Looking For Lessons in All the Weird Places

Few musical artists have made more money or had as long a career as Jimmy Buffet. I went “undercover” at Jimmy’s concert this month to uncover his secrets for you.

By 11:00 a.m. the parking lot was slammed. It was impossible to find a parking place … for an 8:00 p.m. show! Don’t worry about me; I was deep undercover, so I was there by 7:00 a.m. with the gas powered blender.

O.K., so I was deep undercover. I looked like a crazy Parrot Head, as Jimmy’s fans call themselves. But, it was all for you. Here is what I learned:

One of the most profound choices Jimmy has made in his business is to give his fans exactly what they want. Every album follows the same template: a couple of party songs, a sad story, a ballad and a couple of middle of the road songs. With rare exception, every song tells a story. About the 4th album he discovered the formula, and the template was cast. His concerts for the last 15 years always include eight specific songs, because those are the songs his fans want to hear.

Many artists get bored with what works. Certainly the music critics have blasted Jimmy’s simpleminded style. But that is the entire point–it isn’t simpleminded. It’s a deliberate choice to provide a target market with exactly what that market wants.

About his restaurants, Jimmy has said, “All people want is a good hamburger and a great margarita, and that’s what we give them.” Yes, it would have been a lot more interesting to create a restaurant with fancy dishes and gourmet meals; however, he understands what his market wants, and he provides it.

Jimmy became the leader of his first band because he was the only one responsible enough to have credit. With that credit he could buy the equipment, so that made him the leader. From then on, he understood that business smarts are required to make money at anything, including playing music.

After his records became popular, he noticed other people selling T-shirts with quotes from his songs on them. His copyrighted song lyrics. While he did make efforts to stop them, he figured if others were making and selling shirts, maybe he should create shirts, too. That’s how Jimmy’s current merchandising empire was born.

Now he manufactures, sells and licenses his song lyrics, images and Margaritaville trademarks and sells thousands of products. These include flip flops, frozen shrimp, blenders, glassware, auto accessories, plush toys–you name it.

Jimmy has proven there is no end to customers’ willingness to buy, once they have bought into you. How can you leverage your relationship with your customers? Are there additional ways you can recruit others to create products and services for your customers that you can license and make a profit from? Your customers are buying products from someone; it might as well be you.

I asked Parrot Heads at the concert what Jimmy’s life was like. They told me he flies his planes around, lies in a hammock at the beach and parties every night. Fact is, Jimmy is busy working. He has music to produce, shows to create and a licensing business to oversee. However, all of these sales depend on him perpetuating the myth that he lives at the beach and sleeps in a hammock.

Of course, Jimmy did live in Key West and had his share of fun. But, while he lived there he supported himself by working on a fishing boat. Then, to build his music career, he sang in local bar, grabbed some sleep and started all over again. His experience was not as romantic as it is publicly portrayed.

The myth is Jimmy enjoys a life of leisure. He does enjoy his life, but it’s because he’s working hard at something he loves. When you are giving people what they want and they praise you for it, it makes work a lot of fun.

Take time to enjoy the fruits of your business, but more importantly, enjoy the work. You have the opportunity to positively impact thousands of people with the business you create. Thousands of people who will gladly support you in style if you do it right. You have a rare opportunity to escape to the good life of entrepreneurship.

[Ed. Note. Robert Skrob, an author of three books including theOfficial Get Rich Guide to Information Marketing published by Entrepreneur Press. You can reach Robert and find out more about his book at www.InfoMarketingBook.com.