By RIEVA LESONSKY
Two iconic female performers—Madonna and Lady Gaga—are hitting the road for tours this summer and fall. Madonna is the bestselling female recording artist of all time, and Gaga is close behind. As these two set out to rake in mega-millions of dollars, what can small business owners learn from them? These seven lessons prove invaluable for any business.
Start small. Carefully cultivated, a niche customer base can grow into something big. Both Gaga and Madonna started out performing in gay clubs, garnering the early support from the gay and dance music community. Then they used that foundation as a springboard to mainstream acceptance by reaching out to an influential teenage market.
Takeaway: Don’t abandon your loyal customers as you grow.
Image matters. Neither performer caught on with fans until they found their image. Gaga’s early style was more Jersey Shore than Versace; she dyed her hair blonde after people kept confusing her with singer Amy Winehouse. Madonna’s “boy toy” look set the style for legions of teenage girls, while Gaga’s outré outfits, from lobster hats to meat dresses, make her instantly memorable (and talked about) wherever she goes.
Takeaway: In today’s visual society (Instagram, Pinterest) your image has to stick in customers’ minds.
Reinvent yourself. Madonna gave up those rubber bracelets and belly shirts long ago to become a master of reinvention, with a new hair color, image and look for almost every album and tour. Gaga has yet to catch her here.
Takeaway: Evolving your business keeps your customers interested, attracts new “fans,” keeps you current—and makes news.
Be true to yourself. Reinvention doesn’t mean giving up what matters to your business. Both Gaga and Madonna use sexual imagery, criticize religious intolerance and support potentially controversial causes. While these tactics might turn off some potential fans, staying true to your values will win you more loyal fans in the end.
Takeaway: Don’t shock for shock value alone–it has to come from the heart.
Get social. Having emerged during the age of social media, Gaga has built a huge fan base online—more than 25 million Twitter followers and 51 million Facebook fans. Madonna doesn’t tweet and has “only” 9 million Facebook fans. Why the discrepancy? One look at Madonna’s Facebook page and you can tell someone else is posting for her—while Gaga’s page is unmistakably filled with posts from the Lady herself.
Takeaway: Authenticity matters.
Diversify. Madonna moved into acting and directing early on and has since added a dizzying number of business ventures, including apparel, publishing and even a chain of health clubs. Gaga recently announced the launch of her first fragrance.
Takeaway: Diversification is key to expansion, but make sure you move into areas that make sense for you.
Work hard. Both Madonna and Gaga are known for their hard-driving, perfectionist ways. They hold their teams to the highest standards as well. Both artists do everything required to make their vision come true for their fans and deliver an experience the audience will never forget.
Takeaway: Expect nothing less than the best from yourself and your team. This just might be the most important lesson of all.