Six Takeaways from Disney’s Model of Success by Jae-ann Rock

Posted on Feb 17, 2015 in Archive

Originally known for its animated films and theme parks, The Walt Disney Company has developed into a “Diversified international family entertainment and media enterprise.” Today, with more than $46B in annual sales, 175,000 employees worldwide, and five mammoth business segments, Disney is considered one of the most valuable brands on the planet.

So, what practical strategies can we learn from Disney’s success to positively impact our own sales and marketing efforts?

  • First, know this: Disney’s success did NOT happen by chance.

Only by constantly innovating and pushing the boundaries, has Disney developed into a full entertainment experience company. They constantly seek new and creative business opportunities to create customer demand that continues to drive growth. In recent years, new Disney business pursuits have included live entertainment (e.g. theater and ESPN sports), cruise liners, and full residential communities such as Celebration, Florida. 

Such innovation allows Disney to continue to provide innovative value to the market. As a result, Disney is not only able to maximize sales from its current customer base, but it also continues to attract new customers every year, further bolstering its success.

So – what practical ideas or strategies can we take from this? Below are several real-world concepts to consider adopting in your own business. (As you read them, choose one or two you can implement over the next several months to directly impact your sales results.)

1. Sell more to your current customers

It is much easier to upsell existing customers than to attempt to secure new ones. Disney knows this, and uses every opportunity to sell you more when you’re in the Disney parks – from countless gift shops, to Disney timeshare offerings – they seizes every chance to up-sell and cross-sell their current customers. Once you return home, cool customized direct mail pieces begin to arrive in your mailbox, encouraging you to “build your next Disney family vacation”. Smart. Very smart.

  • Challenge: How can you apply this concept to your business? Can you expand your offering to meet new market demand? How do you engage your current customers to learn what they want or need? How do you meet that demand by providing them with additional products or services? Your current customers are ready-made “warm prospects,” prepared to buy your next offering, add-on product, or service. Find out what they desire. Seize this opportunity to present them with additional choices to buy more from you.

2. Always improve and add to your offerings

“Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.”  – Walt Disney

Even back in the 1950’s, Walt Disney knew change and innovation had to be central to the growth of his business. Of course, by releasing animated feature films every year or two, Disney has created an ongoing, steady flow of customers. Their films are the entry point for thousands of up-sell and cross-sell opportunities via their merchandising products, home videos, music, theme parks, live theatrical productions, and computer games.

To this day, Disney continues to innovate to meet customer demand, all under the umbrella of creating a “diversified family entertainment” business. They never stand still. (Just last week, Disney Publishing Worldwide announced their release of “Mickey’s Magical Arts World,” an app for children to explore creative arts using curriculum-based tools.)

  • Challenge: Are you constantly providing new or improved offerings to your current clients?  Even if you are a small or mid-sized company, what new market demand can you respond to by offering additional products or services to meet their changing needs? How can you make your customers’ lives easier?

DO NOT STAND STILL. Do not become complacent in your business. Do not think that what you did last year will be enough to keep your clients happy this year.

Remember, your competition is not standing still either. They are always looking for ways to better serve the market. You must work to stay ahead of the game or your competitors will beat you out.  How can you continue to differentiate yourself from your competitors? How can you expand your offerings, while continuing to provide unique value to the market? Know what your customers want and find ways to rise to meet that demand.

3. Make it easy to do business with you

This may sound like a no-brainer, but consider how Disney continues to creatively meet this challenge…

Disney recently launched an ingenious new technology, called the MagicBand, making it amazingly easy to do business with them. By wearing a MagicBand bracelet, embedded with radio frequency (RF) technology, Disney resort guests can simply touch their wristband to touch-points throughout Disney locations to perform a variety of functions including: gain access to their resort hotel room or theme parks, charge meals and merchandise, and make reservations for rides, meals, entertainment and more. How easy is that? 

Customers no longer need to carry cash or credit cards while walking around Disney parks and resort properties. By creating a safe, secure, and amazingly easy way for guests to spend to their hearts’ content, Disney has made it seriously easy to buy from them.

  • Challenge: How easy do you make it for your clients to buy from you? Are there any hurdles clients must jump over to implement your product or service? Or, do you clear the path for them, removing all obstacles to their success?

You should always work hard to make it EASY for customers to do business with you…  And remember, if you don’t make it easy, your competitors will. So, stay ahead of the curve. Ask your customers how you can make things simpler for them. Create a customer satisfaction survey to capture feedback, “If there was one thing you could change about doing business with us, what would that be?” Then implement changes based on your findings. Always be thinking, “How can we make it easier for our customers to do business with us?”

4. Stay top of mind. 

Undeniably, Disney has an amazing marketing machine, seeking to pull you back into the next “experience” time and again. Disney’s promotional marketing team works hard to keep their company top-of-mind throughout the year. And, guess what? It works.

  • Challenge: Do YOU stay in touch with your customers regularly?  Do you schedule regular customer service calls to check in and see how things are going?  Stay in touch, providing value-added products and services to further meet their changing needs. Don’t sell your customers and then disappear. The “set it and forget it” attitude toward customers will not result in business growth.

Always seek to understand their ongoing needs and rise to meet those requests with products or services within your market niche. Find reasons to stay in close touch with your customers throughout the year. Regularly provide value-added insights via a newsletter or blog. Send curriculum based, educational content to stay in touch with them. Offer free webinars, providing informative industry trends or best practice tips and ideas to help improve their business.

That’s how you create repeat business, while identifying new customer needs and opportunities. But, you must work to continue to pull your customer back in – time and time again. It doesn’t happen by accident. You must plan for it. Prepare for it. You must make it happen.

5. Collect and analyze key business data.

Disney has this down to a science, from tracking time-of-day and seasonal park attendance levels, to analyzing marketing response rates. Their marketing team is continuously testing and tracking promotions, merchandising techniques and results.

But, it’s not just tracking the data that’s important; it’s what they DO with the data to inform business strategy that is paramount. For example, by collecting park attendance data, Disney offers special resort rates and free meal packages during slower seasons to increase park attendance, thereby leveling out seasonal fluctuations.

  • Challenge: What data do you track in your business? What data do you capture to make improvements in your customer’s experience? How do you use that information? What should you be tracking? How will that inform business strategy? It’s not enough to just collect the data… How do you USE that data to improve your business?

6. Expand your market

Disney theme parks first opened in California and Florida, attracting visitors from around the globe. In recent years Disney has expanded geographically, opening new parks in Paris, Tokyo, and Hong Kong to meet increased global demand.

  • Challenge: While you may not need to consider expanding geographically, how can you apply this concept to your business? Are your service offerings broad enough to meet your clients’ needs? Can you cast a wider net, while continuing to provide unique value to the market you serve? What new market needs might you address, while still providing services within your area of specialty? Can you innovate to create new market demand?

There are endless lessons we can learn from Disney’s success, and volumes of books have written about it.

In my view, it all boils down to one simple, but challenging concept: Never stand still.

By continuing to innovate and exceed customers’ expectations, you will be able to maximize your current customers and attract new ones, to grow your business well into the future.

  • Challenge: Select one or two tips from the list above to focus on over the next few months. Where is the low-hanging fruit in your business? Which of these strategies will provide the greatest return on your investment of time to make it happen?

– How will you make the customer #1 in your business?
– How will you keep them coming back for more?
– Think ahead in your business. Stay ahead of the competition. Never stand still… What does this mean in YOUR business?

And, when you’re ready to ramp up your sales and marketing efforts, contact Mentor Tech Group.  We have the corporate training & HR decision makers you need to grow your business.

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