Today somebody asked me for a laptop recommendation. Actually, what they asked was, “Tell me which laptops are good at Walmart or Best Buy.”
I have purchased many products from both of these establishments, but one thing I have never purchased from either of them is a computer. Instead, I argued very strongly that this person purchase an Apple product. When asked why, I considered my thoughts carefully, and I found that I was advocating for the experience as much as the product itself.
Any transaction, whether it be for a physical good or a service, involves essentially two components. First, there is the item or object itself. This could be a laptop, but it could also be a website, or a plumber, or a dinner reservation. This is the goal of the interaction.
Generally speaking, we want to make the best trade possible. We want to trade the minimal amount of resources for the maximum amount of product. What sometimes goes overlooked, however, is the other part of a transaction, and that is the experience.
In any arrangement, some sort of process must be undergone to obtain the goods that are sought after. There may even be an ongoing relationship, in which case one may experience the process many times.
In the case of buying an Apple laptop versus buying one at Walmart, I was taking into consideration not only the amount of money one might spend, but also the experience surrounding the purchase.
With one brand comes the potential for training, ongoing technical support, and dealing with a staff that is incredibly knowledgeable about the products they are selling.
With another brand comes an ambiguous level of support, no training to speak of, and a staff that may or may not know what they are selling. In fact, that would speak to the entire reasoning for why my counsel was sought rather than going straight to the store.
This idea about experience extends far beyond retail as well. It touches how nearly any one of us might work with a client. Here at Signal Hill, our goal isn’t just to provide the product, it is to provide the entire experience. We want to help our clients with content, leadership, and engagement. Even more than that, we want them to feel free to call us when there’s a problem. We try to respond promptly and professionally to emails, and we always consider their ideas and concerns when it comes to the product that we produce for them.
An experience is something much harder to put a price on. It could be the smile from a sales person, or it could be an online reservation tool that worked exactly as expected. With objects we can make comparisons to other, similar objects. With an experience, we can only reflect on how it makes us feel after the transaction. Was I taken care of? Were my needs met?
An experience cannot be sold without a product, but when both are positive, when the resulting item is of top quality and the experience of obtaining it is worthy of remembrance, that is something special. That is something worth paying for.