Some businesses sell products. Other businesses sell services. Some businesses may even sell both.
But the most successful businesses in the world today sell neither of these. They’re selling something far less tangible, but far more potent.
They sell an experience.
Selling The Experience
As consumers the vast majority of the things we buy, we buy because we want them – rather than need them.
We buy them because of how we think they will make us feel. Our buying decisions are initially based on an emotion, with the pragmatic argument following behind to allow ourselves to justify the purchase.
Those $600 shoes you’ve got your eyes on. Sure, they look awesome – but you don’t really need them, do you?
What happens is that you purchase them with your heart. Then you rationalize with your head.
You convince yourself that, because the shoes are hand made to a very high and exacting standard using only the best materials, they’ll look amazing and last much longer than cheaper shoes.
Their classic design won’t look out of place in a year or two.
In fact, since they’ll last at least three times longer than the other shoes you were looking at, you’re actually saving money by buying them.
Same Product – Different Customer Experience
The fashion industry is a great example to use here. You probably know that many top name shirts are made in South-East Asia on a production line by workers barely making minimum wage.
What you may not know is that many clothing factories run supplier lines in parallel – using the exact same raw materials.
A seamstress can produce a shirt that’ll be sold in a designer store for $200. Two minutes later she’ll be making another shirt just like it, but she’ll sew in a different label. That shirt will be sold for $39.95.
Same fabric, same thread, same pattern. Same everything. Two identical shirts, with two far-from-identical prices.
These two shirts are physically indistinguishable in every way. But the way each is sold is different.
The cheaper shirt comes in a package made of that loud, crunchy plastic. It’s wedged on a shelf with twenty others, of various sizes. The store is located on a hard-to-find sidestreet, crammed with merchandise from floor to ceiling. The place is lit with unflattering florescent lighting that’s just a little too dim than you’d like.
Once you’ve picked your shirt and you’re waiting in line to pay, the line takes forever because the store is understaffed with inexperienced people. When you finally get to pay, your purchased is stuffed into a plastic carrier-bag.
The more expensive shirt is sold differently. It’s wrapped exquisitely, sandwiched between many layers of tissue paper and thick card to maintain its shape, before being carefully ensconced in a printed box manufactured from sustainable resources. As you enter the store located in the best part of town, you notice the walnut panelling lit with pockets of carefully-angled spotlights.
An impeccably-dressed sales assistant politely asks you if you need any help. She offers you a cup of coffee while handing you a piece of paper with the Wi-Fi password. Once you’ve selected your shirt, she takes it from you to be wrapped with a ribbon and placed in one of those stout matt-finished carrier bags, with a handle made of thick cord. Exactly four minutes after taking your payment, you receive an email with your receipt attached as a PDF file.
Selling An Experience Is Selling Value – Not Price
Not only is the second customer happier with their purchase than the first customer. Even if they know the shirt’s provenance, they’re more likely to recommend the store to their friends.
In their mind, the customer experience was remarkable.
But the store selling the cheaper shirt didn’t have to deliver a sub-par customer experience. “Price” and “Value” bear little relation to each other.
The problem with the first store isn’t that they can’t afford the niceties. It’s that the buying experience is exactly like what you get from 1001 other cheaper stores. They don’t stand out (well, not in a positive way at least). The first store was selling shirts. The second store was selling a way of life that buyers aspired to leading.
If you position your business as selling shirts – or bathroom fittings, or IT consultancy, or ice cream – then you’ve positioned yourself as a commodity. If you’re a commodity, the only reason you’re giving a customer to buy your product or service is down to the price you charge. And there’s always someone, somewhere, who sells what you sell – but cheaper.
Stop selling the product, or the service. Start selling the experience.