You can’t judge a book by its cover, and you can’t judge an experience from a sales pitch.
What is Disney World? You can experience their content and their characters in TV and movies, but the magic of the experience happens in their parks. The interaction at the live events are deeply personal, and can stay with people for life.
Selling an experience is a substantial challenge. A buyer won’t truly get it until she tries it, but she can’t try it until she buys it. It’s a quagmire, especially for companies whose value proposition is based on their experience.
Companies whose essence is based on the live experience have a distinct marketing challenge. They’ve got to get people to try it to truly get it or value it.
Bungee jumping is not for everyone. If you’re afraid of heights or the thought of jumping off a 150 foot bridge gives you the willies, you’re probably not going to beat a path to WildPlay’s doors.
WildPlay offers more than bungee jumps and aerial adventure courses. Their element parks are an experience. Customers consistently say, “I was afraid ahead of time, but not afterwards. The experience taught me [and they'll insert a personal story].” That personal story is centered on the WildPlay experience.
But from the outside looking in it’s hard to understand the experience. Prospects see the features, activities and benefits. They either look exhilarating, or they’re terrifying.
It can be challenging and frustrating for companies like WildPlay to sell their services. They believe deeply in their services, the experience and the value they deliver, but a customer has to decide ahead of time if they want that experience or not. They’re not going to be sold, they’re going to select.
Create shared experiences
Your community of customers, past customers, staff and alumni are very effective at sharing intangible experiences. They’ve experienced it, they get it, and they can share their own personal stories.
Disney is a sticky brand, because people come back from every visit with a new story and a new memory. They share their photos on Facebook and Instagram, and they talk about the experience with their friends. And the stories all have a clear message, “You should try this too.”
The experience is a sharable moment, and has the potential to be converted into a shared experience if their friends try it too.
WildPlay has a similar opportunity. Their best sales people are everyone who have experienced the parks before. WildPlay knows when a guest has a memorable experience they’ll share it.
Codify the experience
Your community of customer evangelists are your best sales people, but their reach is limited.
To make the experience a “sellable story” it needs to be codified — it needs to be branded. Wrapping words around an experience is exceedingly difficult, because experiences are complex and personal at the same time. Ten people can have ten unique experiences.
But the essence of an experience can be captured.
WildPlay has codified their experience as a “catalyst for change.” Tom Benson, co-founder of WildPlay explains, “From the very start of our company we knew our core purpose. To get folks out of their comfort zone as a catalyst for change.”
What makes your brand experience unique? What do people consistently achieve or learn? Is the experience life affirming, uplifting, spiritual, fun, exhilarating, or something else? What is the stickiest or most sharable aspect of the brand experience?
When an experience-driven brand is codified into simple, concise language the experience takes on a new life. It becomes more portable, and easier to talk about. People will express what the experience is and why others should try it too. And it also gets a lot easier to market the experience, because the essence can be translated for websites, video, content and social media. It gets every channel working together to evangelize why others need to try this amazing experience.