What Johnny Cash Can Teach You About Breakthrough Business Connections

February 25th, 2011 by | Print

You don’t have to be struggling as a solopreneur pursuing a dream as a country artist to learn a lesson or two from the original Man in Black.

Whether you’re teaching people about the latest in social media strategies or transforming people’s lives as a small business coach, there are lessons for you to learn from Johnny Cash’s life story if you want to successful expand into new markets.

Especially if you’ve had some success and then saw a drop off in business. Chances are that you’ve been a little frustrated thinking up new products and services for your ideal customers, only to come to the conclusion that maybe you should start talking to a new group of prospects.

If you aren’t familiar with Johnny Cash, the country legend, let me run down a couple of quick facts about his career:

  1. He had hits on both the country and pop charts. Few artists at that time had the same cross-over appeal.
  2. Worked with and admired by some of the other top people in the business (and not just in country music) … from the King, to Jerry Lee Lewis, to Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, U2, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and many more
  3. This is the man that penned and performed “I Walk the Line”, “Ring of Fire” and “A Boy Name Sue”.
  4. He had his own TV show, appeared on many other shows and in movies.
  5. In 1980, he was the youngest living person ever inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame at the time.

Sounds like a great resume full of experience and credibility. Not bad for a guy who started working in cotton fields at the age of 5. Who wouldn’t want the same claims within their industry?

However, soon after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Columbia Records released him from his contract. Following that, he had a short, unsuccessful stint with Mercury Records.

Suddenly, this man that had accumulated such momentum, such fame, was struggling to get any attention. It would have been easy for him to disappear.

But instead of walking away on the industry that turned its back on him, Johnny decided to take his passion and his talents to a new market that new very little of him.

Don’t kid yourself, just because he had the fame doesn’t mean that a new market was ready to accept him. The industry that made him rich and famous and had inducted him into their hall of fame threw him out.

Since he couldn’t rely on his own name and his previous fame, he had to borrow someone else’s credibility.

This is when Johnny made the jump to work with Rick Ruben and American Recordings … a big stretch considering that Rick’s label focused on rap and hard rock. Not exactly friendly territory for a guy considered by many as a country music has-been.

His first album with American had him singing cover songs of other contemporary artists, ultimately winning Cash a Grammy. This was an excellent way for Johnny to get introduced to a fan base that knew little of him. By getting the rap and hard rock cred by Rick Ruben and by belting out favorite tunes from other artists, suddenly a whole new market took notice of him.

From there, his career went to a whole new high.

So what’s all this have to do with you, solopreneur?

If you find that you are having a hard time breaking into a new market, take a look at the people that hold influence over your desired target audience and see what you can do to leverage their credibility. This works whether you’re an establish pro or a start-up.

You have to find the benefit that you can bring those people of influence. Obviously, they aren’t going to lend their credibility to anyone. However, if you have a special talent … a product or a service … that can be of benefit to them, give it away. The payoff in credibility and instant visibility to a group of ideal customers can have you singing all the way to the bank.

All the Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


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