I was devastated to hear about David Bowie’s death. In fact to begin with I simply didn’t believe it, thinking instead that it was just another creative reinvention whereby he had killed himself off in the same way he did with Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and the Thin White Duke.
But, well, it’s true. And tens of thousands of words have already been written, and spoken, about his creative input and his legacy. I’m not going to add to those, except to say that I was, and still am, a Bowie fan. The first Bowie album I ever had was Hunky Dory, on cassette tape, back in 1972. I was a student at West Surrey College of Art and Design at the time, and Bowie’s music, and his strange persona, captured my imagination. I played that tape over and over again until it broke.
Looking back at how he started and where he came from, it seems to me that many small businesses could follow his example. There are tens of thousands of them in the UK alone. Many are one-man-bands, run by people who are damned good at what they do. A few of them are very good at promoting themselves too. But the truth is that most aren’t. For them, promotion is scary.
Bowie became a master of the art of self-promotion. He developed a stunning ability for it as his self-confidence grew. It helped, of course, that he had real talent, even at a young age. But he knew that that alone wasn’t enough. It never is. He realised that to become the pop star he wanted to be, he had to be different. And he was.
Now I’m not suggesting that if you’re an electrician just starting out you should paint a Bowie-esque lightning bolt across your face (but then maybe that’s not such a bad idea). But to be successful you are going to have to get noticed.
Somehow you’ve got to find a way of cutting through the noise and babble of all the generic ‘me too’ marketing messages that bombard every one of us a thousand times a day.
If you want to tick along, earn a living and pay the bills, you can. That’s pretty easy. And it’s fine if it’s what you want.
But if you’re more ambitious you’re going to have to think laterally, grasp the nettle and be prepared to genuinely differentiate yourself. A logo, business card and website won’t be enough.
You’re going to have to start thinking of yourself like Bowie did. He knew he would never appeal to everybody so he didn’t even try. He simply targeted a segment of society that he thought he could speak to. It happened to include me, and millions more like me.
So what am I getting at? Well if you’re not finding the customers you really want, or are struggling to promote yourself or your business effectively, maybe it’s time to step back and take a few tips from Bowie. Perhaps you should make some ch-ch-changes.
It will take some effort and single-mindedness but you never know where it could take you. And I might be able to help.