Business Lessons from Cirque de Soleil

On a hot, sunny, summer day, we hid inside an air-conditioned arena normally used for hockey games to watch Cirque de Soleil’s Alegria performance.

After loading up on popcorn, ice cream and beer, we waddled to our seats with sticky fingers and full stomachs.

The show started early with clowns mingling in the audience, dancing, and building anticipation.

It was perpetual entertainment! One powerful act after another, live band, live singers, live everything, constant movement and colours and actions. All the sets flowed into each other. Everyone had a role and entertainers helped the transitions between sets by moving equipment, setting up the next act or just being entertaining and fun to watch. They took the ordinary and made it spectacular. For example, they threw a paper airplane about 20 yards into the audience, and the guy threw it back, perfect landing!

The clowns made fun of their professional acrobats and then made fun of the audience ‘volunteer’ selected to assist them re-enact the high-flying demonstrations.

Here are a few lessons for  business:

  1. Keeping your customer entertained will keep them in your store longer and they’ll spend more money.
  2. Everything you provide should be of good quality, whether it’s for sale or just part of the experience. That means no more styrofoam cups and stale coffee. I learned this the hard way after reconsidering my nutritional snack choices.
  3. The customer experience should flow seamlessly and anticipate needs. For example, it’s bug season, and I really shouldn’t have to ask the gas jockey to wash my windshield.
  4. Vary the intensity of the customer experience so they can catch their breath and also be exposed to different things they might not normally buy from you. You can’t expect your customer to know your entire product line or self-diagnose and ask for everything they might like. Who knew I would like ventilated seats in a car? Actually, they’re for my wife, really!
  5. Provide samples or gift certificates or free stuff to increase demand. You might waste, er, invest money in advertising. Wouldn’t it make sense to turn your already loyal customer into an advocate by loading them up with free stuff to give to their family and friends?
  6. Finish on time and leave them wanting more. They will come back.

The test: would your customers pay admission to shop your business?

Copyright 2010 Phil Symchych. All Rights Reserved.

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