What Would Springsteen Do?

Bruce live at Aaron's Ampitheater in Atlanta on April 26, 2014.

Bruce live at Aaron’s Ampitheater in Atlanta on April 26, 2014.

One of universal truths is that it’s easier to grow your business organically with existing customers than to constantly acquire new customers. Everyone seems to know this. But most companies still spend the majority of their time and resources generating new business.

When I used to work in the advertising world, we called new business, “the lifeblood of the agency”. Working on existing client accounts was considered boring. It was all about the thrill of the pitch.  That’s where the best talent and the best thinking was focused.

But, the reality is that it’s easier and cheaper to get more business from your current customers than to constantly chase new customers.

In a recent team meeting, I stressed the importance of customer retention and creating “raving fans”.  To illustrate my point, I played my team a segment from the movie Springsteen & I. It’s a great documentary that’s all about the special connection between Bruce Springstreen and his fans. You can watch the trailer below.

If you don’t follow Springsteen and have never been to a show, you would probably watch the documentary and think these fans are just crazy.  As a lifelong Springsteen fan who has seen 18 live shows, I’d probably put myself in the “mildly obsessed” category.

Whether or not you like Springsteen, you have to appreciate the connection he has with his fans that span generations. At a recent show I attended in Atlanta, there were an equal number of people over 50 and under 50. And I have special respect for the Dads with really young kids (7 and under) who held them on their shoulders for the entire 3 hour show. It made my back hurt watching them.

Bruce Selfie

Bruce Selfie

But, the question you have to ask yourself is why are all these people such rabid fans?  What does Bruce do to garner such loyalty?  Why has Burce endured so many years while most of his contemporaries have faded away?

And the most important question as it pertains to this blog: what can businesses learn from this?

Well, here are a couple of thoughts on how you can “Springsteen-ify” your business:

1) Always exceed expectations

One thing that is amazing about Bruce is how long he plays and the energy he brings to every show. I saw him play in Philly in 2013.  He played for about 3 hours and 45 minutes in the summer heat.  It was amazing.  When Burce finished the show, he was completely drenched with sweat.  You can see that he didn’t have much left in the tank.  He had left it all on the stage and the audience appreciated every second of it.

Springsteen does a little crowd surfing

Springsteen does a little crowd surfing

When it comes to your business, this is a great lesson.  You have to ask yourself, is your brand leaving it all on the stage?  In other words, is your brand doing everything it can for your customers?  Is your brand going the extra mile?  Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference.  If you sign on a new customer, send that person a hand written thank you note.  Include some premium items with your company logo. Check in with your customer from time to time to make sure he or she is satisfied with the product. If there’s an issue, go above and beyond to resolve it quickly. Send a thank you gift after the customer has been with you for a year.  There are a million things you can do. Just make sure you do something. That will separate you from the competition and help you keep customers longer.

2) Keep surprising the crowd

One of the amazing things about Bruce is that he basically plays a different show every night.  On his most recent tour, he played 182 different songs over the course of only 34 shows.  Most music industry experts say that’s unheard of.

You never know what he’s going to play. When I saw him last month in Atlanta, he started the concert saying, “I’m in a River kind of mood”. Then he proceeded to play 7 songs from that album.  You can see the complete setlist here.  For the hard core fans, it was just awesome. You can see a clip I shot at the show below.

For businesses, this is another good lesson.  Are you just playing the same setlist every night?  If so, you might be boring your audience.  Find ways surprise and delight your customers.  Maybe it’s a surprising new feature in your product or a special offer so compelling your prospect will have to call to find out more.  In this cluttered advertising world, surprising your customers is a way for your message to breakthrough.

3) Keep it fresh

Bruce started his career in the 60s.  Yet he keeps finding ways to reinvent himself and his music.  His last two albums were produced by Tom Morello, the former lead singer from Rage Against the Machine.  Tom has brought more of a contemporary edge to Bruce’s music and has added some amazing guitar solos.  This has kept Bruce current and relevant through the years.  It has also helped him build a multi-generational fan base of old and young fans.  Check out Tom Morello’s crazy guitar solo on the Springsteen classic Ghost of Tom Joad below.

Brands also have to think about keeping it fresh to keep customers engaged.  You have to continuously look at your logo, packaging, website and any other customer touchpoints to make sure they don’t look stale.  You also have to try using new media and technologies to stay relevant to your customers.

4) Love on your fans

There’s a clear and profound emotional connection you feel between Bruce and his fans when you’re at the show.  If you ever want to see a grown man cry, take a look across the audience when he plays Thunder Road.  Bruce does things during a show that creates connections.  People bring signs to concerts with song requests and he’ll usually play several of them during the show.  He crowd surfs.  He’ll run around the arena slapping hands.  He pulls young kids on the stage during Dancing in the Dark.  At the recent show in Atlanta, my friend brought his 8 year old son.  At one point, Bruce went over and touselled his son’s hair.  My friend said it was one of the top 5 moments of his life. You can watch it below.

If your company wants to create raving fans, you have to think about ways to connect with your customers on a more emotional level.  You don’t want your customers to “have to work with you”.  You want them to “want to work with you”.  Or even to “like to work with you”.  Ask yourself this question: Do you ever show your customers how much you appreciate them?

Showing appreciation doesn’t have to be expensive.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a personal call to say “thank you”.  Maybe you have a customer who could save some money if he moved to a different plan that you offer.  While this won’t help your short term revenue, it will help create a connection and help you keep that customer for life. Do you know your customer’s favorite sports team? Send him some sports memorabilia or email congratulations when his team wins.

So, as your thinking about how to build your business and generate revenue, take a look at your base of customers and ask yourself, “What would Springsteen do?”

And now, let’s hear a little Born to Run.

One Comment on “What Would Springsteen Do?


%d bloggers like this: