As an immigrant entrepreneur, I didn't grow up going to Disney World. I'd never been to the "happiest place on earth" until recently when I took my family to the Magic Kingdom. It was a once in a lifetime experience.
We were mesmerized by countless levels of sophistication at every point of the customer experience. When you're at Disney World, the difference is made in the details. I feel so lucky that I had the chance to take my kids here when they were so young because it's what memories are made of, right?
The past few years have flown by for me since I left my job as Head of Marketing at Salesforce Pardot and joined my co-founders to launch Terminus. When you're an entrepreneur and growing a startup, it's essential to take time away from the office to be with your family.
My kids are both little, so time with them and my wife is so precious. I've been thinking a lot about how to make "magic" happen at our company, and for our customers, even before our trip to Disney.
We had a blast during our time there, and it actually gave me some key insights that I would like to share. Here are 10 things that a trip to Disney World can teach you about running a startup.
1. Create magic from the start
For our trip, we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Walking into the hotel, all the design elements are something to behold. Then we got to our room and our view outside were the giraffes grazing! It was a great first impression.
2. Personalize the experience
About a week before we got to Disney, we received a wristband with our names. It made my kids feel like they had superpowers! Let's think about how we can make our customers superheroes in a way that's unique or personalize to them.
3. Keep it hassle-free
At the resort, we didn't have to get check-in done. The app had all the information to literally go directly to our room and open the door with our magic bands. For software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups, think about your platform as an experience. What's the easiest way to help your customers without any hassle and providing a whole lot of value?
4. The power of purchase
Of course, you can buy anything at Disney with your magic band as long as you knew the 4 digit-pin that only you knew. Swipe your band and you get anything you want (or are at least willing to pay for at the end). Let's think about how we can make our customers feel unique in each of their interactions, even when it comes to payment.
5. Branding beyond a logo
Walking around Disney world, there's a lot of branding with the iconic characters but what you don't see a lot of is the actual Disney logo. One thing the parks do well is to immerse people in the Disney magic without flashing the brand. People buy so much Disney merchandise because they feel like they're part of the story.
6. Be a trusted advisor
The buses were right outside the Animal Kingdom resort to take us down to the Magic Kingdom, or anywhere else we wanted to go in Disney World. The fast passes on the Disney app made it super easy to find which ride you needed and where you need to be for pickup. Let's think about each of our customer's journeys and where they want to go. Are we the trusted advisor to guide them on the right path?
7. Impressions matter
The entire time we were at Disney, I don't I saw anyone cleaning up an area of the park. Everything looked sparkling clean despite the thousands of people walking around, and surely there's tons of work happening when the park is closed at night to make the park perfect for the next day. For companies of any size, let's think of ways to delight our customers in ways never done before, only because we care more than anyone else.
8. Teamwork makes that dream work
We didn't see a single cast member running around from one end to another. There's an entire underground tunnel system so the cast and crew can "time travel" from one place to another. It's so important to remember that it's not about sales, marketing, customer success, engineering or any of the company functions working in silos: it's about #OneTeam that delivers incredible experiences to our customers.
9. Create "wow" moments
At night, the castle magically turned into snow white as the Christmas celebrations began (there was a whole Frozen motif this year). So many kids just went "wow" as the transformation took place. Let's think about how to create at least one moment every so often that will make our customers stop for a moment and say, "Wow! That's just amazing!"
10. It all comes down to you
Sure, there are plenty of folks who go to Disney World and don't have this kind of experience. Perhaps it's because I didn't get to see Disney in real life until I was in my late 30s and had kids who appreciate it or the fact I'm really a kid at heart, but I loved Disney.
The same way I love what I do for a living and give it my all every day, it comes down to you and your own energy to make magic happen.
So do I have a point here? Yes! In the words of Walt Disney, it's kind of fun to do the impossible! And another one of his quotes that I love is:
If you can dream it, you can do it.
As I stood there in awe, it dawned on me that we ALL have the power to create magic moments, every day with friends, family, customers, and partners. You have the power to create magic, so let's give it a whirl!
Note: I feel obligated to note here that Disney is no way sponsoring this column.