Want More Customers, Stop Marketing!

Improve customer retention and enhance your bottom line by not spending money on your current marketing efforts. Stop throwing money at a low return in hopes of improving response over previous efforts. There is a better way to get a more significant ROI on marketing budgets.

Over the past few years, I had the pleasure of developing many visual concepts for B. Joseph Pine II, co-author of the Experience Economy and Infinite Possibilities. Many of the visuals that were created were from the very ideas from the books that Joe had written. The best part was—that with each drawing—I felt I was gaining a deeper understanding of every concept that Joseph Pine and James Gilmore had created. I was given a unique look into the world of modern economics, and I can tell you, there were many concepts to tackle and many sketches to create—over 500 to-date.

To carry out these 500+ illustrations, there was a lot of time spent discussing the meaning and history behind these ideas. Discussions and debates over how best to bring them visually to life. Granted, not every drawing that was created fit his presentation needs, but that’s a big part of developing a visual library around a well-known publication—conveying the concept visually.

It was during one of these discussions that Joseph presented a new concept around marketing. A concept so anti-tradition, I knew instantly that it would be controversial, and the push back from marketers and the business world would be great. The visuals needed to clearly support the idea. That idea, in his words, was ‘companies need to stop marketing, start customering.’

Stop marketing and start customering?

What is customering?

This idea is a dramatic shift in the traditional order of things. As Pine clarified, marketing was a process of pushing information out to the masses in hopes to attract customers. There’s nothing new about this process of marketing. Every company does it. It is typically the key way companies believe they need to communicate their brand message. His concept meant reversing the process of connecting with a better method called “customering.”

Much like the concept of human-centered design, customering was about seeing each customer individually and not stereotyping them into “market” groups or segments. His idea was that people want what they want—when they want it—and that each customer is unique. It is this uniqueness that marketing techniques fail to address successfully, and eventually accept low percentage returns on the effort. 

The Experience is the Marketing

Pine’s idea was to forego massive marketing campaigns and to direct your attention towards each customer you now have. Deepen the relationship through customized and personalized engagements. Stage experiences for them that are memorable and sharable. In Joseph Pine’s words “the Experience IS the Marketing.”

Every day the news reports another retailer shuttering, a bank merger, malls closing, and companies forced to close their doors because customers are no longer shopping as frequently in their stores. With the digital world expanding, more and more customers are buying online to save time and companies are faced with a surmounting dilemma of how to increase physical traffic. The solution is no longer in marketing, rather the solution is in customering—the staging of experiences in order to have customers spend time and create sharable memories.

Staging Experiences

The companies that stage experiences have a greater opportunity to capture the hearts and wallets of each customer they engage with. This engagement—or experience—also becomes the core of the stories the customer shares with their friends, family, and co-workers. Experiences create stronger brand connections that all the marketing dollars can ever produce. Experiences create customer loyalty. Again, as Pine says, ‘the Experience IS the marketing,’ and the customer becomes your brand ambassador.

If you want to learn more about the Experience Economy, staging experiences for your customers, and leveraging your marketing dollars more effectively, then give me a call.

Degression of Economic Value – Case Study Starbucks

 

Degression: a stepping or movement downward

A disclaimer. I have been a long-time “Starbuckian” and I have a minimum of 2 Grande coffee’s a week from my favorite Starbuck cafe. I enjoy the engagement of my local baristas and will continue being a patron of Starbucks in the foreseeable future.

Note of caution: Degression of economic value is driven by commoditization. When you reduce personalization and customization, you commoditize your economic offering. Progression is only achieved by making it more personal and customizable.

In the Experience Economy, Starbucks is, or was, an exemplar of how a Service provider could be an Experience stager. From the very begin of rolling out Starbucks Howard Schultz wanted to create a coffee lovers experience. As he even is quoted as saying, “Starbucks represents something beyond a cup of coffee.

By bringing the ideas of European coffee baristas and adding the elements of an experience, he created a unique and personal offering. In fact, Starbucks became the third place to gather in many people’s lives. It was much more than just a coffee shop it was a unique and authentic coffee experience. Howard Schultz believed this and even expressed this thought in a statement to the press, “People around the world, they want the authentic Starbucks experience.

Unfortunately, the fame and growth of Starbucks brings many challenges, especially from those willing to trim and standardize the custom experience. This was the beginning of the end of the Starbuck Experience as it was known. Over the years I observed many changes, some subtle some not-so subtle, but all impacting the experience.

The first noticeable shift was from the ceramic mugs to paper cups. I realize that it may have been about cost-cutting, cleanliness and consistency, but it was the first of many stones cast towards moving from the Experience to a Service model.

Next came the de-creativity and de-styling of the barista by introducing the practice of lidding the cup after creating the coffee. No more were there hearts and leaves drawn in the foam of the coffee, now there was just the plastic lid, the paper cup and the cardboard wrap. Speed became the critical factor. Move more coffee by reducing the time from purchase to acquisition.

Recently, technology has begun playing a role in this commoditization of the Starbuck Experience. Mobile apps and drive-up windows forced a control mechanism, the printed label. Quickly vanishing is the personalization and interaction of the customer and the barista for the speed and accuracy of customer’s drink pick-up. Clever hand-written names were replaced by mobile account names and printed mixes. Customers didn’t even have to engage the barista anymore. The experience is faded quickly away and been replaced by an expensive coffee service.

Finally, Starbucks has allowed the store design to seal the Starbuck Experience fate. The new cafe design actually creates the perfect assembly line production model. Four stations replace two all to improve the speed and efficiency. The first is the order station. Orders only please, no exchange of funds. Next comes the pay station. Then you verify your order with the barista, then finally, you wait at the pick-up station where you have to locate your order amongst the in-store and mobile orders that are stacking up in tiered racks. No longer is it about going beyond coffee and creating the third place. Its become about moving product as fast as possible.

Now I know there are those diehard Starbuckians like myself who would attempt to argue the issue, but one only needs to just stop, look and see that the Starbucks Experience that drew us in has been replaced by the Starbucks service.

With Howard Schultz away from the helm, an echo of warning to Starbuck’s future is not being heeded by those in control, “I am concerned about any attrition in customer traffic at Starbucks, but I don’t want to use the economy, commodity prices or consumer confidence as an excuse. We must maintain a value proposition to our customers as well as differentiate the Starbucks Experience. That is the key.

Can or will Starbuck’s regain the coffee experience it created inside the cafes excluding the Roastery? Only time will tell.

Past-Present-Future of thinkAbout

Had a wonderful and thought-provoking time at this year’s thinkAbout in Cleveland. Sadly, it’s the last event after 20 years. I am proud to say I have attended 10 of the 20 gatherings. It all ended at the place it began, Cleveland, Ohio.

The event was themed around time and the #ExperienceEconomy evolution and hosted by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. Each segment was separated by the past, present and future. Below are the visual translations.

The past was a tour from the beginning through last year’s gathering in New Orleans. Each city had a theme and usually had some tie in with the award winners. I have always imagined what city or place Joe and Jim would choose had I ever won an EXPY. Probably somewhere that embraced visual thinking or illustration. Oh well, its fun to dream.

The next day took us to the present in Jim and Joe’s wacky time machine. They shared the ideas and directions they were pondering for the next evolution of the Experience Economy. From time as currency to the Hinduization of the digital world. 32 million deities now transformed into 32 million apps on our mobile devices. When we wake to the chiming of our mobile devices it is the same as banging the pots to wake the deities. We do not worship them, we use them.

Our world view of the Experience Economy changed as Jim and Joe unveiled the next progression of thinkAbout, thinkAbout4U. A client focused gather mirroring the process of thinkAbout for Experience stagers.

We also discovered the last two award winners. For the EXPY, Carnival cruises took the prize for this year’s stager and for the EMA, Ty Koon received the honors as Experience Manager.  All in all, a great time of discussion, contemplation and investigation.

One thing I took away is that mobile technology is reigniting the lizard brain in all off us. We now react with Fight-Flight or Respond. This makes me wonder if we as humans are becoming the greatest experiment of Pavlov’s digital dog. (bing)

The second thing I took away is that Experiences should be designed to provide happiness, As goes of experience, we pay extra for that experience that makes us happy. No one pays to be made miserable, that’s called customer service.

Until next time, keep your eyes to the future and keep staging experiences that are photo-worthy.

Experience Economy: Go With the Flow

There’s a lot conversation from the design world about the customer journey. Each design firm has its own version of how customers travel through the place, be it physical or digital. What many have in common is the attracting of customers. In the physical world, they label the outside environment of the place as Attract. They explain, “The design must draw people inside in order for them to do business with you.”

However, if your institution is looking for ways to participate in the emerging Experience Economy, you’ll want to begin staging Experiences for customers. And you should start by using a different design criteria terminology—one that better aligns with experiences. Instead of trying to attract customers, think in terms of enticing them. Enticing suggests that you’re providing the customer with a call to action—rather than merely attempting to stand out from the masses and be noticed.

In the economy of Experiences, enticing is the act of luring a customer in. It speaks to something special, unique, even other-worldly. Enticing is also the first phase of the flow of an Experience. It is the cue in the outside world to beckon the customer inside and teases what awaits inside.

Take the Build-A-Bear Workshop stores. The façade around the entrance way is their enticing zone, which allows them to begin telling the story of customized and personalized teddy bear creation. It speaks to customers, telling them that “here is where your dream bear becomes real.” It is enticing them to come and build a bear of their own.

Following along the flow of the Experience, the customer transitions through the second phase—or liminal space—called entering. It may not sound as exciting as enticing, yet it is as critical as any other phase in the flow of an experience. It is the phase—be it a distance or span of time—that guides customers into the world you’ve created. It transitions them from the outside and into your place. The entering is one of the most overlooked phases in business. It is commonly treated as merely the doorway in or out of your business and yet, to the Experience stager, it can be key to establishing the Experience. Imagine if Disneyland or Disneyworld didn’t have its deep gates and Main Street to establish its world. How believable would it be as the Magic Kingdom?

Entering is also where the stager begins changing the environment through the five senses. Sound and visual cues are strong ways to begin shifting a customer’s perception from the outer world to that of your business and the Experience. As with enticing—which establishes the promise—the entering begins to shape the promise. In this phase, it is crucial that it must reflect the brand and the Experience being staged.

Once the customer has entered, the engaging phase of an experience begins. Engaging is as it is named, the point where the customer engages with the business, brand, and staff—and where the promise established in the enticing phase begins to be fulfilled.

At this point, most services or goods providers see this as the end of the customer journey.

Yet in the Experience Economy, the engaging phase is followed by the exiting phase. Exiting—like entering—is usually an overlooked phase of the experience. Although it’s not as exciting as the engaging phase, exiting is critical to reinforcing the memories created during the engaging phase. Here the business has the opportunity to provide a token of the Experience.

In many museums, for example, this phase is represented by the gift shop or souvenir shop that’s well located for visitors as they are exiting the museum. It can even serve as a moment when they take photos with others in front of the marquee or display. It is a place that offers the opportunity to create a reminder of the engagement.

For banking, the exiting could be as simple as a handshake and a branded folder holding documents of a transaction. Or it could be the nice pen used to sign a loan. This phase is another liminal space, like that of entering. It is the transitional segment along the Experience Journey, leading from the inner world of your business back out to the outer world.

Finally, the last phase of an Experience is that of extending. It is that point where the engagement is extended beyond the place. Take Starbucks as an example. As a customer leaves the café, they typically carry the drink in a branded cup beyond the business out into the public view. Some customers even purchase Starbuck travel mugs as memorabilia of the experience. In banking, it can be a follow-up piece sent later that is personalized for the customer around the type of engagement they had—or a handwritten thank you note when adding a new product or service.

It is important to understand that the extending phase then becomes the enticing phase for the return visit. It can also become a means for customers to share their experience with others. It can be used to help transform customers into brand ambassadors and entice others to experience what is offered.

Here, a note of caution.

Working through the flow of the experience is not about a checklist of things to do along the way or build as needed. A clear strategy needs to exist—one that incorporates all five phases of an Experience harmoniously. Design and develop the complete flow of the experience before engaging customers to the Experience that will be staged.

 

Originally posted on ABA Bank Marketing, June 19,2017

Attracting Customers Is Not Enough

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In the Experience Economy, the authors use a flow process. Over the years of working with them, assisting clients with customer and employee journey maps, I realized that the first stage of most journeys begin with “Attracting”.

Attracting is good, yet the idea of attracting merely means you want them to notice you and nothing more. This term creates no call to action. Because of that and that I tend to never let an idea go, I rethought the whole initial process and change the beginning from Attracting to Enticing.

Look at an experience or business you have. Are you merely trying to attract attention or is it that you want people to enter your business? Me, I want to entice people inside. I want them to engage not merely notice. Enticing truly means you are actively generating interest that is sparking curiosity in the mind of your prospect in hopes to make them your customer.

If you would like to learn more or remap your customer journey, let’s chat.