Product vs. Experience: Are You Selling Coffee or Seats to the Dog Parade?

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This post originally ran in November 2011.

We recently had a great discussion about the experience your customers have with your stuff. One reader suggested I write a follow-up expanding on the idea that “It’s not the stuff; it’s the experience.” So I thought I would.

So here’s the deal: sometimes it is about the stuff.

I know, I know! But before you tie me up by my toes, let me explain with a little story.

Sometimes I go to a coffee shop to do some writing. The one I usually hit is near my home and has decent parking. There are lots of tables with plugs, and I can almost always get a seat near the window (I love watching the parade of dogs that come and go with the customers). I like being there; it makes me feel good.

Notice I said nothing about coffee.

I’m not a “coffee person.” I order a drink when I go there, but if it was a bagel shop, I would order a bagel. I’m not there for the product; I’m there for the experience.

Now I’m sure there are coffee people who go to this place for the coffee. They are there for the product. So there are two kinds of customers this place needs to think about: product customers (coffee people) and experience customers (folks like me). Are there some customers that are both? Sure.

But the coffee shop takes care of all types, because they know they’ll make the most money that way.

Did I mention this place is actually my very least favorite brand of coffee? What can I say? Parking, plugs, dogs. I’ll shill for their swill.

This concept is not just for brick and mortars. Early in my coaching practice, one of my very first paying clients told me that she felt like she had purchased more than a coaching package, and that she was getting a whole experience. Why? When she enrolled she got a welcome pack to get her oriented and started before our first session, I connected with her on a personal level, I supplied reading and resources specific to her needs, and I even wrote a blog post addressing a situation she was struggling with. She liked being there; it made her feel good.

How can this concept of product vs. experience translate to your business and customers? You may not have a store, but what do you have? A website? Packaging materials? A newsletter?

How can you enhance the experience part of your biz?

Gathering light,

3 thoughts on “Product vs. Experience: Are You Selling Coffee or Seats to the Dog Parade?

  1. I sell jewelry online. I understand what this post is getting at. What I don’t get is how I create an experience with just an online shop before a purchase is made. After the purchase I create an experience with excellent product, packaging and customer service. How do you convey that same experience before the purchase?

  2. Lori, you can do this with your website. Is your site just a place to buy jewelry? Or is it a place to feel beautiful, explore color combinations we’ve never thought of before, or learn a little bit about fashion? Is it a place to privately explore alone, or is there a community to enjoy?

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