The Force Awakens: 5 Marketing Lessons Small Business Can Learn From Star Wars Jonathan Herrick Nearly 40 years ago when the original Star Wars movie was created I don’t think anyone would have imaged another Star Wars movie to hit the box office some 38 years later with revenue total estimates north of 8 billion dollars. But a lot has gone right for the empire and in large part due to how it has approached marketing. If you are like me, you grew up with Star Wars lunch boxes and the motion pictures being a big part of your early childhood. In fact every time a movie came out, it seemed like everywhere – stores, restaurants – was overrun with Star Wars hype and merchandise. It almost seems unfair, doesn’t it? So how can you tap into Star Wars-like buzz for your business? As the latest of the Star Wars movie descends upon us, “The Force Awakens” gives us a chance to look at what the Star Wars franchise has done right to remain a thriving business venture after all of these years, and what lessons your small business can take from it. 1. Develop Raving Fans Star Wars didn’t become a franchise phenomenon overnight. Before there was the prequel trilogy, Star Wars developed a cult following. Yep, these movie-goers are more than just fans, they are die-hard Star Wars fanatics. A fan likes the movies, but a Star Wars fanatic belongs to the Church of Jedi (yes, this is for real). The Star Wars movies didn’t set out to gain mass appeal. Instead, the movies appealed to the ultimate Sci-Fi geek. Then, from a core of loyal fans, the mass appeal spread. Think about it; while not everyone is a Star Wars aficionado, most people can name a character from one of the movies. Your business can take the same approach. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone, zero in on your ideal buyer to create raving fans of your products or services…the mass appeal will follow organically. 2. Connect with a Story The great thing about all of the Star Wars movies is that they had characters in the storyline that the everyday viewer could connect to. So whether it was Han Solo, Luke Skywalker or the proverbial villain in Darth Vader, the series of movies knew their audience and delivered a connected experience. For example, the most epic part of the original trilogy isn’t a special-effect powered battle in space, but rather the father/son storyline when Luke finds out that Darth Vader is his father. The same holds true for your small business today. After you’ve identified your ideal audience, don’t just push your products or services on your buyers. Instead, craft an engaging story with your customer enabling him to relate to the the hero and differentiating your brand from your competitors. With a powerful story, you can do more than just drive sales – you create a tribe of followers of your brand. 3. Be Memorable No one remembers ordinary. In fact if you think of Star Wars, you may not remember every scene, but you would be hard pressed to forget the “Main Title” by John Williams: In your small business, what will you leave your visitors and customers with? What makes you different? There is a restaurant in Sikeston Mo named Lamberts Cafe. Its moto? “Home of the Throwed Rolls.” Each day they toss over 200 dozen of the baked goodies across the restaurant to their patrons. It is what makes Lamberts unforgettable, and what gets people talking about their brand. Great businesses do more than just deliver a good product or service. They put their unique stamp on everything they do. 4. Create Anticipation and Urgency Even though the Force Awakens didn’t come out until today, they have been marketing it for months to create pent up demand. “Force Friday” was launched in September in order to give their audience a chance to get pre show release items such as new toys, games and accessories. It was a huge opportunity to connect to every generation of followers and to engage on social media to start the buzz engines churning around the new movie. So if your small business is planning to market or launch a new product or service don’t miss out on the opportunity to go big and announce it early. Open up a VIP pre-launch page and capture email addresses in exchange for early usage of the product or features. Or, have a sneak peek event before your main event to start the PR train. Engage your core of raving fans early to help boost your reach when the main event arrives. 5. Leverage Partnerships Star Wars is reaching a wider audience by leveraging cross promotion and partnering with big brands to tap into alternate fan bases. For instance, Covergirl is offering Star Wars-inspired makeup lines like “Storm Trooper” and “Jedi.” And Google is letting users customize their experience with their Awaken the Force Within UI. There are dozens of other examples, but the takeaway is that two or more brands can be more powerful than one when it comes to extending brand awareness and reach. With the right strategies for your small business, like identifying your ideal buyer, using storytelling to connect to your audience, leaving your own unique stamp on the customer experience, creating buzz and leveraging partners in your space, you can have blockbuster success.