When a person walks into your store, they’re almost always going through some sort of transition.
Maybe they bought a new house, just moved to town, got a divorce, injured their neck in a horseback riding accident where a painted Palomino walked under a low hanging limb and clotheslined them right off its back.
During transitions, people encounter uncertainty. And when a human being’s world is in flux, they want assurance of an outcome. Every transition creates an opportunity to amaze or disappoint—it’s a tiny gap where you can fulfill or fail. You win in the transitions. And a transition is the key to unlocking a relationship that will allow you to help people transform their lives.
Transitions come in all different forms. When a person pulls into your store parking lot and walks from their car to the front door—that’s a transition. When a customer is in your store and finalizes their purchase decision, that’s a lull, a little trough of a transition.
Most of the time, the transitions are ignored because we’re only thinking about “sales presentation” then “checkout” then “delivery.” We forget to focus on the moments in between—and that’s where the magic happens.
Those are the little transitions.
But you can win in the bigger, more personal transitions, like when someone is moving to a new house or starting a new business and needs office furniture.
Transitions in people’s lives give you the opportunity to transact—or transform. Transacting means you take their money and give them a product. Transforming means you begin a true relationship that enhances that person’s life in a meaningful way.
Transitions give you the opportunity for transactions or transformations.
Make no mistake about it, the transformation economy is coming—it’s the next phase beyond where we’re at now, the Experience Economy.
Let’s turn to birthday cakes to explain the “Progression of Economic Value” and why we’re going to move beyond the experience economy. And we’re going to talk about your momma.
The Progression of Economic Value
In 1940 your momma went to a store and bought flour, eggs, milk and cocoa and mixed it all together to make you a birthday cake.
Then in 1947, Betty Crocker came along with cake mixes that combined these commodities and shortened the time it took for your momma to make a birthday cake.
Then, your momma started buying pre-made birthday cakes, like those delectable ice cream cakes from Dairy Queen.
The progression of value went from “I buy the raw materials” to “someone packaged it up for me” to BOOM, “it’s already made.”
Now, you might expect the Progression of Economic Value to stop at buying a fully made birthday cake, but there’s another layer to this Red Velvet delight.
These days, your momma rents out a trampoline park or Chuck E. Cheese, and the cake is included for free as part of the experience.
For some of the best retailers in the world, the experience is everything. In the book Come Back to Bed, there’s a case study about Jordan’s, the New England-based furniture chain. They’re “experience super stars.” Restaurants, ice cream shops, laser light shows, dancing waterfalls, indoor ziplines, rock walls, Imax Theatres and more.
They’re like the “spiral gumball machines” of the furniture world. Those machines are really fun…and they’re the slowest way to get a piece of gum!
And people don’t care, because they’ll pay for the experience. It’s not always about getting your furniture as fast as possible. Remember that the experience matters because you don’t even get a shot at a transformation, unless you have a solid experience to build on.
And that’s what the “Transformation Economy” is all about. When you customize any experience for a person—making it exactly what they need right now—you’re going to change that person in some way.
Take karate, for example. Karate’s an experience, but martial arts teachers realized the transformational power of their offering. Sure, kids come in wanting to break bricks with their heads or learn how to kick bullies in the face. But what they end up learning is respect, self-control, peace, and discipline. Karate is an experience where kids can transform.
Those senseis are in the business of guiding transformations.
And breaking boards, of course.
Buyers of transformations want to be guided toward a permanent change.
When sleep deprived people come in to purchase a new mattress, they’re there because of a transition in their life.
Your competition will sell them a mattress.
You should be the karate teacher and guide them along a transformational journey.
In the transformation economy, people won’t buy a car unless it actually makes them drive better and safer (or contributes to a healthier planet). They won’t buy furniture and mattresses unless they can transform their mood through better home design or deeper rest.
You’ve probably heard of Nicorette gum. Early on, only 24 percent of their customers kicked the habit. That would be a terrible statistic for any business—our product fails 3 out of 4 people.
So the company created the “Committed Quitters” program. The smoker would have an up-front conversation with a Nicorette rep and talk about habits, obstacles to quitting, that sort of thing. Nicorette then sent letters, brochures, tip sheets, followed up with phone calls, emails and text messages. This guided transformation improved their success rate by 100%.
Your job in the Transformation Economy will be diagnosing your customers aspirations, staging transforming experiences, and following through. The sale will only be the beginning.
Asking Customers to Suffer
Companies will use experiences to transform customers. And to do this, brave companies will have to ask their customers and employees to suffer. Because up until now, profits have come from eliminating pain or unhappiness. Transformation requires a certain amount of pain and sacrifice.
If you’re going to truly help someone sleep better, they’ll have to give up caffeine after noon, eat healthier food, exercise, and stop fiddling with their phone an hour before bedtime. For a lot of people, that is suffering and sacrifice.
Instead of pretending to take away their pain, in the Transformation Economy, you’re going to ask them to join you on this journey—and it’s one that’s not entirely pleasant.
It’s a shift in thinking that requires real chops, true wisdom, and a culture of serving and guiding. A culture of transformation starts within your four walls.
Remember, people are going through transitions and it’s during those times of uncertainty that you and your team can help them begin a process of transformation. Since mattress purchases are infrequent, if you’re really lucky, you get one chance every decade to talk to a customer about their sleep. Use those moments to begin the process of helping them transform their lives.