Business & Popcorn: 5 Business Savvy Tips from the Movies

Never again will I feel guilty blowing off a whole day’s worth of work to lay on the couch and watch three or four movies in a row. Why? Because I’ve discovered the perfect way to truly mix business and pleasure!

After a thorough investigation, I’ve compiled a list of the top five most valuable movie quotes for small businesses and small business owners. As obvious as some may seem, they manifest many basic principles of business that are often overlooked as a result of our hectic day-to-day routines.

“Show me the money! SHOW! ME! THE MOOONAAYYY!”Jerry MaGuire (1996)

Lesson: Easy concept here: Cash flow is everything, so do what you must to reap in profits. After all, that’s what business growth is all about, right? Right?

Wrong! Disregard that quote (although it’s the most memorable quote from the movie, I mentioned it for kicks). The real lesson lies within Jerry’s infamous speech about his mission statement: “We are losing our battle with all that is personal and real about our business. Every day I can look at a list of phone calls only partially returned. Driving home, I think of what was not accomplished, instead of what was accomplished.”

The real lesson: Your business strategy shouldn’t be to grow solely for the sake of growth. Focus on the details of your customer service.  Establish personal relationships that matter and then go above and beyond the call of duty for each and every customer. After all, it should be satisfied customers that leave you with the greatest feeling of accomplishment at the end of the every day.

“The name’s Bond…James Bond.” James Bond, 007 Series

Lesson: Image is everything and Bond is a brand. For Bond, his reputation as a business savvy, tuxedo clad secret agent will forever be embedded in our minds. Why? Because Bond maintains a consistent reputation. The 00 agent spends his entire life networking, closing business deals, and invariably coming through in a pinch. Now doesn’t that sound like a brand with which you would like your small business to be associated?

“A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.” Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Lesson: Master the art of salesmanship. There is no substitute skill for being able to sell. Whether you’re selling a product, a service, or yourself, we’ve all witnessed firsthand how crucial sales is to your business (especially in light of a recent economic downturn). To help push your sales from mediocre to outstanding, think in terms of the product instead of the customer. For instance, instead of thinking, “I have a product that I need to sell to this customer” think, “How can my product help this customer?” Work to inform, not coerce!

“The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.” Peter, Office Space (1999)

Lesson: Unmotivated employees are synonymous with poor performance. Even worse, poor performance leads to bad business practices. Therefore, it’s vital for those in upper management positions to learn how to instill and inspire motivation amoung their employees. Perhaps you haven’t conveyed your vision in a way that your employee understands. Or maybe you simply haven’t offered an incentive that your employee values. Either way, there are a multitude of helpful forums out there to help employers prevent their subordinates from becoming like our friend, Peter.

“Do or do not…there is no try.” Yoda, Star Wars Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Lesson: If you have a good idea – go for it! Get out there and make things happen. Be a mover and a shaker. As the saying goes: “Entrepreneurs are simply dreamers who do.”  If you do nothing, you have neither the chance to fail or succeed. Keep in mind, you’ll always need to analyze the risks and rewards, but for those that aspire for something bigger, remember that you’ve got to risk it to get the biscuit.

If you haven’t seen any of the movies just referenced, you’ve got some homework to do! So grab some popcorn, kick back in the living room, and immerse yourself in cinematic entertainment (er, education). Despite what your mother used to discourage about spending too much time watching television, we think even she would  approve of this assignment.

See How Easily You Can E-mail Market Your Business

What were the first ten things you did after you woke up this morning? Aside from the obvious, I am confident enough to bet my puppy that one of the top things you did was:

Check your email.

Yes, I’m that confident.

You may have already had a couple of emails waiting for you. I know for me, I always wake up to about four emails from Groupon. Curiously, yet sleepy-eyed, I open to see what’s eagerly awaiting me in the world of advertisement. $8 bucks for $70 value? Sure! Once again, I’m sucked in.

There is no question about how powerful email marketing can be for your business. Not only is it a venue to gain loyal customers, but also a chance to market new features or products. It’s one of the the most effective and least expensive marketing tools when used properly. The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) did an assessment on the email marketing industry and found out that the potential return on investment (ROI) can be about $60 USD per $1 USD spent. The key word here is potential, which makes it all the more vital to do your marketing homework and take advantage of available resources to maximize that ROI.

There are so many little things that can make or break an email: time of day sent, spam guards, relevance, incentives, and even the email headline. Trying to optimize all of these factors into one, triumphant email can be challenging.  Whether you’re a business that hasn’t used email marketing or are now looking to upgrade your current email system, services like Constant Contact help make the delicate process rather simple. For the beginner, its straightforward design is very comforting and user friendly.  Upon signing up, they offer  training videos and supportive user communities at your dispense. You can even export your business cards from Shoeboxed directly into your marketing lists, saving you time and potential typos. When it comes down to designing your email, you can choose from an array of professional templates (or for the more advanced, you can add your own HTML codes to create your own). Features like the “drag-and-drop” make it easy to add your own graphics and links, giving your email a personalized feel that many marketing emails lack. Constant Contact can even track key data indicators (such as open and click through rates), so you can measure the strengths and weaknesses of your email campaigns.

I could go on and on about the features. However, it’s one thing to create a beautiful, well-crafted email, and another to watch your conversion rates climb before your eyes. It’s not a 100% guaranteed success rate in email marketing, but so long as you actively participate, it will surely keep your small business competitive and growing.

What Every Business Can Learn from Justin Bieber

Let me confess, I’ve never been infected with “Bieber fever” let alone been a “Belieber.” However, having recently watched his documentary, Never Say Never, I’ve come to realize how much startups and small business owners can learn from this under-aged, pop hearthrob.  Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, and even Charlie Sheen are all masters of marketing themselves and their own personal brands. What’s their recipe for success? Of course luck is a crucial factor, but they all adhere to some underlying principles that we entrepreneurs and business owners should pay attention to.

1) Know Your Audience and Connect

Just like any startup, Bieber started from scratch: no industry connections, no millions of dollars in capital at his disposal, not even U.S. citizenship (he’s actually Canadian).  Yet, he was determined to prove himself and worked his little tail off to get noticed by people that could help rocket his career (think of Usher as his venture capitalist). Bieber found his audience, catered to their wants and built their support. His success largely came from his use of social media – one of the cheapest and most effective ways a startup can build brand awareness and engage with customers. Social media gives a voice to anyone who has something to say, and allows those who successfully market themselves to gain more buzz within the community. The beauty of using social media as an entrepreneur is the lack of filter; there are no layers of management permission that one might come across in a well established company. With over ten million followers on Twitter, “the Beebz” keeps his fans engaged by constantly updating them and maintaining very close, sometimes even one-on-one, contact.

2) Customers Come First

Before every show, Bieber’s team has a tradition where they go out on the streets to give away leftover tickets to unsuspecting fans. During the show, they select random audience members sitting hundreds of rows back, and invite them down to the VIP section by the stage. His team even picks a random girl from the crowd to come onstage to be serenaded by Justin during a certain song. Little gestures like these show J.B.’s fans that they’re appreciated, without incurring high costs along the way. Lady Gaga has also been known to order pizza and donuts for her fans while they camp out in line for her concert tickets. Whether it’s excelling in customer service or revving up a better product, remember that your customers are your lifeline and the reason you exist – not to mention your greatest marketing asset.

3) Focus on What Makes You…You

For Bieber, the big buzz on his pre-fame Youtube videos caught the attention of his first manager. Once you’ve pinpointed what makes your business unique, run with it! Market it like crazy. Taking risks and always stepping outside the box are essential to make yourself stand out. After all, no one ever got attention by being timid and passively waiting for someone to notice them. Case in point: Charlie Sheen. Remember to always keep your core values and long term goals in mind, as they’re the heart of your business.