Do what you love in service of people you love

The headline paraphrases author Steve Farber’s core message as he talks about the power of love in business. It’s a perfect segue to this final column in our look at the seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands in the world.

For Walt, the other six beliefs all work in service of the final one – never forget who you serve and why you matter to them. Walt loved delighting children of all ages, and he believed he could help them go on adventures together – through his movies, his theme parks and the stories he told. Those adventures became treasured memories that brought and bound people together.

That’s why he did what he did. It fueled him. It inspired him. And it paved the way to his success.

Just a reminder, here are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you need to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

Having clarity about who you serve and how you help them gives everyone in the organization a true north. If everyone on your team understands why your work matters to your customer, they’ll be inspired to deliver against that promise. Or they shouldn’t be working there.

From a marketing perspective, we’ve always known that understanding your audience was important. But we tend to understand them through the lens of data and numbers. X% of people prefer our XYZ package over the others. Our buyers are typically 37-53, and 68% of them are female. It’s hard to be fired up to serve a demographic.

How did Walt keep his audience a little closer to his heart? How can we make sure we’re connecting at an emotional level with our clients so we truly can love being in service of them?

We all think of testimonials as an external marketing tactic. We know that hearing other people’s experiences reassures a potential customer and often accelerates the buying cycle. But have you ever considered creating customer testimonials or interviews for internal purposes? Imagine if every week at your all-team meeting, you showed a video of a client talking about the work you do and what it means to them. Not outcomes or deliverables but the fact that you relieve their worries or fire them up or helped them get healthy, so they had the stamina to play with their kids. Underneath every deliverable is a person with a story.

Those stories can remind your team why they work so hard and why their work matters. Helping your team understand the impact of their efforts is incredibly powerful internal marketing. It’s effective for employee retention and for inspiring moments of delight for your customers.

Walt would tell stories to his team about the families he met in Disneyland and how they had saved for several years for that one day of magic. He inspired everyone, from the person sweeping up popcorn from the sidewalk to the VP of guest relations, to take their work and their customers very personally. When it’s personal, we deliver at a whole new level. Some of the most fundamental marketing we can ever do is to help our team see how personal their work really is.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.