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Small Business Tools You Can Borrow from Disney

Jun 10, 2021

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After listening to the Walt Disney Company’s Q1 FY20 Earnings Call for about an hour, we were inspired to break down some of the stats they shared, as well as go back to our MBA roots and geek out over stuff like quarterly reports. There are tons of other small business tools you can co opt from Disney and use for your own biz, too.

The star of the Q1 show and what you can learn from it

Unsurprisingly, the star of Disney’s Q1 report was Disney+, which launched in November 2019. As of December 31 when Q1 ended, their streaming platform had 26.5 million users, exceeding analyst expectations of 20 to 25 million users. To put it in other terms, Disney+ gained 25 million subscribers in three months…which took other streaming service giant Netflix six years to attain. 

Yes, these numbers are phenomenal. Maybe that’ll inspire you to strive for a certain goal in your own business. One thing we suggest you avoid? Comparing yourself to someone else in your industry and thinking, “wow, I’ll never get to their level.” 

You can be a latecomer to the market and still do really well! Instead, look at what other people are doing in your space and figure out how to do the same thing, but better. Be inspired by your competitors. And remember that some established brands take years and years to get to where they are today. If you don’t find success overnight, don’t fret.

Reaching new audiences and diversifying your brand

The success of Disney+ can also teach you the importance of diversifying where your product lives. About half of Disney+ subscribers came from the Disney website, but that means the other half came from elsewhere, like brand partnerships or other subscription services. Imagine how different Disney’s subscriber numbers would be if they only promoted to one audience.

Don’t limit yourself to your email list or your professional network. You may be surprised at where you can reach new customers when you try something new. Team up with someone in your industry who complements your brand. Join a summit and get more exposure for your business. Use all the social media platforms and tools at your disposal.

Speaking of diversifying, think about diversifying your actual brand as well. Disney is the ultimate expert of this. Not only do they have a huge range of merch, theme parks, movies, and TV shows, but they also have other properties like Star Wars and Marvel and National Geographic under their umbrella. They have something for everyone. 

We don’t mean you have to try and appeal to every demographic out there, but if there’s a target audience you can reel in by tweaking your brand, why not give it a try?

Reducing churn rate

A great medium for diversifying is using a product bundle. For example, you bring in a product from another creator who’s in a complementary industry to you. Bundle your products or services with theirs, and you’ve tapped into a whole new audience and broadened your reach.

Bundling can boost your income and brand reach, but it can also reduce your churn rate. That’s something we learned from the Disney Q1 call: bundling Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN actually helped to reduce their churn rate. 

Churn rate is an important metric for subscribers, sure, but Disney used other metrics to make sure that people were sticking around. How long until someone unsubscribed? What content enticed people to stay? What content brought new subscribers to the platform? 

For example, Disney noted that 65% of the people who watched the Mandalorian continued to watch ten other things on Disney+. The stat itself is interesting, but it’s also worth noting that Disney had a system in place to measure it. You can do the same for your biz. Plan the metrics you want to use in advance and shore up your systems before you launch a new offer. It’ll make things easier for yourself after the fact, especially if you’re not a numbers kind of person.  

Have a backup plan for when things go awry

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the success of Disney+ in this blog, but it wasn’t all sunshine and roses in the Disney Q1 call. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Disney suffered about $200 million in losses minimum because they needed to close their international theme parks. It’s a good thing they had Disney+ to balance that out.

When things don’t go quite the way you think they will, have a backup plan in place. This is a super important skill to have as a CEO or small business owner. If you don’t have one, you’ll have to scramble to take care of yourself, your employees, your clients, and your business operations.

Training your team thoroughly, having resources and guides on hand, and keeping contractors or freelancers in mind in case you need extra hands will help. So will being financially prepared for downturns in your business. Make sure you’re setting aside savings for quiet periods or when something unexpected—like a global pandemic happens. We suggest setting aside at least 10 to 20% in a business savings account.

Manage your own expectations

One last thing we recommend you do as a small business owner is to manage your own expectations. We’re constantly chasing growth, and it’s easy to focus on our goals. But managing your own expectations is incredibly important. You can celebrate your achievements and small wins, but be practical and plan for the bad times, too.

We hope that breaking down Disney’s Q1 call inspired you to use some of their own tools for your own small business. Reaching new audiences, diversifying your brand, reducing churn rate, and having a backup plan in place can help you run your business more smoothly and efficiently.

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