Seven Lessons for B2B From Cirque du Soleil

By David Hoskin | Small Business

I was fortunate enough recently to see the Cirque du Soleil perform its Allegria show in Copenhagen. Allegria is a mesmerizing show performed by artists of exceptional ability, and I was left with a feeling of satisfaction in witnessing real people perform real feats of skill, creativity and daring.

Here was a credible performance. And for a discerning audience, credibility is essential. But what exactly made it so convincing? What was it that ties everything together? And what inspiration can companies and brands take from the credibility and honesty of a great performance? After all, Cirque du Soleil is a highly successful business in itself.

So as I sat and enjoyed the show, I became aware of seven lessons businesses could take from the show:

1. Cirque du Soleil delivers on its brand promise, which is “to evoke the imagination, invoke the senses, and provoke the emotions”. Whether you’re into that sort of thing is a matter of personal taste, of course, but its continued growth and the large audiences that flock to performances around the world indicate a large amount of success. The promise is simple – and the delivery lives up to the promise. What more can a customer expect?

2. The performance is a wonderful example of how the sum of many parts can come together in perfect harmony. Acrobats, gymnasts, actors, singers, musicians, stage managers, sound engineers and others all work together in real time. The combination of individual performance and teamwork is a great model in how to achieve the perfect “performance”.

3. A truly convincing element is seeing all the skill and experience being demonstrated first hand and live by experts. There are no tricks and special studio effects – the type we’re used to from movies, tv, online games, and digital media. In a live performance, you see real people perform real acts. You see their concentration and focus right here and right now. You witness their vulnerability and willingness to take risks for the sake of the audience. You feel the blood sweat and tears. It’s the sort of credibility and closeness that all business should aspire to.

4. The performers deliver on call at the moment when it’s needed. It’s the result of careful planning and individual skill, and no doubt the hard work everyone puts in behind the scenes. But when their turn comes, they are ready to shine.

5. The artists of Cirque du Soleil take enormous pride in what they do. Their exuberance and passion is clear for all to see. A company whose staff obviously enjoy what they’re doing and take pride in the service they perform is so much more convincing than those who just “do a job”.

6. Tying it all together is the storytelling element together with the choreography, costumes, music and staging. But the story does not overwhelm and distort the truth; it simply provides a context that captures the imagination and transcends the performance from a series of acts into something more subliminal.

7. But what customers really want to see is the artists perform. That’s the essence and magic of the show. The most important lesson here for business is that the specific technical expertise and skill is the true brand differentiator. Too often in B2B companies, this expertise remains a hidden secret within the company, inaccessible to the outside world. This is a missed opportunity, because it is this true uniqueness that companies often strive to achieve through expensive corporate branding exercises.

Cirque du Soleil is the perfect example of bringing its experts into the limelight. It’s not the “story” or the marketing, but the experts themselves that provide the real truth about a company. Everything else is secondary.

The question is, is your business revealing the real truth about itself? I reckon a visit to Cirque du Soleil might give you the inspiration to figure it out.

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