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This is the first of a series of articles planned on looking at buyer trends that will influence marketing and sales in the near and foreseeable future. This article looks at how buyers are seeking experiences and the new role of the C-Suite as experience creators.
Buyer Trend: Overwhelmed By Content
During the past two years, we’ve seen a significant rise in focus on content and how content is the new marketing. While some may debate that content marketing is messaging in new clothing, it is now a competency that marketing executives need to assure getting right. We’ve learned in the past few years about the value as well as the role content can play in the early stages of buying processes. In light of the heightened and almost frenzied attention paid to content marketing, there has been much written - and I’m sure internal meetings held in corporations all over the world - on the “how-to” of content creation. This has led to a crying game in the corporate halls bewailing the need for publishers and journalists to come in and help.
Content creation has become a driving force in marketing and sales organizations. So much so, buyers today are faced with the unintended consequences of information overload and content fatigue. They are often faced with the daunted task of sorting through myriads of information that will allow them to learn and hopefully help them to make an informed purchase decision. In essence, a buyer trend is evolving whereby managing and filtering information is becoming overwhelming.
Experience, as a unique form of competitive advantage, has suffered through its own identity crisis during the past decade. Customer experience has had the unintended consequences of being identified as predominantly beefing up customer service capabilities. At the same time, we have seen companies who have done admirable innovation of truly unique experiences that cut across an entire organization’s functions. What we are seeing today however is resurgence in the original intentions of The Experience Economy as put forth by B. Joseph Pine II and James Gilmore. That is, people - be they consumers or B2B buyers - want to be part of an experience in its totality. They want to enter stage left or stage right into a theatre of experience and onto the business stage being offered.
What Must CEO’s, CMO’s, and CSO’s do?
I chose to use the word creation intentionally to label from content creation to experience creation. Both require that mixing of skill, talent, knowledge, and intuition to put forth something new and creative. What C-Suite leaders can do is begin to shift the focus from purely on content creation and lead the organization to see the context of the end game. The end game being creating experiences that provides a stage in which buyers can play a leading role. This requires new thinking. What may sound like a semantics difference is truly a corporate mind shift that must occur. While on one hand it is important to provide excellent customer experiences, on the other hand it is entirely a different matter for an organization to see themselves as experience creators.
Instilling such a mind set into corporate culture is no easy shift. Companies seeing themselves as experience creators’ means looking at content creation in terms of how it fits as an essential piece of creating an experience buyers want to be a part of. It requires the C-Suite to discover new talent that can in effect create a theatre of experience. Using the metaphor offered by Pine and Gilmore, leaders today will need to find producers of experience and find directors who are skilled at interweaving content, conversations, interactions, and roles into the production of buyer experience. Content creation can be likened to, in this metaphor, as scriptwriting. Writing content that makes the experience vision and the artful direction required come alive for buyers. The focus becoming one of creating content that fits into the overall vision of the experience and discovering, just as scriptwriters write in pauses and silence, that less can be more.
As we look to the future, the C-suite will in effect become the producers and directors of the experience theatre a company builds. Allowing buyers to participate in as well as experience a story on a business stage that unfolds and marvels them each and every time. One of my favorite theater productions has been A Chorus Line. No matter how many times I see it, I still get emotionally wrapped up in the story, the script, the music, the choreography, and the experience of the production. Organizations today must create their own version of the longest running Broadway show that buyers want to return to and revel in the experience more than once.
While the corporate hallways may be filled with talk bemoaning the need for the talents of journalists or publishers, the C-Suite who sees themselves as experience creators will have a keen eye towards finding the brilliant producing, directing, and scriptwriting talent that can build a theatre of experience. Creating a theatre of experience that builds the anticipation, engages buyers in the story, and has them talking afterwards – each and every time.