product vs. experience: are you selling coffee or seats to the dog parade?

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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. Thanks, Kathy!

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 kind 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?

Let’s have another great brainstorm in the comments.

Gathering light,

3 thoughts on “product vs. experience: are you selling coffee or seats to the dog parade?

  1. Thanks for this post. I must say I’m a bit lost. I don’t know what more I can do when it comes to the experience on my websites. I’m probably staring myself blind, so if you or anyone else feel like giving me some input, feel free to do so.

    Because I don’t want to flood this comment with links, ask and you shall be given :)

    1. Hey Linda! Some things to think about for a website: Is it easy to navigate? Do you want them to feel excited, safe, or ready to take action? Do the words, images, and overall tone suggest that feeling? Could they easily describe what you do to a friend? Why would they want to come back to your website?

  2. What a great question to ponder, I feel like my communication with customers needs improving and I want to streamline my packaging so, each package goes out with the same look and similar promos. In my service based work I am sometimes unsure at what point to update the client and let them in on where I am in the process. I have to way the risk of showing something incomplete and having the client not be able to “see” where I am headed with keeping them informed and feeling like the project is in moving forward. things that make you go hmmmm

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