3 Business Growth Lessons from Madonna

Written By Dave Lavinsky
Two men on top of a bar graph with one man helping the other man to cross from the lower bar to the higher bar

Modeling a business strategy after someone else’s prior success is typically a great idea.

Interestingly, these models of success can come from rather unexpected sources. While most people will turn to other businesses when looking for new ideas, the world of popular music can teach us quite a lot about business growth and sustainability.

Madonna, for example, has long been the undisputed queen of popular music. Whether you love or hate her music (or her), Madonna has proven to be more than a singer and dancer. She has a savvy business mind that’s supported a successful career spanning more than 30 years and an empire of music sales and merchandising valued at $500 Million. You have to admit, the Material Girl has had a good run.

Here are 3 powerful lessons we can learn from Madonna and use to create success in our own businesses:

1. Constant Reinvention

Madonna is well known for constantly reinventing herself and each album she releases has been different from the last. Reinvention has actually been one of the greatest signatures of her career and has allowed her to stay relevant in a constantly changing market.

As the industry matured, Madonna’s music and image have also changed in an effort to constantly bring her fans what they want.

The lesson: Staying relevant is extremely important for businesses of any size. Markets are always changing and a business that allows itself to lose its relevancy has been left behind. Stay in touch with your customers/audience and market evolutions.

2. Pushing the Boundaries

If Madonna is known for one thing it is pushing boundaries. She has been creating controversy throughout her career and much of this stems from her willingness to challenge commonly accepted notions. She created sexier songs with racier lyrics and began challenging what society saw as acceptable entertainment.

In fact, in 1990, when her music video Justify My Love was banned by MTV she packaged it as a single and sold it. This had never been done with a music video before. This innovative, bold, in-your-face move earned her millions in revenue when the video sold like hotcakes.

The lesson: Knowing how and when to push boundaries is an important skill for any business. Challenging accepted notions is often what leads to innovation. Those companies who have come to dominate their markets through innovation were always willing to push things a little further, to do what no other company had yet done.

Pushing boundaries can be a worrisome concept because innovation is almost always met with resistance but without risk there can be no reward.

3. Leverage Platforms & Distribution

Madonna is an impressive businesswoman and she has always understood the importance of leveraging existing platforms and distribution channels. In fact, part of the reason she rose to prominence so quickly is because she made highly effective use of the very young MTV platform. Here was a chance for her to access a vast consumer market in a unique and novel way. Her focus on high quality videos, filled with great music and alluring imagery, set her apart from the other musicians of the time.

The lesson: Madonna was far from being the first successful popular musician but she was one of the first to harness the new and highly effective market of music video television. Think of the iPad. While similar tablet technology came years before it, Apple was the first to package it in a unique style with functionality that appealed to consumers.

Business owners need to be vigilant in looking for new and emerging markets and platforms and then be assertive in establishing themselves in each one. As the market/platform grows in popularity, the prominence of the company also rises.

Like a Virgin

Madonna’s career can be a great example from which to draw a number of useful concepts. Her unique voice and readily identifiable fashion sense helped to establish her as a brand early in her career but she was never afraid to reinvent herself to remain relevant. The great impact she has had on the world of popular music comes from her desire to continually push boundaries, to challenge accepted notions and create something new and desirable.

Businesses can never stagnate; they must remain dynamic and able to change to meet the demands of a growing market. Schedule an hour of quiet time this week. You can do this alone, with your advisor, or your core leadership team. Consider these questions:

  • What have I been afraid to do in my business for fear or “rocking the boat” or being “too edgy?”
  • What new technologies, markets, product innovations, or unique services can I offer? How can I go beyond what currently is and create an appetite for a new product or solution?
  • Where can my company get head of others? What ideas do I have that I can validate and get to market before my competitors? What client needs can I solve before anyone else?
  • What established platforms or distribution channels are my target customers already using or buying from? How can I leverage them to get my product or service in front of these customers?

The answers can be powerful and open doors to opportunities. Remember, brainstorming and documenting ideas is great, but profit and growth only come from action.

Just like Madonna, be willing to take proactive, out-of-box, bold action.


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