One can argue that almost all of the above is necessary to run a successful business. Being successful means that you are doing something right. Being in business means you are getting new clients and getting repeat business. You cannot last long with the former alone. My thesis here is that consistency is the most important attribute of your business.
You can start with bling, a niche, and great marketing. But if you are not consistent, these three will not support you for long.
I started thinking about this as I was downing a triple burger at Steak 'n Shake. I pondered: why do I keep coming back here? Why do I keep going to the same dentist, auto repair shop, bank, etc.?
The reason is that I can expect the same level of service from each and through the process of elimination over time, I will keep going to the same places, services, and buy the same products. The food tastes as good or better than last time, the auto repair fix works and lasts, the pain goes away and the dentist made some great jokes, the legal problem is solved as last time, etc.
There are a few aspects of why we habitually buy or engage the same products and services.
1. You can depend on them
2. The quality is consistent
3. The service is consistent
4. The cost is reasonable, or worth it
Advertisers realize that we grow up using the same things over and over until someone can show that their product or service is superior in some way.
New businesses cannot just show up in a clean outfit and snappy car with an attractive business card and brochure. As a start-up in a new market especially, or if you are developing or changing your niche, you have to promise something of extraordinary value to make people change their minds and try your service or product.
In many cases, this may mean you must:
1. Promise superior service, and execute.
2. Repeat the service or product in a consistent manner.
3. Keep your costs at or below the existing service or product supplier
4. Maintain quality that is superior to the existing relationship with a client's vendors, suppliers, professional service providers.
By doing the above, you will create a dependency in your favor.
I was smitten by the style of Jaguars several years ago. I bought two or three. The older ones are gorgeous. They had BLING! But... they had a huge slew of electrical issues and rust. The company offered bling but no quality, spotty service, and the resale went down until an Asian manufacturer propped them up again and I am now looking once more. This was my ice blue convertible from a few years back:
I love analogies and then I hate analogies. Nothing is quite the same. I have tried to compare architectural services to physicians, attorneys, real estate agents, etc. We have a very difficult goal: find a new client over and over again. If you make them very satisfied, they will be happy in their homes and will not typically need your services again for a very long time. Of course, referrals are appreciated.
Doctors have a stream of patients; attorneys are sought for a variety of services repeatedly; automobile repair shops know that your car will break down over and over and you will come back, etc.
With great communications, proven repeatable results, following up and keeping up, you will retain your clients. You will secure a successful business.
So I was watching some pay per view movies for the last two evenings. TBS has all the Bond flicks on Thursday nights. The first two or three with Sean Connery were terrific. The plots seemed well worked out, the acting was very good for the time, special effects on par, and the music was unforgettable.
Then something happened. With Diamonds are Forever -- one of the worst plots I think --and Connery aging a bit, this movie must have disappointed a lot of fans. Roger Moore was introduced next and things got a little campy for quite a few of the releases into the late 80s and early 90s. The fans were let down a bit but the die-hards kept coming back.
Small moral to this story: In business, you may get away with a lot of under par service if you have done great things at the beginning and can mend loose ends at the end.
The franchise was losing its edge. This was a niche movie production company with Broccoli at the helm. Secret agent movies were becoming passe. Dozens were being churned out with more realistic plots, acting, and believable social and political issues woven in. The times were a-changin'.
I mentioned 'pay per view'. Have you noticed how many movies are not distributed nationally? Why don't they click with a wider audience, why were they relegated to ppv? The answer is simple...
1. Poor plots (unbelievable, terrible storylines and surprises to make them actually work out)
2. Weak acting (action, dialogue, cast)
3. Subpar special effects (directing, cinematography, editing, wardrobe, etc.)
I think the movies that stay in our minds the longest are the ones that satisfy our expectations. If the plot makes no sense or disappoints at the end, it is forgettable. Only a dog and a Mustang are at the heart of the John Wick series. The plot is secondary to the action. We know the why. We are there for the amazing fight sequences and watch one of the most expressionless faces in Hollywood: Kenu Reeves.
Some very special movies have little or no special effects, but they must have a strong cast and a great plot. We will go to the second, third, and endless iterations of the basic plots and cast if they consistently satisfy our expectations.
This is analogous to having a principal and support staff that are exemplary, that your focus is clear, that your work is consistent, and that by satisfying your client you will be assured that they will come back and refer you to others.
Huge blunders have been made in movie making and business by:
1. taking advantage of the niche, resting on laurels, and not delivering the goods.
[in business: promising more than you can deliver consistently on a promoted premise]
2. overspending on the bling -- special digital effects that are simply eye candy and do not contribute to the essential story or are completely distracting from the plot.
[in business: marketing materials - brochures, website, stationery, etc. that amplify the service or product but do not really support it well or may be deceptive even.]
3. taking out the key actor and substituting another who is rather incompetent or uncharismatic in the role.
[in business: moving your key producer/player into a different project and not paying attention to the quality, delivery, and followup.]
It is possible to make a very good movie with little or no special effects (Marathon Man) but you must have great acting and a good plot. You will always remember a good movie.
It is possible to run a business successfully with a modicum of means (promotion and bling) but the methods (delivery as promised, great service, follow-through, follow-up) have to be very very good. Clients will always remember you when you have delivered on time, showed a high degree of professionalism, kept them informed along the way, and followed up to make sure everything was done per expectation (contract and hype). Repeating this process successfully means you have retained them for the long term.