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ALL BUSINESS IS SHOW BUSINESS
By SCOTT MCKAIN
Rutledge Hill PressCopyright © 2002 Scott McKain
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSETTING THE STAGE: YOUR BUSINESS IS SHOW BUSINESS
Not long ago, I experienced an incident that helped bring home to me the reality of today's marriage between entertainment and business. I returned to my hometown to present a lecture for an in-service meeting of the school's teachers and administrators. I have to admit that well before the program even started I was already feeling scared to death because sitting in the front row was one of my former elementary school teachers on whom I had a crush as a schoolboy.
I began my presentation with a very standard question that many speakers and authors ask to begin a lecture. "Let's start by having tell me," I said, "what your biggest problem is. That way we will make certain we touch upon your most significant challenges."
I thought I knew the answers these teachers were going to give: student discipline, lack of parental involvement, changing curriculum, and lack of funding. Imagine my surprise then when my former teacher raised her hand and declared, "Scott, I believe education's biggest problem today is Sesame Street."
My response to her answer was immediate and profound: "Huh?"
My former educator asked me then, "Scott, who taughtyou your ABCs?"
"Well, my mother and my grandmother."
"Of course," she said. "However, for the last thirty years, young people have been taught their ABCs by Big Bird and Bert and Ernie. That means they arrive on the steps of this school for their very first day of formal instruction expecting to be entertained as they are educated."
My elementary school teacher was still teaching me.
For the past three decades and more, at the most basic level, we have taught everyone in this culture that education-as well as everything else that is supposed to happen in life-is going to be entertaining. Whether we approve of this phenomenon or not doesn't really matter. Either way, the fact remains that this is our world's reality. Entertainment is an integral part of our learning and training from an early age. So it behooves us to understand exactly what entertainment does.
As we've already said, entertainment doesn't just make us laugh. It is not just about "fun," and it is certainly not superficial. Instead, entertainment is about establishing and communicating an emotional connection with a designated audience. As I stated earlier: The more powerful the connection, the greater the success.
In the past few years, my business partner Tim Durham and I have had the opportunity to find out if this way of doing business really works. With practically no money to start our company-and thanks to Tim's brilliant vision and management-our first-year revenues totaled about $50 million. We are now a publicly traded company with revenues approaching $100 million, and all the companies we own are operating profitably. We have proven with Obsidian Enterprises that this approach can work. You, too, can use this approach even if you are in businesses like ours that aren't exactly considered glamorous-companies that build trailers or recycle tires.
The "ALL Business Is Show Business" philosophy is not about spending more money and blowing out your budget. It's not about dressing up in funny costumes and playing silly games. It's not even about "entertaining" your customer in the way that many organizations think (for instance, taking them to dinners and sporting events). This philosophy is based on how you connect with the people who are most important to your business-your customers and colleagues. It's about understanding the need for high-touch solutions in a high-tech world. It's about realizing that relationships are more profitable than a mere sale.
RAISING THE BAR
The benchmark is rising in American business. A major new revolution is happening right now among customers and employees. Compare our current situation to what happened in the automobile business in the 1970s. Back then the Japanese car manufacturers revolutionized the automotive industry. Just about every study conducted at that time suggested that customers considered the Japanese product to be higher in quality than its American counterpart.
What happened next? Detroit went to work and re-engineered their cars to meet the new and higher customer demands. It did such a great job that customers came to say that American and foreign cars were approximately equal in terms of product quality.
At that point did the customer exclaim, "That's great! Just about every manufacturer now has a high quality product, so I won't ask for anything else"? Of course not. Instead, customers raised their level of expectations once again. Whether or not this is what automotive manufacturers wanted to happen is irrelevant. Their customers raised the benchmark for them. Customers next proclaimed, "I have a higher quality product. Now, I want better service!"
Service then became the name of the game in the automotive industry. This is when we started to see car dealers stay open later. (Some service bays even began to remain open until midnight!) I was fascinated when General Motors added roadside assistance to segments of their product line. If you run out of gas, and have a mobile phone, call them, and GM will bring gas to you. If you have a flat tire-even in your own driveway-they will come fix it! Not too many years ago it seemed that the only automotive manufacturers with a roadside assistance plan were Mercedes, Lexus, and Rolls Royce. Now you can get the same service on your GM car. This is clearly a revolution in the automotive business. Customer demands have successfully enhanced the level of service provided by the manufacturer and the dealership.
Is it reasonable to expect customers to stop raising their demands? Obviously, the answer is no. Are you willing to lower your demands when you are the customer?
Customers are assuming that you have a quality product and a modicum of good service; otherwise, you would probably have already fallen by the wayside. In today's world, these customers are taking product quality and service commitment for granted. Now, they are increasing their demands and raising the benchmark again. They are now saying: "Good is not good enough! If you want my business, amaze me! Knock me out! Make an emotional impression I won't forget." In other words, these customers, who were raised in a culture where they expected to be entertained as they were being educated, now expect to have an emotional connection as they are served, trained, and employed. The emotional bonding that we discussed earlier is the single most important element you can build into your professional relationships in today's marketplace. Unless you reorganize, redirect, and recast your efforts to attract this changing customer, your organization is nothing short of doomed.
In an issue of his Trend Letter, Megatrends author John Nesbitt said, "Want to sell, train, manage, motivate? First, you must entertain. In today's world of change, entertainment is now assumed to be an integral factor in everyday life." A recent article in the Harvard Business Review agrees: "The corporation is primarily a stage upon which you 'showcase' your bid for your customers, employees, and prospects."
The United States Chamber of Commerce, in its magazine Nation's Business, featured a cover story entitled "Entertailing." This new word is a combination of "entertainment" and "retailing." The essence of the article is that if you are not adding the factor of entertainment to your business, your organizational goose is beginning to cook. The article examines several businesses, especially a chain of music stores called MARS that have revolutionized the retail concept in the music industry through integrating entertainment into the experience of both employees and customers. By making MARS a fun place to be, musicians not only want to shop there-they want to work there as well! Loyal employees inspire customers to be loyal by providing an emotional connection that goes beyond mere products and services.
As I watched the luggage carousel spin around long after the last bag had been removed, I knew I was in trouble. A brokerage firm in Norfolk, Virginia, had asked me to speak to their high net worth clients. However, since the meeting was a Monday luncheon, I had traveled across the country in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. As I grasped the thought that my suitcase was nowhere to be found, I realized this was not the proper attire to address a meeting of multi-millionaires.
The woman at the airline baggage claim was cheery. "Don't worry," she told me, "we have another flight from Atlanta first thing tomorrow morning. Your bag will surely be on that flight." Equipping me with a small shaving kit of necessities, I departed for my hotel. The next morning, right on time, I was once again strategically stationed by the baggage carousel-and, once again, discovered that my luggage and I were taking separate vacations.
I was met with the same cheery response. "There's one more flight in an hour-it should be on that one." Keeping to myself the thought that the bag really should have been on the flight with me, I anxiously awaited the next flight from Atlanta. And, once again, I was disappointed.
Now, I was at a point of desperation. A room full of folks worth seven figures and more were going to convene in ninety minutes to hear me speak-and I needed a suit! Dashing to my rental car, the television commercial of Men's Wearhouse and their founder, George Zimmer, popped into my head. I called information from my cell phone and was connected with their downtown Norfolk store. A woman with a wonderfully pleasant voice answered-only to hear me immediately stammer that I needed help. "I have a speech in less than an hour and a half and my luggage has been lost. I need a suit, shirt, ties, shoes, underwear-everything! And I need to walk out of your store in an hour. Can you do it?"
Without hesitation, she immediately responded-just like the store's founder in his commercials-"Sir, I guarantee it!" Wow! Notice at this point, if Men's Wearhouse can do what she and the store's founder have claimed, they aren't merely excellent-they are amazing!
She said, "Sir, the only thing I need to know are your sizes-suit, shirt, shoes and so forth. We'll be ready." I gave her the requested information and sped to the store.
Sprinting in the front door, a well-dressed man standing next to a short woman said, "You must be Mr. McKain." Wiping the perspiration from my forehead with the sleeve of my sweatshirt, I smiled and asked, "What was your first clue?" I noticed he had two suits lying side-by-side, with shirts and ties strategically placed inside them. Both were great looking outfits.
"I didn't know if a navy suit or a charcoal suit would best compliment your current wardrobe, so I wanted to show you each in your size," he told me. The tiny woman next to him was introduced as the store's tailor. As soon as I could try things on, she would start altering the pants so that I could depart the store at the necessary time.
The service was nothing short of astonishing. I even bought an extra blazer that could go with the pants of my new charcoal suit in case the luggage remained missing an extra day. The suit, shirt, tie-even socks and shoes-were of the highest quality. In fact, I have to admit that I had never shopped Men's Wearhouse before because I assumed the clothes there were not of the style I could find, for example, at a Nordstrom. I was wrong. The materials and selection rivals any department store. However, the service at Men's Wearhouse makes an emotional connection that keeps customers coming back.
When I arrived on time for my speech, I smiled as I walked into the conference room because I received a couple of compliments on my suit. When it came time for my presentation, I began with the story of the local Men's Wearhouse.
Three points about why this is important to the "ALL Business is Show Business" philosophy that we will be discussing in this book:
Excellence isn't enough in today's business culture. I expect every store that sells men's clothes to have suits that will fit me, as well as a satisfying line of accessories. The amazing experience I received at Men's Wearhouse is what separated them from the pack of competitors in my view.
Amazed customers cannot wait to tell others about their experiences. I told several millionaires that very day. And, I'm telling you right now! This book will help you craft amazing experiences that will earn you the kind of "standing ovation" response I am giving Men's Wearhouse. There's no better way to build your business than have your customers help you.
Men's Wearhouse had never received any of my money prior to this experience because they had never connected with me on an emotional basis. It is important to note that emotional connections always precede economic ones in today's business culture. When they fulfilled my emotional needs-not merely my product requirements-they created not only a customer, but also a fan.
EFFICIENCY VS. EMOTIONAL PERSUASION
Ask yourself, "What is Nike's business?"
If you are from the old style of business thinking, you probably would say that Nike's business is the shoe business. But Nike understands that its business is not shoes-it is lifestyle.
Nike's fairly recent entry into the golf ball manufacturing business is an example. I would venture that most people who buy the Nike ball really aren't examining it with regards to whether it is a two-piece ball or wound; the materials of the core of the ball are interesting but not persuasive. Instead, you buy the Nike ball because you want to play like Tiger Woods; your emotional drive overtakes the product specifications. In today's marketplace, you can build the better mousetrap-or golf ball-and no one will care unless they are emotionally connected.
Other visionary organizations like Starbucks, Disney, and Microsoft understand this same realty. These organizations realize that a vast difference lies between being efficient and being persuasive.
An efficient advertisement that tells you factually what a movie is about does not move you to get up and go to the theater. A persuasive advertisement generates word-of-mouth, gets people talking about the product, and gets the seat of your pants into the seat of your local theater. It creates an emotional bonding between the movie (the product) and the audience (the customer). Show business understands that the only way to get you to spend money on a movie is to persuade you to go to the theatre and dole out your hard-earned cash.
The critical element in persuasion is the emotional connection between the persuader and the persuadee. Yet, what most organizations-and professionals-clearly lack is an understanding of the need for emotional connections in business, and the knowledge of how to create them.
I recently noticed in an issue of Delta Airlines' Sky magazine an article suggesting that more than 70 percent of companies believe that customer service has improved over the past five years. An equally high percentage of customers believe that service has declined. How can this be true?
Excerpted from ALL BUSINESS IS SHOW BUSINESS by SCOTT MCKAIN Copyright © 2002 by Scott McKain. Excerpted by permission.
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