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Book Review: Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead

Posted by Carole Mahoney on 11/22/10 1:00 PM

Why I Read It

Although I grew up in the height of the 80's, my typical big-haired 80's girl persona was short lived. By highschool I was a closet hippie in boots, tie-dye and gypsy skirts. My favorite music included Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, the Doors and- yes, the Grateful Dead. My mother frequently told me I was in a misplaced generation. In fact I wrote a social studies paper on how I would reconstruct societial norms based on the Grateful Dead philosophy (I called it Stoney Island- my friends still tease me about it).

So when I heard about this book at the HUG conference during Brian Halligan's keynote (if you were there- yes, that was me that whistled at him), I first thought, OMG- these people need to get out of my head. And then I thought, why the hell didn't I think of writing that?

What It's About

Marketers, business owners, and advertising agencies are still freaking out about the internet. The fear of loss of control and unknown territory is still preventing many from engaging with their customers and clients in a real and human way.

What this marketing book does is draw the correlations between social media and inbound marketing methodologies and the business model of the Grateful Dead. It uses the Grateful Dead as an example of how they did it, why they did it, and what the results were. When everyone is asking, does this work? What is the ROI? What if someone says something bad? And marketers have no clear answer, this book provides the proof that it works. (and all without creating a new catch phrase for a methodology and tactic that has existed for years)

While I won't give away too much about what is said in the book (because I want you to read it for yourself, and because it is just good common sense to me)- I will give you the highlights. Also note that each of the 19 chapters that Brian Halligan and David Meerman Scott provide is coupled with real world examples and actionable tasks you can start now. Whether you are a single-person small business owner or the CEO of a Fortune 100 company, you will get something out of this that you can start doing today.

What can we learn about marketing in 2010 from the Grateful Dead of the 1960's?

  1. Rethink traditional industry assumptions. Innovating your business model can be more important than innovating your product or service. And it starts with throwing out industry standards and yes, sometimes best practices (IMO).
  2. Turn your customer into evangelists. Free your ideas, content, encourage your customers to share them. Oh, and don't suck (then you don't have to worry about them saying something bad, and if you do suck then take a page from the Domino's playbook- acknowledge it and change it).
  3. Bypass accepted channels and go direct. Build a customer community, treat them with respect and preference. Don't bypass them to get new customers. It is still less expensive to maintain a current customer than to try to get a new one.
  4. Build a loyal following. Let go of control of your message and let your customer's experience define you. It's ok, no one really believes who we say we are anyway. They will believe what someone else says you are (so make sure you are listening. Oh, and don't suck.)

The 19 chapters of the book describe these 4 concepts and provide insight on how to actually do it.

What I Learned

It is not so much what I learned with this book, but what I was reminded of. It reminded me of why I started this business, who I am, and what I want to accomplish. It reminded me that this is not just a job, this is something I am passionate about because for me, it goes beyond just marketing and sales. It reminded me that I shouldn't be worried about what the competition is doing as much as I should worry about what I am doing and what I can do better.

Most importantly, it reminded me that I am not much of a follower, nor have I ever been, and I shouldn't be shy about it. That is my advantage.

I see the revolution and am thrilled to be on the forefront with other great pioneers.

What I am Putting into Practice

  1. I am thinking about renaming Mahoney Internet Marketing. It's a big change, and not one that I will rush into- but I am looking for inspiration (have any ideas? post them!)
  2. I am writing out my next 19 blog posts- one for each chapter of the book. This will really be a brain-storming session, so stay tuned!
  3. Rethinking and rewriting the job descriptions for my next hires.
  4. Finding new charities to give to in my local community that really mean something to me. Environmental, small business oriented, educational.... (again- any ideas, post them!)
  5. Building a customer loyalty program. (For my current customers reading this, it will go beyond the best whoopie pies in the world. In fact, I will just ask you what you would want the most!)

Ready to start your own revolution?

Topics: book review, customer service, new age marketing