Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead

December 20, 2011 Categories: The Art of Advising
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Ashbury Haight

While making psychedelic music in the 1960s, The Grateful Dead were also using innovative marketing strategies to reach their fans. At that time, most bands focused on bringing in album sales, whereas “the Dead” were focused on the experience (i.e. the concert) of their most diehard fans.

Financial advisors can take a few key lessons from them about the value they deliver to their clients.

The recent book Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan highlights several aspects of the band’s marketing innovations and how they were able to build a cult following in the form of their best fans, the “dead heads.”1

Two major concepts are: putting your best fans in the front row and turning your clients into advocates.

Putting your best fans in the front row

In a pioneering marketing strategy, the band created a mailing list of their fans. This list grew to over 60,000 – and this was before the advent of database technology or social media.

Through this list, they gave recipients special treatment. They offered advanced notice of tour dates, created an outlet for buying the best seats directly through the band and offered unique access into the inner workings of the band members.

In our business, the most successful advisors offer their best clients a unique experience. These days every advisor has advanced database tools to track and segment different clients. So what are you offering to only your top clients?

We have a number of tools available to help you develop deeper relationships with your clients and deliver a distinctive client review experience to energize your practice.

Turn clients into advocates

Instead of banning people from taping concerts or offering bootleg merchandise, the Grateful Dead created advocates by partnering with these particular fans. They gave a limited number access to a special taping session (these tapes were then copied and distributed around), and signed licensing deals to allow fans to put the band’s unique logos/brand on an unlimited variety of items. That spread the sounds and images of the band to many more non-fans, who would then buy a ticket to a concert to experience it for themselves.

We all want more referrals from our top clients and centers of influence. However, in order for people to become strong advocates on your behalf, you must consistently reinforce your value statement to them. Building a strong, approachable brand will help clients describe their experience from working with you to others.

We can help you define that statement and create a brief, repeatable sound bite your clients can use when spreading your brand outside of your office.

Whether you like The Grateful Dead’s music or not, it is hard to argue with their unprecedented ability to cultivate a devoted fan base. We all have great clients in our book of business, but the best advisors use these relationships to attain other clients just like them. Now that is one groovy idea.

1 David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History. (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey 2010).

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