I just witnessed a 25-year-old woman entertain a stadium of 56,000 people in Atlanta, Ga. I've never been a Taylor Swift critic, but last night I moved from casual fan to raving fan. For those of you familiar with the Net Promoter Score, I moved from a 7 to a 10! Before you make the mistake of dismissing Tay's (we're BFFs now!) business acumen, her current tour numbers are now crossing $200 Million, and that's just box office revenue, not merchandise! The tour only started in May. She's the only female act in the world able to sell out a stadium, and she's doing 31 of them!
I had the amazing opportunity to give my daughters, and enjoy for myself, an up close and personal look at the 1989 Tour machine including a meet and greet with Taylor, a backstage tour with Taylor's mom, Andrea, and amazing seats. I was able to pull it off as a surprise for my 9 and 14-year-old daughters too.
I'm going to try and dig into some practical ways I saw Taylor intentionally guiding her business to better serve her fans and build customer loyalty. Isn't that what we all want?
1. Prepare/Practice. Taylor started planning this tour 2 years before it began. She started thinking about how the songs could come to life visually, even before they were finished. She spent 7 months in the planning/design/revision phase, and 4 months of musical rehearsals, including 1 month of 2 a day rehearsals. (Yes, think football!) Do we take ownership of our craft as seriously?
Here's a link to my twitter with a little snippet of video that demonstrates just how amazing the production, choreography, and even sound was last night. Go ahead and follow me while you're there, I'll follow you back!
2. Don't launch a crap product. Conventional wisdom is to start small to work out the kinks. Taylor launched the tour with 2 sold out shows in Tokyo, Japan to over 100,000 attendees. She had to have the product perfect at launch. How many of us are satisfied with an MVP (minimally viable product) so we can start making money?
3. Build a great team. Taylor's entire support team was incredibly classy, well-mannered and happy to be there. Even her security guards were friendly! Guess what? They are a reflection of Taylor and her intentional culture. Her previous albums have been more country. Her latest album is completely pop. She didn't fire her country band and hire a whole new band. She knew she worked with talented musicians. She gave them time to adapt to the new material and grow into their new roles. She believes in her organization, and guess what? They believe in her! There are 146 traveling members of Taylor's band and crew, and they also employ about 150 more locals in every city they stop. She is good business for your local economy.
4. Build in margin to give back. I could write a book on this picture alone. Look how she is on her knees for her fan so that they are right at eye level. Taylor starts a conversation by asking your name. Look how she is holding this girl's hand. There is no financial incentive to this moment, although it makes me want to buy every future album she will ever put out! The floor on the Georgia Dome is dirty. Does it look like that's bothering Taylor? When Taylor is with you, she is with you.
5. Invest just in much in ushers as security. I'll let you make application to your business with this one. If Tay didn't have security, her well-meaning fans, predators, and the press would devour her. Taylor Swift has to have security, just like you have to protect your C-level executives, guard your proprietary intellectual capital, and protect your customers' data. But, she invests in ushers just as much as security. I've been to many events at the GA Dome, and the ushers were just friendlier last night. There were a lot of them. Their job wasn't to keep people away, but to help give them a better experience.
6. Get Closer To Your Customers: There were 2 cornerstones to Taylor's production. It started from what has to be one of the world's largest high-definition video screens, and its apex is a runway stage that takes her into the middle of the stadium, lifts her into the air and spins her around the venue like a giant helicopter propeller. The reason for the first is obvious. It lets customers, even in the cheap seats, get pulled into what is happening on stage. It provides the visual centerpiece for the production. The second is genius. U2 pioneered the idea of "B stages" in the crowd, and describes the motivation as getting closer to the fans. Taylor has taken it to a whole new level. Her mom explained it like this.
She is maximizing her Premium experience. Does your company? Are you both attracting customers to you and reaching out to get closer to them where they sit?
7. Delight Your customers. When you walk into a Taylor Swift concert, every attendee is given a LED wristband. Coldplay first introduced the technology a few years back. It makes the entire audience part of the light show and is visually stunning. However, when you get your bracelet, the Customer service worker doesn't say, "Come get your wristband." They are trained to say, "Taylor wanted you to have this." INSTANT INTENTIONAL CONNECTION! How do your customers feel when they walk into your office or storefront? Are they greeted? Are they welcomed?
8. Offer a consistent product that exceeds expectations. Taylor Swift's production is transported by 26 Trucks and 14 tour buses of personnel. Normally, when an artist adds international dates, they have to offer a more generic, locally acquired production. Not Taylor Swift. Her entire production breaks down into small pieces. Those pieces can then be packed into the bellies of 2 Jumbo 747 Cargo Jets. She offers the same quality of experience in Sydney as Singapore as New York City. She had moments in the show that were lavish. There were lasers, pyrotechnics, confetti, and probably twice the lighting required. Honestly, you could probably cut $200K from the production every night and still put on just as good of a show. But, there was a message to every pyro blast, laser, and even NFL-style cable video system for the most amazing live camera concert shots I've ever seen.
The message: You're worth it. I'm not skimping on you. This isn't about the money. It's about giving you the best night of your life. You matter. You don't exist because of my talent. I get to live my dream because of you, and I appreciate you. (At least that's what I saw.)
9. Build great customer loyalty and they will address the critics for you. There are haters. Your business is going to attract some critics. There is a definite place for responding to dissatisfied customers and critics, even publicly on social media. It shows you take real concerns and customer service seriously. However, you're often going to appear defensive when you do so. If you're focusing your efforts on intentionally building super-fans, (At Syrup, we call them Champions) they'll do the work for you, and it's a lot more credible. If you attack Taylor Swift, be ready, her fans are going to let you have it. They take it personally, and you will feel their wrath!
10. You can do more. I know that might not sound profound. But, the amount of work Taylor puts into a show just blew me away. The show was 2.5 hours. She starts doing meet and greets 2 hours before she goes on stage, and often surprises fans with more after the concert. I was with a group of about 20, and she spent no less than 5 minutes with each person. Then, she thanked us all for coming and spoke to us as peers. I personally saw her team surprise 2 fans that didn't have tickets with floor seats for the show. The show itself was visually stunning. She sounded amazing. There were well-produced video pieces in between the openers and in between songs. It felt like she valued the audience's time. It was the most intentional concert I've ever been to. Taylor Swift is the new James Brown, the hardest-working person in show business.
*I know the above article might have compromised my rock and roll credibility with many, but I'll apply a little TS wisdom from last night's concert.
"You know, what's cooler than being bored and cool? .... Joy!"
She gave me a joyful evening with my girls, and it was a pleasure to watch her do it for every one of the 56,000 people in the Ga. Dome. You can do it too. You can give your customers joy, and it's worth it every time. There's only one Taylor Swift, but every one of us can apply these ten lessons tomorrow.