Are You Selling a Service or an Experience?

Posted on April 1, 2001 by Sara Eastwood-McLean

What does a day spa, Disneyland and Starbucks all have in common? They all sell beyond their basic products and services; they sell a total experience.

Stop for a minute and just think about what you are willing to pay on a daily basis for those brief moments of pleasure that allow you to escape from the daily grind. An example might be that $3 "custom" cup of coffee and the whole Starbucks experience that goes along with it each morning. My point is, when you sell an experience most often the price is inconsequential.

At the 1996 LCT Show, Nick Giacoboni, president of Classic Limousines, allowed me a sneak peck under the tarp of their revolutionary limousine. It was called the Wave. I sat in that vehicle and was mentally transported to another place. Last year, Krystal showcased its BMW-designed 120-Five. With its fantastic suede interior, I felt like I was sitting in the Jetsons' living room. At this year's LCT' Show, I took a ride in the DaBryan Illusion. It was an absolute sensory experience. Although these coachbuilders were actually showcasing their design capabilities, they touched on one of the business' best marketing angles.

Every day operators are called upon to provide a service. So why not take our basic chaulleured-transportation service to the next level? Disney didn't build a theme park, they designed a real life fairytale that we could see, touch and experience. There are multitudes of ways in which we can emulate this excellent marketing approach. We can start with our drivers. Bring back the dress code — the full uniform complete with hat and gloves. Let your clients feel like they've got a real butler at their service for the time spent in your vehicles. If your target market is the special occasion business, consider an upgrade to a high-end surround-sound system and create a mood for whatever the occasion may be. 11 it's airport business that's your lifeline, have first-class amenities such as fresh fruit, coffee and a newspaper for morning pick-ups. For your corporate clients, create an authentic mobile office, including a "tackle box" of supplies such as pens and paper. If it's not too far out, you could provide a computer with Internet access. You might try collecting a video library of top motivational speakers for your business travelers to enjoy. Let your imagination run wild.

Upon returning from the LCT Show, I was feeling exhausted and decided a body massage would give me a lift. I spent $110 (not including tip) to have my back muscles pounded out for an hour. But, was that what I was thinking during my brief visit at the day spa? Far from it. After I was outfitted into my Turkish bathrobe and treated to a complimentary cup of tea. I was led into a small room filled with candles and a therapy bed complete with a healed down comforter and the soft sounds of ocean waves in the background. For one full hour I totally escaped, and it was an incredibly pleasant experience. I might add that it was worth every penny.

Try selling your service as an experience, and see if you find it easier to sell on price and more importantly, retain more customers. Let us know what fantastic ideas you come up with.

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