What is an “Experience Economy”?

Author: Megan Braverman | March 4, 2014

The annual Marketing Partner Forum, held in Naples, Florida, brought together managing partner, marketing partners and senior business development professionals to examine how attorneys and law firms can stay relevant in a very crowded marketplace by providing greater value to clients.

A recap of six of the sessions follows along with the key takeaways. I’d welcome feedback or further discussion.

Experience seekers and consumer expectations….

The keynote presentation, “Experience Economy” was given by Joseph Pine, co-founder of Strategic Horizons and bestselling author of The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage and Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want.

Essentially, Pine posits that the Internet has led to the commoditization of everything, including services, and that the only way to truly stand out in this economy is to offer consumers unique and memorable experiences. Thus, we are dealing with what he terms an “experience economy.” Some of the most successful companies have capitalized on this consumer desire for a distinct experience, including:

  • REI offering in-store rock climbing
  • Boutique hotels, such as NYC’s Library Hotel
  • Mid-Columbia Medical Center, which sheds the stark utilitarian vibe of most medical centers for a comfortable, even homey, vibe
  • Progressive Insurance with client-friendly collision response protocol

These companies capture what Pine calls the three main “experience factors” – time (which is limited), attention (which is scarce), and money (which is consumable). The experience is the marketing. Unfortunately, experiences too can be commoditized; if they become too rote, too predictable, consumers can simply say “been there, done that” and move on. The solution is to offer an experience that is a transformation to guide people to change.

There are three steps to guiding transformations:

1)    Diagnosis

2)    Staged experiences

3)    Transformation

It’s important to choose staged experiences that will make the client feel comfortable. So, how can we apply this to marketing? For example, the Geek Squad (now owned by Best Buy) is a group of computer geeks who assist with any computer/technical issue you are dealing with. They are really committed to the staged experience – from their theatrical, geeky outfits with black pants and white socks to a geek badge to their Volkswagen black and white Beetle car with the Geek Squad stamped on the sides. Not to mention the soles of their shoes so that when they walk through mud or snow, they leave the Geek Squad imprint.

In this experience-based economy, customers desire outcomes – real results, stemming from real transformations – above all else. The most successful companies in any field will deliver these outcomes, capitalizing on people’s desire for experiences rather than mere services.

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