The tides of business are shifting again to a keen focus on the experience that someone has with your business. The experience means as much if not more than the product or service itself. Experience is what makes the brand, and it is what is shared by word of mouth. If you want people to talk about your business, you must be intentional about the experience that the customers have when buying and using your product or service -- even after the transaction. If you want fast growth, focus on the art of experience.

I watched Sir Richard Branson give a keynote at the 2018 Adobe Summit in Vegas, where he talked about the importance of experience and how to create it. I have been thinking about revamping the experience that my business of consulting and speaking has in every interaction with my clients. The best in the business are huge brands and that makes it harder to related to. However, I loved Branson's simple take on how to look at and improve experience that can be applied to every business.

Branson is quite famous for his marketing stunts like dressing in drag and jumping out of airplanes. Forget about these attention grabbing headlines and steal the idea of creating an experience with your brand.

The Virgin brand is deeply centered in creating an engaging experience.

Take Virgin Airlines for example. They started with one plane. All the other airlines had hundreds of planes, and in the 80s they were quite stuck in their level of service (or lack of service). Branson saw an opportunity in creating a different experience in every aspect of commercial airline travel.

"It required me to reimagine everything about the experience," he said. "From purchase, check in, inflight entertainment, food, and every tiny detail." Social media conversations have been talking for years about all of these aspects for Virgin Airlines.

One example of a unique experience is the pajamas you get when you fly first class on Virgin Airlines. John Mellor, VP of Business Development and Strategy at Adobe, shared with the crowd of more than 13,000 people how much the pajamas meant to him years ago. I got a chance to talk to John after Branson's keynote.

"When it comes to providing great customer experiences, Virgin is a brand that has always stood apart. With our Summit theme of 'Experience Makers,' Sir Richard Branson was a natural choice as a keynote speaker. Branson is an inspiration not just for entrepreneurs, but everyone in the world of business. His philosophy of doing good, giving back, and delighting people with unique experiences align perfectly with the values we emphasize at Adobe," Mellor said.

Here is how you master the art of experience according to Branson:

1. Listen deeply.

You must take time to listen the customers. They are the people who make the purchase, and understanding them is essential to redefining the experience. Listen to the details they give on how they engage with your business. This means going beyond the typical surveys and data analysis. Listen to them and take notes on the moments that matter to them.

The details are where the experience is truly set apart from the others. Branson said to uncover the insights, "Always be a good listener."

2. Identify actionable improvements.

Look for opportunities that allow you make actionable changes to how the customer connects to your business. Branson said that improving the experience is about paying attention to the little things -- like comfortable pajamas for long flights -- and doing something about it.

3. Give your people the tools.

To truly create experience, you have to invest in the tools. You can't delivery high-level service without having the right tools available to your people. Branson talked about something as simple as the food on board the plane. You have to have the processes in place to get the food preferences, and you must have those meals on board the plane -- not an apology for not having those meals ready.

4. Continuously evolve.

When you make experience your focus, you have to make the commitment to evolve with the tastes of your customers. Virgin has an obsession with short-term change. As expectations change, experiences must evolve too.

"Never rest on you laurels!" Branson said.

Today's world is noisy, and we all want attention for what we are creating in the world. When you create a powerful experience others want to share it.

Shantanu Narayen, CEO of Adobe, shared his thoughts on experience during the opening message. "The fundamental truth and challenge for businesses today is that people buy experiences, not products." While I was at this event, I could see the attention to details on the small details that make it an example of a remarkable experience.

Published on: Mar 30, 2018