May 15, 2017
Companies big and small keep looking for ways to win the favor of consumers, and it’s not an easy task considering the number of competitors on the playing field. So how do you get ahead and reach your target market?
Experts agree that it’s not about selling products and services anymore — it’s about selling experiences delivered through those products and services. We have moved beyond an industrial and service-based economy to one that focuses on providing authentic, meaningful experiences.
Consultant Joseph Pine, who studied this shift toward an ‘Experience Economy’ and wrote a book of the same name, says it’s time to rethink how businesses can appeal to consumers. When you customize a product or service for a particular market and turn it into a memorable event, it becomes less of a tangible thing and more of a meaningful experience that people would treasure and surely want to share on social media — and this is how you grow your business today.
Let’s take a closer look at selling experiences and how you can leverage it to attract new customers, keep existing ones and grow a business that will flourish in the years to come.
Authentic vs. Inauthentic Experiences
When it comes to the experience economy, one issue always comes up: authenticity. One company offering an African safari-like experience in the middle of a bustling city can be scoffed at for being selling fake experiences, but Pine says there really is no such thing as an inauthentic experience.
How is this so? Well, simply because the experience happens internally.
“It’s our reaction to the events that are staged in front of us. So, as long as we are in any sense authentic human beings, then every experience we have is authentic,” Pine explains. “Now, there may be more or less natural or artificial stimuli for the experience, but even that is a matter of degree, not kind.”
In the experience economy, Pine says, there’s no such thing as an experience that is 100 percent natural in the purest, rawest sense of the word. Once you understand this, there’s nothing stopping you from satisfying customers’ desire for authenticity, which is fast becoming the new consumer sensibility.
Authenticity has become the criteria by which consumers choose what they’re going to buy and who/where to buy it from. And so, you will have to render authenticity effectively. But how? According to Pine, authenticity has two dimensions to it: being true to yourself, and being what you say you are to others.
The first is self-directed — are the economic offerings you provide true to themselves? The latter is other-directed — are these offerings what they say they are to other people? How can both be made true?
For the first dimension, Pine says the key to being true to yourself is knowing and understanding your heritage and who you are as a business. Keeping this in mind enables you to trace what you have done before. As for the second dimension, what you have done in the past serves to limit what you can do and what you can essentially get away with in the future.
“The No. 1 thing to do when it comes to being what you say you are, is to provide places for people to experience who you are,” Pine says. “It’s not advertising that does it.”
Take a look at Starbucks. It’s known primarily for offering coffee, but what it really provides consumers is the cafe experience: the service, the ambiance, the homey interiors, the space, a place to see and be seen.
Because of that authentic experience, Pine says, the company can charge up to $5 for a cup of coffee when in fact beans, the raw material, cost just a few cents for each cup. By adding value to what you offer by selling an entire authentic experience with it, you’ll be able to attract new customers and retain existing ones.
So how exactly do you begin with selling an experience? The first thing to do, really, is to change your mindset about your business. You are no longer focusing on a product’s functions and features, but on what it can make people feel. That’s right, put yourself in consumers’ shoes and try to think about how they would feel about your brand offerings.
John Sculley, the former CEO of Apple, pioneered the concept of experience marketing. It was his idea for Pepsi — the Pepsi Challenge that would bring Steve Jobs to tap him for Apple’s campaign, the product of which was the infamous ‘1984’ ad. In that ad, Apple never once showed a product or mentioned any technical specs of its new computer.
“All we did was to sell an experience, that something exceptional was gonna happen,” Sculley shared. Since then, Apple has come to focus on the experience that comes with its products, making it one of the world leaders in tech today.
For Dylan Lauren, founder of Dylan’s Candy Bar, the experience also involves store design and packaging, which are done in such a way that the products look interesting and appealing.
Lauren says that by paying attention to the sensory aspects, the experience of buying candy becomes “more of not just self-consumption but something you wanna excite someone else with.”
And it shouldn’t stop there. Jon Taffer, the host of Bar Rescue, asserts that entrepreneurs should never stop modifying a product or service until it makes consumers want to experience it again and again. Those in the food or beverage business shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking they’re simply offering meals or drinks; they should focus on how they would make customers feel.
“I’ll put that plate in front of you and if you don’t sit up, I’ll redesign it a hundred times until you do,” Taffer says, adding that it’s not the plate of food but the way customers react to it that brings business in.
Mike Powers, the managing director of Painting with a Twist, says that businesses have to continue to evolve and “never let the experience become a routine thing.” Reevaluate and innovate as often as needed to stay current and fresh.
So make the customer experience a core component of your business and strive to make it better. Promote more than the features of your product. Offer a unique and compelling experience that extends beyond it.
Lastly, I was able to get some valuable takeaways from Mark Kane, CEO of Sunwise Capital, on the topic of selling, and here’s what he has shared:
“Everything in life requires selling. My career started as a psychologist. I recognized that for me to be successful, to help change the behavior of others, I needed to “sell” them on my therapeutic recommendations.”
He continues, “The reality is it’s all about closing; building relationships, qualifying and closing from the moment you say, ‘Hello’.”
Success in sales means you must be goal-oriented versus just having a random conversation.
You must know the outcome before the conversation starts. It’s like a roadmap. There are many routes to drive from Bangor Maine to San Diego California.
However, the shortest route will be a straight line from Bangor to San Diego.
No short cuts, no detours. A straight line. When you are going from point “A” to point “B,” you must plan carefully every word out of your mouth.
At all times throughout your presentation, you must be two or three steps ahead of your prospect.
You do this to hold their hand and make sure they follow your path and don’t get distracted.
There are three steps.
- First, you must develop instant rapport both on a conscious and unconscious level. No chit chat, no talking about the last movie you watched.
You must quickly establish yourself as the expert, and you do that through the rapport building process.
- Second, you will know exactly the questions you need to ask. No more, no less. These questions help you understand what your prospect needs or wants.
- The last step is keeping that roadmap in front of you always. Your prospect will try consciously or unconsciously to take you off the path.
Your goal is always to control the conversation and keep it on that road to success.