Last week I attended a 2-day seminar called thinkAbout Cafe. It was the 13th year of this annual event offered by Strategic Horizons. Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore are the co-founders of Strategic Horizons and co-authors of two bestsellers The Experience Economy (1999) and Authenticity (2007). ThinkAbout Cafe was promoted as a series of discussions and conversations designed to foster creative thinking, idea exchange, and the exploration of opportunities to stage memorable experiences for others.
So what does that mean? What happened at thinkAbout Cafe?
Pine and Gilmore believe that the world is transforming into an Experience Economy. People want and respond to experiences. Services, goods and commodities are yesterday’s economies. Since I’ve been making my living providing the experience of Forrest Gump as both an entertainer and speaker for the past 14 years, attending thinkAbout and learning from other like-minded individuals seemed a natural fit.
Here are the 7 top ideas I learned during thinkAbout Cafe:
- We are already living in the Experience Economy. For me it started in 1996 when Bubba Gump Shrimp Co recognized that having Forrest Gump sit on the bench in front of the restaurants enhanced the experience of the customers. Of course they also recognized that the product (food) had to be very good; this and their emphasis on great service is all about creating an outstanding customer experience. Disneyland is another example of a company designed with the customer experience front and center. The Experience Economy is already present in today’s world.
- Most of the world doesn’t yet realize this. Most companies still focus on their product (their goods or service) and don’t necessarily market and promote that product with the customer’s experiential perspective in mind. Service companies that have focused on providing excellent service are most likely to be experience-minded. I was delivering experience for 10+ years but I didn’t think about in the academic terms that Pine and Gilmore so skillfully defined. Having a language to describe the process allows one to actively think about and craft the experience one wants to offer to their clients.
- The information economy is one component of the Experience Economy. We’ve all heard that we’re living in the information age or even an information economy. We know how the personal computer and the internet have changed the world. Pine and Gilmore argue that the Experience Economy is a bigger way to describe what is currently transforming the world … and the information economy is a subset contained within the Experience Economy.
- Providing Goods or Services without experiences is no longer good enough. Because of increased competition and the explosive growth of information, consumers are more informed about the goods and services they desire. When they know what they like or want, it’s now possible to shop for it on the internet for the lowest price. To combat this trend, creative companies are adding experience as an added value to their goods or service.
- Offering narrow, going deep. With mainstream use of the internet and improvements in search engine abilities, it’s now both practical and possible to offer a product (i.e. goods, services or experiences) to a very narrow market segment … a niche. Those who are looking for that niche will find you; if you are perceived as the expert or the very best once they find you, they will choose you. To be the best, you need to go deep. That means your expertise is demonstrated in your product, and your website clearly informs prospects of this expertise. It’s a very narrow focus in the marketplace, but very deep in knowledge and expertise, thus we say offering narrow yet going deep!
- Out-of-the-box thinking is where value is created. By staying in-the-box you are stuck trying to cut costs, sell cheap and continually work on thinner margins. Challenging the status quo creates new products, new services and new experiences. The experience economy has millions of ideas that today people don’t associate with value and profit; all it takes is some creative out-of-the-box thinking to turn your knowledge into a marketable and profitable offering.
- Networking within a tribe is more fun and more productive. Besides attending as a learning experience, I also attended for the networking. I understand that my best marketing opportunities arise from simply meeting people. Meeting like-minded people (or a Tribe to use Seth Goden’s term) is a wonderful networking occasion. In this specific case, conversations with fellow disciples of the Experience Economy produced new ideas and friendships normally not experienced … no pun intended!
Pine & Gilmore are out-of-the-box thinkers. Their thinkAbout is an event for like-minded souls that are pleased to stoke the embers of each other’s creativity. If you are a person who is committed to building future value through experiences, then the Strategic Horizons’ thinkAbout is an event in which you’ll want to participate in the future. The event occurs yearly around the end of September.
Are you currently adding experience to your product or service? Are you using out-of-the-box thinking to offer more value and experience to your clients or customers? Are you regularly re-charging your batteries by hanging around and networking with other like-minded thinkers?
Next Blog Title: The Experience Economy
Next Blog Date: October 7, 2010