpot’s Brian Halligan (author of Inbound Marketing), Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead is both an eye-catching story of and a case for the Grateful Dead’s unconscious Inbound Marketing lessons. It seeks to convince the reader, the modern marketer, to let go of preconceived notions of what should and shouldn’t be done and advocates instead for a more daring and exciting method.
For that was what the Grateful Dead were: daring and exciting. They broke almost every rule that the music industry foolishly tried to impose on them; they gave away “freemium” content; they turned their business model based on live concerts, rather than album sales; they encouraged their fans to record shows and to trade tapes; they built a mailing list and sold concert tickets directly to fans.
Imagine a band that not only produced amazing music, but that would do something like this:
Who are you? Where are you? How are you?
Send us your name and address and we’ll keep you informed.
Deadheads, P.O. Box 1065, San Rafael, California 94901.
Yes, the Grateful Dead is asking their fans to no longer be strangers. The best equivalent method we can use is some form of personalized emails today, but personally sending out updates to all of your fans’ addresses? Damn.
In this book, Meerman Scott and Halligan make a case for applying the Grateful Dead’s counter-intuitive methods as business practices. Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead provides a fresh perspective filled with not only great content but accompanied with visuals, and “Rock On” subsections providing all the information needed for you to summarize what you just learned.
The Example of Amazon
Perhaps one of the most notable examples given in the book is that of Amazon.com. Indeed, the company that would become one of the most popular websites - and its affiliate, Amazon Associates, to be the most popular web affiliate program in the world – used a Grateful Dead-like strategy and the greatest of all Inbound Marketing lessons. Amazon.com partners with affiliates who want to sell merchandise via their e-commerce platform by embedding product links and the likes, at complete odds with what was expected at the time. For example, a book review website that is an Amazon Affiliate would include links to buy each book reviewed. And when someone buys via the link, the affiliate receives a percentage of revenue.
Instead of obsessing over how to “keep traffic on your own site” which, unfortunately, websites today still do, Amazon saw the opportunity to expand their reach by including other companies in their business strategy. The Amazing News is that Amazon’s Inbound Marketing lesson can be replicated over and over again. That’s the beauty of the internet; it has no limits.
Some may think that our world is not home anymore to the kind of merry pranksters that would just go on the “Furthur” on a mind-altering (literally) adventure. And that might as well be true. But we live in a different time now. Our world is a fast-pacing one where ideas are born and die only to leave the very good ones at the top. That Inbound Marketing lessons are there to meet our demands should surely be a sign of reassurance.
Key Takeaway Inbound Marketing Lessons
There are many Inbound Marketing lessons to learn from this truly visionary book, and it would be impossible to list them all. But to make things easier, we've listed some key takeaways to help you get started.
- Get out of industry-imposed norms to create your own business model free of interference. How’s that for an Inbound Marketing lesson? Modern marketers are encourage to break free of marketing norms to potentially be able to discover untouched market space. All industries have their herds of barely distinguishable competitors that move in unison. Don’t be part of the herd, allow yourself to go into black sheep territory and hang on tight.
- Never seek to control your community. Deadheads multiplied exponentially precisely because they felt like they were part of a community that accepted them for who they are. Why? Because they didn’t have to buy everything that was offered, that part of the experience was truly about them. Marketers are encouraged to do the same. Don’t force some annoying prerequisite on your customers. Let them know that they can really make up their own minds with all the information available before making their choice. This shows enormous self-confidence on your part.
- Put your customers first. Let your customer feel at ease rather than under pressure. Let them know that the experience is about them, that it’s right there, ready and waiting for them.
- Communicate with your customers directly. Let your customers know that they matter. Give them assurance that their needs are your top priority by enabling a “contact us” system that is both efficient and useful.
- Enable Word-of-Mouth Marketing. Satisfied customers, and free advertising. Surely there couldn’t be a more important Inbound Marketing lesson to learn? Well, there isn’t. If your customers are happy, they will most likely turn into brand evangelists and talk about you to their friends and contacts. And before you know it, you’ve got yourself a community.
Josua Green, The Atlantic (2010): Management Secret of The Grateful Dead
Glenn Rifkin, Strategy + Business (1997!): How to "Truck" the Brand: Lessons from the Grateful Dead