I realized that we have another tell-tale sign that Christmas and the holiday season are bearing down on us like a brakeless semi-truck the other day when one of my Facebook friends boasted that she was dressed up and ready for the Hallmark movies.
I may be a little late to the party, but I think it was just last year when I finally realized that the channel airs a seemingly endless stream of Christmas movies starting around the time the kids are finally coming down from their Halloween sugar high.
My friend’s purchase of a shirt celebrating the Hallmark movies is testimony to the incredible success the greeting card manufacturer has been able to engineer over the last several years and it offers three lessons to everyone in business.
1. Know your lane
I’ve had the pleasure to do a little work for customer experience expert Shep Hyken and one of the points he makes is that a company needs to “stay in its lane.” When companies stray away from their core identity it usually leads to problems. And note that I said “core identity,” not “traditional product line” or service.
Let me illustrate this with Hallmark: I think of it as a greeting card company, not a cable channel, yet it has been able to reflect its core identity through cable television programming. This current Hallmark Christmas movie mania proves the point.
Over the years, Hallmark has created a feel-good identity centered around bringing people together at the important moments in their lives. This is echoed in the company’s Christmas movies. They were able to leverage this and diversify into cable television programming without straying from their lane and diluting the core Hallmark identity.
Diversification is good when you’re not robbing Peter to pay Paul!
2. Keep banging your drum
Had Hallmark created one or two Christmas movies and then let the idea slide, my friend wouldn’t be sitting on her couch today, tuned into the Hallmark Channel, and sporting her Hallmark Christmas Movies Watching Shirt. We are creatures of habit, but the fact is that it takes a lot of repetition to create a habit!
The lesson is that your customers or clients need to associate you with something and you need to keep banging that drum so they don’t forget it.
Hallmark obviously picked Christmas movies because the holiday shopping season must be its most important time of the year in terms of boosting its profits. It’s also an extended season and one that lends itself well for the creation of movie content.
Take time to determine what you want to be known for and then devise a way to repeatedly “celebrate” it, so it begins to be instantly associated with you.
3. Find a complementary channel
As I implied earlier, it’s a long way from a greeting card on a shelf at the mall gift shop to a cable television channel, yet it’s working for Hallmark.
I don’t think anyone reading this has the ability to go out and start a cable channel tomorrow, but I think Hallmark’s strategy gives us a clue to something that might work for you, and that’s content.
Valuable content can enhance the bottom line for virtually any product or service. You may not be able to start a cable channel that gets picked up by Comcast, but you can have your own YouTube channel. Of course, white papers and e-books are other avenues to pursue.
Let me share a quick story. There’s a woman who is an expert at creating successful mall kiosk businesses. She understands what works and what doesn’t so she wrote a book about it. While the market for her book is very small, the consulting business she receives through that book is huge. Just like Hallmark’s Christmas movies make us more likely to grab a few of the company’s cards or Christmas ornaments, her book makes prospects more likely to give her a call when they need guidance.
Have you identified what will become your version of Hallmark Christmas movies? It may be something you’ve been doing halfheartedly in recent years. Maybe it’s time to redouble your efforts. You aren’t looking for immediate miracles, you’re looking for a long-term identity booster.
As we’re approaching the new year, now would be a great time to lay out plans for 2019. And to help build up your energy, enjoy a few restful evenings between now and then snuggled on your couch with your family vicariously experiencing some small-town Christmas warmth and cheer courtesy of The Hallmark Channel.