[What’s the Future of Business?]: A book review by Bob Morris

What's the Future[What’s the Future of Business?]: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences
Brian Solis
John Wiley & Sons (2013)

How to gain an understanding of the psychology of engagement between and among connected consumers

First, an introduction to Brian Solis who is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Solis is also globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. His new book, [What’s the Future of Business?] (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold and flourish in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. Prior to End of Business, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

The subtitle of his latest book, “Changing the way businesses create experiences,” could be rephrased as “Changing the way businesses stay in business” because, since the ancient markets in Athens and Rome, then and now, the challenge is to create or increase demand for whatever is offered for sale or in trade.

Moreover, I cannot recall a prior time when customers had greater power and there are numerous reasons to explain that. Here are three: they have more choices when making a purchase (including passing), they have more and better information about their options, and — as Solis explains brilliantly in [What’s the Future of Business?], they expect the purchase to be a multi-sensory experience. This last point is especially relevant to another reason for their empowerment: Customers have the attention span of a Strobe light blink.

Solis carefully organizes his material within 17 chapters and the sequence of those chapters is every bit as intentional as the experiences successful marketers must now create for their customers. Here in Dallas near the downtown area, we have a Farmer’s Market at which merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples of their wares. In that spirit, I now provide a representative selection of Solis’ observations:

o “Experiences are everything. And businesses must create experiences that mean something. If necessity is the mother of invention, then vision is the father of innovation.” (Page 9)

o “Change boils down to three things:
1. Listening
2. Learning
3. Adapting” (14)

o “If you can collect and interpret the data and behaviors of your customers, they will lead to insights and the confidence necessary to convince the skeptics and the fearful. The truth is that the market votes with its dollars and those dollars are already being siphoned away from the inputs you have in place today.” (25)

o “Do leaders realize that although they act like they are talking to customers they already know, they are in fact talking to strangers?” (29)

o “The only thing that separates you from connected customers is your view of them, their awareness, and the channels that they rely on for engagement and fulfillment.” (35)

o “The brilliance of social networks is the opportunity to transform negative experiences into positive outcomes. Conversations inspire opportunities for product refinement or innovation to create remarkable experiences from the outset.” (47)

o “In reality the [cluster] funnel is less about AIDA (awareness, interest, decision, and action — and we’ll also add loyalty to give businesses the benefit of the doubt). Instead it is a superficially designed production with six distinct acts:” (discussed on Pages 55-56)

o “Did you know that consumers rely on 10 or more sources in making purchase decisions? Between 2010 and 2011 the average number of sources nit only doubled, but new technologies emerged to facilitate discovery and engagement around these sources.” (69)

o “To create experiences requires first defining what the experience will look like. Opening a window into new consumerism and taking in the splendor and magnitude of your customer landscape will also reveal the behavior and expressions that result from the experiences you create and those that are created for you.” (81)

o “Embracing your connected customers will help them embrace you in return.” (101)

o “Business will learn to engage in new networks one of two ways: Either businesses will recognize the opportunity to earn relevance through ‘aha’ moments, or they’ll say ‘uh-oh’ upon witnessing the impact of a crisis on business, branding, and customer influence when a negative experience goes viral.” (113)

o “The value of digital experiences is rooted in people, relationships, and the meaningful actions between them. Yes, it’s not just social…it’s digital and real world experiences that count for everything.” (127)

o “As you think about the experience you wish customers to have before, during, and following transactions, think about what it is they’re thinking, feeling, seeing, and touching in every step. This is the experience. Now, what people share in the Ultimate Moment of Truth are experiences that, in turn, define your brand.” (147)

o “This is a playbook for business transformation and the processes that support the experience — the integrated experience, relationships, and the outcomes you’ve designed. And thus the Hero’s Journey, your journey, begins…Well, it doesn’t end here. As a special thank you, I’ve written a bonus chapter that you can download for free right now.” (identified with excerpt from Page 214)

I realize that no brief commentary such as mine can do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel that Brian Solis provides in this volume. My hope now is that you will check out both this book, his latest, as well as The End of Business as Usual and then select whatever material is most relevant to your organization’s current needs, interests, resources, and strategic goals. My guess, only a guess, that few of your competitors have or will soon have an understanding of connected consumerism. Developing and enriching that understanding can be a decisive competitive advantage. What are you waiting for?

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