Before most of us ran businesses, we played Mortal Kombat. Whether you played it on a Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo or Sony PlayStation, Mortal Kombat was the one-on-one fighting game that stood tall above the crowd, outshining Soul Calibur and the many 'me-too' games that tried to compete. Now, the popular series is back in action with its upcoming Mortal Kombat 2011, a game hailed by critics as a throwback to the kind of brutal violence that made the game popular in the first place.
While we wait for the blood-splattering action to arrive, here are some unconventional lessons Mortal Kombat characters can teach us about business:
Reel In The Best Talent
All Mortal Kombat fans remember Scorpion's signature 'Get Over Here!' cry as he reeled opponents in with a roped spear. While this was never a pretty sight if you happened to be that opponent, Scorpion offers us a valuable business lesson: aggressively pursuing top talent.
Even the greatest ideas are worthless without a winning team to execute them. Furthermore, the best people are usually in high demand, and tend to be hired off the open market sooner than later. That's why it's imperative to reel in the best talent you can find as soon as you can.
Freeze Your Competitors With Outstanding Products
It's crucial to stay aware of what competitors are up to: their prices, their product selections and the general direction they seem to be headed in. However, it is a mistake to obsess about your competitors to the point of neglecting what really matters - your own business.
In fact, one of the best approaches you can take is to 'freeze' your competitors (just like Sub-Zero) into a stand-still by consistently outperforming or out-innovating them in the marketplace.
If your business becomes known as the 'go-to' source for what you sell, your competitors will be the ones reacting to you (and finding it difficult to move forward) rather than the other way around.
Electrify Your Customers With Superior Service
Most successful companies use marketing and advertising to get people excited about their products or services. Yet, there is actually another, simpler, less expensive way to create advocates for your brand: customer service.
By going above and beyond for your customers, you train them to see you as a partner and an ally, rather than just an anonymous business trying to take their money.
Charles Schwab does a noteworthy job of this by addressing callers by name and discussing their financial goals - even if there is no immediate sales pitch to be made. In this way, Schwab customers actually look forward to calling in because they know what stellar service they will receive.
So while you cannot literally electrify your customers like Raiden, the thunder god, you can do the next best thing by making sure their every encounter with you is positive, helpful and satisfying.
Don't Sell From Your Heels
In this video, sales and copywriting expert John Carlton cautions business owners against a common (and deadly) mistake: selling from your heels. For one reason or another, many of us are squeamish or uncomfortable with the sales process - especially the 'moment of truth' when it comes time to close the deal and ask a customer for their money. This attitude is fatal to your success.
Instead, Carlton says, you need to be bold about closing the sale as soon as it becomes clear that you do, in fact, offer what the prospect needs.
If there's one Mortal Kombat character who was never afraid to stand up and assert his greatness, it was Johnny Cage. You can take it to the bank that if Cage were a business owner, he would not shy away from ethically, confidently and un-obnoxiously urging qualified prospects to buy what he sold. Take the same forthright attitude and watch your sales grow!
Multi-Task (Without Four Arms)
It's no secret that life as a business owner gets hectic in a hurry. Training new employees. Holding strategy meetings. Racing against deadlines. Interacting with clients and customers. The list goes on and on - and it all needs to get done. Sound familiar?
These kinds of jam-packed days might be rare disasters for employees, but more often than not, they are constant realities for business owners. Chances are, things will get busier before they get easier.
Unlike the monstrous, dungeon-dwelling Goro, you don't have four arms to work with. Therefore, you need to work with what you have, and become an astute time manager. Books like The Time Trap will help you diagnose your current time management problems and devise immediate, implementable solutions to get more done in less time.
Don't Be a Shape-Shifter
All but the most experienced Mortal Kombat players hate opposing Shang Tsung because of his ability to morph into and use the powers of every other character (in addition to his own.) But while shape-shifting makes for a formidable hand-to-hand combat adversary, it makes for a very unfocused business.
Whether they realize it or not, customers look to certain businesses for certain things. Wal-Mart represents low prices. McDonald's represents inexpensive food. Volkswagen represents trendy, sleek cars.
None of this was an accident. The top executives of these companies knew full well the covenant they wanted to have with their customers and did everything with that in mind. If your company does not already symbolize something firm and specific to customers, now is the time to change that. See Jay Abraham's article on creating your unique selling proposition (USP.)