The Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore

Rate: ****1/2

Read:  Cover to cover

Categories: Big idea, Marketing, Sales

You know the saying about pornography – can’t tell you exactly what it is, but I know it when I see it.  A good customer experience is something like that.  Hard to define but I know it when I experience it.  The Experience Economy  is not talking about customer service, (Lord knows no matter how many authors try to impart the need for better customer service  no one seems to be listening – anyone who is using a phone loop – I’m talking to you) rather, by understanding that customers respond to an experience that goes beyond the product or service offering, or the advertising or sales pitch, your business can reap the benefits of return customers, positive word of mouth, and generate buzz.  The authors start out by explaining the basic core of the “ing”.  They talk about commodities.  You know, the word that none of us want to be selling.  They give us the example of a true commodity, the coffee bean.  Harvested or traded, coffee beans sell for about 75 cents per pound (1 or 2 cents a cup).  The manufacturer turns the commodity into a good, and the price jumps to between 5 and 10 cents a cup.  Brew that cup and now you have a service which in an ordinary diner charges a buck.  So depending on what the business does with the bean, it can have three economic offerings: a commodity, good or service.  But wait.  You know it’s coming didn’t you?  Starbucks. Ordering, creating, consumption of the cup embodies a heightened ambiance or sense of theatre – and customers gladly pay $2 to $5 a cup.  The authors call this ascending to the fourth level of value or economic offering. From the low value – a commodity, then a good, then service to the all time big reap – an experience.  And when you can deliver a distinctive experience you increase its value (and therefore its price) by two orders of magnitude over the original commodity. I’m making it sound a bit “eggheady” and the book is not at all an academic expose, so I apologize, but I was kinda excited in the very easy way they used the bean.  Now, back to the “ing” of it.  Enhance any offering by experientializing the goods.  For an example, automakers now focus on the driving experience, but they suggest manufacturers focus on the non-driving experience that occurs in cars.  The “ing” occurred when car manufacturers put the DVD players in the back seat for kids (my example).   We all know kids usually are bored and distracted passengers (if you don’t have kids of your own, watch any Vacation movie).  Is it part of the driving experience?  No, it’s part of all the passenger’s experience riding in the car. Now, kids are engaged in what video they want before the journey, they talk about the movie or game after the journey, the parents are involved, so by doing one little thing – the whole family now has a “travel” experience.  They give enough examples explaining their theory to make this an enjoyable read, and I believe every small business, entrepreneur, or independent can use the “ing” to transition from selling their product or service into selling the experience.  A revolutionary concept that set your business apart.

My Takeaway

Obviously, I am excited by this book.  The first half at least.  The second half deals with adding “theater” to your workplace (literally), and I couldn’t get my head around it.  You’ll have to decide.  What the authors present through concepts and examples is an opportunity to add the “ing” to any business, any size – even if you are a freelancer writer or web designer or coffee shop.

I invite you to check out indieawesomessness, where I post weekly for indies, freelancers, entrepreneurs and you know, the talented folks who fly solo.



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