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In Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History, the authors discuss the band’s business strategies that apply to direct mail. They include:

1. Be authentic.
The Dead were simply themselves. Don’t hide behind scripted announcements and press releases. If your company has a quirky culture, get rid of the facade and show your true face through your brochures, catalogs and mailings.

2. Bypass accepted channels and go direct.
The Grateful Dead created their own ticketing office and offered the best seats to their most loyal fans. Use the mail to provide consumers with not just messages, but samples, personalized greetings and unexpected offers.

3. Rethink traditional assumptions.
In the 1960s, album sales were the primary revenue source for recording artists. The Grateful Dead focused on touring instead. Likewise, marketers should use mail frequently enough to find  new revenue streams, overlooked audiences and emerging trends.

4. Maintain a mailing list.
In the pre-Internet days, the Grateful Dead was one of the first bands to compile a mailing list, thereby building a community of fans. In today’s digital world, an over-reliance on e-mail addresses — which are often changed and/or discarded — can leave a marketer out of touch. A clean mailing list ensures you’re getting your message to the right people.

5. Mix your marketing.
While other bands performed the same music, the Grateful Dead always offered a new concert experience, mixing diverse genres with various music forms. So don’t be afraid to mix in dimensional mail, VDP, catalogs and other tools to keep your audience engaged.

6. Develop a network.
Fans at concerts were invited to “taper sections,” set up by the band, which created a network of engaged followers across the country. In the same vein, brands should consider using direct mail to pull audiences into contests, sweepstakes and other events designed to enhance the brand experience.

7. Offer free products.
While other bands were saying no, the Grateful Dead allowed fans to record their performances. This “free-mium” approach to marketing draws potential customers.

If you give something away that has value, it will lead to people making purchases from your company. The more you give away, the Grateful Dead has shown, the more people will want to buy. If they had conformed to ‘industry best practices,’ the Grateful Dead might be one of the thousands of bands on the dead heap of music history.

For information on creative direct mail and off-line marketing, contact Blue Hill Press.

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