You have to admire Walt Disney – he really got it right. Disney didn’t open a theme park just to open a theme park; his dream had a very deep philosophical goal. He believed that entertainment wasn't a luxury, but a necessity for a productive life. He said, "Disneyland is a work of love. We didn't go into Disneyland just with the idea of making money." and "You don't work for a dollar – you work to create and have fun." We’re certain his logic strikes a familiar chord.
If you look very closely, you can see Disney’s many loving touches. And this was no easy task, considering that Disney never saw Walt Disney World in completion. The story goes that as Disney lay in the hospital on his death bed, he described his plans for the Florida Magic Kingdom to his brother Roy by pointing out locations on a ceiling tile (“The theme park goes here, EPCOT goes there …”) Roy came out of retirement to see that Walt’s dream came true.
Sometimes the best ideas come to you in the most unlikely places. Walt Disney World does that for us – we filled four pages before we even left Main Street! Check out Disney’s attention to detail and how each can translate to your own business:
* As you approach the front gates of the Magic Kingdom you are hit with the incredible colors and smells of thousands of flowers, and Disney songs playing in the background. We’ve heard rumors that once inside the park the air is scented with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. It’s the guest’s first 10 seconds of interaction that builds the perception they carry with them into the park. You know how important a person’s first 10 seconds in your store is – that tiny amount of time makes a lasting impression.
(Go outside and look at your front door – right now. What’s your customer’s first impression of your store?
* Main Street is built on a slight incline, rising up towards Cinderella’s Castle. It’s not noticeable to guests entering the park for a day of fun, but they’re grateful for that downhill walk to the parking lot at the end of a long day, even if they don’t realize it’s there.
(Have you installed that ramp outside yet to help customers haul their wheeled carts, strollers, wheelchairs, and scooters up and over the curb and into your store? Inside, are there places a customer can just sit and rest for a minute?)
* If you look very closely, you will notice that the shops on Main Street get slightly smaller the closer you get to Cinderella’s Castle, making it loom even larger than it really is.
(In retail language, this is called a “sight line”. You can do a sight line like Disney’s in your store, but you’ll need to reverse it. The fixtures in your store should start out shorter and get taller towards the rear of the store. If you want customers to see your entire store from the front door, this is the way to go.)
* Look up at the shop windows and you will see the names of businesses and business people painted on the glass. Like the opening credits in a movie, this is Disney’s tribute to the people who helped build The Magic Kingdom. Take a close look as you leave as well because you’ll see closing credits too, including one for Walt himself.
(You can do opening credits, too. Line your front windows with all of the cool things that you sell and do. Begin at the upper left hand corner and list your products and services in reflective, bright white 6” letters. Do this around the entire perimeter of each window – it’s okay to repeat!)
* We visited the Magic Kingdom just days after former President Ronald Reagan passed away, and noticed that the American flag at the front gate, as well as all of the flags outside of The Magic Kingdom, were at half-staff. Inside the park the flags on top of the Main Street shops were all at full-staff. Thinking we had found a flaw in the Disney brand story, we asked a shop manager why these flags were not at half-staff as well. He explained that inside the gates of The Magic Kingdom, the outside world is, well, left outside. No matter what’s happening in your personal life, or the world at large, Walt Disney World will always be the same happy place where you can check your troubles at the front gate.
(Disney carefully safe guards their guests’ experiences inside the park by making sure that experience is a direct reflection of the Disney brand. Similarly, the ambiance inside your store is a reflection of its – and your – personality. Can customers check their troubles at your front door? Is a customer’s experience in your store a happy one where he or she can create to their heart’s content?)
* In Disney’s world, customers are not customers, they are guests. We like that. Aren’t the people who come to your store each day really guests? Shouldn’t they be welcomed with the same courtesy that you welcome a guest in your own home? We think so, and from this point on, we’ve decided to refer to customers as guests. We think you should, too.
The bronze “Partners” statue that sits in a courtyard in front of Cinderella’s Castle depicts Walt Disney holding Mickey Mouse’s hand, his other hand pointing off into the distance. The caption on the plaque is in Disney’s own words, describing why he built his Magic Kingdoms: "I think most of all what I want Disneyland to be is a happy place where parents and children can have fun together."
That about sums it up … and isn’t that why we all got into this business first place?
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