I’m ashamed to admit that last weekend I began reading the new Keith Richards autobiography, “Life.” Why ashamed? Because any Rolling Stones fan worth his tumbling dice would’ve finished the book already.
“Life” is a surprising read to me because of the level of detail; I didn’t think Keef’s memory would be so good.
When I began reading “Life,” I knew there would be a lot of marketing lessons to be learned. I mean, c’mon, we’re talking about one of the most commercially successful musicians in the history of the world. The guy must have made some good decisions along the way.
In 1962 when the Stones were just getting started, they were literally starving. They were stealing food from supermarkets and living together in a miserable Chelsea flat. They were struggling to get gigs that paid, because the London club scene was dominated by jazz bands, “the Dixieland mafia,” Keith calls it. The Stones of course were no jazz band; they played the blues at a time when nobody else did.
So Ian Stewart, another of the band’s founders, offered to the clubs that the Stones play during the intervals/breaks between the featured bands’ performances. These were 15-minute opportunities for the Stones to show what they could do.
It was Stu’s (Ian Stewart’s) idea that we play the interval at the Marquee…No money in it, but the interval was the thin edge of the wedge…Suddenly the interval became more interesting than the main event.
Within only a few months, the Stones turned the club scene upside down. They were the headliners, fans were lining up outside the door before their shows, and, as Keith writes, “That traditional-jazz monopoly faded away.”
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The Marketing Lesson for Solopreneurs
The lesson is this: when you’re trying to break into a market, be creative AND aggressive. Seize any opportunity to demonstrate your skills.
One thing I’ve done over the years, for example, is send a fully-thought-out sample to a prospective client, demonstrating how I would solve their problem. I can’t remember ever doing that and not landing the business. If you’ve put the work in, the client will want more.
Using the “thin edge of the wedge” is a low-risk strategy. The only thing it costs is time. And if that time otherwise would be spent looking at the walls of your flat, it’s actually a no-risk tactic.
I’m sure there are other ways to break down the door and show your skills. What methods have you used successfully—or unsuccessfully?