Since bursting on the scene in late 2008 she’s proven herself to be an adept singer-songwriter, businesswoman, and marketing phenom. So…it’s obvious there’s more than a few things she could teach start-up entrepreneurs.
- As of August she sold more than 15 million albums and 51 million singles worldwide.
- She’s racked up more than a billion views on YouTube with her music videos.
- She’s earned more than $62 million this year putting her #4 on Forbes Most Powerful Celebrities.
- Last month she was crowned the new Queen of Twitter.
- According to Google there are over 16 million global monthly searches for her.
- She was listed among Time Magazine’s most influential people of 2010.
Need I say more?
But like any start-up GaGa’s had her share of adversity, heartbreak, roadblocks, and setbacks; she’s had people who didn’t believe in her and people who told her she couldn’t make it…
…but she did.
And there’s valuable lessons for the start-up willing to listen, namely:
1. Make sure You Stand Out
“In an interview last winter, Lady Gaga recalled her anguish at being ignored as she performed at a bar filled with drunken NYU students. No one paid the slightest attention to her until, fed up, she decided to strip down to her lingerie. ‘I started playing in my underwear at the piano and I remember everyone was all of a sudden like ‘Whoa!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you’re looking at me now, huh?’” –Forbes, The Business of Lady GaGa
When I sent out a message and asked if there were any suggestions Matt Wilson replied on Twitter: “Be outlandish and get noticed!!! re: @ladygaga”
I thought “Yeah right! That’s so obvious!I mean…EVERYONE knows GaGa stands out…so its OBVIOUS you should stand out in some way!” But then as I thought about all the entrepreneurs that DON’T stand out…it seemed to make more sense.
According to Seth Godin, “remarkable” is a necessity today because people don’t pay top dollar for “ordinary.” It’s on this principle that made Apple one of the world’s most valued companies by market capitalization. It’s simple: Apple makes exceptional products that continually raise the bar making it hard for competitors to catch up.
But standing out is risky?
When Jobs wanted to create a store that would reach out to the masses he did so with a nervous board; as many saw it a risky cash drain. But he wanted to create “an experience” for the Apple user. And that “risk” has paid off in billions!
GaGa KNOWS how to stand out: on interviews she’ll prance around naked, refer to herself in the third person, talk about her previous drug use, her vagina, and so on; and on stage she works so hard to maintain the “illusion” that sometimes she won’t even drink water on stage!
If what you’re offering doesn’t stand out in some way, shape, or form…take it back to the drawing board! Because the foundation of ANY great marketing campaign is an exceptional product or service–because no matter how you dress it up, if it’s garbage…it’s garbage!
2. Make Friends AND Enemies
“I read reviews sometimes and I’m like, ‘Wow, that guy really doesn’t f—ing like me.’ Like, they really don’t get it, but that’s cool. You’ve got to create some kind of stir. You’ve got to say something that’s got to upset some people, and that’s the risk-taking that makes music so fun.” –Lady GaGa
Even though she has millions of fans all over the world…she has haters too.
She is a staunch supporter of gay rights…seen recently in her trying to get the law “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” repealed.
This hasn’t always made friends.
The greatest example of that was during a tour date at St. Louis, where she was met by a certain church group who protested her show and condemned her to hell. Gaga quickly sent out a message asking her fans to ignore the group’s protests. The concert continued with no problem.
Afterward she thanked her fans:
“Tonight love and hate met in St. Louis. And love outnumbered the hate, in poetic thousands. Hate left. But love stayed. + Together, we sang.”
Know that whenever you take a stand on ANYTHING you’re going to have friends AND enemies. But understand that you NEED both. Because whether they’re shouting your praise or condemning you to hell…they’re giving you invaluable advertisement…free advertisement!
3. Make Sure to Take Care of Your Fans
“The turning point for me was the gay community. I’ve got so many gay fans and they’re so loyal to me and they really lifted me up. They’ll always stand by me and I’ll always stand by them. It’s not an easy thing to create a fanbase.–Lady GaGa
If there’s one thing Gaga does well: she knows how to take care of her fans. She’s gotten a tattoo and dedicated it to her “little monsters,” she’s gotten them into sold out concerts, she invites them to have a drink with her, and etc.
Even when they’re crying…she knows how to take care of them:
As start-ups it so easy to go after the “masses” and forget “fans.” But since a true fan is worth 10,000 strangers sometimes it makes sense to turn away from the crowd and treat your fans like royalty. Whether it be exclusive offers, invites to special events, making them a mayor…whatever it takes…show them the great privilege of being a “monster.”
4. Make Adversity a Stepping Stone
“I had a boyfriend who told me I’d never succeed, never be nominated for a Grammy, never have a hit song, and that he hoped I’d fail. I said to him, ‘Someday, when we’re not together, you won’t be able to order a cup of coffee at the f–king deli without hearing or seeing me.’”–Lady GaGa
GaGa’s had doors slammed in her face, DJ’s who didn’t want to play her records, and music execs who thought she was nuts…
…but she kept going.
She to was signed to Def Jam but then was dropped after 3 months
…but she kept going.
She schmoozed with execs and saw nothing come out of it…
…but she kept going.
Adversity is inevitable.
Sometimes people won’t buy into your dream, doors will shut in your face, business will be lost, delays will be had, and ideas will not work. But know that whatever adversity is in your way will always become a stepping stone if you keep going. If you analyze what works, what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t, and how you can fix it to make it work.
Gaga saw what didn’t work, changed it to make it work, and worked it till she became a household name!
5. Make Money
“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man! Let me handle my business, damn!” –Jay Z, Diamonds from Sierra Leone
Lady GaGa’s also a business…in fact she’s a new business model! She’s one of the first major artists to be launched under the new “360 deal.” This is where labels invest 100% up front for a cut of revenues from every aspect of the artist’s business.
In addition to that she has two production companies, deals with Virgin Mobile and Polaroid, her own headphones, her own lipstick, and a new perfume line about to be released.
Oh…and let’s not forget the condom line she endorses.
The lesson: at the end of the day cash flow is king!
Most business get founded with dreams but they are funded with money–and a high click through rate, heavy traffic, impressions, great “buzz”, and good marketing mean NOTHING if a profit isn’t made.
Is there anything I missed?
What do you think?
Michael Holmes is an author, speaker, and internet entrepreneur.