...from the desk of       Elly Valas
Issue: 08-06  Date: June, 2008

Elly Valas

Biz News You Can Use

Quote of the Month:

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."
--Bill Gates


It’s The Experience, Dummy!

Some things never change. Today’s high gas prices and rising food costs haven’t transformed a basic tenet of marketing—it’s really hard to get people to buy anything unless they have a pressing need, a deep-rooted interest or a great purchase experience.

But conversely, people will buy things they don’t want, need or have a use for if they are given a stellar experience. At the SomethingStore, folks buy just the experience, not even knowing what product they’re getting with it.

You know the drill “let’s pick up something to eat” or “I’ve got to buy her something.” Let’s just buy something!

It’s always good to get a package delivered and it’s even more exciting if you weren’t expecting anything and don’t know what’s in it. The SomethingStore tries to capture that Christmas morning excitement every day. It’s made a business out of surprising customers who buy from them. They sell anticipation.

Their model is simple. Go to www.somethingstore.com, give them ten bucks, and they’ll send you something—shipping included in the continental US. Your something is randomly chosen from inventory including beard trimmers, spa sets, Bluetooth headsets, slippers, wallets, coffee mugs, handbags, coffee grinders, teapots, iPods, laptop bags and sunglasses. The most expensive item recently sent was a $650 computer. It’s potluck and you may not love your purchase, but everyone gets something. Reviews on their site show that buyers found it fun and satisfying with most pretty happy when their mysterious purchases were revealed.

So, if people will buy a blind item they may or may not want or need just because it’s fun, what do you have to do to make customers buy your products and services?

You need to create magic so that your clients are surprised every time they do business with you. It may be simple things like giving out ice cream bars, soda and bottled water on hot days. Or maybe you need to update your store or even move to a more accessible location. Perhaps your people are so knowledgeable and so friendly they make your prospects feel like long lost family members.

Think about your own experiences. When was the last time you were truly wowed at a restaurant, a store, a hotel or with a service provider in your home? When did you last find service to be so great, you wanted to pick up the phone and call the owner and to refer all your friends to that business?

Believe it or not, creating a great experience isn’t as hard as you might think. Find out where the pain points are for your customers and address those specific issues.

If your clients are in time bankruptcy, look for ways to streamline your procedures to speed up the buying process in your company. If they’d like to feel comfortable bringing their children into your business, stage an annual petting zoo to put out the message that you’re a family-friendly place to buy. If they’re overwhelmed with too much tech talk, bring in the experts and hold seminars and clinics to take the fear out of buying new technologies.

Personalize your offering to the particular needs of each individual consumer. My favorite restaurant has an extensive menu, but their servers just smile when I order the salmon cooked like the trout with the side that comes with the rib eye. And yeah, I like my onion rings extra crispy and my cosmopolitan not too sweet.

Great personal service may be as simple as learning to ask for and use your customers’ names. A respectful introduction as you extend your hand might sound something like “My name is Tom, and yours is……?”

According to a study conducted by Bain & Company, eighty percent of companies believed they delivered a “superior experience” to their customers. Customers of those companies, however, only felt that 8 percent delivered an exceptional experience. Those who did excel differed from others in three areas.

1. They design the right offers and experiences for the right customers—“promoters” who will recommend the company to others.
2. They deliver these propositions by focusing the entire company on them. Their leaders focus on the entire experience offered. Sales, profits and return on investment will follow.
3. They develop their capabilities to please customers again and again—by such means as revamping the planning process, training people, and establishing direct accountability for the customer experience.

Nido Quebein, CEO and founder of The Great Harvest Bread Company and President of High Point University has said, “People don’t buy products. They buy the product of those products.” They buy what it will do. They also buy the purchase experience.

Today’s consumer has been trained by Starbucks. They can get coffee at home, but they go to Starbucks for the experience. For the atmosphere. For the aroma.

Your clients are no different. Find out what they want and then do just a bit more. They’ll come back again and again.