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On the 4th of September 2004, it all began.
X Factor appeared on our televisions with Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Sharon Osborne as judges. There were the auditions, the bootcamp, the judge’s houses round and the live shows. X Factor was a replacement for Pop Idol, a similar programme that ran from 2001 to 2003. And the very first winner of the very first X Factor was? Steve Brookstein.
In 2020, the final X Factor, a celebrity version, was won by Megan McKenna. And alas, there will be no more it was announced in early 2021.
X Factor will be remembered for many things. One Direction and Little Mix. Ella Henderson and James Arthur. And Abby and Lisa’s group Abilisa. Not because of Abby and Lisa’s singing. But because Abby punched Lisa. Or was it Lisa that punched Abby at the end of their performance in 2010? Either way, it was memorable. One of the things I remember most from the X Factor is that thing that Simon Cowell used to say. When he first said it, it was quite novel I suppose. But after a while, it was just annoying. You know,
when Cowell says,
“I don’t like it”. (Pause). “I love it!” Cue cheers.
Anyhow, inspired by millionaire television chap and businessman Simon Cowell, this story explores Simon’s famous phrase in the context of building a business.
Just how do you build a business that people don’t just like, but that they love too? Is there a formula? I’m not sure. But one thing I’d suggest is that if any business owner thinks about these following six things, addressing them all with vigour and determination, creating a loved brand is certainly within reach.
1. Love it yourself, first.
The number one way to create a business that ‘them out there’ will love, is to create a business that, first of all, is loved by ‘you in here’. And this goes quite deep. ‘Love it yourself, first’ not only means creating a service or an experience or a product that if it were offered to you, you’d love it – but you have to actually love delivering it as well. If you are trying to get people to love the thing you do and there are big parts of the offer that you find to be a real chore, that you just want to get through, that you hate – it will show. It can show in your demeanour, in your quality and in your desire and drive to be preeminent. It can erode your focus on being brilliant and treating every customer or client as if they were the most important client of all, because your mood will shift if you are approaching or embedded in doing ‘that thing’ you really would rather be not doing.
There are ways around this. A friend of mine runs holiday studios. They adore creating brilliant experiences for every single guest, but the part of the business they have learned to hate is the linen. And they only have two holiday studios! A little research showed that to outsource the entire linen task would cost around £400 a month. Almost £5,000 a year! So they had to make a decision. And it was important that the decision weas not just from a financial perspective. The question was, is it worth £5,000 a year, which is about 9% of turnover, on this one service? At the start – they said no. But as the hatred of the task grew it started to corrode other aspects of the business too. The love of the overall offer, somehow, started to dip. Just a little bit. But noticeably so. And so they decided to bite the bullet and pay the money.
The result? The love flowed back! No part of the business is now unbearable. And the renewed love spurred the owners on to want to make the overall offering better and better and better. The removal of the worry of imperfect sheets and the removal of hours and hours of washing and ironing improved the mood of the two people driving the brand and their brains exploded with new ideas! They fell back in love with every part of the business – and it’s showing.
2. Be Interesting.
Business is boring, right? Well, some are. In fact I’d say that most are. At least they are more boring than they should be.
A great way to get people to love your business and to be interested in your business is to be interesting. This sounds obvious because it is obvious. But so few businesses neither think further nor go further to drive their business with fresh, challenging and interesting ideas. And it doesn’t have to cost lots of money.
Again, my friend who runs the holiday studios, they are constantly thinking about how to push, push, push the narrative around what they are doing. And they are finding that it’s the tiny things they do that can make a big difference.
Recently for example they upgraded the televisions to Sky, with all the movies. Great! And they could have left it there, simply telling past and potentially future guests about the improvement. But what they actually did was just that little bit more, well, interesting. And it cost them 60p per visit. My friend quite simply invested in a box of top quality home microwave popcorn. Then he told the customer base about the Sky Movie upgrade – with free popcorn thrown in! It was no big thing financially. And a tiny idea, really. But it was just that little bit more interesting because guest can imagine the smell and the taste of the popcorn as they picture themselves relaxing. ‘More Channels’ just became ‘Movie Night!’ If you want people to be interested in what you do… be interesting!
3. Be Generous.
In business, everything you do has a cost. The cost can be measured in time or money, stress or worry, and other ways too I am sure. But a great way to get people to love what you are and do – counter intuitively when it comes to cost – is to be that bit more generous than the competition. Generosity really is a superpower.
Think about this. Think about those times you check into a pretty cool hotel with your partner or family. It costs £150 a night or more and you love it! The décor is amazing, it’s clean, they have all the tv channels in the world and the view is good too. But you can almost hear yourself shouting these words, every time, just after arrival “Don’t go near the minibar! And definitely don’t eat that Crunchie!”
It’s because you know that Crunchie will cost you £2.50. And whilst you’re not stingy, you’re also not happy about paying £2.50 for something you can get for 50p round the corner.
Give them a bloody Crunchie! Yes, you lose revenue and margin. But the way they’ll feel about your brand after one or two nice bottle of wine and a meal, as they curl up to watch Naked Attraction repeats at 2am, tearing at their free Crunchie as they wince at Anna Richardson calling for the screens to rise and ‘reveal the bottom half’ – is worth a whole lot more.
4. Have fun
Business is boring, right? Oh. I said that. At point 2. Well, you can avoid being boring by being interesting of course (see point 2), but you can avoid being boring by having fun, too.
People are funner than you think. And whilst it of course depends on your exact offer, your business can probably be funner than you are making it right now. Relax a bit! Make them smile. Make them laugh, for goodness sake. Take a risk or two. People love brands more that are injected with a little fun.
A friend of mine used to run a creative agency. He’s not run that agency for almost 10 years now. But one of the things that he is reminded of most by ex-clients is the time he bought slippers for the most loyal and ongoing clients of the agency. There they were, slippers with the names of the client on, lined up neatly by the door where clients came in. Leader of Industry. Managing Directors of brands employing hundreds or thousands of people. Responsible people. But they loved the slippers. Because slippers in an office, for clients that visit – are fun!
5. Be Patient.
A big part of getting people to love your service, your experience or your product, is to be patient. And what follows on from that is that, sometimes, the best way to sell your service, your experience or your product, is not to sell at all. It is, once again, to be patient.
People don’t like being sold to, but they do like it when someone helps them to make the right purchasing decision. And as very often, this second, slower approach takes a little bit longer, patience is important. There is education to impart. There is trust to be won. There is a relationship to be built. Your customers will love a patient approach much more than they will love an urgent one.
Just when you think you are good enough. Just when you think you’ve made it. Just when you think you can’t get any better. Invest.
Think further. Go further. And if you can’t think of any way to improve your business, that’s when you could in fact be in the most trouble of all. Ask someone else. Ask your customers. Get someone in to lead the business with you, for a little time or for a long time. Get someone to help you see where you are sub optimal and can improve. It is all too easy to cruise when you are doing well. And that’s just not the thing to do. To get your existing customers and your future customers to love you, then to love you even more, invest more. More time, more money and more care. Because the moment you stop investing in taking your business towards whatever it is you feel your business or brand was born to do, with more determination, more vigour and more enthusiasm, you are from that very second moving backwards. Because someone similar to you, someone that loves their business more than you love your business, will find it really easy to get the customer that at one time wallowed in the glow of the love you had for your brand, to be seduced by the stronger and fresher love they have for theirs.
I Don’t Like it. I Love It!
Customers just liking your brand is not enough. Make them love it. And these six points are a great way to start.