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Many startups are low on cash and wind up bootstrapping their businesses to increase their net worth. But there's a lesson from real life here, and it comes from the unusual source of the country music duo LOCASH.
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My story begins one recent Saturday, when I pulled into the parking lot for a local LOCASH concert. I was pumped for the event and looking forward to my rare opportunity to interview the musicians, as well. But when I turned on my digital recorder to test it: Nothing. The batteries were dead.
I had no time to recharge them. So, although my effort turned out to be ultimately unnecessary, I hoofed it to the nearest convenience store to buy more and make it back in time for the show. (Coincidentally, my interview with LOCASH was postponed; Chris Lucas wasn’t feeling well and wanted to rest right up until show time. "Recharging his batteries," so to speak.)
Regardless of how Lucas felt, he, his music partner Preston Brust and the rest of the LOCASH band brought to the stage that night an amazing and sincere energy unlike anything I’d ever seen at a concert before. And in this lay a teachable moment for every entrepreneur: People pay to see you at your best, and regardless of whether you are "feeling" it or not, you’ve got to bring your best. LOCASH delivered, and then some!
It’s called professionalism, and there’s a lack of it in business today. In just about every industry, too many professionals behave like amateurs. Great leaders, however, have great energy, even when they don’t feel great. Think of the people you’ve come in contact with just this past week: How many didn’t "show up" as the best version of themselves? Were they exhibiting low energy at your meeting, seeming disengaged during their presentations, showing negative body language or simply being disingenuous?
The biggest issue here isn’t simply the direct impact, it’s the collateral damage, so to speak, because emotions are contagious. Psychologists call it secondhand stress.
In 1981, Ronald Riggio performed an experiment that simply placed three people in a waiting room facing one other. They were told their appointment was running late. Based on responses to a mood questionnaire given before and after the experiment, it was found that without saying a word, the most expressive person of the three influenced the mood of the other two.
Another study on work groups seemed to echo this finding: This work groups study determined that people analyzed in such meetings shared moods, both good and bad, inside of a mere two hours of time together.
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Q. Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?
LOCASH's members have a keen understanding of emotional contagion, judging from the philosophy they shared: “We go onstage and have fun because, if we’re having fun, the audience has fun,” they said. The LOCASH philosophy, then, is one that every business should embrace because emotional contagion occurs within minutes, perhaps seconds.
And, considering that skepticism and disengagement are two common emotions in business, the question becomes, How do you convert the skeptics and the disengaged?
A. “Look for the guy in the turquoise shirt.”
LOCASH's leads shared an audience engagement strategy of theirs that every entrepreneur can use. In a crowd of thousands during a show, they said, they look for that one disengaged person and then do something about that.
With live music, you’re going to have a pretty engaged, lively audience most of the time. As a result, the nonverbal cues given by a disengaged person stand out. Like quarterbacks calling audibles at the line, Lucas and Brust use visual cues of their own while onstage to identify who that one person is. Their goal: to reach and convert him or her into a raving fan.
In a crowd of thousands the Saturday night I attended, this disengaged person was a guy in a turquoise shirt the musicians affectionately called “Boss.”
From the stage, they chatted him up between songs, and their positive energy was contagious; next thing you knew, “Boss” was laughing, tapping his feet, bobbing his head and singing along. Eventually, he even stood up, with the rest of the crowd.
So, change the scene to a business context: In a board meeting or presentation, are you being fully present enough to hear “the boss’” body language screaming at you? Do you have the emotional courage and savvy to quickly address that frown, those crossed arms, that lack of eye contact and get this person turned around?
LOCASH has yet another philosophy I encourage you to embrace. Their belief is that, “We are not just musicians; we’re entertainers.” Regardless of the industry you’re in, your audience wants to be entertained, too. It’s become part of the fabric of American culture: We don’t just want to purchase a product or service; we want wow built into the experience.
The best musicians are entertainers. The best teachers are edu-tainers. The best salespeople are info-tainers. For best results, combine what you want, or need your customers to have, with fun and humor. It’s like hiding medicine in candy to make sure it's well received.
LOCASH tour manager Barry LaFoy said it best, stating “You’re only as good as your last single”; and that’s a great way for business owners to look at their customer engagement. Your last transaction with the customer is your own version of the last single. How did it leave customers feeling? Happy and wanting more, or underwhelmed and disappointed?
The wow factor built into the LOCASH experience is deeply rooted in sincerity. And sincerity is caring about the little things. Little things which should be food for thought for you:
- The duo shot a "get well soon video" for the concert organizer who was battling cancer and unable to attend. How do you lift your clients' spirits?
- Chris Lucas briefly stepped out of the autograph session to track down a kid who had forgotten to get his guitar pick signed. Lucas wanted to make sure the young fan didn’t leave disappointed. How “kid friendly” is your business?
- The duo brought a pair of little girls up on stage to serve as their honorary back-up dancers. After the song, the girls were escorted to the merchandise booth for what the duo calls "LOCASH Christmas" — meaning pick one of everything, for free. How do you wow your audience members to make them fans for life?
You too should feel concern about something as seemingly small as a guitar pick. That will speak volumes about your sincerity. So, I took the band's name to mean something beyond the literal implication of being low on money. "LOCASH" to me embraces the belief that the best things in life are what money can’t buy: sincerity and positive energy.
Do your customers a favor by wowing them with something money just can’t buy, because it's contagious.
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