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What Small Businesses Can Learn From Disney World

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My family recently visited Disney World, specifically Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Although, I used to often visit Disney Word as a kid growing up in Florida, I have to admit I looked at the park through different lens as a parent and as a small business owner. 

I compiled a list of the top ten lessons any small business owner can learn from Disney.

Always Surprise Your Customers

The rides, the scenery, the fireworks show, the characters, the large turkey legs, the countries of Epcot all strive to surprise the customers at Disney. There are parts of every ride that were somewhat unexpected which makes the time all the more spectacular.

Do Now:

Find ways to surprise your customers by giving more than expected whether it’s a bonus product, free webinar, or free content. 

Engage the senses

When you walk into Magic Kingdom you smell popcorn and confectionaries. You see the iconic castle and well maintained landscaping. Continue walking and you will see characters throughout the park and even experience certain parts of your favorite Disney movies. We enjoyed a sandwich in Gaston’s Tavern and I felt like I was actually in Beauty and the Beast.

Do Now:

Depending on your industry, you can get creative. If you own a retail location, what do your customers smell or see when they enter? If you own an online company, what does your website tell about your company? What images are you using on your social media?

Make the wait time enjoyable

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I get it, those lines at Disney sure are long, but they really try their best to make the wait time go by as quickly as possible. The two lines that were long but didn’t feel quite as long because of the scenery was Peter Pan Flight and the Frozen Ever After ride. With Peter Pan, I actually felt as if I was in the children’s home in London and you were able to play with butterflies projected on the screen. With Frozen Ever After Ride, we felt as if were in Arendelle. The kids especially enjoyed walking through the sauna and felt as if they were in the movie itself.

Do Now:

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Is there any other way to make their wait time less arduous? Perhaps you can have another staff member walk down the aisle taking orders or set up kiosks throughout your retail space. Martha Stewart once said, “Don’t make it hard for people to do business with you.” 

Create the Need to Buy With No Pressure

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Disney does not apologize for selling merchandise on every corner but they do it in such a way that it doesn’t even feel like selling. No one is shouting out, “Step right up for your popcorn!” No one is telling you to step up to anything, they just pop the popcorn at the right time at the right place that kids will smell and ask the parents for popcorn. Although, I don’t believe in the build it and they will come theory; I do believe that if you build it, present it to the right customers, and provide a good product, they will buy.


Do Now:

Stop apologizing for selling products especially when it can be of service to others. Try to find ways of presenting its value to your target market and meeting pain points.

Layer Your Customer Experience

One of the reasons Disney is magical is because most people have interacted with Disney on same level or the other. Whether it’s watching your favorite Disney movie, cartoon on Disney Junior or simply walking into a Disney store in your neighborhood mall, we have all experienced a Disney experience. That’s one of the reasons, Disney can carry on the products through shows, merchandise, cruises and rides.

Do Now:

Find ways to layer your products. You may have an introductory product that can introduce your customer to your business. Then customers can choose to level up their commitment as they fall in love with your brand.

Always End Your Customer Experience With Magic

Even the most unimpressed child easily falls for the magic of the fireworks show at Disney World. Each theme park puts on their own fireworks show which is sure to wow every generation.

Do Now:

I love to buy products from stores that package the merchandise in a box with a bow. Call it frivolous, but I think it adds to the experience with the brand. Find ways you can add that extra touch to your brand and will make your customers leave your place of business with a smile.

Christine Mills