“Products are made; services are delivered. Products are used; services are experienced.”- Harry Beckwith, Author
Your website provides online consumers with a valuable service. A successful online presence will clearly and accurately showcase a company’s products or services to curious visitors. Make every effort to provide content that is both enjoyable and memorable. In short, your website should provide online visitors with a pleasant “experience”. Your design, content and marketing should be about creating a positive and noteworthy experience.
Let me relate to you a story I know.
In downtown Toronto there is a legendary bagel shop, affectionately known to a few, as The Dirty Bagel. This title clearly distinguished it from a similar uptown restaurant named The Bagel which, “back in the day”, served similar meals to upper middle class women when they weren’t taking their kids to the doctor, dentist or hockey practice. As I recall, the downtown version was old, grimy, and well worn; while the uptown version was new, nicely lit, and… cleaner. The waitresses in the new restaurant were middle-aged, chewed gum, had pencils stuck behind their ears and called everyone “Hon.” The waitresses in the downtown version were old, spoke with thick European accents, and were “just plain nasty”. If you asked for an extra pad of butter or more cream for your coffee, instead of getting a “Sure thing Hon” you would most likely hear something like, “Sophia, listen to Mr. Big Shot over here, he wants more butter. Hope he knows a good heart doctor…” and as she turned to leave, you would likely hear some Yiddsh profanity spoken under her breath.
Why would rich, privileged citizens who owned their own businesses, wore expensive silk suits, and drove Lincoln Continentals, put-up with a group of nasty old ladies who tossed plates on the table like curling stones and treated them like inmates? It was for the “experience”. That is what kept them coming back time and again. The loyal patron businessmen who attended The Dirty Bagel were old school, not an MBA in the lot. They survived the Depression and built successful businesses with little or no formal business education; profiting in conditions that were both hostile and perverse. No matter how successful they had become, they always remembered their beginnings and what was really important to them. These men were characters who built businesses by force of personality and shrewd decision-making. The Dirty Bagel offered them an experience that kept them grounded and reminded them of the winding road to success.
That is the power of an “experience” (and a quick lesson in humility). But, how does this relate to your brand building efforts and the construction of your website? Consider this. Too many websites are sterile, functionally redundant, generally impersonal and often lack any kind of meaningful experience for the online visitor. Business owners who spend an unproductive amount of time concerning themselves with driving consumer traffic to their website often discount what happens when shoppers arrive.
If your website provides its online audience with a unique experience, this is something your competition can’t steal from you. On the other hand, if all you provide your visitors is a commodity; eventually somebody else will produce that commodity cheaper and faster. If this is the case, you will very likely find yourself eating at your own version of The Dirty Bagel; not because you want to remind yourself of where you came from, but rather where you’re going.
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