It’s the experience, stupid!

(with apologies to James Carville)

Not for nothing is the world filling up with experience designers.

Are you considering the experience you offer when you show your work to a client or employer? Like it or not, your success could depend as much on the experience of the process as the actual product. The customer experience with a brand from beginning to end is much studied and finessed – just like the user experience online. And your client or employer is your customer – working with you may not just be about the result – it may be about them liking the experience you offer them along with your work. Did they feel it was easy to buy from you? Did they think you cared about them? Was the meeting a pleasant or fun time? Think about it.

Last week I was in meetings with a portrait photographer, with construction contractors and at shows of an indie opera company. Each of them offered so much more than just the thing that is their thing. The opera company offers an immersive experience with beer consumption throughout, water and more was showered on the audience who were tightly packed on benches in a Brooklyn photo studio. Their press reviews – all stellar – described the audience’s experience as much as the excellent quality of the music and direction. The quality of the experience is what set it apart from other opera companies and their respective experiences or lack thereof.

The contractor? Well that was a three-way bidding situation – where many of the client’s questions were around the experience: the service and the management – rather than the construction methods or materials that were to be used. The contractor who showed concern for the comfort of the owners during the job, addressed the cleanliness of the worksite and set up a clear system for communications scored much higher than the ones who just spoke of the number of guys and the number of days. Though the end result will likely be the same.

The photographer? There are so many portrait photogs – including of course the one at the end of your selfie stick. There are good pix and bad ones, and there are great ones that capture the essence and spirit of the subject and are things of beauty. But this photographer also gives a great experience before and during the shoot – from the glamour of the prepping, primping and style-choosing part, through the excitement of the shoot that makes the client feel like a million dollars. All this is a part of the offering – in addition to gorgeous light and composition.

Sometimes it’s just a story that gives it the experience: the family anecdote on the wine label, the eco-achievements of the energy company and so on – it’s not just about the work, the product.

The thing is that the experience is easier for many people to judge when making a choice. Most of us can’t tell which wonderful photographer is actually better than the other, which builder does better work, which opera mezzo outshines which other, which varietal wine is which. When you are in the good to great range, this evaluation calls for more education and specialization than most us bring to the table – so we make our choices on the experience.

It may not be necessary to spell it out like the voice in the air at Uniqlo stores that “hopes you are enjoying your Uniqlo experience.” But clearly this is not the same as “Did you find everything you were looking for today.” It is about process as much or more than the result. This is something we might all consider when we are pitching or presenting or offering your wonderful work: what experience can we offer that will make the difference and put us over the top?