What Small Business Owners Can Learn From Harry Potter

This past weekend, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1, opened in Canadian movie theatres. This film represents the beginning of the end for Harry’s story, a story that has spanned seven books and eight movies. The Times of London estimated in 2009 that the Harry Potter brand is worth more than $24.6 billion. According to box office revenue tracking website Box Office Mojo, with more than 400 million books sold and $5.4 billion U.S. at the worldwide box office, it is safe to say that the Harry Potter franchise has been a sales juggernaut, a money-making machine for its intellectual property owners and creators.

Recognizing this, how can small business owners learn some of Harry’s spells for creating revenue?

1. Understand your target market

J.K. Rowling understood her readers and she went out of her way to bring them what they wanted: massive creativity, involved relationships, well-developed characters, and tons of action. She created the ultimate hero’s journey and never short-changed her audience, pandered to them, or settled on an idea because it was easy. In the face of conflict (complaints that the books were too long, too violent, and that they promoted Satanism and the occult) she never wavered. She knew what her audience wanted and she gave it to them without compromise.

Small business owners can learn from J.K. Rowling that understanding your target market is critical. Focused communications and marketing campaigns that appeal to your main group of buyers are key if you want to attract buyers.  Making sure you have the right product at the right times is another must for small business success. Talk to your clients to understand their needs and wants, and stop trying to be all things to all people. When you lose focus on your target market you can confuse the marketing message, overcomplicate what you offer, and lose buyers.  By understanding your target market and working actively to connect with those consumers, you will be on the right track for sales success.

2. Be creative

Many critics, and millions of readers, acknowledge that the Harry Potter saga is a creative masterpiece. Both the books and the movies are candy for the brain. J.K. Rowling wasn’t afraid to let her imagination take her and her readers to new places, and it was the creative vision of the filmmakers to bring those words to life. Fear of stretching boundaries never got in the way of creating a fantastic tale.

In small business, complacency sometimes rules, and business owners are often either too busy or too intimidated to try something new. Creativity is at the backbone of many great business success stories, so don`t be afraid to shake things up and do something new. Take your window displays from mediocre to mind-blowing. Create a new ad campaign that is unique or maybe a bit controversial.  Give your clients something they truly didn`t expect.  Create a new product or service that others haven’t thought of. There are no limits on your creativity, and in this tough economic climate, you need to consider every opportunity to stand out.

3. Quality is king

It would have been easy for J.K. Rowling to write shorter books and fewer of them. In the beginning, the Harry Potter saga was rejected by publishers for being too long. “Kids will never read a 500 page book,” she was once told. Despite this, she felt the story demanded the full treatment that it received, that quality was an integral part of the process. In the end, she was proven right. The same concept applied to the movies. It would have been easy for Warner Brothers to pump out a paint-by-numbers version of the book, and it would have been easy for them to replace actors, hurry production, and present a mediocre version of the story that would have still produced profit. Instead, the studios and producers recognized the importance of keeping the cast together, putting quality on the screen, and using state-of-the-art technology and elaborate sets to bring the Potter universe to life. As a result, the Harry Potter franchise is one of the most successful movie enterprises of all time.

The lesson is clear. While it may be easier to produce a product or deliver a service while cutting corners, quality can still be a difference maker. Improving quality does not necessarily mean a full overhaul of everything you do. It can start with small details, like making sure that projects are completed ahead of time and to the best of your ability. It could mean actually answering the phone instead of sending all of your potential clients to voicemail; it could mean going out of your way to exceed expectations in whatever you do, even if it is the 56th time you’ve done it that day. Build quality into your processes, make it routine, and your clients will keep coming back.

4. Timing is everything

All of the Harry Potter movies came out just in time for the movie industry’s busiest seasons – early summer and American Thanksgiving / Christmas. By capitalizing on an available and active movie-going audience, the Harry Potter franchise maximized revenue potential. By doing so consistently, the Harry Potter movies have become a winter tradition for many, and loyal viewers have come to expect a Harry Potter treat every second Christmas or so.

Small business owners need to know when the best times are to run a promotion, launch a new product, or introduce a new season in their business. Look to seasoned competitors for tips, so that you understand the ebb and flow of your industry, and plan well in advance to take advantage of seasonal opportunities and special events. Write a marketing plan each year, outlining plans, promotions, sales, and events for the coming 12 months. That way you can order product in plenty of time, budget accordingly, and you will rarely be caught unprepared. Proper timing can often make the difference between winning and losing in small business, so do your homework, get organized, and time it right.

The Harry Potter saga has many lessons for small business. Start with these four – understand your target market, be creative, quality is king, and timing is everything – and you’ll be headed in the right direction.

We invite discussion to this blog! Please post any comments, or lessons that you have learned from watching franchises such as this one succeed. Once a month we’ll enter all entries into a draw for a chance to win a voucher for one of our upcoming seminars (value $20.)

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