Believe it or not, The Grateful Dead is a great case study for inbound marketing. The Dead created a remarkable product, marketed it to a rabid niche audience, and ignored marketplace assumptions to create the best revenue stream for them. Through this successful strategy, the Dead became one of the highest-grossing bands of all time.
The Grateful Dead Created a Remarkable Product
First and foremost, The Grateful Dead started with what you could call a remarkable product. They created a new type of sound that fused rock and roll with bluegrass, and mixed in jazz-style improvisation. It was a remarkable sound that you simply couldn’t find anywhere else.
They Went Narrower and Deeper with Their Target Audience
By creating a unique sound that couldn’t be found elsewhere, The Grateful Dead wasn’t competing with other “popular” bands of its time. It was unique in an era where the Rolling Stones, Beatles and other bands ruled the music scene. The remarkable sound of the Dead resonated deeply with a niche target audience. Dead fans were a narrower group, but the band captured this target audience more fully instead of going broad and shallow against the myriad of other mainstream bands.
The Dead Ignored Market Assumptions and Made Tours the Main Revenue Driver
Finally, the Dead ignored some of the market assumptions of the music industry to create a revenue driver that worked for it. Most bands treated touring as a required but unpleasant means to drive album sales, with album sales meant to be the main revenue generator. The Grateful Dead completely destroyed this assumption by making concert tours the main revenue driver, even permitting concertgoers to tape concerts and distribute copies for free.
By focusing on the concerts, the Dead chose to invest in superior sound and lighting equipment, and created a unique experience for their audience. This experience went beyond the typical rock concert, and created fans that criss-crossed the country to follow the band and attend its concerts. Ultimately, this proved a success, as this strategy made them one of the highest-grossing bands of all time.
Take a few lessons from the marketing principals of The Grateful Dead. Ask yourself what rules in your industry can be rethought. Think about alternatives that can compete across market boundaries, and look at whether you’d be better off shrinking your market to increase profits from a more enthusiastic set of customers.