Small Business Tactics learned from classic horror movies

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It’s that time of year – the season of spooky and all things pumpkin flavored.

With the time of haunting comes an undeniable urge to curl up on the couch for days on end, watching horror movies and sipping on said pumpkin flavored treat. Fortunately, you can binge watch bad John Carpenter films AND brush up on your small business tactics just in time for the holiday season.

In this post, we’ll connect the dots so you can multitask, soaking in some critical business lessons while cringing in fear. (Spoiler alert: the films discussed in the following post are at least 15 years old. If you haven’t seen them by now….consider investing in a Netflix account!)

In the classic 1984 Wes Craven hit, A Nightmare on Elm Street, young Nancy doesn’t just evade the sharp grasps of her nightmares while rocking pastel outfits in true 80s fashion, she gives us a lesson on (painfully) understanding the psychology of our target audience.

In the sometimes complex world of surviving in horror films, it would seem as if Nancy gets out pretty easily, but I would argue Nancy possesses ingenuity and smarts that would hold up against the roughest and toughest of business tycoons.

She doesn’t just close her eyes, clinch her fists and wish for the best; she studies Freddy Krueger, his history, and gets inside his mind until she understands his perspective and how to take him down accordingly. Nancy’s tactics transfer to small business ownership in several crucial ways (none of which relate to harming your target audience, we should add):

  • Don’t rely on surface level information to truly connect with your audience. If you can’t relate to them, they can’t relate to you, your content, your product, or your business. Do your research.
  • Ask for their feedback (both in person and online), tune in to what interests them, and utilize every outlet you have to hear their concerns. Let them know their voices matter.
  • Study how your competitors are interacting with them, then do it better.
  • Monitor your social media. Read the comments on your blog (even if you’d rather face the wrath of Krueger’s sharp gloves), keep track of what’s most shared, and keep in touch with what groups they’re involved in on Facebook so you can be too!

Being able to sympathize with your customers and audience is much simpler than attempting to defeat a dream demon who never seems to die, so keep studying.

Wes Craven makes our list again with his 1996 thriller Scream. In all of it’s retrospective, self-aware glory, Scream is a prime example of how crucial it is for small businesses to utilize social network communities and partner with other businesses to save their…assets.

After a quite literal blood bath of murdered friends, peppered with the wittiest of post-modern 90s one-liners, Sidney Prescott is left alone to defend herself against the killer, Billy, in the climax of the film. All hope seems to be lost as we watch Sidney’s eyes glaze over with defeat while Billy chokes her when, suddenly, Gale, the local news reporter and Sidney’s pseudo-nemesis, shoots Billy.

Without Gale’s intervention, Sidney would have died at the hands of her mother’s killer and we would be without the esteemed cinema that is the Scream franchise. Sidney and Gale shared a common goal: kill the bad guy, and through their similar interests (and desire to stay alive), they worked together to do just that.

There are lessons to be learned of the partnership between Sidney and Gale translatable to every small business:

  • Never stop expanding your network. Gale and Sidney were unlikely partners, nurturing a mutual resentment of one another throughout the film, but they still managed to join forces and benefit from one another. You can never have too many connections.
  • Get involved with your partners on social media! Include them in status updates on Facebook, interact with them on Twitter, tag them whenever appropriate, and create partnering campaigns to increase awareness and reach a larger demographic than just your own.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your established partners, especially when it’s favorable for all parties involved. Offer something in return and you’ll have someone to pull the figurative trigger when backed up against the wall.

Hopefully you’ll never find yourself in a situation with your business partners similar to that of Gale and Sidney’s, but it’s better to foster those relationships now than to deal with sociopathic ex-lovers by yourself.

There are two kinds of people in the world: people who were terrified of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), and liars.

Halloween doesn’t just serve as the pentacle slasher film, defying the genre and generations of movie-watchers alike, but also as a reminder that whenever facing convicted murderers who have escaped a mental institution on the unholiest of nights, sometimes you just have to get creative.

Michael Myers, the infamously white-masked antagonist, stalks Laurie, a young Jamie Lee Curtis, through the entirety of the film until attacking her while she babysits on the night of Halloween. Once Laurie makes certain the children are safe, she hides in a bedroom closet from Michael and his knife. Michael enters the room and punches a hole in the closet door, trying to get to Laurie. Laurie pulls down a coat hanger and, without giving all the fun details away, uses it to her advantage, ultimately coming out alive.

If you don’t think that’s the most utterly inventive way to defend yourself on your feet, you’re probably one of those people who claims this film wasn’t horrifying. When analyzing Laurie’s actions through a business strategy lens, there’s much to be learned of her creativity and enterprise:

  • Brainstorm. Take some time daily, weekly, or monthly to focus solely on ways your business could use some improvement and let it flow. No idea is a bad idea (when freely making notes on a steno pad). Get wacky with your ideas! My guess is that whoever invented Post It notes had a plethora of bizarre ideas that didn’t quite make the cut…
  • Is your cash flow low? Contact the customers or clients who have recently stopped ordering your product or requesting your service. A quick and touching courtesy call will remind them of your product or services and get them back on track.
  • Hold a giveaway! If you have any kind of branded products or goodies, utilize your social media outlets and give stuff away. Have people repost the giveaway photo on Instagram, share the photo on Facebook, or retweet on Twitter. It’s an easy way to gain followers and remind your audience how awesome you are.
  • Be different. It’s easier said than done, sure, but it’s necessary to try and set yourself apart. Read up on guerilla marketing and learn to be one of those businesses that wows their customers. Don’t just use hashtags, become one.
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So as you’re enjoying yet another showing of The Shining on AMC this Halloween season, and triple-checking your doors are locked, think about what you can learn from a business standpoint from the Overlook Hotel and it’s inhabitants.

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