When growing your business, you often find that help appears in unexpected places. When I started Manhead Merchandise, nearly by accident in the mid-90s, we had two bands we worked with and very little vision for the future. But every company has to start somewhere, and one of the best decisions we made was to adapt our business plan and attempt to emulate the way our clients connected with fans.
Fall Out Boy burst on the scene in 2005 and, 11 years later, are still a hugely popular band worldwide. While their longevity in the music industry is certainly a testament to the music they make, part of their continued relevance is due to their phenomenal branding and fan engagement strategies. There are many tips, techniques, and anecdotal ideas business owners can learn from Fall Out Boy, including bringing a new approach to customer relations while learning how to scale without losing that personal feel. While our relationship with the band helped us sell merchandise, they also taught us some valuable lessons on how to run an effective business.
Personalize and engage.
Over the years working closely with Fall Out Boy, we began to notice they were exceptional at creating extremely loyal fans. Of course from a business perspective, attracting “fans” (i.e. customers) is the highest priority no matter the industry. At Manhead, we tried to mix the Fall Out Boy culture with the business side of things. Personalized store fronts and pop-up shops that sell merch with exclusive designs are just a few ways we connected with fans. Knowing who your customers are and personalizing your business for them will make their experience that much more special.
Look to innovation.
A great way to get ahead in the business environment is to be constantly innovating. Whether it’s looking at an established practice in a new way or producing a completely new idea that revolutionizes the industry, you can’t let your ideas become stale. You should frequently be asking yourself, “Where can we go from here?” When Manhead brought the idea to Fall Out Boy, they recognized that there was an opportunity to bring the fans something new and exciting. We partnered with Yoshirt to offer a new concert merchandise opportunity. The band took a selfie with the crowd at every show in their most recent tour, which was then used to create custom, venue specific T-shirts. Look to make some noise in your respective industry, whether through collaboration with a new business partner or by developing a team to come up with a new product.
Identify and adapt to new technologies.
If you are reacting to a new technology after it has already taken over, you’re already too late. Most businesses these days are heavily intertwined with the growth of technology so make sure that your company is taking advantage of all the opportunities available. Even in the merchandise industry, tech companies like Sidestep and atVenu have entered into the fold. Don’t be afraid to venture into a market that you might be unfamiliar with.
Don’t forget your own roots.
Never allow growth and popularity to change the way you run your business. Customers react positively to actions that give back to the same community that helped support a company during its inception. In the merchandise business, that might mean identifying long time loyal fans and creating special products and experiences for them. In other industries, it might be a good move to help fund charitable organizations that operated near company headquarters. Going above and beyond what is expected of you is a great way to keep customers satisfied.
Fall back to the fundamentals.
Fall Out Boy has successfully surrounded themselves with a team of skilled managers and technical people who compliment their skill sets. As companies grow, business leaders often get swept up in the growth and start to stray from fundamental business practices. There are many companies that are too top heavy (ideas) or bottom heavy (admin) but don’t have the right mix of the two, which can be a company killer. Remember, it’s always OK to understand what you are not good at and surround yourself with a team that creates the complete package to take your business to the next level.
There is a lot to be said about doing your due diligence to dive into your clients’ industries and business model to see what has been successful in their approach and might be successful in your own business growth. This can benefit your business by introducing you to new ideas that you hadn’t thought of before. A single client, like Fall Out Boy, can completely change the way a company interacts and performs in an industry.