Sell More Stuff: Take A Lesson From The Rolling Stones

May 25, 2016

What can we learn from The Rolling Stones? If you’re a fan, you know that the Stones created an enduring brand. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find business lessons with powerful and long-term implications.

As usual, you’re wondering where is he going with this one and what does this have to do with my business? There is, as you will see, a lot to learn from the Stones.

There is a new book by Rich Cohen, “The Sun & The Moon & The Rolling Stones.”  Recently Mr. Cohen wrote an article in The Wall Street Journal, “The Rolling Stones’ Guide to Business Success.” He highlighted the five key strategies which drove their success. You should read the article and maybe the book too. It will help you understand the broader implications of how and why they made these decisions.

Let’s look at the strategies and see how we can apply them in vending, foodservice, micro-markets and OCS.

  1. Choose the right name. “The band was originally called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys,” according to Cohen. Look at your brand and its origins. Are you capitalizing on your brand and what it means to your customers?
  2. Know what the market wants from you. The Stones differentiated themselves versus what the Beatles were doing. This was one of the most important decisions they made.
    Can you apply this to your business? Have you made your product line-up, merchandising, pricing and promotion different from your competition? Probably not.
    Now think about the best convenience stores in your area. They’re focused on differentiating, especially their food offering. It’s not easy for you to compete with fresh-made sandwiches and salads. But, c-stores sell lots of pre-packaged (usually commissary prepared) food. They’re winning with unique items, appealing packaging, in-store marketing, merchandising and promotion.
    There are three lessons here. (1) Work on improving every aspect of your food menu – recipes, packaging, merchandising and more. (2) Get out of your office and have breakfast, lunch and snacks at c-stores near the locations you serve. (3) You must do research to see what the shoppers at your locations want from you. Try it informally by observing in-person and speaking with people who actually buy what you sell. Be sure your company is active in social media. Engage and connect with your shoppers to develop a long-term connection.
  3. Beg, borrow, steal. This is my personal favorite. It relates directly to point #2 above. See what is going on in other venues – products, merchandising, promotion, etc. Figure out how to adapt what you learn in your business.
  4. Cut the anchor before it drags you down. You’re managing two dimensions – where you do business and what you’re selling. (1) Study the results and data from the locations you serve. Are there accounts you should fire? Does it cost too much (financially and in aggravation) to serve those locations? Either renegotiate the deal or give notice that you’re ending the relationship. (2) Thoroughly reassess the products you’re selling. You must be merciless in cutting out products when they don’t make the cut. The key measures are penny profit per unit sold and total units sold. Run a product review at least twice a year – better yet every quarter. But be careful, because it’s more complex than you might think.
  5. Never stop reinventing. Cohen writes, “The Stones have gone through at least five stylistic iterations: cover band, ’60s pop, ’60s acid, ’70s groove, ’80s new wave. At some point, they lost that elasticity and ability to reinvent — they got old — but the fact that they did it so well for so long explains their inexhaustible relevance. The Stones have lived and died and been reborn again and again.” If you take away only one lesson, it is to “never stop reinventing” every aspect of your business. If you’re keeping only one of the Stones’ strategies, this is the one to keep. 

The next time you hear a familiar Stones’ song, you might recall where you were when you first heard it. Maybe you’ll be prompted to think about The Rolling Stones as great business strategists.