Before you click away, this is not an advertisement, story or article for any circus, rather an example of how the Flow of the Experience can work for your business.
If you’re not familiar with the flow of the Experience model or what is commonly being called the 5E’s, then take a moment to grab some paper and a pen. If you have heard or read about the 5E’s then you will enjoy this example and the addition of two more elements.
So, back to the circus example.
As a child, my Autumn days were filled with bicycle rides, sports in the park with friends and the occasional weekend matinee. Life was simpler then. We didn’t have the abundance of media, digital content or video games to keep our attention occupied. We had to create our own adventures, games and even entertainment.
Yet, on one special day every year, a bunch of us kids would hop on our bikes and ride to the edge of our neighborhood, down to the train tracks. Some of us would pack some snacks and others didn’t really worry about food. This was a day we all waited for. It was the day the circus was coming to town. The day that we could watch as the circus cars rolled past our favorite hill along the tracks.
We always got out early and found the best places to sit. Not too close to the tracks to avoid the dust and ciders the train would throw off as it passed. Not too high up on the hill as to be too far away and not see all the animals and circus people. No, we sat at eye level with the windows of the cars. Face to face with the entertainers who would wave from the cars. But, more importantly, so we were high enough to hear that sweet sound coming far off in the distance. The sound of the calliope playing those wonderful circus tunes. When you heard that, you knew this was going to be the weekend to see the big show under that red and white striped tent. It was time for the circus.
We waited, listening with hands cupped around our ears trying to be the first to announce the circus was coming. Just the idea waiting for the train of the circus could make you imagine the taste of the cotton candy and roasted peanuts. This was magic in its true state. The magic of imagination.
Then, as if the sky opened and the winds blew down the sound, the calliope’s tune filled the trees and down the curving tracks, well beyond our sight. Slowly, faintly at first, but growing, the sound of the engine could be heard blending with the calliope as if it was maintaining the rhythm like the drummer in the band.
Let me stop there and ask this question. Why do you think the calliope plays such an important element in this tale of the circus? They didn’t charge people to listen to the music. It’s definitely not what you go to the circus to hear or see, unless you were a calliope fan. Why put so much effort and time into this phase?
The reason is that the calliope was the initial phase of the circus experience. It functioned as the part as the ‘Enticing’ phase of the experience. The sound of the calliope could be heard well before the train ever was in sight. The music drew people out of their homes to announce that the circus was coming. It made the promise of wonderment and excitement for all who visited. It was unique to the circus and everyone knew its sound could only mean the circus was coming.
- What could you do to create an enticing phase of your business?
- What unique item could be your signature enticing element?
- What does your brand promise the customer that you can create something enticing to draw them out and into your business?
After the train had past and we waved to the sequenced dressed performers, laughed at all the clowns and stared at wonder of all the beasts roaring and trumpeting from inside their train cars, it was time to head home. I knew that once I got back home, my mother would be finishing up cooking dinner and I would probably be unable to eat, thinking of what wonders the circus would bestow upon us under the big top.
The next morning I woke early and had breakfast. I quickly and with little precision, completed my chores. Once done, I sat outside on the front stoop for my grandmother to pull up in her old blue car. See, my mom and dad always let my grandmother take us to the circus, It was her favorite thing to do. She loved it almost as much as I did.
As she pulled up, I don’t think I even waited for the car to stop, I just jumped into the back seat and my brothers followed. Down the road we went, off to the circus.
As we pulled up, you could see the lights all lit up. Banners of various acts stretched taunt between upright poles. In the distance, you could hear the calliope playing loud and strong. If you looked carefully enough when the car turned into the spaces for parking in the adjacent field, you could see the pendants atop the the circus tent waving in the wind as if beckoning all to come and see the show.
Anxious to get past the gates, my grandmother held firm, my shirt collar so that I wouldn’t run off. We walked up to the ticket booth where a young woman smiled from behind the bars. Welcome to the circus young man. Enjoy your day.” she said, sliding the tickets through the little opening.
As we walked through the gates, the circus world unfolded right in front of our eyes. Once inside, performers walked around waving to the visitors, jugglers tossed bright color balls high into the air and a clown on tall stilts lumbered by honking a bike horn and handing out balloons. It is as if the regular world faded away into this world of color, fabric and bright lights. We were in the world of the circus. There was no doubt about it.
“We were in the world of the circus.” This is the point of the next few phases of the experience. More importantly, it is the importance of creating a transition from the outside world to the world of your business. You must define to the customer they are entering somewhere special.
By defining a point of transition or a liminal zone between the outside and the inside, you can control how customers experience your world. By establishing a clear separation between worlds, you communicate that this space/place is of your creation and not simply part of the regular world. This is your world and you need to ensure all the elements are unique to your business and support the promise of the brand and avoid using duplication of others.
If your business is an office space, create a transitional space that informs the customer that they are where they need to be and avoid doubting if they are in the right location. Take most banks as an example. Once you’ve passed the doors, very few banks are different. You could easily change the name on the building and it would not matter the inside. As a business owner, you need to make the transition into your space as unique as you believe your brand to be and support the promise your brand makes and the experience you are staging.
- What elements of the space/place can you change to create a clear representation of your brand or the experience you are staging?
- What could be your ‘ticket booth’ point of entry?
- What senses can you control that make the transition into your space/place uniquely yours?
As we walked about the Midway, that row of entertainment and booths of games and food that create the gallery leading to the big top, I can see the entrance just ahead. To one side of the opening stood a brightly colored dressed gentleman in vest and striped slacks and twirling a thin cane. Somehow his gaze caught mine and he smiled, tilted his head to one side and point with the cane towards the tent entrance. “Come one come all to the greatest show on earth.” he called out. “No time to wait, the show is about to begin.”
We found our seats a few rows back from the edge of the tent floor. My grandmother was never a big fan of the clowns and avoided them by not sitting in the front row. I didn’t mind seating a bit back and up. I could see the acts much better this way.
Suddenly the lights dimmed and a center spot shown on the back curtain. two men dressed in red and wearing red top hats pulled back the tent curtain and the circus Ring Master stepped out into the spot light. His suit sparkled under the lights as he walked to the center of the ring. With both hands stretched out, he reached up and removed his top hat and took a short bow.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, welcome to….” his voice boomed as the tent began to explode in lights and sound. Performers flowed out from various corners of the tent and each taking their turn in the center ring. Through the course of the afternoon, animals, large and small, danced about to music. The circus show had begun.
I can’t tell you how long the show was or if it was different each time. I really didn’t keep track. I can tell you this. I could have spent the whole day there and not cared.
In the big top, the stage is a single large ring. Above are cables, riggings and lights. Every single circus performer, stage hand and concession seller were dressed uniquely. You had no doubts who was part of the circus. Every person had a role to play while the circus show was on.
Your business is the same. Your staff each have a role to play in the experience you stage for your customers. Their uniforms/costumers should communicate to the customer that they are part of your business and are here to be part of that experience and that they can engage with the customer. Whatever the experience that you create and stage, must be presented in full control, from the ring master to the performers and even the broom pusher.
The most important detail is time. Make sure the time the customer spends with you has value. Make it worth spending the time. Time is a very precious commodity to your customer and wasting time does not make for a good or great experience.
- Can you create a ‘look’ around your brand that can make your staff easily identifiable?
- How can you incorporate all the senses to fill your world and support the experience?
- How are you filling the time the customer spends with you?
- What can you do with the customer versus doing for the customer?
I do remember one year clearly. It was the year my grandmother spent a few dollars and bought my brothers and I some silly red noses on a piece of elastic string. It wasn’t anything of great value. Truth be known, she probably only spent 75 cents for all three, but that wasn’t the point. It was something from the circus. A circus I had experienced that day. I remember her putting on the nose on me and chuckling. “Your such a clown.” she laughed.
We walked out of the circus grounds by the ticket booth where we had first come in. Outside the booth stood the lady who had sold the tickets. She was handing out flyers as people passed by. As I came nearer, she began to laugh. For a moment I thought she was laughing at my clown nose, but she wasn’t. You see, walking behind me were a line of clowns following me. When I turned, they all fell back, down onto the ground.
“We thought you were the circus boss.” one of the baggy pants clown said. They quickly got up and scattered apart to say good bye to other boys and girls leaving also. As we turned away and headed back to the car, I could hear in the distance the calliope playing a tune. It wasn’t as loud as before, but I still could hear it.
As we drove off, the lights of the big top and the surrounding Midway slowly faded beyond the horizon.
What is the last thing your customer does in your place of business? Most businesses fall short after the engagement or interaction with the customer. After the customer has made their purchase, transaction or paid for their service, the customer leaves. That’s it. No thought given to what the customer sees or does after the sale. A big missed opportunity to help anchor the experience.
As the customer exits from the experience, make sure there is something they take with them other than the initial purchase or service payment. Take the opportunity to offer a little of the experience with them. Most entertainment venues have gift shops as you leave. Given the customer a chance to purchase a bit of memorabilia of their time spent. I know, you saying that you can’t put a gift shop at your exit. Or can you?
For some companies, it could be a parting gift or a photo taken while they were spending time doing something with you or a highlight of their visit if it was memorable. One example of a parting gift that has always impressed me was the umbrella provided to new mothers as the left the hospital. The staff had pink, blue or yellow umbrellas they would provide in case of bad weather. Of course they were branded, but its wasted about advertising, it was about the gesture and the connection to the experience. If it wasn’t inclement weather, they still got the umbrella in case it change before they got home.
- What is the last thing your customer does before leaving? is it a missed opportunity to anchor the experience?
- How could you leverage the exiting phase of the experience?
- What item could be acquired that signifies their time spent with your business?
So the reason I used the circus as an example is that recently I had stumbled upon that cheap plastic red clown nose at my parent’s house. While sorting out some of my father’s paperwork, I uncovered it in an old desk drawer. Was it mine, I can’t be sure. But what I can be sure of is that it could be mine. And the idea it could be the same nose my grandmother bought me that day brings back the whole store of the day the circus came to town.
The reason I shared this part is because its about how memorabilia can be a trigger to an experience memory. Its something you can look upon and remember the experience without having to go back, if you even can. Though the item itself was a cheap plastic hollow ball on a piece of stretchy string, it was memory gold when I found it.
- How can you create the Extending phase of your experience for your business?
- What could be you provide or sell as a piece of memorabilia?
- Can you make your engagement with the customer ‘photo-worthy’ so it is used as a keepsake?
So there you have it, the 5Es, the flow of the experience.
No, I didn’t forget about the +2. The first plus is what I have done with this tale of the circus. I shared the story. Creating an experience that is of time well spent and makes a lasting impression is shared by the customer. You can’t control the sharing exactly, but you can influence it by providing the experience and opportunities for the customer to share.
Years ago, Disney use to have signs that read “Here’s a spot for a Kodak moment” or something to that. They were telling their guests to take photos, because they knew their guest would share them with others. Today we have a newer version called ‘Instagramable’ spots.
- How can you stage moments that can be capture and shared?
- How can provide a platform for things to be shared from your customers to others?
- What things can you make “Instagramable” spots in your business?
Finally, from ‘Share’ comes ‘Aware’. For those that receive or view those things the customer shares become aware of your brand and the experience you staged. This then, begins the cycle of the flow of the experience all over again. Creating a cycle is key to thriving in the Experience Economy.
Providing a good or great service is not good enough anymore. Advertising is a push methodology that rarely gets shared with others. Break through the noise of the competition by creating a business interaction between your business and the customer that is so engaging, its becomes an ‘Instagramable’ moment.
So, remember the 5Es+2
ENTICING – The lure that draws people out and into your business.
ENTERING – The transition from the outside world into the one you create.
ENGAGING – The span of time that the customer sees as well spent and of value.
EXITING – The last thing your customer does in your business before reentering the regular world.
EXTENDING – Providing the one thing the customer takes with them to trigger the memory of their experience with you.
SHARE – Setting the stage for a shareable or ‘Instagramable’ moment by the customer around your brand and/or business.
AWARE – What others unfamiliar with your business become when your customers share their experience with you.
I hope enjoyed this tale and how the Flow of the Experience can shift you from surviving to thriving. My suggestion to you you, become part of the Experience Economy and grow your economic value for your customers.
Until next time, I’ll be sitting here staring at this little plastic nose and hearing that calliope in my head.