The Marketing and Sales Genius of Howard Stern: Business Lessons from a Shock Jock

No, I am not crazy and yes I am talking about the well known shock jock known for his outrageous radio show. Howard Stern is a genius for many reasons and they all apply to how you can succeed as a salesperson, manager and entrepreneur.


Let’s examine several of the reasons and the lessons that can be learned. First of all, lesson number one in business is to never be boring. Although, you may not agree with Howard Stern’s humor or persona, he certainly isn’t boring and that not only attracts people, it keeps people listening who say they might not like him or his show. I liken it to the train wreck theory. People may say they are horrified by something but it does not keep them from paying attention to it.


One of the lessons to writing good advertising copy is in having a great headline. Ninety percent of the effectiveness of a good sales letter can be traced to an attractive headline. If someone is not drawn in by the headline then they certainly won’t read the rest of the letter. The same rule applies to having an effective meet and greet when you first come in contact with a potential customer. Your potential customers are going to make instant and lasting judgments about you. You have to get someone’s attention, stand out from the crowd and give a compelling reason for someone to keep paying attention. Howard Stern gets attention and keeps people listening.


Secondly, be contrarian. The world is full of what I call “me too’s.” Decide who you are and be that person or business. Don’t look at everyone else and copy what they are doing. The masses are not successful and copying others just makes you another faceless entity. The fact is that you stand a much greater chance of being successful if you do exactly the opposite of the masses. Be somebody, do something and be newsworthy in doing it. Don’t be a copycat. Howard Stern stands out and goes against the grain of what everyone else is doing in radio and therefore has created a category of one.


Next you should declare who you are and who you want to be. Don’t wait for some magic person or media to anoint you or certify that you are something. Howard Stern declared himself the ‘King of All Media” and that was when he was almost solely known for his radio show. Because Mr. Stern was willing to decide what he wanted, declare and then shout it from the rooftops people started to accept it and treat him as the king of all media. Suddenly, Howard Stern was in movies, TV, CD’s and multiple different forms of media that he was either not in or was not even being considered for by industry people in those particular media forms. Who do you want to be? Decide and declare it. I have a saying, “You are who you decide to be in any given moment. It does not take money, fame, education, connections, other people or any other excuse that you might presently be sabotaging yourself by using as an excuse to keep you or your business from being what you want.


Another essential element of success is to create a following. Make you and your business personable. The more personable you are and the more you communicate that in an endearing and enduring fashion the greater following you will create. If you have customer that have not heard from you in some fashion for eighteen months then it is as if they never did business with you. You are forgotten and all the hard work that went into creating a customer and potential follower is gone. Most people work so hard on getting new customers that they ignore the customer’s they have. You must move your customers from being customers to being followers and fans.  Howard Stern works very hard at creating consistent followers and then creates fans from his followers.


Howard Stern’s radio show is like a radio soap opera with real live stories involving him and his co-stars. Each person on the show opens themselves up in a personal way that invites the listeners into very private view of their lives. The listeners feel connected because they can relate to what’s going on in their world. The Stern Show was reality radio before there was reality TV.  Don’t be afraid to show some warts and be personal with your customers, they will connect with you on a deeper level and trust you more for talking about the so-called “elephant in the room” that nobody would mention. Be vulnerable and people will let you in; act perfect and people will shun you. Nobody can relate to perfection.


There are clues to success and you can find them all over. Often the best places to look are in places most would not look. Somehow I doubt that MBA classes are being taught today about the marketing and sales genius of the Howard Stern Show. The reality there is probably more lessons to be learned in listening to two hours of Howard Stern than taking two hours of an MBA class. Who knew you could learn so much about business from a so-called shock jock.

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