Recently the world learned of David Bowie's passing. It came as a total shock to many of us including some of his biggest fans. As I watched social media light up with the news of his passing I couldn't help but think back on Bowie's career and draw out a few business lessons.
Lesson #1 - Be Different
Bowie was the master at being himself and being so different than anyone else. The world fell in love with his gender-bending weirdness and paid attention to his music in large part because Bowie was so unique.
You can apply this to your business in a big way. Generally speaking, there is not much difference between a business and its competitor. Maybe one has a better location or its prices are marginally better, but in the end competitors are generally the same.
Make your business stand out and be radically different than your competition. The easiest way to do this is to excel in customer service. Stop selling and start educating your prospects about what you do, how you do it and how they benefit from it.
I recently learned of a restaurant that changes out the white napkins to black napkins when they notice someone wearing dark slacks. They do this so no white lint gets on the dark slacks. Impressive.
Lesson #2 - Be the Expert AND Diversify
Bowie was known for his music. He excelled in his art, but he also knew the importance of diversifying. Bowie moved into acting, painting, miming and other pursuits.
It's important that your business is the perceived as the best and that it easily stands out from your competition. It's also important to know when it's appropriate to begin diversifying and adding in products or services that are complimentary.
This is an easy way to generate more marketing opportunities, more clients, and ultimately more profit for your business.
A specific example of an industry that does this well is the fitness industry. These days a personal training studio sells personal training services, equipment, supplements, healthy snacks, and pro-shop gear.
Lesson #3 - Create Raving Fans
Bowie has more than just fans. He has raving fans. He has a massive following of people that will always buy his music, his art, or his merchandise. His fans are spread across the globe and are passionate about anything Bowie-related.
Your business may not need a global following, but creating raving fans should be a high priority. People buy for 2 reasons. The first is that you have the solution to a deep problem they are experiencing. The second is because they want to feel included in something they feel good about.
The second reason is one that is rarely talked about. Remember Curves? They created a world where middle-aged women could come as they are and workout in a non-intimidating atmosphere. The largest factor in Curves growth was something more than this though. The reason they grew so quickly was because women liked to go there, meet new people, and talk to their friends.
Curves created a safe place for women to go and connect with other women. So these women naturally wanted their friends to join along with them. Curves created raving fans because it was so drastically different than its competition (see lesson #1) and because it created a world that its ideal customer wanted to be a part of.
Lesson #4 - Make a Difference
Bowie routinely donated money to various causes and charities that ranged from at-risk youth to weapon's reduction.
One of the biggest ways to reach more prospects, generate more media buzz, and create more good will is to make a difference in your local community. You can simply donate money to an organization or you can make a larger splash.
For example, there is a barber in Iowa who gives children free haircuts so long as they read to him during the cut. There's an artist who paints children's medical helmets to look like cool pilot or Air Force helmets. There's a fitness center that puts on a charity event called Push Ups for Charity and all proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project.
In the end, David Bowie was able to build a massive brand that involved being utterly different than anyone else, diversifying his reach, creating a legion of raving fans, and making a difference in the world. There is no greater or more inexpensive way to grow your business than these lessons from Bowie.