Your startup can make magic experiences for nothing: here’s how



We have moved to a place in the business world where our customers are always looking for something different. In many industries, they have literally hundreds of choices of suppliers, all offering the same commodities at the same prices. How do you stand out as different and distinct in such a hard environment? What can you do to be unique – but without getting the financial director to start grumbling?

There are a number of choices, and they include …

  • Producing unique, exclusive and desirable products that people will pay just about any price to buy.
  • Constantly and continuously coming up with creative and unique ways to add value for them
  • Having unbeatable service levels that include a strong focus on issues like reliability, quality, right first time, responsiveness, friendliness and courtesy, good communication, and speed.
  • Customising your customer products and delivery to specifically meet their needs and wants.
  • Solving their unique headaches and problems and all the things that keep them awake at night.
  • Developing positive and personal relationships so that they become partners in your business.
  • Giving them personal and memorable experiences that they will never experience anywhere else – and never forget.

An experience occurs when your business engages your individual customers in a way that creates a personal, memorable event. Pine and Gilmore write: “Experiences are inherently personal, existing in the mind of an individual, who has been engaged on an emotional, physical, sensual, intellectual, or even a spiritual level.” So we are not talking here about Disney World, or a Lady Gaga Concert here. Those are arranged by people whose whole life centres around creating these things.

How can you create these personal and memorable experiences? They should…

  • Make people smile, be entertaining, surprising, playful, thrilling, create nostalgia, and/or create some positive emotion
  • Be simple and authentic, but still create fantasies or images in people’s minds
  • Be engaging: let your customers learn or explore, or offer their views, or connect with each other, or even take a “role” in “the show”.
  • Be a little naughty: Sex, lies and bathroom humour, (used appropriately,) can be hilarious – and memorable.
  • Also be boundary-breaking or challenge the status quo: Are they beyond the conventional, innovative, unusual, remarkable, or outrageous, or do something where customers say, “I would never have done this myself if it weren’t for you.”

It doesn’t matter how you choose to do this: you can have live events, or digital ones. You can do presentations like the late Steve Jobs did in which audiences waited for what surprise he was going to share next. They may include festivals, street theatre, launches, road shows or product demos. They could include spaces where customers can immerse themselves in the experience, (like a flagship store, or a brand museum, or just a simple play space.)

And they may even include new or reinvented media, like the baggage belt at Las Vegas Airport which is painted like a roulette wheel, or five rand coins scattered on a pavement with marketing messages written on the back. Or messages painstakingly created on a beach overnight so that people who wake up in the hotel next morning see this.

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it must give people — your customers in particular — something to talk about.

Image: Christophe Verdier via Flickr.

Aki Kalliatakis


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