A few weeks ago, I took my two kids on a four-day Disney cruise to the Bahamas.
I know what you're all thinking... a cynic like YOU, Ann, on a DISNEY ship? Mugging it up mid-ship for the ship's photographer with roly-poly Chip and Dale, and doing the Macarena on the deck with a six-foot Goofy in swim trunks?
Well, a cynic I may be. But I'm also a soft touch when it comes to my children. So there I found myself on a 900-foot ocean liner, setting sail with Mickey and hurling confetti off the deck with the maniacal fervor of the converted.
The vacation was a predictable fare of character karaoke, mouse-shaped waffles, free ice cream, and that Disney brand of animated, chipper fun.
The kids loved it. I... uh... survived.
But one thing DID impress me. And that was Disney marketing. Maybe it was more palpable to me as a cruise guest because I'm steeped in this stuff daily. But clearly, Disney's marketing machine is well-oiled and executing on all cylinders.
So much so, in fact, that any one of us who promotes products or services online could learn a thing or two from the marketing sherpas leading sales for the Microsoft of the family entertainment zone.
Truth be told, this was actually a bit troublesome for me since I never really had a sense of how much money I was actually spending. (I assure you, I eventually found out. And it was plenty.)
But one aspect of the Disney passkey I did like: It sure simplified things at the point of purchase. And as I was juggling two kiddie soft drinks and a glass of red, all while keeping one eye on my three-year-old's head bobbing in the Mickey-shaped wading pool, I sure appreciated the streamlined purchasing. In that way, it's not unlike Amazon's one-click feature.
Mouse mantra #1: Are you making it easy for your customers to spend money with you?
Mouse Mantra #2: Do you segment your audience according to their needs and interests, and speak to them in their own language?
Tiresome? Maybe for some. Not for my kids who made a game out of finding "Mickey heads" on board. But I'll never confuse a Disney ship with, say, a Norwegian Cruise Line ship.
Mouse Mantra #3: Do you reinforce your brand throughout your site, at every opportunity?
Each crew member oozed warmth and personality. Each one got to know the names of my kids and encouraged conversation with them.
Enzo taught my son how to fold a rabbit puppet from a dinner napkin, and knew that my daughter liked her milk with a PINK Mickey straw. In turn, my kids learned that Enzo grew up in Italy, where his mother cooked in a restaurant and his father owned a gas station.
Disney isn't afraid to let their employees become living, breathing beings to their guests. In the spirit of the Cluetrain Manifesto, they let them have a personality and a point-of-view.
Mouse Mantra #4: Does your site have a personality that shines through? Do your readers have a sense of the names and faces behind the business?
Disney's photography studio prints each photo in a gorgeous five-by-seven glossy and displays them all in a gallery for sale at ten bucks a pop. And would you believe... guests need to walk directly through the gallery each evening, since it's by far the most direct route to the after-dinner entertainment.
Loosened up with a little wine and feeling good about the day, wouldn't you be inclined to plop down the cash for each snapshot? I sure was.
Mouse Mantra #5: Have you thought through all the ways you might increase the amount of each sale your site makes?
Online, versioning can take many forms. Our good friends at eMarketer sell statistical reports about doing business online. They will sell you a full-blown report on the Latin American Net market for $795, or they'll sell you a 21-report subscription for $10,000, or they'll sell you individual stats in the eStatStore for a buck or two. Same information, packaged how you want it.
Mouse Mantra #6: Can you meet the needs of your audience by repackaging and repurposing your content in accessible, useful, appealing ways?
Truth be told, I think Disney overdoes it here. I would have preferred to opt-in to the mailing list, rather than be automatically added. But the concept behind the marketing is sound: Disney is letting me know they appreciate my business and is working hard to win me back.
Online, you might offer customers an opportunity to be added to your newsletter mailing list. You might send them online coupons, redeemable on their next purchase. You might send along a note to let them know of an improvement to your service or upgrade to your product. You want to be front and center in their minds when they need to do business in your market again.
Mouse Mantra #7: Are you building loyalty by communicating with your customers regularly?
And by the way, Disney has sure built loyalty from my kids. Anticipating the next cruise, they are already blowing up their inner tubes.
Mouse-shaped, of course.
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Ann Handley is co-founder of ClickZ and served as its president and chief content officer until her departure in 2001. She has more than 15 years of experience as a business writer and editor. Ann has a fondness for great red wines, good writing, wordsmith.org, dark humor, and anything Starbucks. And don't cross her... she's a Scorpio.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT