Grain Surfboards Builds Success by Following the Grateful Dead

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead  |  Case Studies  |  Best Practices

Several days ago I wrote about how Grain Surfboards turned their products into an experience. Besides selling wooden surfboards, Grain Surfboards also offers classes in how to build your own board. I took the 4-day class this past long weekend.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that many of the team at Grain Surfboards are fans of the Grateful Dead, frequently listing to the band while they work.

What Every Business Can Learn from the Grateful Dead

MLGD_quoteIt got me thinking of the ideas in Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, my book written with HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan. Grain Surfboards applies many of the lessons we outline in the book:

Establish a New Category: While surfboards were originally made of solid wood a hundred or more years ago in Hawaii, the past 50 years or so brought machine made product such as polyurethane or polystyrene foam used in almost all new boards because it is a lighter material. Grain Surfboards pioneered the idea of applying boatbuilding techniques to surfboards to make a hollow wooden board that is light, beautiful, and eco-friendly. Just like the Grateful Dead establishing the jam band category of music, the pioneer often enjoys success.

Free Your Content: The biggest surprise to me is how Grain Surfboards shares their building process. You can buy a wooden surfboard kit that has everything you need including detailed plans. Or you can go to their shop like I did for a wooden surfboard building class and learn every step of the process. Grain Surfboards shares all their “secrets” to building wooden surfboards! This is a similar approach to the Grateful Dead who allowed fans to record concerts. The Dead said “sure, why not?” when other bands banned the recording of shows. In my work I see many companies hoarding their “secret” information. The success of the Grateful Dead and Grain Surfboards shows there’s a different way – share your work and spread your ideas as a result.

IMG_9401Build a Following: Through their Grain Surfboards Facebook page (10,000 likes) and @GrainSurfboards Instagram feed (28,000 followers), Grain Surfboards engages with fans and shares what’s new. In exchange fans spread their ideas like I’m doing right now.

Bring People on an Odyssey:  With traveling surfboard building workshops being offered in places like San Francisco (hometown of the Grateful Dead) and Portland, OR, Grain Surfboards is “on tour” bringing their experience to the people just like the Grateful Dead did with their constant concert tours.

Do What You Love: While I was at Grain Surfboards, the team was constantly looking at weather reports and real-time surf cams to see if they should drop the tools and go out for a surf. They clearly love what they do, just like members of the Grateful Dead who still tour with their own music projects 49 years after the band was formed.

A Grateful Dead Style Approach to Business

The team at Grain Surfboards does what comes naturally – create great surfboards and share their knowledge with fans. As a result they are building a great business.  

I’m looking forward to visiting Grain Surfboards again soon. Maybe I’ll build another board. Or maybe I’ll just hang out and listen to some Grateful Dead with likeminded business people.