It’s Super Bowl week, and many of us are finalizing our party plans.
Large group or small gathering? Focus on football or on commercials? Guacamole or Queso?
Those are important decisions, at least for Super Bowl Sunday. But did you know that the Super Bowl can help you make better business decisions?
Whether you work in technology and software development like we do at Worthwhile, or in another industry, the Super Bowl has lessons you can learn from.
Let me show you how.
My first job was in journalism (as I discussed in more detail here). One of the biggest assignments at the magazine I worked at was a trip to the Super Bowl.
In my third year, I finally climbed high enough on the seniority ladder to merit a trip. So I was off from our suburban Chicago offices for a week in Atlanta leading up to Super Bowl 34.
Every year, during Super Bowl week, I reflect on that experience. This year, my memories have turned to several tangible business lessons I gleaned from that week.
So instead of writing game previews, as I did once upon a time, this year I want to lead up to the Super Bowl by sharing seven important business lessons from my memorable Super Bowl week.
(Of course it's seven lessons. A touchdown is worth seven points. So let's kick this off…)
1. No matter what, people are going to complain
You can’t make everyone happy. No matter what you try, some customers will have misaligned expectations. Some people will bellyache.
The week of Super Bowl 34, Atlanta was hit with an unusual ice storm that almost shut down the city. That led to complaints from visiting sportswriters about the trouble with getting around via media buses, and the fact that this Southern city couldn’t handle a little cold.
I’ll be the first to admit that sportswriters can be a whiny bunch (at least, they could be back in the days of expense accounts and newspaper travel). But the truth is you’ll find this personality type anywhere.
Your customer service will never hit 10 out of 10. You’ll never meet the expectations or desires of every user. So you need to learn to process negative feedback in a healthy manner. Listen, evaluate, accept the truth in criticism, and let go of complaints driven by unrealistic expectations.
Of course, there is one key thing you can do to help with customer satisfaction, whether you’re a software developer like us or in another industry. By setting strong and clear expectations before signing a contract, you can smooth the process later on—and limit complaints. At Worthwhile, we call this setting ambitious expectations and delivering delightfully. That’s something any company in any industry can do.
2. People want to look cool
One of the underrated activities of Super Bowl week is people watching. When I had free time, I’d go on a hunt for celebrities.
Some of the celebrities you spot are just out and about. That’s how I saw ER’s Gloria Reuben. But some celebrities were searching for attention, especially in the lobby of the headquarters hotel. I saw this in action when MTV VJ Downtown Julie Brown tried to make the biggest scene possible coming into the hotel lobby. (Nothing makes this Super Bowl feel more ancient than the fact that I’m referencing a VJ from MTV. You know, from back when they played music videos.)
She was eager to make it onto the lobby all-star team. Why? Because she wanted to look cool. She wanted to be recognized as the creme de la creme.
People around your business want to look cool and feel cool too. If you can give them a feeling of exclusivity, you can win their loyalty. Coolness is a powerful motivator—both in a technology field like ours, and in just about every other type of business.
3. Stories have power
The star of Super Bowl 34 (even more than Downtown Julie Brown) was quarterback Kurt Warner. His story is legendary—he had played football at a small college, gotten cut several times in the pros, and spent time stocking groceries at an Iowa supermarket. He got another shot with the Rams and became the starter after another quarterback was hurt, and he became the league’s Most Valuable Player and a Super Bowl champion.
Warner became a superstar not because his play was great—lots of players are superb—but because of his rags-to-riches story. It just goes to show that stories matter.
As you’re trying to spread the word about your business, or to build loyalty with your customer base, story is a powerful tool. Tell memorable stories about your business, and tell them often. This is why we include success stories on our website—to show how companies have found real business value and ROI from custom software development.
4. Names have power
Stories aren’t the only things with power. Names have power too. The Rams’ offense is remembered in part because of its unique name—the Greatest Show on Turf.
Having a catchy name is a way to gain and keep attention in the marketplace. If you’re creating a new product or a startup business, the name matters. So use proven wisdom about picking a name or get help from a company with experience picking successful names.
5. Don’t be a prisoner of the moment
One of the most memorable facets of Super Bowl 34 was the commercials—and not because they were good. The commercial lineup is memorable because it featured a spate of dot-com startups. These commercials—from E-Trade to pets.com to lifeminders.com—weren’t very good, and in several places the companies soon disappeared in the midst of the dot-com bubble. What seemed like a wise investment at the time has proven over time to be a forgettable and unprofitable trend.
I couldn’t watch the commercials as a journalist inside the stadium, but a similar thing happened with the halftime show. Instead of a real extravaganza like Bruno Mars has put on recently, or a solid rock show like U2 has presented, this Super Bowl starred instrumental pieces inspired by an Epcot parade. It was as uninspiring as it sounds.
These misfires go to show that it’s important to choose strategies that stand the test of time. Don’t opt for the latest trend without examining it and how long it will last. Whether it’s a now-forgotten software platform like MySpace (or now Vine) or a hardware failure like the Galaxy Note 7 (could Apple’s headphone jack changes be next?), you need to work to understand what new technologies are worth investing in, and which are going to fade away.
6. Moments matter
While you don’t want to be a prisoner of the moment, you do want to embrace the moment. Moments really matter. This Super Bowl is remembered for the moment at the end. The Titans trailed the Rams by a touchdown, but they drove down the field. On the last play of the game, Kevin Dyson caught a pass and reached toward the end zone to tie the game—only to be stopped at the one-yard line by Mike Jones.
It was an epic finish to the game—more so because so many of the Super Bowls in the previous 10 years had been one-sided blowouts. This moment defined the Super Bowl and means it is remembered fondly—even though much of the game play was slow and plodding.
Moments matter in your business too. Google has presented some powerful research on the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), which is the moment when customers decide to reach out to you for the first time. This moment takes time to develop, and it’s vital that your business can leverage the ZMOT to turn a contact into a customer. This is a key part of developing a sales funnel.
7. Things change
Super Bowl 34 was the second one played in the Georgia Dome. But this once state-of-the-art facility is going away after 25 years of existence. A week or so ago, the Georgia Dome hosted its last football game. The Atlanta Falcons will move into a new stadium in the fall. The Georgia Dome hosts its last events this year and will be demolished in 2018.
The rise and fall of this stadium is a reminder that nothing in your business is set in stone. At one point, your product or service offering may have been innovative, but it won’t stay innovative forever. Your market niche will change, new competitors will emerge, old competitors will fade away, and new technologies will emerge. You need to work to adjust with the market and with your customers.
One thing that we’re emphasizing with our customers in 2017 is reminding them that technology changes. If you build a web app or website, you need to remember to keep your software versions updated. After a year or two, you’ll face a backlog of updates that will take a surprisingly sizable chunk of time, effort, and money to deal with. Proactive updates help keep your software stack viable longer, and can add value as you go. You also need to remember to keep off-the-shelf software you use up-to-date to ensure network security as well as full functionality.
This is just one example of dealing with the fact that things change. As you look at your business, you’ll undoubtedly find more. The point is, it’s essential that you’re looking for these changes and adjusting to them.
As you prepare to enjoy Super Bowl Sunday, we hope these lessons will cross your mind. And after you enjoy the game, the parties, the guacamole AND the queso, we hope you hit the ground running on Monday with some practical steps to make your business better.
That way, no matter who wins the game, you’ll win the Super Bowl.
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